Sticky Crumbly Layer!!

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Sep 22, 2016
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Hi, soap pros. I've been making hot and cold process for about a year now, experimenting with different recipes to find one that works well for me. In my latest experiment, I attempted to make a three layer cold process soap - Peppermint Mocha. I used a recipe that I'd made 5 previous times - with solid results. The bottom layer is scented with a Mocha fragrance oil, the middle and top with peppermint fragrance oil. Unfortunately, the middle segment ended up being a bit gooey, sticky and crumbly (like feta cheese had been squeezed together), while the white topping and bottom layers were both smooth, hard and easy to cut. Do you have any insights? Here's the recipe:

Lye: 6.85 ounces
Water: 15.84 ounces

Safflower: 2.4 ounces (5%)
Coconut: 14.4 ounces (30%)
Olive: 16.8 ounces (35%)
Palm: 14.4 ounces (30%)

Soaped at 105 degrees.

Divided the batch into thirds.
First 1/3: added 1 ounce Mocha fragrance oil and 1t coffee grounds, stirred and poured into the mold.

Second 1/3: added 1/2 t oil disbursed titanium dioxide and 1/4t Raspberry Mica. 1 ounce of Peppermint fragrance oil, stirred and poured on first layer.

Third 1/3 (ha): added 1/2 t oil disbursed titanium dioxie and 1 ounce of peppermint fragrance oil, stirred and poured onto second layer.

It's that second, or middle layer, that was the epic fail.

I've "sticky, crumbly feta cheese" results before using another recipe. That recipe had come through just fine 9/10 times, too. I just can't seem to find a good, solid recipe that works consistently. So frustrating. I want to LOVE cold process soap making because of all the fun you can have with it, but can't seem to get it right. Even with recipes straight from books (and run through a lye calculator just to be safe). BAAAAH! SOS!
I've used that recipe (with castor instead of safflower) and it was rock hard.
It might have been the stirring.
How did you mix the mica and TD? I have found that I have to use reserved water and reserved oil (from the recipe) to mix the colours and be meticulous about ensuring each section gets their exact same share even if they don't have colour to ensure consistency. Especially when dealing with small sections. So take 3 tsp of oil or water from main mix. 1 added to one section as plain oil, one added mixed with TD and one added with mica.

I found it unbelievable how little extra water was required to throw things off at 30-33% lye concentration. Not sure if this is your problem though. :)
Thanks folks for the quick and generous, helpful replies. I sure thought I stirred enough, but sometimes, even after stirring, the soap looked like it was a little grainey when pouring, while the other parts were smooth and had that lovely "sheen" to it that it should have when you're pouring from one container into the mold (YOU know what I'm talking about!!). Is it that lack of stirring/graininess that may cause the crumbling? Will definitely stir my heart out next time. I never understood why it would have a slightly grainey texture to it.

Penelopejean - to your point, I've thought about taking the oils out of the original mix and using those to mix in my Titanium Dioxide, or other colors, but just haven't. I usually use a T or so of a light oil and mix my oil-compatible Titanium Dioxide into it, then add that to my soap. If it's such a small amount, though, maybe having too much EXTRA oil is making it so that the lye in that layer can't saponify that extra oil and it doesn't ever quite set up. It is small sections - and a small batch - so these "little additions" may be making a HUGE impact.

Thanks again. I'm going to incorporate allof these suggestions into my next batch and report back - stir more, let sit longer in mold, use original batch oils to blend colors. Thank you!
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If it went grainy then it probably wasn't under stirred.
Sometimes FOs react differently (temp of lye, additives, colours, oils etc).
I think the texture of the finished soap is nicer if you can pour at light trace.
Look at newby's video on emulsion at the beginning of the September challenge thread about how little you have to stir. CO and lard require more incorporation of at least heat to ensure they are incorporated thoroughly.

I am pedantic about extra oil and water now in my mixes as I separate parts often and it has really made a difference to my soap hardness/finish. But others seem to splash it about willy nilly and it still turns out.
So annoying for you when only one layer is off. It might cure better. I hope so.