Questions Before First Batch

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TBone88

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Hi everyone!

Bit of background: my son (6yo) is always talking about getting rich :rolleyes:. His business model seems to be buying toys at Wal-Mart and then selling them at for 100x what he paid for them. I think he understands that such a thing would never actually work, but I wanted to show him a real-world example of cost-of-goods sold and overhead and marketing. He's a smart little kid (what parent would say otherwise?) and is very excited to start a 'business.' Of course family would be the only 'customers.' This is not a business post! We decided to make soap because it's something we can manufacture at home, and with the exception of mixing the lye, he can help with the entire process. He's especially excited to use the digital scale!

My favorite soap I've ever used was a eucalyptus/mint bar that my wife got for me years ago. The scent really blasted the old sinuses! I'm hoping to recreate it. My son wants to make something that smells like the AXE shower gel he likes. I just have a few questions about the recipe and fragrances before I commit to buying something that might not work.

1. My Wal-Mart has GV brand Unrefined Coconut oil. How can I tell if this oil is 76 degree or 92 degree for using Soapcalc? I've read that Unrefined is better for Coconut oil. Is this correct?

2. I want to use a recipe that can easily accept different colorants and fragrances. From reading on this forum and browsing YouTube, I think I want to try 40% Lard, 40% OO & 20% CO with a 5% Superfat. Is this a good beginner recipe that we can use to create different colors and scents? All of the fats and oils are readily available at our local Wal-Mart which is why I'm leaning toward this.

3. I found two scents to try from Bramble Berry (which is where I plan to order the lye). 'Fierce' and 'Eucalyptus Spearmint.' Does anyone have experience with these? My primary concern is if they'll react strangely with my recipe and if they'll turn the soap a strange color.

Thanks in advance for your help and experience.
 

Tara_H

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Your son sounds adorable! Good luck with the 'business'! ;)

For the coconut oil, although they're listed separately in the calculator, both have exactly the same values so it doesn't actually matter which one it is.

The proposed recipe sounds reasonable enough to me, but I'm sure people with more experience can weigh in and let you know if there are any tweaks they would recommend!
 

ImpKit

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3) The Fierce type from Brambleberry notes that it DOES discolor, stating to a purple. Based on their own pictures that isn't a strong discoloration but you should expect some changes to whatever colorants you use. Stronger colors will (mostly) overcome this in my experience with other similar degrees of discoloration but I've not tried their (or anyone's) Fierce type fragrance. Also note that since it's a Fierce type it is an attempt at duplicating someone else's fragrance, in this case an Ambercrombie cologne; you might look around to other suppliers to see if a Fierce type with no known discoloration is available. Also since this has no vanillin, I know of no process or manner by which to prevent the discoloration.

For the eucalyptus spearmint, it cites no discoloration and their picture backs that up. I found no comments in the reviews that contradict the claim about no discoloration. You should expect that to be fairly reliable. Color to your heart's content. (Note that the reviews do complain the fragrance has some issues not sticking around so you may want to run their calculator and pick the "strong" percentage rate if you want an "open your sinuses" degree of fragrance. You may also want to look up some EO blends for that since both mint and eucalyptus can be purchased as EOs, albeit more expensively. This might be an idea for the future too if the soaping bug bites you hard.)

One thing to note about "discoloration" is that it's also going to depend on the natural color of your soap. Some recipes skew to an off white creamy color, yellow, or even green! All depends on the oils used. I've never used lard but I think lard and coconut oil produce a fairly naturally white soap, so you shouldn't have any "natural" discoloration to fight. If you want to know for sure, make a very small batch first, especially if you're using single cavity molds.

I want to add that with your kid, please be sure he is wearing long sleeves and protective eyewear. Maybe a full face shield. The soap batter you create still has unsaponified lye in it; in fact it can take 24-72 hours, from what I've found, to fully react all the lye. Which means that even if he's not mixing the lye itself, if he gets, as kids are wont to do, particularly exhuberant in mixing in colors or fragrances or pouring, and something splashes, you and he can still get chemical burns. Which is not to say you shouldn't do the thing or include him, just take all the extra safety precautions.

