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LoveSonam

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Hi everyone,

I have collated so much information on here and for that, I am most grateful. Just as I was about to start my soap planning, I realised, I am yet to know more about how to decorate the tops.

Previously, I have used Himalayan pink salt and after a couple of weeks - the top of the soap started to sweat? if that's the right terminology? I also used sea salt (I was going for a blue "frozen" look soap) and that was nowhere to be seen after a while. It just looked like sweaty blue soap. Does this have something to do with the curing temperature or?

Curing temperature leads me to my second question - I have only made 1 or 2 soaps this winter and in England is quite frosty. My garage is by far the coldest place on earth ranging from 0 to -5. I should probably stop curing soap in there right?

Lastly, I like to make the soap tops pretty but I am having trouble with the patterns because they solidify too quick. (this is something I am looking into, in terms of the saturated and unsaturated fat? - I only started making soap in September, I feel quite proud to be using these words haha). But, every time I put dried flowers on it, namely, calendula, it goes all yellow and leaks into the soap. I know I did add these literally after I poured the soap - should I have waited till later?

Anything to help me in these areas would be mostly appreciated!! Thank you
 

Todd Ziegler

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First we need your recipe with the amounts in order to help you with all your questions.

Your questions are very easy to answer and we can give you a lot of good advice but it could be bad advice without your recipe. Look forward to seeing your recipes..
 

AliOop

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I agree with Todd and would add that we also need to know if you are doing cold process, hot process, or melt-and-pour.
 

DeeAnna

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Salt on top of soap attracts water from the open air and dissolves. You can't prevent this from happening except by moving to a super-dry desert. The practical solution is to not use salt to decorate your soap.

In addition to dissolving like this, some types of salt like Himalayan salt, can have crystals that are sharp enough to scratch the skin, assuming the crystals don't dissolve first. So there's another good reason to not use salt as decoration.
 

LoveSonam

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First we need your recipe with the amounts in order to help you with all your questions.

Your questions are very easy to answer and we can give you a lot of good advice but it could be bad advice without your recipe. Look forward to seeing your recipes..
Hi Todd! Thank you for getting back to me. Here is the recipe for the frozen soap:
Water 114g
Lye 46.27g
Oils 300g
- AP kernal 30g
- Coconut 90g
- Olive oil 90g
- Shea 90g
Fragrant oils - Spearmint/ eucalyptus/ rosemary - 9.3g

The second soap with the yellow calendula - I did not save that recipe, or cannot seem to find it in my book..

I agree with Todd and would add that we also need to know if you are doing cold process, hot process, or melt-and-pour.
Of course! Thank you, AliOop, I am currently experimenting with cold process.

Salt on top of soap attracts water from the open air and dissolves. You can't prevent this from happening except by moving to a super-dry desert. The practical solution is to not use salt to decorate your soap.

In addition to dissolving like this, some types of salt like Himalayan salt can have crystals that are sharp enough to scratch the skin, assuming the crystals don't dissolve first. So there's another good reason to not use salt as decoration.
Ah, thank you DeeAnna! Okay, I just liked the look of them on a soap top I saw so I assumed it was a good addition.
 

AliOop

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Thanks for sharing your recipe and process. With the combined amount of coconut oil and shea butter that you are using, your batter is going to set up pretty fast. Rather than using a stick-blender and getting to "trace," you might consider hand-stirring to a stable emulsion, where the lye water + oils are combined just enough not to break apart. Then quickly pour into the molds. That should give you a little time before it sets up so you can play with the tops.

As DeeAnna noted, salt on soap does attract water and cause sweating. Most botanicals will turn brown. Calendula often stays nice and yellow, but it may bleed into the soap. You may also want to check your supplier and confirm that they didn't add any colorants to make the petals appear brighter. If they did, that could also cause color bleeding.

As long as there were no unsafe pigments added to those petals, it's just a cosmetic issue, and not safety. Some folks might like the look of color bleeding from botanicals as something "charming" with handmade soap. I personally don't mind that, but I do hate getting stuff all over my sink or shower. So, I don't make soaps with botanicals on them. If I am gifted some, I remove it all before using the soap. YMMV. :)
 
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Todd Ziegler

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I will just add that you might want to consider a recipe with slow moving oils and no butters if you want to do any designs or multiple layers. If you want a recipe that moves slowly I can share mine.

