Rant about soaping "trends" and myths

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cerelife

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Turning your bars during cure? Nope, I don't do that - didn't even know it was a thing.
Curing a 2 lb loaf for 6 weeks before cutting? I know for sure that that wouldn't work for my recipes, but maybe it would work for others. I once left a 2 lb loaf sitting on my curing shelf for a week due to lack of time and it was quite the challenge to cut with a basic straight cutting blade. A wire cutter wouldn't have stood a chance.
I honestly didn't know about these 'rules or myths' when I starting soaping 12 years ago.I had a very basic soap recipe and ran with it, tweaking along the way with every batch. I spent a lot of time researching oils, butters, additives, and numbers/percentages.
It took me over 4 years to create what I felt like were 'perfect' recipes. Butters bring much to the table, so to speak. Particularly so if you're creating a vegan soap recipe.
 

Arimara

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Agreed. To assist with the myth-busting, I will be making a 2 lb batch of soap. I'll divide it between 2 loaf molds. I'll cut one to cure and let the other one cure in the loaf. I'll test the middle bar of the uncut loaf against any bar of the other loaf and let y'all know if there's any difference between them. If there's not, y'all can quit turning your bars to cure. 😂
I already don't do that. 🍵
 

Susie

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I am a big proponent of figure out what works for you. I would say two things, however, is to run every recipe (no matter where you got it) through a lye calculator and always use weights, not volume. If there is a difference, go with the lye calculator. Fatty acids were not as well understood back in the old days as they are now, and some of those lye differences can be quite large. I would also think about figuring out the water % that you like to work with.

And no, @IrishLass, I would not heft it out the window. I would use it and apply lots and lots of lotion.
 

ResolvableOwl

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I’ve never heard of using vitamin E to reduce fatty odors. Does anybody do that today?
Well, tocopherol/vitamin E is an antioxidant (weakens the action of oxygen on things) that can, if not prevent, at least delay rancidity, if you dose it properly. So if “fatty odours” are the smell of rancidity, that is, not really the fat itself, but its breakdown products that form over time under the action of air, light, moisture, trace metals, microbial action …, then you might lessen these odours by vitamin E – if you know what you're doing.

There is a grain of truth in the advice to “add a few drops of vitamin E” – but as it is worded, it is quite as useless for the novice practitioner seeking for advice, as it is inaccurate and vague.
 

Raj

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I started making soap about 9 months ago, and since I am a tad obsessive, I read everything I could get my hands on, joined every facebook group, read tons of forum posts here, articles, and a stack of books on soaping dating from the 70's to now. I've made nearly 80 batches of soap and I'm rather frustrated at some of the things I had to "unlearn."

None of the old books talk about superfatting. Except for pure coconut oil soap and soleseife, I find that I don't like it. Where did that stupid rule that you should superfat half of your cleansing number come from? I suspect I rinse it down the drain and I think it interferes with lather.

I don't care about expensive butters in soap- I think they turn to soap and lose their skin softening properties when they do. If Ann Bramson was curing soap on the loaf in the 1970s, why am I turning my bars so they can get more air? Do thick soap bars cure less well than skinny ones since skinny ones have more surface area?

On many facebook groups (not so much this one) people kept telling me my recipes (at 25%) coconut oil were too drying. Most of the older soaping books I have have a MINIMUM of 25% coconut oil- it isn't unusual at all to see a "gentle" recipe at 29% or more in the older books. Even though my dermatologist says I have sensitive skin, a cleansing number of 19 is perfectly fine for me- in the summer anyway. I can't believe I spent months trying to formulate a more bubbly recipe with lower coconut oil when I didn't even need to! Since I'm no longer scared of coconut oil, I'll be trying a bar I made for my husband with a cleansing number of 22.

Rant over. On to the next soapy recipe.
[/QUOTE
My personal unfavorite soapy myth is the recommendation to use vinegar for any lye splashes on skin. I had to unlearn that one after many years of soapmaking - thank goodness I had no significant burns or splashes all that time.

Regarding butters, I do like what they bring to soap, but often soap without them due to cost, since I give away a LOT of soap.

