Quantcast

Tentative query about castor oil and soda ash - Becoz it can't be true!

SoapMakingForum

Help Support SoapMakingForum:

JuliaNegusuk

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2017
Messages
136
Reaction score
156
I have been having a helluva time with soda ash on a certified recipe (I am in UK). I have tried CPOPing which is mostly successful but does rather spoil the colours of a couple of my soaps as I use natural colours. Ash has only been a problem on about 4 of my 9 regular recipes. The base recipe is identical in 7 of the soaps (two have extra coconut oil as they contain salt) except for colourants and essential oils. As I had nothing better to do in lockdown I decided to make some small batches (3 soaps each) of the worst offenders - lemongrass and poppy seed coloured with calendula, sandalwood (commercial) and bentonite clay coloured with cocoa powder (this one still develops ash on the top after unmoulding even when CPOPed) and mint and tea tree coloured with green tea wax. Without CPOPing these all develop ash also on the bottom corners and edges which bleach and crumble. That at least CPOPing has cured completely.

usual recipe CPOPed:

Olive Oil 300gm (50%)
Coconut Oil 210gm (35%)
Castor Oil 30gm (5%)
Shea Butter 30gm (5%)
Cocoa Butter 30gm (5%)

using a 2:1 water/lye ratio, roughly 5% superfat and a teaspoon roughly (6gm) sugar.

So I changed this recipe upping the olive oil to 55% and eliminating the castor oil and bunging it in the fridge as I used to do before the ash problem made me resort to CPOPing. First two soaps, the worst offenders, lemongrass and poppy seed and sandalwood and clay have not ashed at all! Oh and the colour of the lemongrass soap - lovely! The tea tree and mint have the faintest dusting which only the truly obsessed (eg me) would probably notice. The first one has been curing since 8th April, the second since 24th April and the last 30th April, so enough time I think to ash if they were going to.

So what is going on!!!???!!! Before I spend the rest of my life making tiny batches of identical soaps with and without castor oil, has anyone else noticed this? It would be fantastic (for me if not the rest of the soaping world) if castor oil was causing the ashing, but I don't quite believe it. But then I have never been able to understand why out of 7 identical base recipes and methods only 3 or 4 of the soaps ash and the same every time. It would make more sense if particular essential oils or additives were the cause but I have never been able to pin it down to one thing. This ash thing has taken most of the enjoyment out of soap making. I never had the problem until certifying this recipe, which didn't ash of course while under development, and always used to refrigerate (though many of my early soaps were goat milk).
 

LilyJo

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2016
Messages
547
Reaction score
424
Location
Hampshire, UK
Oh gosh I share your pain. Had recipe that was fine, got it certified and I started to randomly get DoS. Cant shed any light on yours but I do feel your pain.
 

IrishLass

Staff member
Admin
Joined
Feb 11, 2008
Messages
16,892
Reaction score
10,627
Location
Right here, silly!
I use castor oil in all my formulas except for my salt bars (between 8% to 23% castor, depending on the formula) and it's very rare that my soaps ever get ash. In those rare times that they do get ash (only in about 1% of all my batches), it's only a light dusting that wipes right off with a damp cloth. I've noticed that in those rare times that my soaps come down with ash, it always seems to coincide with when I've un-molded them too soon. If I wait until there is no more warmth emanating out of the mold from the gel stage before uncovering and unmolding, I don't get any ash.

For what it's worth, I use a 33% lye solution, I soap on the warm side (between 110F/43C and 120F/48C), pour at med-thick trace, cover my mold completely, and CPOP in the oven to make sure all my soaps go through the gel stage. My oven temp for CPOP is the same as my soaping temp....between 110F/43C and 120F/48C. My oven doesn't have a setting that goes that low, but to get it to that temp, I found out that all I have to do is turn my oven on for 3 minutes and then turn it off before putting my soap inside. I don't keep my oven on the whole time that I'm CPOPing. Just those 3 minutes of pre-heat provides enough lasting heat to kick gel into gear. I keep my soap in the oven until completely cooled down from gel.


IrishLass :)
 

jcandleattic

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 13, 2008
Messages
3,816
Reaction score
3,227
Location
Stuck in my head
Before I spend the rest of my life making tiny batches of identical soaps with and without castor oil, has anyone else noticed this? It would be fantastic (for me if not the rest of the soaping world) if castor oil was causing the ashing, but I don't quite believe it.
Nope, don't believe it. I use 5% castor oil in ALL of my soaps, and it's a very very rare day I get ash on my soaps. It usually has to do with the scent used, or how thin of a trace I pour at and if the soap gels that causes my ash.
 

amd

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 31, 2015
Messages
3,525
Reaction score
4,763
Location
South Dakota
I might agree... except if it were castor causing soda ash, then it would be present in all of your soaps, not just select ones.

