Tips for total noobs?

Discussion in 'Beginners Soap Making Forum' started by RamenParty, Jun 7, 2016.

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  1. Jun 7, 2016 #1

    RamenParty

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    Hi! First post on soap making!

    I have been making bath bombs for a while now and am ready to try my hand with making soap. I have weighed my options and have decided I want to get into cold process since I want to be able to control the ingredients more than you can with M&P. I have been watching the Soap Queen videos since I know almost nothing about soap making but really want to pick it up. I am planning on trial and error-ing the crap out of it until I come up extremely confident enough in my soap making abilities to be able to be consistent and whatnot to gift and sell them.

    I am about to order supplies and ingredients and have done a bit of research but I did have a few questions for you lovelies!

    First, what kind of mold would you suggest for me? I want it to be good for now and maybe later when I want to maybe make slightly bigger batches of soap.

    Next, what is the best superfatting percent? I am relying pretty heavily on my calculator for right now since I'm so new to some of this.

    Another, where is the best storage for my new pretties after it is unmolded? I have wire shelves in my room that are pretty well ventilated so that's where, but what should I keep them on? Would cookie sheets work? How long is the ideal timeframe to unmold?

    As for colorant, what would be your choice for a beginner? I know there are natural colorants and oxide, micas, lab colors, non bleeding colors. I plan to try everything out over time and see what I like best for each kind of soap I want to make and I want to play with some of everything and get my groove going. I was just wondering since I am not able to buy ALL THE THINGS right away, what would you try first?

    I think lastly I would just like to ask if you have any pointers for starting out. Any additives you suggest, what can be interchangeable in a recipe and what cannot? Not asking for specific recipes, I just want to make sure I'm not cutting anything out that really needs to be in there. I am going very simple since I am planning on doing other products like bath bombs, scrubs etc.

    Just to be clear, I am planning LOTS of testing, tweaking, allowing time for everything to cure, making sure everything is super quality and very consistent before I go anywhere with selling or gifting so I don't want you to think I'm just trying to hurry up and sell. I'm not trying to quit my day job, I've just been interested for a while and in talking about it lightly with friends, family, acquaintances, strangers, grocery store clerks in light conversation I have found an interest in a possibility of selling locally or to people I know small scale. If it grows as time goes on cool, but my first priority is quality of what I do and getting everything perfect first and foremost. Any tips are appreciated!
     
  2. Jun 7, 2016 #2

    Kamahido

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    I have 10 10" silicon molds I bought from another member a while back. Love them! Bigger batch? Just grab another mold or two.

    5% superfat is a pretty good place to start.

    Rather than trail and error, many people have already tried what you may have been thinking. Run it by the community and it could save wasted materials.

    I prefer micas. Personal preference.

    Wire shelves should NOT be made of aluminum or steel unless they are coated.

    The soap calculator is your best friend.

    Do NOT buy essential oils or fragrance oils from ebay. They may be diluted.

    Keep soap out of sunlight as it will fade colors.

    Don't be stingy with scents. No one likes tepid scents. Tough one for me personally.

    Hot process DOES need to cure.

    Do not mix lye in glass containers. They may unexpectedly shatter.

    Do not mix lye or soap of any kind in an aluminum bowl. Ditto for steel utensils. You must use silicon, plastic with a 1 or 5 on it, or stainless.

    Wear safety goggles to prevent lye splash, which can lead to blindness.

    Mix lye water in a well ventilated area, preferably outside. Fumes hurt your lungs.

    The general rule of thumb around here is to not even think about selling cold/hot process soap unless you have at least a years experience. You could hurt someone. Not to mention tarnish reputations of all soap makers. Melt and pour is exempt from this.

    Soap is only as good as the quality of the ingredients that went into it. Remember my earlier comment on ebay.

    That is everything I can think of off the top of my head. Forgive the rant and welcome to the addiction that is soap making. :)
     
  3. Jun 7, 2016 #3

    TeresaT

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    Ditto everything Kamahido said. Except he left one very important piece of advice off his list. HAVE FUN!! In my opinion, and others will disagree, as long as it passes the zap test (and has fully saponified) there ain't no such thing as failed soap. If it gets you clean, then it's soap. Now, it might not be the nicest looking soap, or the mildest soap, but it is soap. So be proud of the fact that you made soap. And if you don't like that batch, figure out why you don't like it and fix it. I keep two bars from every batch. One as a "control" that I never use. I just monitor it as time goes by for dos and funky odors. The second bar I use and make notes about the qualities of it. When I actually remember to write them down. :oops: Since I don't keep a pen and paper in the bathroom, I forget about it. Maybe I should keep a pen and paper in the bathroom...:think:
     
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  4. Jun 7, 2016 #4

    Kamahido

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    Thought of a couple more...

    White substance on your soap is soda ash. It is not lye. Can be washed off with warm water.

    NEVER use tap water when mixing lye. Use distilled or reverse osmosis.

    If you want really large molds you can use/make wood log molds. Don't forget to line them with Parchment Paper. Do not use wax paper.

