Rings?

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Nutty

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I've seen these rings in pictures of homemade soaps online. But what exactly do these rings mean? I read somewhere about gel phase but don't quite understand it...?

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dibbles

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That is partial gel. The soap gelled in the center, but not all the way to the edges. It is just aesthetic, the soap is fine. Insulating your soap will help to encourage a full gel, or you can keep it cool to prevent gel.
 

Nutty

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So If I wanted to keep it all matte and opaque I would want to put it in the fridge? Or if I want to completely gel it I could wrap the mold In towels to keep hot?
 

penelopejane

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To encourage gel: heat the oven to 100* F, wrap your soap in a blanket or towel, put your soap in the mold in the oven, turn the oven off and leave overnight.

To discourage gel: put the soap in the mold in the fridge and leave for 12-24 hours.

There are reasons to gel or not to gel. Often it is personal preference. Some believe it makes soap cure quicker and also makes colours brighter.
Either encouraging or discouraging gel will make it evenly opaque all the way through.

I have no space in my fridge or freezer so I always encourage gel by putting soap in the oven. I do this with goats milk mixes and honey mixes and have not had a problem.
 
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dibbles

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Yes. You could also set your insulated mold on a heating pad for awhile to get it going. Or CPOP - lots of information on the forum about doing that.
 

topofmurrayhill

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I've seen these rings in pictures of homemade soaps online. But what exactly do these rings mean? I read somewhere about gel phase but don't quite understand it...?
Gel refers to neat soap, which is the term for soap that is melted. The melting point of soap depends mainly on the water content. Microscopically, soap that has melted has a different crystal structure so it looks a little different.

If you want to avoid partial gel, you can do CPOP using the oven, as people have described. To do the opposite and avoid gel entirely, you will usually get the recommendation to put soap in the fridge. This is often impractical, not to mention unreliable. Soap doesn't conduct heat well and is often happy to melt in the center even in a cold environment.

It's about time everyone learned that the best way to avoid gel for a typical batch of soap is to decrease water or increase the lye concentration, depending on which way you prefer to look at it. An ordinary batch of CP made with a 40% lye solution will simply not gel, whether you put it in the fridge or a warm oven.

No rule is universal, and you have to know what you're doing. Some processes require more water. Some recipes that tend to overheat may need the help of refrigeration. But what I am suggesting is simple and super reliable for typical CP.
 

Nutty

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Based on experience, is it easier to promote or to prevent gel? To be honest...anything but seeing the rings would be nicer! Haha

And based off of Topofmurrayhill's post it may seem easier to promote the gel phase?
 

topofmurrayhill

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Based on experience, is it easier to promote or to prevent gel? To be honest...anything but seeing the rings would be nicer! Haha

And based off of Topofmurrayhill's post it may seem easier to promote the gel phase?
Speaking very generally, both are straightforward and avoiding gel might even be the easiest thing because all you ordinarily have to do is increase the lye concentration. It's just that people often try to do it the hard way.

Since there are aesthetic and other differences between gelled and ungelled soap, basic advice might be to go with whichever you prefer. If you like soap that's gone through the gel phase, you don't want to make the lye too concentrated and it can be useful to have a heat source like an oven or heating pad. Sometimes insulation isn't enough to ensure full gel.
 

ngian

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After personal experience and various readings from books and other soapers, I think that cracks on top of soap paste in the mold is taking place also because of the partial gel phenomenon.

I always CPOP all my soaps, even those with milk and beer in which I always add table sugar, without having any problems.

So my theory is that at partial gel, only the inner side of soap melts and becomes soft while the outer side is still hard without elasticity, and that difference makes the cracking on top, even the volcano if the heat is more intense in the inside.

So I think forcing full gel is a must besides the aesthetic (coloring) issues.
 

topofmurrayhill

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After personal experience and various readings from books and other soapers, I think that cracks on top of soap paste in the mold is taking place also because of the partial gel phenomenon.

I always CPOP all my soaps, even those with milk and beer in which I always add table sugar, without having any problems.

So my theory is that at partial gel, only the inner side of soap melts and becomes soft while the outer side is still hard without elasticity, and that difference makes the cracking on top, even the volcano if the heat is more intense in the inside.

So I think forcing full gel is a must besides the aesthetic (coloring) issues.
You are probably right about the cracking and such, though most soaps don't heat up quickly enough to cause such problems even with partial gel, which is usually just an aesthetic issue. Either way, I don't care for partial gel and I am sympathetic to anyone wanting to avoid it. Personally I do CPOP, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that full gel is a must. If you can ensure no gel at all, that is also fine.

Below are two soaps with similar aesthetics. The top one was made with a 40% lye solution and the bottom with a 30% lye solution. BOTH went into the convection oven at 60-65 C (140-145 F). The top one refused to gel even in the oven and the bottom one gelled with no trouble. I don't have an issue with the aesthetics of either one related to gel.





 

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