Q: Lye 'pockets'?

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AndyRoo

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Hi all,

I tested a new soap the other day using a recipe from a book. I used all the same ingredients as called for in the recipe; however, I noticed the following morning when it had set that it looked kind of 'streaky' and patchy in places. Could this be lye pockets? Picture below. It seized to a thick trace before I managed to get it into the mould, hence the utterly rubbish design... I can't tell if this is just because the pigments and fragrance somehow split slightly, or if there are pockets of lye?

I tested the soap myself using a bit off the end and got a 'normal' feel - and it didn't irritate my skin. I just wanted second opinions because I've never seen soap do this before.

Thanks,
Andy
 

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AliOop

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I also see some drag marks from cutting. I also see air holes; those can happen when batter gets thick and you can’t bang down the mold enough to get them all out.

And in the lighter section, I see what could either be unmixed fragrance, or TD rivers.

But I don’t see anything that looks like lye pockets. Since you aren’t feeling any zaps, that’s a good sign.

If you want to post your entire recipe, including the specific fragrance used, it will be easier for people to help you trouble-shoot.
 

AndyRoo

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I also see some drag marks from cutting. I also see air holes; those can happen when batter gets thick and you can’t bang down the mold enough to get them all out.

And in the lighter section, I see what could either be unmixed fragrance, or TD rivers.

But I don’t see anything that looks like lye pockets. Since you aren’t feeling any zaps, that’s a good sign.

If you want to post your entire recipe, including the specific fragrance used, it will be easier for people to help you trouble-shoot.
Yeah, the knife I used wasn't as sharp as I hoped and the batter hadn't set as firm as it sometimes has by the time I cut it! And the air holes, as you point out, were a result of the seizing.

The recipe is:

12.92 oz Water
4.44 oz Lye
1.06 oz Fragrance (I used .8 oz Pink grapefruit essential oil; .2 oz Rose geranium essential oil; .5 oz Orange blossom fragrance oil)

9 oz Palm Oil
9 oz Olive Oil
6 oz Babassu Oil
4 oz Mango butter
3 oz Jojoba Oil
3 oz Castor Oil

For the colouring, I left one a natural batter colour (which looked more orange than it does in the picture); for the white layer I used a tablespoon of white titanium dioxide powder, and for the pink I used a tablespoon of rose pink french clay.
 

DeeAnna

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The lightest layer and the red layer both look rather chalky to me -- at 1 TBL per 1/4 to 1/3 of your batch, that's quite a bit more colorant than I would use. See how the middle color is slightly translucent compared to the other two, since it doesn't have pigments in it?

Next time, revise this recipe to use about 33% lye concentration (2:1 water:lye ratio) and that will help get rid of the "glycerin" rivers that are showing up in the pigmented layers. It will also help your soap to be firmer when you unmold and that will lead to cleaner, smoother cuts.

The lye conc. you used for this batch is about 26% (2.8 water:lye ratio). That's more water than I'd recommend for making soap with a cold process method.

If you're not running every recipe through a soap recipe calc, whether it comes out of your head or out of a book, it's time to start. Using a recipe calc allows you to check for any errors (even the best of soapers make mistakes) and to evaluate whether the recipe has any hidden weaknesses. This issue of too much water in proportion to the alkali is one example --even the best of soapers don't always get it right.

To give yourself more time to work, some thoughts that may or may not apply to your particular situation --

Stick blend less, especially before you split your batter into portions for coloring. The initial blending time for the entire batch of batter might only be, oh, 2-4 seconds. Just enough to get all ingredients well mixed. Then stop mixing and immediately divide the batter into portions for coloring. You can always stick blend more after that point, but don't "rev up" the batter too much at first.

Maybe soap a bit cooler. Ingredients don't have to be cold, but maybe around 100 F / 38 C.

I don't soap with palm, but others who do use it say it can shorten the working time. Lard gives you more time to work.

If you're a newer soaper, make 16 oz / 500 g batches and make more of them. If one doesn't work out, you've invested less in ingredients. And more batches = more practice to become a better soaper quicker.
 

AndyRoo

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The lightest layer and the red layer both look rather chalky to me -- at 1 TBL per 1/4 to 1/3 of your batch, that's quite a bit more colorant than I would use. See how the middle color is slightly translucent compared to the other two, since it doesn't have pigments in it?

