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The "One Recipe" Theory - Question

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Megan

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Well, what I mean is that it is obviously NOT the oils that are affecting my different outcomes with different recipes, I don't think. And it's not the lye amounts, I don't think, although maybe I need to learn more about the calculators. Thanks for your answer.
I am so confused by this... these are literally the two things that do affect outcome, so I'm not sure what you are trying to say.

I wouldn't call myself "experienced" I've only been doing this a couple years as well...maybe 200 batches (just guesstimating)
I do have one main recipe, not that I don't experiment, but I did a lot of work at the beginning to get a recipe that I loved and I've pretty much stuck with it for a year and a half. In total, I have three recipes that I make in larger quantities than my experimental test batches and these are for completely different soaps (salt bar, and castille). My main everyday (main recipe) soap only changes in additives and designs depending on what I'm going for.
 

Wendy90292

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You can't just trust everyone recipes online. I agree with others about using the lye calc. My recipes have become my own and I can change oils in and out as I like to accommodate how I want the end soap to be. Each oil require a different amount of lye. It seems to me your problems (soap not lasing long) outside of fragrance fade can be fixed by knowing how to use a calc.

Also alkanet and woad easily found on amazon and some other soap suppliers sites. Be aware tho that natural colorants don't hold color like micas do. Also micas need to be cp soap stable or the color won't hold either.
Thanks SO much, MoodyMama!

LOL, I'm dying at the names of the oils. Some of it feels very, very exotic!

I think everyone has good points about the soap calculators, but I think the coolest thing for you would be that you could create a recipe to use these exotic oils!

I'd love to buy a soap with the oil of a left handed emu who only drank Dom Perignon. He sounds like a fancy bird!

And the cool thing about soap calc is that it would tell you the properties of your emu soap!

I don't know what emu oil brings to a soap, but whatever it is, if the emu in question only drank Dom, that soap is going to be fantastic!

I'm personally fine with okay soap, but that's just me and I'm pretty new to soaping. I'm just happy when it doesn't all end in disaster and mottled colors!!
Thanks for "getting it", RDC1978. Ha! I'll tell my pet emus (before I turn them into oil!) that you're into them. : )

I'm not selling -- but yes, you should use a lye calculator.
When I started making soap I got all my ingredients in the grocery store and walmart. You really don't need exotic oils to make a decent bar of soap. Just because a recipe is published, it doesn't mean it's "perfect"; everyone's skin is different, and people also have different preferences even when it comes to little things. (E.g., I can't stand not rectangle-shaped soap... or any slime... and don't like overly vivid colors. I can use soap on my face and do not find it drying. Etc. etc., a lot of people here would disagree with all of these, but that's the fun part, you can make a soap that YOU like!)
Thanks Atiz

I typically have a template for each type of soap I'm making: face bar, shower bar for winter, shower bar for summer, swirls, salt bars, etc. I usually will swap around one ot two oils (usually the soft oils like swtiching olive to rice bran+avocado) according to the theme but generally the percentages stay the same. Since I'm still rather new, being less than a year into soap making, it also really helped me understanding what different oils brought to the table, like this one with olive didn't lather much but swapped for sunflower and almond then it really lathered, etc.
Oh, that's SO interesting, Anstarx! I'm a very serious home baker with several amateur certificates, many tweaked recipes and a meticulous note-taking system for my pastries. I really didn't realize the types of soap varied so much, even though I read a few documents about what different oils do. I love the idea of a template for different intentions - great idea I will emulate...even without emus!

I worked out my formula using a lye calc over 20 years ago. I looked for how much of each property the formula offered, such as conditioning bar, bubbles, creamy lather, etc. and came to ratios that sounded good to me. I have stayed with that formula for the whole 20+ years! If I want goat's milk, I sub that for the water, if I want salt, I throw some in. This may not be the best, but it is what I have done. In the place I live, there is a following of people who literally stand in line to get this soap at monthly markets, so I must be doing at least partly right.

Now I am going through a Renaissance and changing up my formula, giving up palm and for the first time, using the animal fats, smaller molds for experimentation. It will be months before all these new soaps are fully cured and stacked by the sinks and bathtub and well used enough that I will truly come to conclusions about them. What fun.

The point being, you will know your formulas inside and out, taking a recipe off the shelf doesn't give you the depth of experience required to make all this your own.
Wise, Adobehead. Thanks.