As far as setting your soap in a cool room won't effect the quality of the soap or its curing time. However it can affect the hardening time when it comes to cutting your soap for curing. You may want to look into gelling or force gelling your soap. It decreases the time to cut your soap and it makes colors brighter.
 

LoveSonam

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Thanks for sharing your recipe and process. With the combined amount of coconut oil and shea butter that you are using, your batter is going to set up pretty fast. Rather than using a stick-blender and getting to "trace," you might consider hand-stirring to a stable emulsion, where the lye water + oils are combined just enough not to break apart. Then quickly pour into the molds. That should give you a little time before it sets up so you can play with the tops.

As DeeAnna noted, salt on soap does attract water and cause sweating. Most botanicals will turn brown. Calendula often stays nice and yellow, but it may bleed into the soap. You may also want to check your supplier and confirm that they didn't add any colorants to make the petals appear brighter. If they did, that could also cause color bleeding.

As long as there were no unsafe pigments added to those petals, it's just a cosmetic issue, and not safety. Some folks might like the look of color bleeding from botanicals as something "charming" with handmade soap. I personally don't mind that, but I do hate getting stuff all over my sink or shower. So, I don't make soaps with botanicals on them. If I am gifted some, I remove it all before using the soap. YMMV. :)
Thank you, AliOop! I really appreciate the advice, it is very insightful!

I will just add that you might want to consider a recipe with slow moving oils and no butters if you want to do any designs or multiple layers. If you want a recipe that moves slowly I can share mine.

As far as setting your soap in a cool room won't effect the quality of the soap or its curing time. However it can affect the hardening time when it comes to cutting your soap for curing. You may want to look into gelling or force gelling your soap. It decreases the time to cut your soap and it makes colors brighter.
Thank you Todd, I have realised that much later on.. that if I use less butters, I have more time to play with! Haha, thank you!
 

Todd Ziegler

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Thank you Todd, I have realised that much later on.. that if I use less butters, I have more time to play with! Haha, thank you!
Having all those butters in a soap really sounds good and it is hard to resist not adding them.

One thing I have learned the hard way, is that soap has 1 job and 1 job only and that is to get you clean. Once I realized that, I cut down on failed recipes that I thought would be moisturizing. Now I have a recipe that cleans good, doesn't dry my skin and lasts about 45 days.

You can somewhat, control how drying your soap is on the skin but you can't really add moisture. Good luck
 

TheGecko

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I generally just use a chopstick to do an 'infinity' swirl on the tops of my soap. I once put real coffee beans on my soap and it looked really good...then when I used the soap, the beans fell off and I had to set them on the edge of the tub then toss them. As a result, I don't put anything on my soap that doesn't dissolve or cause a mess.
 

Misschief

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I generally just use a chopstick to do an 'infinity' swirl on the tops of my soap. I once put real coffee beans on my soap and it looked really good...then when I used the soap, the beans fell off and I had to set them on the edge of the tub then toss them. As a result, I don't put anything on my soap that doesn't dissolve or cause a mess.
Likewise! I shudder when I see soap makers decorate their soaps with dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks, star anise pods, and other items.
 

The_Phoenix

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Likewise! I shudder when I see soap makers decorate their soaps with dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks, star anise pods, and other items.
This "design" trend makes my eye twitch. In the genius words of Meatloaf, "I would do anything [to make a good bar of soap], but I won't do that."
 

Vicki C

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This "design" trend makes my eye twitch. In the genius words of Meatloaf, "I would do anything [to make a good bar of soap], but I won't do that."
I know this might tweak some people, but I just like plain soap tops without food items or glitter or piped batter or other embellishments. But then I am also a “fashion coward” so to each his own. 😊
 

violets2217

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Now I have a recipe that cleans good, doesn't dry my skin and lasts about 45 days.
So would you consider 45 days a long lasting soap? Just curious. I've not really paid attention to longevity until recently. I just recently started making a note on a calendar for when I start something new. So far just noted starting my new syndet shampoo & conditioner bars, no new bars of soap (trying to use up bars in the soap dish first! lol).

