Suspending micas, hydrating clays, mica lines, curing time, oh my!

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Sep 27, 2022
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Hello, soapers! I'm poking my head above ground for a bit between client work deadlines and prepping for my next soaping marathon in a week or so. A couple of questions have been nagging at me lately, and googling isn't turning up anything conclusive, so I thought I'd reach out to the wisdom hive here.

  • When suspending micas, and hydrating clays, do you use oils and water reserved from the recipe? Or add additional? Is that something you factor into your superfatting?

  • When making those lovely oil drizzle or puffed dry mica lines in a loaf, does anyone find that the resulting bar of soap — after curing, of course — breaks at that line after a few weeks of use? I find that when I get a bar around 30% used up, it tends to break in half right where the line is. But maybe it's me.

  • Mr. E likes a honkin' brick of soap, so I make a few that are an inch or thicker. Recently I took a brick that was 7 weeks cured, and cut it in half to make two smaller bars. The middle was very tacky, so it probably needed weeks more cure time than I'd planned. What do makers of big thick bars, or large odd shapes, do to ensure the bars are cured before gifting? When I used to buy large quantities of hay for my horses, I would moisture meter bales, because they can still be very wet inside. Does anyone use a moisture meter?

Thank you all!
I use oils reserved from the main mix for wetting powders, unless I'm making a huge batch - then I don't get so fussy 😅

I've had bars split when I've overdone a dry powder line. I have found that if the lower layer is very thin, a powder line works well enough. If the batter has thickened up, pouring or painting the dust on (after wetting it down with oil or emulsified batter) works for me.

I cure my "bricks" a little longer, but when they are used in block form, it mostly doesn't matter IMHO
(they take a long time for a washer to reach the middle, and mine aren't zappy in the middle if they are cut open - maybe test your middles?)
And no, I don't use a moisture meter (I wouldn't like a hole in my soap, so I couldn't gift one with a hole in it - my logic is I may as well cut one to test, no-one would know their ordinary bar is a former "brick" 😂).
When suspending micas, and hydrating clays, do you use oils and water reserved from the recipe? Or add additional? Is that something you factor into your superfatting?
With micas, you can do it either way. Because I don't always use all of the mica I have dispersed in oil, I don't use batch oils. I put the amount of mica I think I will use in a small cup and add just enough oil to make it easy to pour or scoop into my soap batter. I'd say it's the consistency of anywhere from cake batter to corn syrup. This adds such a minimal amount of oil that I've never had a problem, but I also keep my superfat at 2-3%. I figured it out once and using 4 colors in a 2 lb batch, my superfat was increased by 1% using a fairly fluid mica mixture.

For clays, I do use batch oils because I know how much I am going to add to each portion of the soap batter. I made an activated charcoal with kaolin swirl today. I used 1/4 of my batter for the kaolin. I weighed the total amount of sunflower oil for the recipe and then used 2 tsp to mix my kaolin and 6 tsp to mix my AC.

I usually cut my soaps at 1.25". I cure them a minimum of 4 weeks, although most are quite a bit older when they are used. But I've not noticed a problem when using them at any point after 4 weeks.
Thank you @dibbles! That's interesting about affecting the superfat. In my earliest bars, I didn't use batch oils. But I also developed recipes playing with 7% superfat. I found my bars were sometimes quite soft and took a long time to harden. I assumed I was adding too much oil and started using batch oil.

I'm going to try my first batch with kaolin clay tomorrow and I've seen so many different ways to include it. I know there is no one best way, but I'm wondering how and where to start.

@Marsi Thank you! Yep, I cut a former brick to make two gifts from one bar 🤭 that's when I noticed how moist it was inside.

I *really* love the spirit of experimentation on this board, so I may sacrifice a few bars for the sake of science. It would be nice to have an excuse to use some of my better bars, haha, I always give away the nicest and end up using the dodgy ends and miscuts for myself : )

And interesting observations about the thickness of the batter and the powder line, I've had several of my bars break once they get smaller from use. I'll pay more attention next time.

Thank you!