Love those oils! I know what you mean about the calculators-it’s as if you’re taking on the role of mad scientist and possibly coming up with a monster instead of building a tried and true masterpiece. The calculator just gives the opportunity to pick apart a formula and tweak it to your liking SAFELY. I’ve been looking for my perfect formula for 5 years. And every “tweaked” calculation ends up with the same fats and oils. I just started looking at Soap Makers Friend calculator here and found the indicator for “longevity “. I also just found the info about high lard content making a great swirling soap. So maybe just keep reading, tweaking, and learning how to substitute safely through your calculator and make sure your freebie friends know the cost of the bar is an unfettered critique. Happy Soaping!
Thank you Savonette. (Great name choice, BTW!) I have had three friends and my mom say, "I don't want to use your soap" or "Please don't give me anymore." This is really sad. All of my soaps "work", but the leeching of colors messed up 2 testers and the other 2 basically said it made them itch. I can't imagine how an all-natural bar, no mica, responsibly harvested palm, quality olive and shea made them itch, but OK. So I need new testers, I guess! Thanks for your input. A lot!

I started soaping with someone else's recipe. Luckily it was a tried and true website so I didn't have any disasters. I thought I had died and gone to heaven with my first batches of soap. They were so much better than what I was using from any store. Over time I realized that I still had days with flakey skin or itching, I also wanted a soap that lasted longer, especially for my kids in Hawaii. So in searching I found SMF and learned so much. Listening to others here and spending a lot of time with the basics, I have started to venture out of my old recipe into new ones that I am creating. I realized that there are people who hate olive oil, or lard or can't stand the smell of one oil over another, so I am trying new oils to find what I like and what my family like by using the soap calc. The article from @DeeAnna on what the soap calc numbers mean was my biggest step in right direction. And if I run out of one oil, I can find a substitute for it through the calculator. I think I'm nearer now to a few tried and true recipes...one for me, one for hubby (he hates bubbles and I love them), one for family here and another for my Hawaii family. With this site and the soap calc I wouldn't be even halfway there.

There are a lot of people experimenting with various oils on this site, along with numerous additives. I haven't tried them all but have soaked up the knowledge and may try them in the future...once I get my recipes down to basics. Hopefully I can find the same oils in different proportions so that I don't have the problem of oils going bad because I don't use them often enough. But I am closer to that goal by all of the knowledge and help I've received here.
Hi Quilter - this is truly sage advice and much appreciated. The answers people have given to this post have really changed my mind about the way I was doing it, but especially yours because twice I did NOT have enough of an oil to complete a recipe so I had to abandon it; and a few times I've found that the amount made was far too little for the mold I wanted to put it in, or an extreme overflow, but not known how to adjust. THANK YOU very much. Now I understand WHY I want to learn to use a soap calculator.
 

atiz

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I can't imagine how an all-natural bar, no mica, responsibly harvested palm, quality olive and shea made them itch, but OK. So I need new testers, I guess! Thanks for your input. A lot!
Oh soap can totally make you itch. Some people's skin are really sensitive so they cannot use lye-based soap at all. And even if you can, it matters a whole lot what kind of oils and what percentage you have of them. That's why it's a good idea to try out many recipes, and learn how to use the lye calculator -- so that you can formulate a soap that you (and your friends!) like.
 

Wendy90292

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Using someone else's recipe is like using a box mix to make a cake. That's not nearly as interesting to me as designing a recipe from scratch and tweaking it to suit my personal preferences.

Even if you are perfectly okay using someone else's recipe, what happens if you run out of oil X and wonder if you could make up the difference with oil Y? If you know how to use a soap recipe calc, you can make this substitution easily and safely.

Or if you want to make a batch that is a little larger or smaller to exactly fit a new mold? Or if you want to use less or more water in a batch to reduce overheating and cracking or to make the soap easier to unmold? A calc is very handy for making these adjustments.
Brilliant! I get it now. Thanks.
 

Arimara

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Oh soap can totally make you itch. Some people's skin are really sensitive so they cannot use lye-based soap at all. And even if you can, it matters a whole lot what kind of oils and what percentage you have of them. That's why it's a good idea to try out many recipes, and learn how to use the lye calculator -- so that you can formulate a soap that you (and your friends!) like.
I'm dropping a brand name- Zum Bars. I hate their soaps as every last one that I have tried made me itch so bad and they were touted as a natural brand. This was before I learned how to make soap for myself.
 

rdc1978

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Thanks for your advice, everyone! I get it now. xoxoxo
This is going to feel like I'm beating a dead horse, but if you decide to use soapcalc, just remember that at the bottom right you have to click "calculate recipe" and then you have to click the button below it that says "view/print recipe" to see the printout (you can do all this on your phone/computer)

It's probably intuitive, but it was not at all intuitive for me and I spent at least half an hour being frustrated before I figured it out.