Regarding superfat, I agree that too much is, well, too much. I do use 20% for my 100% CO bars and my salt bars. For all other recipes, I started at 5-7%. After experimenting, I've found that 2-3% is my sweet spot for my typical recipes.

Regarding the CO, many folks do experience skin irritation, or severe dryness, with CO over 20% (long-cured salt bars and high SF 100% CO bars are the exception for me). For some folks, even 20% CO is too much.

It does take experimentation to find what works best for you, as well as those who will be using your soap. For me and for my users, it works best to keep CO at 20% or less, and add some form of sugar to boost bubbles. I know that bubbles aren't necessary for cleaning, but they make the washing process more enjoyable for me.

Those recipe tweaks may not be necessary or ideal for you, but please don't dismiss them as myths, because they aren't. Different people can prefer different recipes for different reasons. Those are just differences, not myths. :)

hi,
have a question regarding superfat in soap. When I do a 100 % olive oil bar, using it after 6 weeks I have noticed a slimy feel to the soap while using it. It’s sort of lace on the soap ( hope I am able to explain the issue here )

I am using superfat of 5% for the 100% Olive oil bar.
Any suggestions please
 

AliOop

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hi,
have a question regarding superfat in soap. When I do a 100 % olive oil bar, using it after 6 weeks I have noticed a slimy feel to the soap while using it. It’s sort of lace on the soap ( hope I am able to explain the issue here )

I am using superfat of 5% for the 100% Olive oil bar.
Any suggestions please
100% Olive oil soap does have a slimy or "snotty" lather. This can lessen a bit after a longer cure, but it never really goes away. for me, a better way to cut down on the slime is to use Zany's No-Slime Castile ZNSC) recipe with fake sea water. I make the bastile version 75% OO, 20% CO, and 5% castor. It has zero slime, but it still needs a pretty good cure time of 8-10 weeks. You can use the search bar above to find the recipe.
 

TheGecko

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There are rules to making soap? Why didn’t someone tell me?!? :eek:

What exactly is there to 'unlearn'? I'm genuinely puzzled by that comment because I grew up in the 60s and 70's. No question that technology has changed significantly significantly since then, but I never had to 'unlearn' anything, I just had to learn new things and/or how to do things differently.

There really aren't a lot of hard and fasts rules about soap making. Yes, you need lye to make soap because that is the basic science of making soap...fats + lye = soap. And yes, you should always pour lye into your liquid, but that is less about soap making and more about safety. Same with not breathing in lye fumes or getting it on your skin. The temperature of your oils/butters and lye...some of it is about keeping new soap makers safe and successful, some of it is just about common sense involving your ingredients. If your hard oils get too cool, they start solidifying again and will later separate during the saponification process. If your lye solution gets too cool, it won't work (@DeeAnna can tell you exactly why).

I don't know the exact history of 'super fat'...it's probably been around since the beginning of soap making, but was never called that. Logic seems to suggest that when we went from making soap in the backyard with homemade lye to more scientific methods of calculating the exact amount of lye needed for a particular oil/butter aka SAP value, somebody noticed that recipes often contained more fat that what was actually needed, hence 'super fat'. Some folks add at least 1% SF to make sure all the lye is used up though unnecessary considering most lye sold to the public is only around 99% pure. Some folks use SF to make their soaps more 'moisturizing' with unsaponified oils. I use a 5% SF, because that is what the first recipe I used had, but I have some test bars curing with lower rates to see what effect it has on my soap.

Coconut Oil can be drying for a lot of folks which is why the recommended usage rate is 20% for new soap makers. But if you like more CO, use more CO. If you like less CO, use less CO. Some folks like Castile Soap (100% Olive), some folks do not. Again, a lot of recommendations are made for new soap makers to be successful, a lot of recommendations are made based on the properties of the fat. Seriously, I wouldn't make soap with 100% Castor Oil or 100% Cocoa Butter.

Expensive oils/butters...you're correct. It's why I use Olive Oil instead of Extra Virgin Olive Oil; the color aside, there is no difference between the two after the saponification process is over...it's just soap. The simple fact is, lye is a caustic substance...it turns all oils and butters into basic salts of fatty acids and glycerin which in turn become soap (yes, oversimplified). I love Argan Oil, but I would never use it in soap.