I get ash sporadically - and I've "narrowed" it down to which fragrance I'm using, the temp I soap at, what consistency of trace I have and how I put the soap to bed or even how soon I cut. I have one FO that is fabulous when I cut, but 24 hours later soda ash is covering all the cut faces of the soaps. That FO I have to leave uncut an extra day, and it's fine. I have other FO's that if I soap completely at room temp during moderate weather (my soap space may vary by 30degs F depending on the time of year) I have no ash, but as soon as I change one factor of temp (room temp is higher than moderate, or I use fresh made lye, or melt my oils in the micro) I get ash.

I'm inclined to think there may be more going on than castor/no castor. That said... maybe you don't need castor at all. Maybe your soap has a lovely lather without it and it's not the end of the world to not use castor. I just don't expect it's the permanent solution to your ashing problem.
 

Zing

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 5, 2018
Messages
676
Reaction score
1,247
Location
Minnesota
So challenging trying to pin down the culprits! I use 5% castor oil, a must for me, and don't get soda ash. I got soda ash once in my beginning days. Now I pour, spray with rubbing alcohol, cover with plastic wrap, cover with cardboard, and then several towels to gel -- and haven't gotten ash since. Best wishes!
 

JuliaNegusuk

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2017
Messages
136
Reaction score
156
Thanks all, for your support and thoughts. Irish Lass, I do all of that almost exactly as you describe, but I still get some superficial ash and it really mucks up my colours and I just don' t like cpoping. (I also don't like auto correct as it has taken me ages longer to type out if you have to re-type cpop at least twice before it will accept it - grrrrr) . The thing that frustrates me is that I soaped happily for 4 years without a single issue, refrigerating my soaps every time.

So I agree, it's probably not castor oil as all my varieties, ashing and no ashing, contain it. (Though Improbably won't be able to resist trying again.)

Similarly it can't be the base recipe because it's identical in at least 7 of the soaps and 3 don't ash.

It probably also isn't the additives because they are different in all the soaps and most of the essential oils, like lemongrass, I have used in other things without ash, and the batch I have made without castor oil has lemongrass and hasn't ashed.

And also it can't just be be heat or gelling. Whilst I agree that cpoping or forcing gel does on the whole work, all three that I have just made (the ones without castor oil and no ash) weren't made at particularly high temperatures and were refrigerated. So why didn't they ash? Also one of the ones I make which never ashes contains honey and is the only one I still routinely refrigerate. I also recently made another experimental soap with 75% olive oil and 25% sweet almond oil and refrigerated it and that didn't ash. Something is causing it which is affected by heat or gelling but not all the time.

I have just compared the ones I refrigerated with previous batches that were cpoped and covered with cling film. These are much older and all have minor signs of ash. (I use single cell silicon moulds which I should have mentioned before.)

So why, why why why why!!!!!!

I'm fed up. I've recently taken up making mead so as long as that hasn't all turned to vinegar in the bottles I can drown my soap sorrows, but I have to wait till July before I can open the first bottle. It's even slower than soap making, at least you can use that after a month. Hopefully it will taste better though!

Cheers all and keep well!
 

Mobjack Bay

Supporting Member
Joined
Apr 19, 2019
Messages
2,525
Reaction score
3,976
Location
Virginia
It sure sounds like a puzzler. Do all of the soaps that sometimes ash have a solid additive, while the ones that don't ash do not? I couldn't tell for sure about the one with "mint." It's probably a long shot, but is there any chance the additives other than the EOs are somehow affecting the outcome? I often have issues with clays causing ash, which is what made me think of it. I have wondered if it has something to do with hydrating them. I also recall someone mentioning recently that they have a problem with AC when it's combined with lavender.
 

TheGecko

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 22, 2019
Messages
1,033
Reaction score
1,224
Location
Oregon
Are you covering you soap during saponification?

I get soda ash if I don’t cover my soap. I also get soda ash if I cure in the house as opposed to curing in the garage.
 

Mobjack Bay

Supporting Member
Joined
Apr 19, 2019
Messages
2,525
Reaction score
3,976
Location
Virginia
Are you covering you soap during saponification?

I get soda ash if I don’t cover my soap. I also get soda ash if I cure in the house as opposed to curing in the garage.
I've been curious about this ever since you mentioned it on another thread. What do you think is the difference between your house and garage that makes this happen? Is the garage damper, drier, warmer, cooler?
 

Jersey Girl

Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 11, 2020
Messages
883
Reaction score
1,579
Location
At The Beach in New Jersey
I’ll get ash when I use cavity molds if I unmold too soon. As long as I spray with alcohol, cover with plastic wrap and wait a few days to unmold I can avoid it though.
 

penelopejane

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2015
Messages
5,374
Reaction score
4,085
Location
Sth Coast, NSW, Australia
I don't think it's the castor oil.
I soap the same as IrishLass if I am oven cpoping.
I now imitate this process by putting it in a wooden mold and putting it in a wooden box then a polystyrene box and covering it with a doona and don't get ash.
If I use individual molds I do the same but cover it with plastic wrap and leave it for 5 days before unmolding.