Anyways, good luck!

And don't be put out by people being weird about your soap, some people just aren't about that soap life! But there is a market for everything .... true story, there was a woman on Etsy selling breast milk soap.....so people have all different sorts of preferences and things they like.

I mean, if someone is paying $9 for breast milk soap there is definitely a market and an audience for whatever amazing soap creation you make!

ETA - I was just thinking, how long are you curing your bars?

Sometimes ive gotten impatient and used a soap way before it cured and it was a little irritating and drying. I just thought it could be a possibility.
 
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cmzaha

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And don't be put out by people being weird about your soap, some people just aren't about that soap life! But there is a market for everything .... true story, there was a woman on Etsy selling breast milk soap.....so people have all different sorts of preferences and things they like.

I mean, if someone is paying $9 for breast milk soap there is definitely a market and an audience for whatever amazing soap creation you make!

ETA - I was just thinking, how long are you curing your bars?

Sometimes ive gotten impatient and used a soap way before it cured and it was a little irritating and drying. I just thought it could be a possibility.
And if that lady was selling breast milk soap in the US she was selling an illegal soap. You cannot sell breast milk soap here.

As for the itching, it may also be too much coconut oil making a bar of soap that is just to cleansing leaving the skin dry and itchy for many people. Also as mentioned above cure time makes a difference. This is why it is necessary to be able to formulate a recipe with a calculator or manually and learning about the different fatty acid profiles of the different fats and what they can lend to soap.
 

Rick Jarvis

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So maybe a recipe tweaker could explain something for me. So you change ingredient a to ingredient b or change the percent of c, or add ingredient d to make a more optimum soap. As a new guy maybe I am missing something but if one waits 4-6 weeks or even longer to evaluate the results of the tweak, what do you do in the meantime. Use your old recipe and in 6 weeks decide if the changes are an improvement? It seems the time from idea to testing is awfully long and then the testing seems like it is and has remained subjective. It seems that most likely outcomes include you like it more, less, or can't tell the difference. Then who knows how your end users feel as everyone has different perceptions and needs.

Now to be candid up until I started making soap I thought there were two kinds Irish Spring and for emergencies there was Lava Soap. So some of the soap nuances might be lost on me.

But I will cop to the one recipe to "make a pretty pour" mindset. As a former glass artist I love this medium and pushing the envelope to make an artistic looking soap.

So clearly the soapiverse is large enough for all to express themselves as they are inclined. It can be the soapiest soap with unicorn oil and passenger pigeon feather oil or it can be oo, co, and palm. You can focus on the performance or the looks or some combo of both.

All I know is I like my soap better than my old standards. It's a treat to use. But how it looks is an absolute delight when it comes out right. Just my two cents and no one should pay me any mind because I am just a new guy.
 

Adobehead

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So maybe a recipe tweaker could explain something for me. So you change ingredient a to ingredient b or change the percent of c, or add ingredient d to make a more optimum soap. As a new guy maybe I am missing something but if one waits 4-6 weeks or even longer to evaluate the results of the tweak, what do you do in the meantime. Use your old recipe and in 6 weeks decide if the changes are an improvement? It seems the time from idea to testing is awfully long and then the testing seems like it is and has remained subjective. It seems that most likely outcomes include you like it more, less, or can't tell the difference. Then who knows how your end users feel as everyone has different perceptions and needs.

Now to be candid up until I started making soap I thought there were two kinds Irish Spring and for emergencies there was Lava Soap. So some of the soap nuances might be lost on me.

But I will cop to the one recipe to "make a pretty pour" mindset. As a former glass artist I love this medium and pushing the envelope to make an artistic looking soap.

So clearly the soapiverse is large enough for all to express themselves as they are inclined. It can be the soapiest soap with unicorn oil and passenger pigeon feather oil or it can be oo, co, and palm. You can focus on the performance or the looks or some combo of both.