I did a TON of research too before I started making soap and yeah, I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning...did you know that soap can shatter? Some of the mistakes were stupid, most were made from a lack of understanding. I'm into my third year and I've made hundreds and hundreds of bars of soap. I've had some pretty spectacular failures...like the shattering soap, concrete soap, soap that I thought was going to catch on fire, but I saw them as "opportunities to learn" instead of failures. Again...so you took someone's advice and found out that it was wrong or than information has changed...not a big deal. You LEARN from it and you continue to move forward.
 

earlene

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Where did that stupid rule that you should superfat half of your cleansing number come from? I suspect I rinse it down the drain and I think it interferes with lather.
I have not run across this 'rule', but then I don't really belong to any other online soapmaking group than SMF (well, maybe a couple others, but not particularly active & they're on FB, which I rarely open except to communicate with family).

I agree with you, that makes little sense to me as well. The higher the SF, the less lather is the general rule I've read, or should I say 'experience' rather than 'rule'. More like a rule of thumb, which is not really a rule, but gathered experience.

Most (all?) soaprecipecalculators use an automatic built-in 5% superfat. Some calculators do not even allow SF adjustment. Some allow for adjustment to lye purity, while others do not. The reasoning behind this (the built-in 5% SF) was explained as to give a safe product that would not be lye heavy if the resulting recipe is closely followed (good while learning the craft, but not necessary in perpetuity.) However, that built-in SF does not take into account increasingly lower lye purity over the course of the lifetime of a container of lye which, if not used up all in one setting (like in the old days when recipes were for enough soap to use a whole bottle of lye) will absorb water from the air everytime it is opened to take a little NaOH out to make a small batch of soap. (one more reason I like masterbatching my lye solution - no need to expose dry lye to ambient water in the air) Also because the SAP values for oils can vary with differences in crops, the ranges used in calculators allows a certain amount of leeway as well, so the built-in SF is not always what it seems either. It could actually be a bit higher (or lower?) than the recipe result states, so the built-in 5% SF is supposedly giving the soaper a safe soap that is not lye heavy. HOWEVER, we can test our soap with phenolphthalein or do a ZAP test and determine if it is lye heavy or not. And as we gain experience, we can learn to adjust SF in the calculators accordingly.

In any case, I find that a very low SF makes more sense for me. The less oil to go rancid the better. AND the less oil to go down the drain and clog up my plumbing, the better. I don't pour cooking oil down the drain (same reason), so why would I want to wash soap oils down the drain? I like the soap better with a SF between the 0-3% SF range, and only once had a problem with soap turning out with a lye problem and it had nothing to do with weights & measure. It was an iced lye solution problem that I won't go into here.

Like you, when I first started out I just followed the norm (of what was presented to me at the time by books & whatever I found online & later by my soapmaking instructor). Luckily I joined this group within a year of starting to make soap & was fortunate enough to avoid some of the weird stuff, but not all of course. Newbies do like to experiment, so I still did that. But I learned a lot from folks here and also from the experimentation.

As for turning bars, I found (& it was reinforced here by others) that soap with high water content, cut thinly, do warp and become misshapen as they cure, which seems like a good reason to rotate the bars. However, even with frequent rotating, mine still warped. But thicker cuts don't seem to warp so much, so hefty square or rectangular bars became my favorite for shape, both for feel when holding and no warping. However, when I followed advice here to increase lye concentration (less water to lye ratio), even thin bars stopped warping. But I still don't really like thin bars (of course that's a whole other topic.) I may like to 'fondle' my soap, but I don't bother turning them regularly. The curing bars have sufficient air flow on all surfaces as they are, although less on the bottom surface, but even that is on plastic mesh, so there is air under them as well as above and around.

As for allowing soap to cure in the mold before cutting, I have a couple or more things to say about that. I let my first Castile sit in the mold for quite a long time, then it was REALLY hard to cut into bars (with a knife -- I had no other cutter at the time.) Some soap recipes are ready to cut sooner than others. Some can wait. It really does seem to depend a lot on the recipe, IME.