How are you cpoping? Some people cpop at much higher than 110*F which I find doesn't work for me.
I think ash has something to do with level of trace and saponification temp and air exposure.
I think the level of trace is really important and not something a lot of people take note of so when they look back at the same recipe they don't know why they got ash on one and not the other.
If it works for you to put it in the fridge then why don't you continue to do that?
If it is a space problem then maybe investing in a 2nd hand fridge just for soap might be a good solution.

I seem to remember you didn't want to use plastic wrap - was that you? It excludes the air which seems to be important. Isopropyl alcohol does that as well. Neither option will work for individual molds unless you can keep them unmolded for days.
 

JuliaNegusuk

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2017
Messages
136
Reaction score
156
I'd love to be able to refrigerate my soaps but normally this doesn't work which is why I started the evil cpoping in the first place. Why these three or four refrigerated soaps have suddenly worked is what's driving me mad.

I cpop at about 80 degrees farenheight, covered with clingfilm and leave in the moulds for about three days. It does usually work more or less, but I feel my soaps just don't look good. The lemongrass and poppyseed goes a very muddy colour instead of lovely pale yellow and my lavender soap doesn't seem to ash exactly but gets an attack of chicken pox on top with a rough dimpled surface. The latest one of these has ashed in all the dimples!

Could it be the additives? The ones that ash the worst have poppyseed, dried mint and bentonite clay in (not all at once). Another quite bad asher has salt, pumice and coffee grounds in, my other salt soap with rosemary oil and dried rosemary doesn't ash. My plain soap doesn't ash (but occasionally dosses to add insult to injury). The cinnamon and honey soap has oatmeal, is always refrigerated with no clingfilm and never ashes! The orange and patchouli soap contains ground orange peel and doesn't ash (thank goodness because the colour is awful cpoped.)

I think you can start to see why this is driving me mad. Every soap is different, the ashing does seem to be consistent though between batches , that is the same ones ash or don't ash every time. There quite clearly is a reason, I just don't know what it is. Interesting that clay might be causing a problem, but that is only one of my soaps.

Interesting about the house/garage thing also. But it seems all so random. These recent successful refrigerated soaps seemingly could have worked just because the temperature, or something was right on the day. But you can't run a business like that. I will have to carry on cpoping but I want to make soap like I always used to which is why I was so excited (and now frustrated again) when my refrigerated batches came out fine. But it it could be anything. Maybe these times I've got potatoes in the fridge and last time I didn',t! Anything. But how many experiments will it take to check all these variables and how much washing can one person and all their friends do to use up all that soap, which I can't sell if it is even slightly different from the certified recipe. Thankfully I don't,' actually run a business but make a small quantity of soaps, a couple of hundred or so a year, for a charity. If I did run a business In think I would given up by now.
 

SeaSuds

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2019
Messages
134
Reaction score
131
Location
Scotland
I don't know if this will help because I still consider myself to be a novice but I found that tweaking my water to lye ratio eliminated soda ash. When I reduced my water to lye ratio from 2:1 to 1.9:1 I haven't had soda ash (I do CPOP) with consistent results, so that small tweak made all the difference.
 

JuliaNegusuk

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2017
Messages
136
Reaction score
156
Thanks Seasuds, I might give that a try, it is such a small thing.
 

PieBorg

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2019
Messages
81
Reaction score
79
Location
Georgia, US
Reducing your water and keeping cold air off your soap should help. Here's a good read that could shed some light on the situation:

 

JuliaNegusuk

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2017
Messages
136
Reaction score
156
Hmmm. I will definitely give this a try. Is there any reason a steep water discount, like say 1.5:1 would not be a good idea? I measure in grams so my measuring should be accurate enough to avoid problems like the lye not dissolving. Or maybe I'll just start at 1.9:1 as suggested. But considering my last few refrigerated batches were ok, how do I know it's the water discount that's worked? How many test batches will I need? If I can find a solution I could recertify my soaps but this will cost. So I can't do it til I know for sure. I'll also be testing on smaller batches. If I increase the batch size will it come back? These are rhetorical questions so I am not expecting answers but the randomness if this makes it difficult to see how I can be sure one thing works. Hey ho, nothing better to do for a while at least. In UK I think the soap businesses are still delivering so I should be ok, just have to have a go.
 

Adobehead

Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 9, 2019
Messages
145
Reaction score
358
Location
Central México
Are you covering you soap during saponification?

I get soda ash if I don’t cover my soap. I also get soda ash if I cure in the house as opposed to curing in the garage.
This curing in the garage thing stumps me, do you know why? The soap likes cars better than people? The temperature is more? or less? Is there a humidity difference? It sounds funny, kind of mysterious to me! Like so many things in soapmaking.
 

SeaSuds

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2019
Messages
134
Reaction score
131
Location
Scotland
Is there any reason a steep water discount, like say 1.5:1 would not be a good idea?
I didn't go straight for a high water discount because i wanted enough leeway to add things like coconut/oat milk using the split method:thumbs:
 
Top