Soaps staying caustic! Why?

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Petclerk

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I have a major problem! I'm new to soaping, only have about 18 batches of soap so far. I'm letting my soaps cure for 6 weeks and using the Phenolphthalein for the lye test. Many of my soaps are not passing the test!! I've used lye calculators and there's plenty enough distilled water.... why is this happening? Everything is mixed well. In some of my soaps it is just the smaller sample size bars in which I used mineral oil as a "release" oil in the plastic molds, the larger loaf bars are fine. Others were done in the oval silicone molds and are quite caustic. Some of the caustic ones have an "ash" on them as well. May I inject here that many of soaps are fine and are passing the lye test. I don't seem to be doing anything different with these caustic ones except for the oil mixtures but I've checked the lye calculator.... so frustrating!! Anyone have any ideas as to what I'm doing wrong? All my soaps are CP. I think I'm going to cry :-( but in the mean time I'll enjoy my wonderful soaps that turned out fine!
 

dagmar88

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PH testing is only accurate with a PH meter anyway, but it's totally unnecessary.
If you did use accurate amounts of lye, it can't be caustic.
You can do a zap test to make sure there's no excess lye in your soap, by wetting your finger, rubbing it over the soap and touching it with your tongue ;-)
If there's any excess lye, it'll 'zap' you a bit, if not, it just tastes like soap.
May sound strange, but it works :p

A PH of around 10 is normal for soap, so it's never going to be PH neutral.
 

Ruthie

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Are you sure caustic is what you mean? It sounds to me as if you are talking about PH levels?

Some time ago I read an article about PH tests not being reliable, but unfortunately I did not bookmark it. It might have been helpful for you. I'm not sure about phenolphthalein and its reliability. I hope someone else can be of more help.
 

pamielynn

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When you say caustic, do you mean lye heavy? If you post the recipe you are using, we might be able to tell you what's up.
 

DeeAnna

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When you say your soaps are "not passing the test", what exactly are you seeing when you test with the phenolphthalein? NO color, pale pink, or bright pink?
 

christinak

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Please do a zap test and tell me what you notice (rub the soap with your finger and then lick your finger....what does it taste like. Or put your tongue directly on the soap). This is the best way and it doesn't lye....lol, sorry...I had to.
 

Petclerk

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Thanks everyone, I finally figured out my problem.... oh, so much soap to throw away!!! Bright pink color, the problem is: in the smaller sample size molds and the oval molds my soap is not going through a proper gel stage, thus the lye is not transforming to the non caustic state! Live & learn, I've discovered that soap MUST go through the gel stage. Will just have to cut up my loaf bars for samples.... oh well :shock:
 

three_little_fishes

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Thanks everyone, I finally figured out my problem.... oh, so much soap to throw away!!! Bright pink color, the problem is: in the smaller sample size molds and the oval molds my soap is not going through a proper gel stage, thus the lye is not transforming to the non caustic state! Live & learn, I've discovered that soap MUST go through the gel stage. Will just have to cut up my loaf bars for samples.... oh well :shock:

Wait for some more feedback before trashing. We have several members that don't gel their soaps. I have some that only partially gelled (first batch and I forgot to insulate) and it is one of the most gentle soaps that I have.
 

ocean_soul

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I've discovered that soap MUST go through the gel stage. Will just have to cut up my loaf bars for samples.... oh well
Um, it's my understanding that this is not so...non-gelled soaps are perfectly safe to use but they tend to require a longer time in the mold and a longer cure time.
 

newbie

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Oh no! Do NOT throw away your soap just because it didn't gel. Ungelled soap will completely saponify but it does take longer. After cure, it will not matter at all if you gelled or didn't.

I would pick up a book about making cold process soap so you understand what the process is more thoroughly.
 

soapguy

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Thanks everyone, I finally figured out my problem.... oh, so much soap to throw away!!! Bright pink color, the problem is: in the smaller sample size molds and the oval molds my soap is not going through a proper gel stage, thus the lye is not transforming to the non caustic state! Live & learn, I've discovered that soap MUST go through the gel stage. Will just have to cut up my loaf bars for samples.... oh well :shock:
NOT!