Next time, revise this recipe to use about 33% lye concentration (2:1 water:lye ratio) and that will help get rid of the "glycerin" rivers that are showing up in the pigmented layers. It will also help your soap to be firmer when you unmold and that will lead to cleaner, smoother cuts.

The lye conc. you used for this batch is about 26% (2.8 water:lye ratio). That's more water than I'd recommend for making soap with a cold process method.

If you're not running every recipe through a soap recipe calc, whether it comes out of your head or out of a book, it's time to start. Using a recipe calc allows you to check for any errors (even the best of soapers make mistakes) and to evaluate whether the recipe has any hidden weaknesses. This issue of too much water in proportion to the alkali is one example --even the best of soapers don't always get it right.

To give yourself more time to work, some thoughts that may or may not apply to your particular situation --

Stick blend less, especially before you split your batter into portions for coloring. The initial blending time for the entire batch of batter might only be, oh, 2-4 seconds. Just enough to get all ingredients well mixed. Then stop mixing and immediately divide the batter into portions for coloring. You can always stick blend more after that point, but don't "rev up" the batter too much at first.

Maybe soap a bit cooler. Ingredients don't have to be cold, but maybe around 100 F / 38 C.

I don't soap with palm, but others who do use it say it can shorten the working time. Lard gives you more time to work.

If you're a newer soaper, make 16 oz / 500 g batches and make more of them. If one doesn't work out, you've invested less in ingredients. And more batches = more practice to become a better soaper quicker.
Thanks. Maybe I'll give that a go next time! :)

I do need to learn how to get soap to just the right consistency before pouring: I tend to over blend... although this batter caught me completely by surprise.

I ran the recipe through SoapCalc to check the quantities used in the original recipe as I made one alteration: the original called for lard but, being a vegetarian who avoids animal products, I don't use it, so I looked up an alternative and palm was suggested.
 

DeeAnna

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Are you using the default "38% water as % of oils" method to calculate the amount of water?

If so, try using lye concentration or water:lye ratio instead. You'll get more consistent results in the long run.

Palm is the closest veg alternative to lard, but it isn't a perfect substitution, obviously! ;) Soapers who use palm might be able to offer some tips about working with a palm-based recipe.
 

AndyRoo

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I did indeed use the default. How does the water:lye ratio differ? I assumed that there was a specific amount of water and lye you needed for each recipe and that was that... am I being really naive?
 

AliOop

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I did indeed use the default. How does the water:lye ratio differ? I assumed that there was a specific amount of water and lye you needed for each recipe and that was that... am I being really naive?
Each recipe needs a specific amount of lye to saponify the specific fats being used. Then you need at least a 1:1 ratio of water to lye in order to dissolve the lye.

However, no one uses 1:1 water/lye ratio for reasons that @DeeAnna can explain far better than I can. For me, my batter wouldn't be fluid enough to pour, swirl, etc., if I only used 1:1 water to lye.

As DeeAnna mentioned, using the water:lye ratio instead of water:eek:il ratio will give you more consistent results with your soap batches, regardless of batch size. Most people use somewhere between 1.5:1 to 2.5:1 water to lye, depending on their specific objectives.

HP tends to call for more water than CP, because water evaporates during the cooking process. Less water may also be used in CP to avoid getting glycerin rivers, and also to avoid or reduce soda ash (a harmless white film that may cover the soap surfaces during the cure process).

If you are interested in learning more, many good threads on this forum will provide pretty thorough explanations of beginning soap-making processes.
 

AndyRoo

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I don't think I'm smart enough to understand this. lol

Surely you need the correct proportion of lye to water for the process to work?

Or do you mean the relevant bit is having the correct quantity of lye to oil, and the water ratio is less relevant provided it's at least 1:1 in order to dissolve all the lye?
 

AliOop

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Yes, it’s the lye to oil ratio that is important. Fortunately, the soap calculator will figure that out for you when you put in all your oil amounts.

But again, you don’t want to soap with only 1:1 water to lye. That is just the minimum that it takes to dissolve the lye in the water — but not ideal for soapmaking.

I think that 2:1 water to lye is a good middle-of-the-road place for beginners to start. After you have had a few successful batches, you can start fiddling with that number.
 

AndyRoo

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Yes, it’s the lye to oil ratio that is important. Fortunately, the soap calculator will figure that out for you when you put in all your oil amounts.

But again, you don’t want to soap with only 1:1 water to lye. That is just the minimum that it takes to dissolve the lye in the water — but not ideal for soapmaking.

