Soaping in the cold

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This will probably be a silly question coming from someone who's been soaping for as long as I have but I'm in a bit of a crossroad.

I badly need space, and it's because I'd been setting up to make soap. So I have EVERYTHING I need to make a pretty good batch of soaps. Yes, plural. This was at the start of Sept. when I arrived in WI. But then I got sick around mid-Oct. and haven't really gotten over my sniffles since then. The thing is we've been in the mid-to-high-20sF for the last month and I can't be in the cold air for too long or my fingertips go numb.
Regardless, I want to get this batch done and over with, but then my concern is, how long do I leave the molds out in the garage? I mean, will they be frozen? Will they still cure? And if I leave them there for, say 48 hours, then do I just leave them out there for a week? 2 weeks? How long? I've looked through this forum and Google at large and I've found nothing except for references to leaving molds temporarily in the freezer or refrigerators. However, that's not exactly what I'm looking at. This is a HUGE walk-in fridge, right? :eek: Mexico and El Salvador this isn't folks! Man, I HATE the cold!
 
Do you have to leave them in the cold garage after the first 24 hours? Do you have something like a hot pad or growing mat that you could leave under them for the first 12 hours? I'm guessing that, with all the water in the batter/bars, that freezing them to those temps would end with the bars cracking, but that's entirely a guess.
 
This will probably be a silly question coming from someone who's been soaping for as long as I have but I'm in a bit of a crossroad.

I badly need space, and it's because I'd been setting up to make soap. So I have EVERYTHING I need to make a pretty good batch of soaps. Yes, plural. This was at the start of Sept. when I arrived in WI. But then I got sick around mid-Oct. and haven't really gotten over my sniffles since then. The thing is we've been in the mid-to-high-20sF for the last month and I can't be in the cold air for too long or my fingertips go numb.
Regardless, I want to get this batch done and over with, but then my concern is, how long do I leave the molds out in the garage? I mean, will they be frozen? Will they still cure? And if I leave them there for, say 48 hours, then do I just leave them out there for a week? 2 weeks? How long? I've looked through this forum and Google at large and I've found nothing except for references to leaving molds temporarily in the freezer or refrigerators. However, that's not exactly what I'm looking at. This is a HUGE walk-in fridge, right? :eek: Mexico and El Salvador this isn't folks! Man, I HATE the cold!
You could turn turn on the light of your oven and keep your soap in the oven or you could turn the oven for bout a 5 minutes, turn it off and then keep your soap in.
 
I live where the winters are cold too, and I use my garage and/or unheated porch as bonus refrigerator space for things like big pots of soup.

I make soap in my basement which is cooler than my main living area. I want my soaps to gel so I use a heating pad under my soap mold and wrap it all up in a thick blanket. Do you not have room inside for your soap to saponify and cure?
 
There are a lot of folks who make Goat Milk Soap and put it in the freezer. Most soap recipes go through the majority of the saponification process between 18 - 24 hours and the process is usually fully completed by hour 48. I'm in the Mid-Willamette Valley in Oregon so we very seldom get 20sF, but I use my garage all year round, except during the summer heat when I'm making GMS and I put it in the frig.

My recommendation would be 48 hours and then bring it it, unmold, cover with a light cloth and wait a day before cutting...it's what I do with my refrigerated GMS and in general during the winter months. It makes the soap easier to handle and to cut.
 
This is a HUGE walk-in fridge, right?
Yes! I hear ya! I have one just like it and it's been below freezing lately. My car wouldn't start yesterday, for one thing. 😟 But that's another story.

If I understand correctly, you need garage storage. If it were me, and if there's room for it, I would look into picking an old refrigerator or freezer, working or not working, it doesn't matter. It would provide enough insulation to keep the soap from freezing with plenty of storage space as well. You could even move some of your oils/fragrances/etc. out there to make room for soap inside the house. ???

Wishing you well and warmer days ahead! 🥰
 
If you can't bring the soap in the house, then I second the idea of using a cooler. I don't deal with super cold temps in my workspace, but I do sometimes make more batches than I have room for on heating pads. When that happens, I put a loaf in a smallish styrofoam cooler, cover the mold with a cardboard lid and pack towels around the mold before I put the top lid on the cooler. As long as the batch is not tiny and not in a slab mold, it will heat up on it's own and my objective is to slow down heat loss. It usually gets nice and toasty in the cooler and I sometimes have to crack the lid open a bit to keep the soap from overheating.
 
@Iluminameluna I feel your pain. We live in North Idaho and while it’s not as cold as where you are, our evening temperatures have been in the high 20’s and low 30’s. I usually put all my soap in the garage in a styrofoam insulated box with a heating pad on the bottom and towels insulating the mold. Last week I made a batch and didn’t put the towels around the mold but I did cover it. When I cut the bars the following day I had a partial gel. 🤦‍♀️ Other batches were fine with insulation and a heating pad on high for 3 hours.
Somewhere (I can’t remember where), I saw where someone had made an insulation box from insulation foam board purchased at the hardware store. If I remember correctly it was 2” foam board and they made it just bigger than the mold. The sides and bottom were glued together with gorilla glue.
I hope this will help with the initial, in the mold, portion of the process. The only thing I can come up with for curing bars is similar to an incubator I once made for hatching chicken eggs. I am thinking an old cooler, heating pad on the bottom, turned on low. Wooden racks for the bars of soap, you could do several layers. If I am remembering correctly, ventilation is also needed so cut a hole in the cooler and install an old computer fan in the side. You could probably put the electrical stuff on a timer and run it a couple hours on and a couple off. Timing would depend on the outside air temperature. Would love to hear what some of the more experienced Soapers think of this idea. I’m wondering how long soap should be protected from freezing?
 
