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Well-Known Member
Apr 13, 2015
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Irvine, KY
My last 4 batches have behaved differently than normal. I am using the same recipe, but the batches are not gelling well and I have to wait much longer to unmold. I can unmold and cut in 10-12 hours with my lard recipe. It usually gels easily as long as I throw a blanket over it. I've had two batches that just sat for several days before I could unmold and it took a another day or two before I could cut. It doesn't look like they gelled.

I have had two changes and I'm trying to pinpoint which would be the issue.

1.) New oils shipment. I used Soaper's Choice as the supplier. The lard I ordered seemed much softer than what I buy at the market. I'm thinking it doesn't have the same preservatives??

2.) I ordered a bunch of lye from the Lye Guy. Usually I use WSP lye or get it at Ace Hardware. Lye Guy gives a range of 96-100% purity, but if it's at the low end could it make that much difference in the saponification time?

I'm thinking lye because even last two batches of salt bars took a long while to harden and they didn't have lard.

I need to figure a workaround since I ordered a large quantity of both :-|

Any ideas would be appreciated. Here are my recipes:

Lard Recipe

Lard 40%
Coconut 15%
Babassu 10%
Olive 20%
Avocado 10%
Castor 5%
I use either a 30 or 33% lye concentration with sugar & silk in the lye water and about 1T SL as well.

Salt Bar

Coconut 80%
Olive or Rice Bran 15%
Castor 5%
16% SF and 70% salt to oil
Do you have any of your ingredients from your first suppliers left? Maybe try a batch of soap with Soaper's Choice oils and Ace Hardware lye, then try a batch with grocery store lard and Lye Guy lye? Maybe that will narrow it down?

Other than that...I got nuthin'!

What FO's did you use? I have noticed that citrus EOs will make soap very very soft!
I switched from the store bought oils to mostly Soapers Choice oils a few months ago. No problems. Although I get my lard from a local baker's supply store. It too is softer than the "Manteca" I used to get at Walmart. But I haven't had any problems with it as far as it being responsible for my soap not gelling when I intend for it to.

I also use the Lye Guy for my lye purchases. Again, no problems.

Have there been any changes in weather (i.e. Humidity, etc.) recently. If all else is the same, that "may" be an issue. If it's been colder or more humid, you may need to either use an extra blanket or use a heating pad or electric blanket to get things rolling. That's what I had to do as fall turned to winter around here.

I know I've probably not offered much in the way of a solution for you ... but, I hope I've provided some help.
Has the temperature in your soaping area changed? I notice a big difference between summer and winter in how long my soap takes to harden. If Im at all in doubt it goes on the heating pad, well bundled. Also - are your soaping temperatures consistent? I notice if I soap hot, the heat carries to the mold and moves things along faster.

If its not those, I dunno.
Thanks for some ideas.

I used Kumquat FO from WSP and Peach Bellini from BB.

It is significantly colder here, but it's Florida. My house stays about 5-8 degrees cooler in the winter. Maybe that's enough that I need the heating pad.
Have you been using the same lye concentration? A high concentration will make a difference in gelling or not gelling. More water can cause higher heat and faster gel. The preservative in lard is BHT and it would not make a difference in the texture. I actually add extra BHT to my lardy soaps since lard is not always my friend. The texture will not really affect the soap in the end.
My only two concessions to the cold are to:

1. Melt all of my oils before adding lye water. I use the heat transfer method during the summer because the house is warm enough to give it a jump start.

2. Use two towels to insulate the mold. Extra layer underneath and over the top ensures full gel.

I am most suspicious of your not-hard salt bar. That should be like a rock. What kind of salt did you use?
I was concerned about the salt bars as well. I don't have a ton of experience with them but the first 3 batches I made were ready to cut in 2 hours. The last two batches have still been soft the next morning. I can cut, but if I handle them too much I leave indentations. That said, by the next day they are hard.

I am using fine sea salt. The first soft batch used the same salt I have had success with, the last batch used a new container of sea salt. It says no additives, just 100% natural sea salt.

I still have a funny feeling about the lye, but I'm going to try a couple more batches, salt and no salt, this week.
Soapers choice lard is very soft and will pour out of the bottle as opposed to, say, the buckets at walmart which are solid. That said, it made no difference in unmolding for me. I just received a shipment last week from the lye guy. My next soap, if I run into problems, I'll report back. It could be the lye. Maybe grab some roebic from a Lowes or something and compare.
You can check if it's the lye by just heading over to Ace and getting a pound for your next batch.

Sounds more like temperature.
If I go to a 36% lye concentration I do not get gel very easily. If I want gel I go higher water.
That's me and I live a long, long ways from Florida.

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