    Never use wooden bowls or utensils for soap making. Lye breaks down organic material. Wood is organic. Over time you may find splinters in you soap. No one wants a splinter while washing their... unmentionables.

    Do not soap in short sleeves.

    Do not soap in shorts.

    Do not soap barefoot.

    If you do get lye on yourself run under cool water. Do not pour vinegar on yourself. Vinegar is fine for neutralized lye on utensils.

    Do not refer to soap as "all natural". It sparks outrage.

    Do read the forums daily. There is always something new to learn.

    Invest in a stick blender. Your wrist will thank you.

    Do not use pans, bowls, utensils etc for soap making and cooking... unless you don't mind your soap maybe having food in it or food maybe tasting a bit like soap/fragrances.
     
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  5. Jun 7, 2016 #5

    Arimara

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  6. Jun 7, 2016 #6

    artemis

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    For experimenting, I really like my little 4 inch mold. It makes 4 nice-sized bars. I like to play around with new techniques and ingredients-- the soap would really pile up if I used my 10" mold every time.
     
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  7. Jun 7, 2016 #7

    shunt2011

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    Hello and welcome!

    Others have given you excellent advice. Another is to wear gloves when working with lye and soap batter. Also, I highly recommend making at least 16 oz batches and always measure in grams

    You can cure your soaps on wire shelving, just be sure to line them with freezer paper or parchment paper so the soap isn't directly on the rack. I use plastic needlepoint squares to line mine

    I prefer to mix my lye in the sink or under the stove vent. I don't want to move it any further than necessary. Always pour your lye into the water never the other way around

    I also highly recommend watching soaping101 on you tube. Great learning tool.

    Lastly, have fun and don't think about selling. You can certainly gift your soap to friends and family for feedback after curing them
     
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  8. Jun 7, 2016 #8

    IrishLass

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    Welcome, RamenParty! :wave:


    That's good to hear. Gather to yourself some willing testers from amongst your family/friends and plan on giving yourself at least 1 year of trial and error-ing/testing before selling. One year might seem to be a long time, but the learning curve and the unique peculiarities and particulars of cold process soap-making truly demand a longer rather than shorter testing/training period.


    My first mold, which is still actually my favorite mold for its versatility and ability to grow with you, is a 4 lb. convertible and collapsible wooden mold that can be used as a log mold or a slab mold. I can make anywhere from a 1 lb. batches to 4 lb. batches in it. You can see it in this link here:

    http://www.soapmakingforum.com/showpost.php?p=496269&postcount=11

    It was made by a former forum member at least 10 years ago, but Dianna's Sugar Plum Sundries sells a similar mold (which I also own as a backup).

    There really is no 'best' all-around superfatting percent. Much will depend on your formula (different oils may demand more or less superfatting) and also your skin-type (i.e., dry or oily). For what it's worth, though, most soap calculators have a built-in default of 5% for safety reasons, which will eliminate the possibilty of lye-heaviness, but you can increase or lower it to your desire. I'm glad to hear you are relying on a calculator. No soap-maker should ever formulate without one. It's very important for calculating the proper/safe amount of lye for your particular formula. My favorite calculator to use is SoapCalc, but lots of beginners (and some old-timers alike) say that they like Soapee.


    Racks that allow for air circulation are best, but not all racks are safe to use with soap. If your racks are metal you'll want to line them with something like parchment paper so that the naked soap is not directly touching them (this is to prevent the metal from causing DOS/rancidity in your bars). I myself use metal, stackable cookie cooling racks made by Pampered Chef. They are coated with silicone, which protects my bars from coming into contact with the bare metal.

    The time-frame for unmolding is hard to answer because it depends on several factors, such as how much water you used, and/or if you gelled your soap or not, and also on the types of oils/fats you used in your formula.


    Colors (like much of everything else about soap-making) will all come down to personal preference. I personally love the micas from Nurture Soap Supplies. They have lots of different colors, and Nurture tests them in CP and shows pics of the results before selling them.


    My first pointer above all pointers is to be safety-conscious (i.e., you need to respect the lye). Never make soap without goggles or gloves, and don't breathe in the lye-fumes when making your lye solution. Mix it in a well-ventilated area away from children or pets.

    Never, ever soap in aluminum or with aluminum utensils.

    Don't mix your lye solution in glass, even so-called tempered glass. This is a major point of contention I have with the SoapQueen videos. Several soap-makers here and on other forums have reported incidences of their Pyrex mixing containers shattering when soap-making. Glass is pretty strong material, but it has its kryptonite, which namely are solutions that are either highly alkaline (such as lye solutions) or highly acidic (such as hydrofluoric acid). Such things corrode/etch/dissolve glass over time, which weakens it until the day it can't take it anymore, and kablooie! Unfortunately, we don't always know the exact day that the camel's back will break, so it's best to use a safer mixing vessel, such as plastic made from PP #5, or Nalgene, or quality stainless steel.