I like to decorate the tops of my soaps... I'm just not to good at it yet. But I sure do love the practicing and experimenting! I have a mantra as I'm working on my soap top... "less is more, less is more". It doesn't always work though!
 

KimW

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So would you consider 45 days a long lasting soap? Just curious.
Since my bars last no more than 2-3 weeks, being handled with great care in the shower, I'd say 45 days would be long-lasting. I suspect my problem is that my bars have no lard/tallow. Since we all discovered the family's coveted real soap from TJs doesn't actually last any longer, I'd stopped experimenting, but lately I've been wanting to start up again!

"Less is more" - a good mantra which doesn't always work for me either! ...just...one...more...swirl... 🤣
 

violets2217

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Since my bars last no more than 2-3 weeks, being handled with great care in the shower, I'd say 45 days would be long-lasting
I'm going to guess that my soap is lasting about the same. but I can never tell because I'm always grabbing a newly cured bar to try out. I think I have 3 different bars in the soap dish right now. So it feels like they last forever! I just don't think I'll be able to make any longer lasting bars. I like a bar that cleans (coconut oil, minimum amount), has some conditioning as well (lard OO Sweet Almond oil)! lol! I like my recipe right now, its a slow soap and works well for me and my family... but I'm sure I could tweak it some... I'm just so curious! LOL
 

KiwiMoose

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I rarely put anything on my tops, although i did recently do some calendula petals (that didn't bleed),
and I often put some dried rose petals on my rose soap. other than that - it's just a few extra bowl scrapings of the colour in the batter and some kind of kebab stick swirl. If it's a plain soap i will do back of a spoon 'snowy peaks' or something.
I recently was intending to do piped tops on my banana and coconut cream soap, but realised i didn't have any piping bags left, so just did little peaks with my spatula:
IMG_7522.jpeg
 

LoveSonam

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I will just add that you might want to consider a recipe with slow moving oils and no butters if you want to do any designs or multiple layers. If you want a recipe that moves slowly I can share mine.

As far as setting your soap in a cool room won't effect the quality of the soap or its curing time. However it can affect the hardening time when it comes to cutting your soap for curing. You may want to look into gelling or force gelling your soap. It decreases the time to cut your soap and it makes colors brighter.
Thanks for this Todd Ziegler! I wanted to quickly touch on what you said about slow-moving oils! I have recently been using a ratio of 32:65. Is this what you mean by slow-moving (to have more oils than butters?) I do find that I cannot cut it the day after or even two days after with this ratio.
When you use slow-moving oils, how long do you leave it in the mould for and wait till you cut it? I tried to force gelling with a soap I made a couple of days ago (after your post actually, so thanks for that) again, it still was quite soft. I wrapped it up in towels, placed in a box and left it under the radiator for a day. It is quite cold in London, so maybe I should have gone about it differently. I have not cut it yet, would it be wrong to insulate it now?

Thanking you in advance for my 101 queries!
 

Todd Ziegler

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That ratio really does not mean anything when I say slow moving oils. If you do a search for slow moving or oils for doing swirls you will get a better idea of what oils I'm talking about. Here is the recipe that I use and depending on the FO that I use, I will get 5-10 minutes before the batter starts getting thick.

Lard, Pig Tallow (Manteca)
Coconut Oil,
Palm Oil
Safflower Oil,
Castor Oil
Sodium Lactate

Butters don't always behave like you think they will. Even if you force gell them they can remain soft for days. I gave up using them but other people have good luck using them @KiwiMoose is one of the people.

I wrap my soap in heating pads to force gell them and with the recipe above, I can unmold and cut the soap after 14-24 hours. I get my soap up to 150°F and when I reach that temperature I uncover the soap and set it aside to cool down. I can even go to 160°F without a problem but it depends on your recipe and I have used this recipe for a year and I know how it behaves and what it will do as it gets hot. I also use sodium lactate to help it harden in the mold.
 
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