I work in a studio heated by a woodstove - I keep it pretty warm but if it’s very cold (like 0 F) it cools off. A couple of years ago I invested in a ”Cater Gator” and it has been a total game changer for me. It’s like a giant cooler with drawer slides - I use steam pans to hold my soap loaves. I have rigged it so that I can have a heating pad on one of the steam pans to preheat the space. It cost $150 which at the time seemed like a lot, but the return in simplifying my life has been huge. I bought mine from Webstaurant - this is what it looks like. Mine sits on a microwave stand I got off of Facebook marketplace.
 

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Wow, LOVE all the ideas! Thank you for them, @Jorah, @TheGecko, @dibbles, @Zany_in_CO: I hadn't thought about getting a fridge/freezer to use as a giant cooler but it's a brillant idea! @lsg & @Mobjack Bay: I've used a cooler before to force gel because I like the look of the soaps with honey to look nice & shiny throughout*; @Vicki C a a workroom wld be cool! But it's a non-starter I'm afraid; and, @VikingChick, if the garage were insulated I'd be living there, not the car! 😂 This house is about to be overcrowded, so there's no room for shelves or even an extra table setup. Whatever I setup, has to be put away within days.
And the reason I can't bring the soap-making or cure inside is due to too many respiratory issues in this family. Mine among them.
The amount of soap I'm making is for my son & family in TX, and my usual recipes have no milk, just some sugar in the form of fruit/veg like banana, sweet potato, and rice. Only the babies are free of skin issues there. Also, instead of my usual ratio of 1.7:1 liquid to lye, because of the cold, I might just drop it even more, to 1.6 or even 1.5?
I'll be using lard 40%, olive oil 40%, and CO76F 15%, w/ Castor @5%, my usual formula. I use Salvadoran sea salt @ 2tsp ppo in the lye water, fruit/veg @ 2tsp ppo as well (I've got homemade stewed sweet potatoes 😋, pureed & strained) that I'll add to the fats/oils before the lye.
The cooler/insulated box ideas I'll save. Ty! But I'll be making about 3kg of soap in individual molds, and it's not going to work to put them in a container. If I had a loaf cutter, maybe I could make more loaves, but I haven't had that budget. Luckily for me, my son is off this week so I can have him set up a sawhorse table, my crock pot to melt my fats, and help me to get the soap done. 💃💪🏻 🎉 🧽 🫧 🧼

The soap should give off heat as it gels and the cooler should hold in the heat,
I'm thinking more about what happens after the batter gets poured into the molds. Because this won't be a loaf pour, but individual silicon molds, all 3kg of it. So the soaps won't be heating up much at all. Sorry I didn't make that clear! 😔
I was in TX when the Big Freeze happened, & it coincided w/ my having poured about 3kg of soap batter the day before. However, in that instance, after that week, temps went back to their "normal" selves, meaning in the 70s & 80sF, so that the soaps went on to cure normally. Some had some "weeping" issues, but I just left them alone knowing what I knew from my experience in the tropics. Essentially, I left them in the molds until they were solid to the touch, top & bottom. Then let them cure as usual for ME, 3 months. My TX son still has some, and they're beautiful! Really solid and mild, last over a month in his shower (in San Antonio TX) with daily use, sometimes 3-4x a day. That's him, his wife, and 16 yo son.
So that's my worry, what happens when soap batter stays cold, though maybe not completely frozen, over a lengthy period of time?
Should I be the Guinea pig? Oh boy ... Maybe I should make a lb, shouldn't I... 😭 Ugh!
 
Update on the Roaster Oven setup: it's been working great for my soaps I made here - Single Oil Soap Test - 23 Bars, 19 Oils . The dial on the front is not accurate (runs about 20F hot), but it is MILES better than a crockpot. The crockpot outputs a constant amount of heat and does not shut off, takes a while to get up to temp, and even with an interval timer to dial in the temps, it sucks. The roaster gets to temp very quickly and does not fluctuate much.

I am measuring the temperature with a k-type probe that sits in the air through a hole drilled in the lid. It comes with a grate and I put a piece of 1/4" plywood on it to have a flat platform that sits a little further from the heating element. Because I am a nerd, I am using a 4-channel data logger that can accept up to 4 probes. It's nice for comparing against outside temps. Totally unnecessary. Graph attatched.

My only complaint is that I would get a bigger one, perhaps a 28QT. If the interior dimensions were just a little bit bigger I could hold 4 loaves instead of 2. I'm probably just going to get a second one and use this one as an oil warmer and energy inefficient incubator.
 

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I work in a studio heated by a woodstove - I keep it pretty warm but if it’s very cold (like 0 F) it cools off. A couple of years ago I invested in a ”Cater Gator” and it has been a total game changer for me. It’s like a giant cooler with drawer slides - I use steam pans to hold my soap loaves. I have rigged it so that I can have a heating pad on one of the steam pans to preheat the space. It cost $150 which at the time seemed like a lot, but the return in simplifying my life has been huge. I bought mine from Webstaurant - this is what it looks like. Mine sits on a microwave stand I got off of Facebook marketplace.
Hi Vicki C, this sounds like the closest replacement of an oven to me, I would so appreciate more info, I use tall and skinny molds so I’m assuming I would need perhaps 3 pans. How did you rig the heat pad? I put my molds into my oven with just the light on for 24 hours, I’ve moved to the loft with no oven and covering has left my soap a mess.
 
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