A few adds regarding the discoloration of the Fierce type.

This is an image from a Nurture Soap fragrance called Herbalicious. This is their test with no colorant added. Very dark purple discoloration. If it weren't for the fragrance notes I would want to try this for the color alone! >_> But I adamantly hate lavender and it's the first descriptive note...
1620142501855.png


This is Brambleberry's Fierce type. It appears somewhat discolored but... not much? So I wouldn't worry about the discoloration; just plan for your colors to be ever so slightly tonally shifted grey/purple. One thing I dug up in the reviews, that I honestly wish was provided by Brambleberry on the information page, is that when you add it to your batter, the batter itself might discolor to a "weird green color". But the reviewer's experience, and the image below, show that following saponification that will not remain; the reviewer said that it in fact cleared up by the time they went to pour but your mileage on something like that could vary.
1620142563280.png
 

Zing

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Your son sounds adorable and you sound like a great dad, and it's a great intro to chemistry and artistry. It sounds like you want to use fragrance oils instead of essential oils. So for what it's worth, I only use essential oils and many do not accelerate or affect the process, altho' oranges are colored light orange. For essential oil blends and usage rates, I swear by Find Free Essential Oil Blends - Modern Soapmaking .

My boys are now recent college graduates but your Axe reference gave me PTSD back to when they and all their friends went through a major Axe Body Spray phase. Hoo-wee!:p

My parenting style tends to be 'high anxiety' -- so I'm gonna plug all the safety rules and goggles and gloves and masks. Mixing soap batter is still super lye heavy and splatters and drips. The Melt and Pour technique does not involve lye.

Keep us posted and welcome aboard!
 

Babyshoes

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The recipe sounds like it should be pretty good for starters, but I can't help with the fragrances.

Another note on safety - I've worked with a lot of children of all ages, and I wouldn't make cold process soap with most 6 year olds, or most pre-teens, in fact.

That said, I'm not especially risk averse, I've made beads using molten glass with a 9 year old, but it's a matter of judgement - I wouldn't let most 9 year olds work with molten glass.
You know him best and can decide if it's safe enough for him. I'd mostly be concerned about manual dexterity at that age, which increases the potential for big spills while pouring etc. You also need to be sure he is able to understand and follow all the safety instructions you give him.
If you go ahead, I strongly suggest one of those long sleeved plastic art aprons with elastic cuffs over a long sleeved shirt, gloves (smallest adult ones might still be a little large, not sure if they make kids sizes), thick trousers, closed shoes and a face shield. If his hair is long enough that he sometimes has to push it away from his face, find a way to hold/clip it back to remove that temptation.

I strongly suggest you practice making soap on your own several times before you decide if it's still something you want to do with him, and if so how much of the process he'll be able to do safely.

If you decide not to do cold process, you can still make soap. Melt and pour is significantly safer, though there is still a burn risk if you over heat it. You can use all the fun colours and scents with it.
Another option is to make him some cold process soap dough, and once it's saponified you can let him shape the soap into bars as he likes. Look at polymer clay videos for inspiration.

Edit: that said, I'd love to see what you produce if you do decide to go for it! I'm not trying to stop you entirely, just asking you to pause and reassess things before going ahead. Good luck!
 

Zing

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Back to your question about coconut oil, I'm pretty certain that that brand is 76 and is unrefined. I use it in every recipe -- although a different brand. It warms and melts readily on your fingers. 92 would probably have the word "hydrogenated" on the label somewhere and I don't think it's as readily available in grocery stores.
 

TBone88

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Thanks everyone for the responses! As for safety, yes we’ll be geared up with goggles, masks, gloves, long-sleeves and aprons. Anything that involves pouring I will be doing. I’ll let him measure on his own and help me stir while I control the actual blender!

