Ricing or partial gel?

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ilonaliss

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I tried to make a honeycomb soap the other day. It was all fine until I stick blended the fragrance in (honey FO from The Soap Kitchen)- the batter riced and since it was already quite thick I did not stick blend any further, poured it into the mold and hoped for the best. I was able to unmold 1.5 days later. The soap is hard and smooth but there are these large dark-yellow pockets throughout and I'm not sure if the bars are safe to use. There was no actual honey in the batter but I know that the soap went through gel phase (I set it on the counter with no insulation, and about an hour after it was made I lifted the lid and saw that the centre of the soap turned into gel- at this point I replaced the lid and wrapped the mold in a few towels). My question is whether these are pockets of FO, lye, or weird partial gel. Of note, pH strip test showed pH 8-9 and the bars didn't zap. Please advise on what I should do.
 

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DeeAnna

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Inexpensive pH test strips are highly inaccurate. They typically read 2-3 units lower than the real pH. Even the good strips are that inaccurate when soap makers use the strips improperly, as most do.

You can't use a simple pH test, even if accurate, to absolutely know if your soap has no excess lye. So while it might be nice to know what the (accurate) pH is, it doesn't give you a definitive answer whether the soap is fully saponified or whether there is excess lye in the soap. The zap test or a titration test for free alkalinity are the only two ways to learn that.

Getting on to your problem -- The blotches may very well be where there is more FO in the soap. If the blotches are about as firm as the surrounding soap, I would give it a good cure and I would expect it would be fine. If the blotches are very soft, I might see what it does after curing, but I'd be inclined to keep the soap for my personal use only, especially if the IFRA guidelines for this FO in soap (Category 9) are very low.

In the future -- stick blend less; hand stir more. Don't "rev up" the soap batter with too much stick blending right away. I might stick blend 10-15 seconds in bursts of 2-3 seconds over a period of 5 minutes or so.

Also, stop blending when the soap is thinner -- at what most of us call "emulsion" rather than when the soap is thick enough to show a visible trace. This is something you learn from experience, but there are good videos to help you get the general idea. See the video links in my article -- Stick Blender | Soapy Stuff

Add well behaved scents to your oils before you add the lye solution, so the scent gets well blended into the fats.

Add troublesome FOs when the soap batter is thinner, not at a thick trace. That will give you more time to hand stir the troublesome FO into the batter so it is well mixed without having to aggravate matters by using a stick blender.
 

ilonaliss

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Thank you for the quick reply DeeAnna. These are very helpful tips! I see that I did all the wrong things with this batch- I added a new FO to the batter at medium trace and stick blended :rolleyes:. I have used FOs from The Soap Kitchen before and they never gave me any trouble so I think next time I will take your advice and add the FO to the oils if I'm making a single colour soap. I wonder if adding FOs before saponification will affect the scent strength, though?

The blotches are indeed softer than the rest of the soap- when I poke them they have a bit of a gelly consistency. The soaps were always intended for personal use and I suppose all I can do now is wait for them to cure to see if they cause any skin irritation. By the way, the IFRA guideline for this FO in bar soap is 3.56% and I added it at 3%. Thanks again for your help! :)
 

DeeAnna

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All "trace" means is the batter is emulsified so it will stay blended together even if you stop whisking, stirring, or stick blending. Your soap is still madly saponifying when it's at trace.

It makes no difference if you add FO at trace or add it to the fats 5 minutes earlier in the process -- there's still a long ways to go before the lye is all used up.

That's a fairly low IFRA limit for a fragrance. I don't know that I'd be too in love with it for that reason.

My preference is to scent soap fairly strongly -- usually 5-6% -- so the scent lasts longer in storage and also so the fragrance is distinct and strong when a person is bathing with the soap. I avoid fragrances with an IFRA guideline of under 6% for this reason.
 

ilonaliss

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My soaps are all for personal use and I don't like heavily perfumed bars, so I scent them all at 3% out of habit and it is usually enough. That said, I once made a watermelon soap with 3% FO and the fragrance had completely dissipated by the end of curing time, so the bars looked the part but smelt nothing like watermelon. I just checked Cat 9 IFRA for that FO and it is 100% (!!), so I will bear your suggestions in mind for when I remake that particular soap :) Thanks!
 
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