Post your recipe so that we can run it through lye calculators.
 

pamielynn

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I agree- gel is NOT required for proper "saponification". You really should let us see your recipe so that we can properly help you figure out what's going on.
 

Petclerk

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Well, I'm a little ticked! I went out and bought the PH test strips, guess what? My soaps are fine! So I tried washing with them and they are good. I guess the Phenolphthalein is not an accurate way to test soap after all. Sorry folks, I'm learning everything via the internet and books, up until convention next week that is! Can't wait :razz:

I really appreciate all your help, you guys rock!!
 
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jcandleattic

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Thanks everyone, I finally figured out my problem.... oh, so much soap to throw away!!! Bright pink color, the problem is: in the smaller sample size molds and the oval molds my soap is not going through a proper gel stage, thus the lye is not transforming to the non caustic state! Live & learn, I've discovered that soap MUST go through the gel stage. Will just have to cut up my loaf bars for samples.... oh well :shock:
Soap does not have to gel to become soap. In fact many soapers avoid the gel stage altogether by freezing or cooling the soap as soon as the soap is poured. Especially for milk soaps.
What is your superfat? Are you superfatting or taking a lye discount? How small are your batches, is your scale accurate? etc., etc. ???
More info will be more helpful for us to diagnose and help you with your problem.
 

jcandleattic

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Well, I'm a little ticked! I went out and bought the PH test strips, guess what? My soaps are fine! So I tried washing with them and they are good. I guess the Phenolphthalein is not an accurate way to test soap after all. Sorry folks, I'm learning everything via the internet and books, up until convention next week that is! Can't wait :razz:

I really appreciate all your help, you guys rock!!
Sorry, didn't see this post before I posted my reply.
So glad you didn't throw your soaps away.
And yes, those PH strips are notoriously inaccurate for testing soap.
 

DeeAnna

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Double what JC said -- do NOT trust pH strips. Phenophthalein and the zap test are more accurate. Do a zap test, please.
 

Petclerk

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Boy, just when I thought the PH strips were telling the truth! I've got hot pink all over my soaps but they are not lye heavy, they are fine. Can Phenolphthalein go bad? Maybe I have a bad bottle? My soaps vary from 3 - 5 lbs depending on recipe. I cure them for a minimum 6 weeks. Does the soap ash react with the Phenolphthalein? Maybe that's why they are turning bright pink? The PH strips and my zap tests show that my soap is safe, am I misinformed as to how the liquid test is supposed to work? I had expected to see no color at all, which is the case on some of the soaps, so why the pink? There is absolutely no zap! I always use a lye calculator and mostly have 2.3 times the amount of water compared to the lye. Maybe to much water? For now I'm going to pass on the Phenolphthalein!
 

DeeAnna

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Soap can have different pH levels depending on where you test a bar. The outer surfaces can be higher pH than the inside. The top can be different than the bottom. Ash may have a higher pH than the underlying soap.

Don't pass on the phenolphthalein, just learn how to use it correctly and interpret the results properly. The pH test strips can be inaccurate if you don't get the right ones and don't know how to use them on soap correctly. The zap test is your friend, as long as you are very cautious with that first tiny taste. And, last but not least, wait to pass judgement on soap pH until you are reasonably certain the saponification reaction is over.

My overall advice is to just slowwwww dowwwwnn......

From your posts here, you are giving me the impression that you are leaping from one conclusion to the next and not taking the time to think things through. I realize, however, that your real life situation may quite different than what I'm reading here, so forgive me please if my perception of your posts does not really fit your reality.
 
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Mommysoaper

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Soap will always or rather should always test slightly alkaline with phenolphthalein. It is the nature of soap to be between a pH of 9-10 or round abouts. If the phenolphthalein test shows a light pink, it's ok. Bright vibrant pink, not so good. Try the tongue test-- it's way easier to determine whether or not your soap is lye heavy. If it is lye heavy, don't throw it out, try to rebatch. Listing the recipe you used could help determine what may have gone wrong. Hang in there, don't panic-- you and your soap will be fine!
 

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