All I know is I like my soap better than my old standards. It's a treat to use. But how it looks is an absolute delight when it comes out right. Just my two cents and no one should pay me any mind because I am just a new guy.
Exactly and well said!
 

Kari Howie

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I've made about 25 batches over 2 years. I've collected recipes from various books and websites, some by AnnMarie. There are a few I like well enough, although many of them seem to have one problem or another: they distort the mica colors when added; they dissolve too quickly (less than 2 weeks) in the shower; they last for years; they don't hold the scent for very much past the curing weeks, etc.) Finally, I'm interested in advancing my artistic pouring skills, so I've been watching a lot of videos. It seems to me that most of you (and people with videos) have ONE recipe you love and make over and over, and then spend your focus on making a pretty pour. Is that true? Do most of you experienced soapers have one favorite recipe and you just switch it up with colors and fragrances?

I've really got no interest in using lye calculators. I spent far too much money already on extremely rare oils like "Left-handed Emus Who Prefer Dom Perignon Oil" and "Seeds of a Plant You've Never Heard Of - that grows only at the top of Mt. Everest and has to be picked by Sherpas on a Thursday Oil". You wouldn't believe how much time I spent on a recent trip to London trying to find "woad"!!! (Or in an Indian market in Chicago trying to find "Alkanet" - which doesn't translate in Gujarati OR Hindi, apparently!)

Summary: Do most of you have just one recipe you do most of the time?
lye calculator are FREE Online tools to use in order to formulate recipes and ensure your soap is safe to use. One of the reasons your soap may be so soft and not last longer than 2 weeks is that you are using too much oil for the amount of lye you are using. A lye calculator will tell you the exact amount of lye to use for the types of oils you are using. The one many of us use is Soap Calc.
 

Susie

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@Wendy90292 : OK, not addressing the lye calculator issue since you get it.

I have 4-5 standard recipes for soap depending on who is going to be using it and their type of skin.

I will say to treat your soap making like your baking. Write exactly how each recipe acted and why you did or did not like it on the back of the recipe (or in a file alongside the recipe if you keep this stuff on a computer). Research the properties of the oils, don't just rely on the qualities of the oils as presented by the lye calculators. Ask your mother and friends what was wrong with the soap they got. Tell them you need to know because you can't fix what you don't understand is wrong.

Next, take the soap you and everyone else likes the most, figure out why you liked it, and why you didn't, then play with the lye calculator until you think a new recipe will work better. Then come run it by us. We'll be honest with you. And I promise that 90% of us use ingredients you can buy at the grocery store.

I would start by paying more attention to how a soap functions with your eyes closed. Once you get a good basic recipe, you can then add colors because you need to understand how colorants function with YOUR recipe.

@Rick Jarvis You make tweak 2 in the meantime. It is a long wait between batches. But each tweak teaches you vital information. Also, test your soap once a week. Then you will figure out why you need to cure.

Keep good records. They are invaluable.
 

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I joined this forum only a few days ago and all I can say is I'm so happy I did! I bought quite a lot of supplies last fall with the intent of making soap for Christmas gifts - I've yet to make my first bar - and I'm glad I did. I'd only read about the lye calculator which looked so foreign and complicated to me and with so much information I truly have been overwhelmed. But after reading so much of what everyone has had to say, I'm beginning to feel more comfortable. I found a recipe I want to try and successfully put it into the lye calculator - step 1 done successfully. I'm now waiting for a mica powder since the ones I bought last year aren't suitable for cp soap and I think I'm almost ready to dive in.
Thanks to every contributor on the site for the nuggets I picked up and the knowledge I will continue to learn as I go along.
 

moodymama

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I've been making soap since November and have made so many different recipes in that time. I usually use the soap for the first time within the week just to see the lather and feel. I have a soap dish filled with soap slices. I know which each are from the design and noted the design on the recipe. Then as time goes by I will use them again sometime later. A soap I made in November with carrot puree is really nice and gentle (used it this week) will have to dig out the recipe I used for that, I feel it's a keeper and I know I don't still use that recipe. I have tried goats milk and coconut milk in different soaps with same oils, I don't really feel much difference in goats milk (maybe I'll have to break out a piece and try it again to be sure) and find coconut milk feels so nice.

It does take a lot of time too see how they turn out and in the meantime I like to make them all pretty :) This week I found out I do not like honey in cp soap. It had browning ans splotchy browning which I am hoping becomes more uniform (no fragrance used). Both pucks were 1 tsp PPO. I may still use honey in OMH soap because the browning will go along with the scent. Maybe someone can chime in on that.
 