I think that 2:1 water to lye is a good middle-of-the-road place for beginners to start. After you have had a few successful batches, you can start fiddling with that number.
Ah, ok. I got you - I think.

So in SoapCalc (for example), I put in a water to lye ratio of 2:1, along with the quantities of the oils and the calculator will spit out the recipe with the right amount of lye, but it'll just be with a 2:1 ratio with water as opposed to based on a 38% water ratio?

Chemistry was never a strong subject for me in school. Can you tell?
 

AliOop

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Yes, good job, that is exactly it!

I am neither a math or science person, so if I can do this stuff, pretty much anyone can!
 

AndyRoo

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Yes, good job, that is exactly it!

I am neither a math or science person, so if I can do this stuff, pretty much anyone can!
Ah, right - okay, I understand. I might re-work my 'original' recipes myself and see how they differ then if the consensus is that is generally better. I only ever make CP and not HP soaps - and long may that live so far as I am concerned.

I did make an amazing bath of soap the other day using the 38% method: oat milk scented with macaron fragrance oil. They literally smell good enough to eat. I may have to avoid that cupboard when I've been drinking, lest I forget they're not a tasty snack!
 

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AliOop

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Ah, right - okay, I understand. I might re-work my 'original' recipes myself and see how they differ then if the consensus is that is generally better. I only ever make CP and not HP soaps - and long may that live so far as I am concerned.

I did make an amazing bath of soap the other day using the 38% method: oat milk scented with macaron fragrance oil. They literally smell good enough to eat. I may have to avoid that cupboard when I've been drinking, lest I forget they're not a tasty snack!
Very nice! Definitely edible looking :)
 

AndyRoo

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So: I tried the 2:1 water to lye ratio, and the soap I have just made, after nearly 24 of curing still have a very soft texture which is almost like an oil pastel crayon. Do I just need to leave this longer to get it to finish setting - or is it scuppered at this point?

I ran the recipe through a calculator and followed its recommendations. The batter I am using, according to the calculator, should make a fairly hard bar... but I am worried about this one! :/
 

jcandleattic

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So: I tried the 2:1 water to lye ratio, and the soap I have just made, after nearly 24 of curing still have a very soft texture which is almost like an oil pastel crayon. Do I just need to leave this longer to get it to finish setting - or is it scuppered at this point?

I ran the recipe through a calculator and followed its recommendations. The batter I am using, according to the calculator, should make a fairly hard bar... but I am worried about this one! :/
What were the oils? If you used a high % of OO, it will take longer to set up. Give it up to 48 hours to finish setting up. High OO soaps will take longer to get out of the mold, especially if they didn't gel, and a steep liquid discount wasn't taken.
 

AndyRoo

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Hello,

The recipe I used was this:

Shea Butter 10 oz.
Cocoa Butter 10 oz.
Babassu Oil 7 oz.
Castor Oil 4 oz.
Olive Oil 4 oz.
Coconut Oil (76 deg.) 3 oz.
Sweet Almond Oil 3 oz.
1 tblsp. Vit-E Oil.
10.95 oz. Water
5.48 oz. lye

I fragranced using distilled Lime EO and Peppermint EO. I also used a small amount of liquid dyes. I included some pink Himalayan salts into the batter as an additive - could that have something to do with it?

Thanks for your help!
Andy
 

DeeAnna

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I'm guessing it didn't get warm enough to gel, and that's why it is soft. Give it a few more days to firm up and see what you think then.

Most people who use salt in their soap do not recommend using Himalayan salt because the crystals have knife sharp corners which can scratch the skin.
 

AndyRoo

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I'm guessing it didn't get warm enough to gel, and that's why it is soft. Give it a few more days to firm up and see what you think then.

Most people who use salt in their soap do not recommend using Himalayan salt because the crystals have knife sharp corners which can scratch the skin.
It looks like it's been through the gel phase... but I've decided to leave it for another day before cutting the rest. The Himalayan salt was recommended because it doesn't melt into the batter when hot as some of them can. Either way, I've decided not to put it in the soap again and only use it as a decoration on top - the bit I cut has pockets of it when cause it to be all crumbly, and I am not liking it.
 

DeeAnna

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From the warnings others have given about this salt, I wouldn't use this type of salt at all. If you add it to the top, you need to tell people to cut off the top of the soap to remove the crystals before use. It has a good chance of lacerating the skin if left on or in the soap. Any kind of salt on top of the soap can absorb water from the air in humid weather. This will make the soap wet and goopy.
 

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