My local Walmart actually had 100% sodium hydroxide in a solid form, so I picked up everything I need today. Mold, fragrance and colors coming from Amazon. I’ll be sure to post pictures of how it turns out!
 

earlene

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1. My Wal-Mart has GV brand Unrefined Coconut oil. How can I tell if this oil is 76 degree or 92 degree for using Soapcalc? I've read that Unrefined is better for Coconut oil. Is this correct?
Grocery store coconut oil (GV and otherwise) is 76° CO (melts at around 76° F). In the summertime, all the CO in my pantry turns soft and often is liquid on our hotter days, because I do NOT maintain an extremely cold house, contrary to what seems to be the norm in many public buildings with AC. If you keep your house cooler than I keep mine, you may have to pre-melt the CO, the same as you will have to do with the lard.

Six is quite young for making lye soap.

If he has constant supervision and you teach him proper precautions, but always remain vigilant during the entire process, maybe you will keep this safe. I know, you are the parent, but still accidents happen, be ready to intervene and to re-assess his readiness for this venture.

If at some point you decide he is not ready, you sould have him switch to Melt and Pour. No working with lye. MP base is easy to find at places like Michael's, JoAnn's, Hobby Lobby, and online. Plus there is no long cure time required.

I have made soap with my grand children (a boy and a girl) when they were as young as 12. Not letting them do any of the work with lye, though until much older.
 

The Efficacious Gentleman

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I would also do all of the work with the lye myself. All of it. Once it is in the oils, that would be a different thing as you would have stick blender control.

I would also suggest making a batch with him measuring out the oils etc, but from that point on just spectating. That way you both know what is actually going on before you do it together
 

The_Phoenix

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I'd never steer anyone away from making their own soap, and I do not consider myself a risk-averse person in the slightest, but I strongly strongly strongly caution you against making cold processed soap with a six-year-old. Or, if you do, have him merely watch. You mention that he will help you stir. I strongly advise against that, if you mean that he would help stir the lye solution in the oils. The lye is still extremely dangerous at that point. Take it from someone who has a few marks on my arm from accidentally getting a little soap batter on my arm whilst stirring or wiping out my containers. And I cannot envision any gloves in the market that would adequately fit a six-year-old's wee little hands. I know you have the best intentions, but working with lye is DANGEROUS. VERY dangerous.

Some safe jobs you could give him: choosing colorants, dispersing colorants into oil, and choosing the fragrance.

Working with lye is DANGEROUS. Lye burns HURT and they leave scars. Even the tiniest dollop of raw soap batter on bare skin burns. On young, delicate skin, he'll surely have an instantaneous and painful reaction.
 

maryloucb

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I'm with some of the others on this one: I would not let a 6 year old participate in any of the steps that involve lye. He could help you measure everything out, but once the lye goes in and you start mixing, I would keep him at a distance. I have a 12 year old son, and he likes to help cook sometimes, but he flings things around when he stirs and mixes.
 

earlene

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I cannot envision any gloves in the market that would adequately fit a six-year-old's wee little hands. I know you have the best intentions, but working with lye is DANGEROUS. VERY dangerous.
Child-sized gardening gloves are available. I used to buy them for my granddaughter when she had her own garden on our property. She was approximately 4 or 5 when she planted her first garden.

Much as a I agree that 6 is rather young for soapmaking, I met a woman in 2019 who had been making soap with her mother at a very young age, as well. I was rather shocked, I admit, but apparently she was taught sufficient safety precautions, as she was at that time a young adult teaching soapmaking and had no apparent scars. I only mention this as a point of interest. There are probably more precautionary tales than success stories when it comes to children and caustic substances.

My own mother taught me to work safely with lye when I was 16. She grew up on a ranch where her parents taught the kids to work with lye even earlier than she taught me, although I don't know how young she was, but I do know it was younger since she left home at 16. Everyone had chores. Lye solution was used for cleaning and disinfecting, as well as a degreasing agent. My Mom taught me to use it to clean and degrease stove parts. Athough in that context it is a much less concentrated solution than we use for making soap, the solution was still made from the same stuff we make our solution from, so the precautions still existed.
 