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atiz

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The waiting part gets easier as you have more batches and then you always have something "new" to try. It is difficult at first but being patient is worth it.
It is really more about what kind of soap you like, at the end of the day. They can be so different -- castile, beeswax soap, salt bars, etc. etc.
 

Megan

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As a new guy maybe I am missing something but if one waits 4-6 weeks or even longer to evaluate the results of the tweak, what do you do in the meantime. Use your old recipe and in 6 weeks decide if the changes are an improvement? It seems the time from idea to testing is awfully long and then the testing seems like it is and has remained subjective. It seems that most likely outcomes include you like it more, less, or can't tell the difference. Then who knows how your end users feel as everyone has different perceptions and needs.
This is what I did. Towards the beginning I tried maybe 10 different recipes (mostly my own formulating on soapcalc). About a month or two in I thought I had the "perfect recipe" for me. Turns out I now feel that that recipe was crap and I hate it when I compare it to the recipe I'm making now. I didn't find this out till about 4 months in though. It was just compared to what I had been using before it was a huge difference.

I feel like when I create something, first and foremost I create something that I LOVE. I need to LOVE it, or I don't make it again (I'm a tough critic)...of course, that doesn't mean it can't be improved...or tweaked after that. Which is what happened in my case.
After I find something I absolutely love, then I ask for others opinions. Most of the time if I make something I really like, it goes over well with a majority of people...the people who don't like it...I don't worry about them if it's not their thing. If their criticism is constructive I can take it and do with it what I can.

Another thing about testing your soap: At the beginning, I used bars right after saponification...maybe like a week in because I am by nature an impatient person. I knew this was frowned upon, but essentially safe (I had zap tested). The key is, you really need to test again after a good cure....but, you can get a feel from the start about how your skin will like the soap or not. I made sure to wait until fully cured to get a final opinion, and then I asked for the opinions of family/friends.
 

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I am not really clear on why I would need to use a lye calculator if I am working from a recipe.
Because not every recipe is reliable...you have folks who have no clue what they are doing and you have typos. Why chance hurting someone, whether it's family or friends or customers (who could sue you) for want of the few minutes it takes to run said recipe through SoapCalc? Not only are you making sure that you are adding the correct amount of water and lye, but if it's a recipe that you like, it makes it easier to resize.

And then their are the recipes that are only given in percentages, like I do:

35% Olive Oil
20% Coconut Oil
20% Palm Oil
10% Cocoa Butter
10% Shea Butter
5% Castor Oil

35% Lye Solution
5% Super Fat

So @TheGecko, are you a professional soap maker or a hobbyist?
Started out as the later, became the former. Though right now I'm just making soap and lotion bars and donating them.
 

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It seems to me that most of you (and people with videos) have ONE recipe you love and make over and over, and then spend your focus on making a pretty pour. Is that true? Do most of you experienced soapers have one favorite recipe and you just switch it up with colors and fragrances?
My non-vegan (tallow) recipe mostly stays the same - I may tweak it by adding stearic acid if I am using honey in the recipe - and I control some soap qualities with the additives I use. I'm still tweaking the vegan recipe. Then I have some specialty soaps (castile and pine tar) that use unique recipes for the style of soap. I don't sell salt bars, but I make them for my husband so that makes my total recipe count 5. Or 6 if you count the recipe I use when I teach classes, because that's a different recipe too.

but Ann Marie's have all these super exotic oils in them; and so do some of the others. I am not really clear on why I would need to use a lye calculator if I am working from a recipe.
Ann Marie owns Brambleberry, she wants you to buy stuff from her. the more oils you buy from her, the more money she makes. You can use those recipes, but for the exotic oils you can sub in more "normal" traditional oils... and that's where a lye calc comes in handy. Also, as said, typos happen. I have a huge dislike of recipes that are printed in qty and not %. IMO all recipes published should be in % so that people MUST use a lye calc to determine the ingredient qty as well as their batch size.
 

amd

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And if that lady was selling breast milk soap in the US she was selling an illegal soap. You cannot sell breast milk soap here.
Not to go off topic... but where did you find that information? As far as I have been able to find, it is legal in the US to make and sell breast milk soap. It's even legal to sell breast milk itself (I have a few mom friends who have done it in addition to donating).
 
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