But most of all, how many molds does the soapmaker have to have on hand if the soap is to remain in the mold for the entire cure? Sure you could cure the block of soap outside the mold, on the shelf and I am sure that would work just fine. But again, it depends on the recipe and how stored, whether cutting will be a challenge or not. I have stored soap wrapped in plastic wrap to allow it to be soft enough to cut later & that works, but of course, the recipe does matter. And even plastic wrap will not prevent all water loss from soap; water loss does still occur as evidenced by measurable weight loss, and the soap does become a tad harder to cut using a wire cutter (fear of breaking a wire).
 
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Ugeauxgirl

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I started a new experiment thread. I need input on lye concentration please!

 

TheGecko

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Something to add…I’ve turned eggs for hatching, but I’ve never turned my soap, never saw a need too as I leave enough room for air circulation

And I would never cure my soap in a mold (couldn’t make more soap) or as a loaf (or slab). Why? It’s kind of the difference between making banana bread in a loaf pan and making it in a muffin tin. Banana bread is very dense and in a loaf pan, takes a long time to bake…better than an hour. But put the batter in muffin tins and I’m enjoying them fresh out of the oven with lots of butter in about 30 minutes. My bars are standard 1” bars and take six weeks to cure. If I left it as a loaf…it would take about 18 to 20 weeks to cure.
 

penelopejane

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I've been soaping for 6 years next month (good grief!!) and I've learn everything I know on this site or from personal experience.
I came here because I couldn't find a handmade soap that had ingredients I wanted to use and only those ingredients.

I'm one of those who can't handle coconut oil. I'm allergic to eating coconut and despite the fact it is saponified it still itches like mad at anything over 10% in soap. The 30/30/30/10 Olive/coconut/palm oil/castor was my first recipe and I have friends who love, love, love it - but it kills my skin. (I don't use palm anymore so they just have to suffer without it.)

When I started, like everyone, I wanted to be given a recipe. Preferably the holy grail recipe. Everyone said you have to test and test and test. So very annoying but so very rewarding because there is nothing that suits me and my skin on the market. I don't go by the "numbers" I just go by how a soap feels on my skin and I make soap for people who must have skin similar to mine. There was a blind test confirming goats milk does nothing in soap. And I've done blind tests confirming almond oil is preferable to avocado oil. But both goats milk and avocado oil have huge label appeal regardless and some people swear by them. There are so many people out there that your little niche will suit someone. Just don't try and come up with a definitive "holy grail" recipe.

Looking back at this forum you will see that soaping information has changed in the last 6 years let alone the last 45. But there are soapmakers who have been making soap successfully for 30 years and are not about to change because what they do works for them.

I've never turned my soap. Like the gecko I just allow room for air circulation. I'd need an axe to cut my soap if it was left in a loaf for more than a few days. :)
 

Ugeauxgirl

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My bars are standard 1” bars and take six weeks to cure. If I left it as a loaf…it would take about 18 to 20 weeks to cure.
That's the point of the experiment. Ann Bramson says they cure in the loaf in the same amount of time as they do when sliced. I'll let you know by testing the performance of the bars.
 

Cheeky Goat

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‘Rules’ are a funny thing, I’ve never heard them expressed as such, but more, ‘color in the lines, as outside of these, strange things can happen, and you may not be ready for it’.

I agree they can limit creativity, and I’m all for tossing them out in some cases.

Professionally, I do medical research, and I’m a RN, and it’s always fun to take a hop back in time and see what we used to do, but it’s wild when we make a leap and it’s medicinal advice/foundations that I learned on shifting to something new. Unlearning my old habits are hard!

Soap making is much the same to me, what worked well before and what we now know sometimes overlap, and sometimes do not.
I think the trend/awareness towards a higher superfat may also have to do with consumers being used to the much milder surfactant based products, so the demand for less stripping soap was created.

I personally don’t like high CO in my recipes, I don’t use high amounts asides salt bars, and that’s because to me it’s painfully stripping, and I don’t like my bars to make my hands or body feel ‘squeaky’.

But I’m all for bending the ‘rules’, I learned from Bee at Sorcery Soap to throw that 5% castor oil rule out the window. It makes great soap at higher levels if you learn how to balance it.

There are other things I do that aren’t the norm, but that’s for another day 😅
 

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