The_Phoenix

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Well said, @earlene. As a parent, I’ve raised my daughter to take on responsibility early on. She’s been doing her own laundry since she was in fourth grade, learned to cook using the stovetop in fifth grade, has a stock portfolio that we’ve used to educate her on financial intelligence (which she recently took over the reins of when she turned 18 a few months ago), and has been in charge of maintaining our spare bathroom and her own bedroom for a very long time.

I’m all for teaching young”uns proper safety precautions. But, what I’m gathering is that the mother of the woman you mentioned above was an experienced soaper before she thought her young daughter how to make soap.

Perhaps the OP could get a few batches of soap under his belt before bringing his son on as apprentice to have a hand in the making.
 

TBone88

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Thanks everyone for commenting on the safety issues and potential dangers of letting my son help with the soap making process. While I am an absolute rookie (never made a single batch yet) I have watched close to 40 hours now of videos on the science and process. I also completely understand how study on theory does not equate to capability in practice.

That said, I feel there is inherent risk is any activity, and taking all possible safety precautions mitigates such risks to a reasonable level. There is no way I would ever allow him to measure the lye, mix the lye and water, nor pour the mixture into the oil. Once the oil and dissolved lye are combined, I feel confident in my ability to work with him getting the mixture to trace without injury. Everyone is different in their willingness to accept risk. I strongly believe that allowing (my) children to take measured, calculated risks that they understand (to the best of their cumulative life experience) prepares them to make informed decisions on their own when I’m not around. That may sound like an antiquated stance on parenting (or paradoxically hippy-dippy new-age nonsense) but it works for us.

Most importantly, thank you everyone for your concern for my child’s safety. It takes a village. Have a great weekend!
 

The Efficacious Gentleman

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Then please do make a batch first without him helping at all after the oils are measured - otherwise you are not allowing him to take a measured and calculated risk as you yourself have no actual experience of what you are doing. Not only that, but with your first batch (or even batches!) your attention can easily be more on what is happening in the process itself rather than what is happening around you, regardless of the amount of videos watched.
 

TBone88

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Then please do make a batch first without him helping at all after the oils are measured - otherwise you are not allowing him to take a measured and calculated risk as you yourself have no actual experience of what you are doing. Not only that, but with your first batch (or even batches!) your attention can easily be more on what is happening in the process itself rather than what is happening around you, regardless of the amount of videos watched.
What if we gear up Breaking Bad style in hazmat suits? Safe enough for meth is surely safe enough for soap, right?

In all seriousness, I understand that watching videos does not equate to practical experience. But I also have confidence in myself to be able to handle my stick blender with a pair of little helping hands. It’s not like I’m giving him the blender and letting him have at it. In my opinion it’s no more dangerous than letting him help me flip burgers on the grill. That sucker gets up to 400°F but I’m still the one holding the spatula. At the end of the day, it’s our project and I want him to be as involved as he wants to be, within reason.

On a completely unrelated note, my wife says I’m stubborn. I don’t see it🤷‍♂️
 

The Efficacious Gentleman

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What if we gear up Breaking Bad style in hazmat suits? Safe enough for meth is surely safe enough for soap, right?

In all seriousness, I understand that watching videos does not equate to practical experience. But I also have confidence in myself to be able to handle my stick blender with a pair of little helping hands. It’s not like I’m giving him the blender and letting him have at it. In my opinion it’s no more dangerous than letting him help me flip burgers on the grill. That sucker gets up to 400°F but I’m still the one holding the spatula. At the end of the day, it’s our project and I want him to be as involved as he wants to be, within reason.

On a completely unrelated note, my wife says I’m stubborn. I don’t see it🤷‍♂️
I have no doubt that you can. But (of course, there is a but) if you had never cooked and especially never on a grill, I would still suggest that YOU experience it first before involving a little person too much in it.

But I and others have said our pieces and it's up to you. We don't know you or your son, but we do know soaping
 

TheGecko

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but I wanted to show him a real-world example of cost-of-goods sold and overhead and marketing.
I think it's a great idea EXCEPT...I highly recommend that you start with Melt & Pour as opposed to work with live lye because the batter will still be caustic until it has saponified. I bought the Cute Animals Soap Kit from BrambleBerry for my youngest granddaughter.
 

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