    To make good soap, all one really needs is water, lye and oils, but additives are pretty nice when it comes fine-tuning your formula to give it that special 'something' to make it even greater. The kind of additives one chooses to use will all depend on what one is trying to achieve. For what it's worth, I personally like these and use them in almost every batch: sugar (adds extra bubbliness), tussah noil silk fibers (adds silkiness), sodium lactate (adds hardness and a creamy oomph to my lather, and also helps to make HP batter more pourable) and tetrasodium EDTA (cuts down on soap scum in my hard water and has the added bonus of being a DOS-preventative).

    Some oils are pretty interchangeable with others such as coconut in place of pko and vice-versa, or tallow in place of palm, but nothing is ever exact, i.e., there will always be slight differences in the feel and/or performance that may or may not matter so much to the individual soaper, and the lye will need to be adjusted because of the their different SAP #'s.


    Like I said above, all that one really needs in order to make good soap is water, lye and oils. Everything else is really just icing on the cake.


    IrishLass :)
     
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  9. Jun 7, 2016 #9

    TeresaT

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    I second the "no waxed paper" mention that Kamahido just gave. However, freezer paper works great and it is less expensive than parchment paper. You can also tape it to your mold to hold it in place. If you use HDPE molds, you STILL have to line them. And using a bit of Vaseline on the mold is a great way to get the liner to stick better. YouTube's Soaping101 channel has great videos as Shunt mentioned and I believe she shows how to line molds. Brambleberry.com/soapqueen.com also has great videos about soaping and I'm pretty sure she demonstrates lining molds with paper there, too. But YouTube will definitely be your favorite place (after here, of course) for information.
     
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  10. Jun 7, 2016 #10

    Arthur Dent

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    Ok, I'll be the first to say it.
    Lard makes great soap. Search the forum for high lard recipes, you will find lots.
     
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  11. Jun 7, 2016 #11

    Dana89

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    Hi,
    1.Relax
    2. do not put fragrance oils or eo,s in disposable glasses, better to use glass for fo and eo.s
    3. yes get a stick blender, it can make a difference between minutes and hours
    4. try to start with simple oils like lard, olive and coconut(you can get all these at the grocery store)
    5. I cannot stress enough to follow the lye safety precautions, respect your lungs, eyesight, skin.
    6. Be sure and read up on the fo or eo you want to use. For your first batch you do not want one that accelerates, look that up on youtube.
    7. POST PICS PLEASE, WE LOVE THEM.
     
  12. Jun 7, 2016 #12

    Seawolfe

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    Start simple, with as much as you can buy at your local stores. Soaping101 has some great "dollar store" videos for equipment. DO invest in a stick blender, decent digital scale that measures to grams, and personal safety gear (gloves and goggles). Definitely use distilled water. Lard, olive oil, coconut oil can all be bought at the grocery store, and castor oil can be found in many pharmacy sections. Start with a good plain recipe, and change only one thing at a time to see what happens. And have lots of fun :)

    My first mold was a plastic divider lined with plastic wrap, worked a treat till I figured out what I wanted to step up to. I like wooden log molds with butcher paper lining, you'll find what you like.
     
  13. Jun 7, 2016 #13

    The Efficacious Gentleman

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    I would read through at least ten pages of these sections -
    Beginner
    Lye based soap
    Recipe feedback

    This will give you a foundation, cover a lot of the really common issues so you don't have to make the mistakes that other people made. It might seem like a lot but it's worth the time.
     
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  14. Jun 7, 2016 #14

    cmzaha

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    Please stay away from the flimsy white bowls from dollar stores that have a spout. You can get small paint buckets from Home Depot etc. When starting out one tends to be a bit nervous and those dollar store pitchers are extremely flimsy and bend. Paint buckets have flat wider bottoms and are much more stable.
     
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  15. Jun 7, 2016 #15

    Susie

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    Wash and save your empty fragrance bottles to weigh others into before they go into the soap. They have good lids, are not going to melt like plastic will, are free, and you keep one item out of the landfill for a time.
     
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  16. Jun 7, 2016 #16

    RamenParty

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    Thank you for all of this information! NOW FOR A FEW FOLLOWUP QUESTIONS lol. What is the best thing to mix lye/soap in? If not glass, what should I use?

    The shelves I have are coated but I was planning on putting them on something and not directly on them anyway, so I'm glad you brought up the point about aluminum. I was planning on testing/tweaking for around six months, but honestly, I think I would do much better with a year. Not that I'm seriously planning everything out, but I am the type of person who loves to make plans (I find it really fun!) so even if I have something vague in place I tweak it along the way as life happens.

    As for scents and ingredients I do also make candles so I learned very early on that you can't be stingy with scents which was part of my downfall at first too!

    Oh and you don't have to worry about eBay! I get most of the stuff for my bath bombs that I already make from Brambleberry or Nature's Garden and I personally have found everything to be very good quality and I know lots of people here like them too. I've made a master list of all the things I want to try. I've already gotten pretty decent with candles, I'm still tweaking my bath bomb recipe, I want to start making scrubs, lip balms, and other body products, so I figured I could always get other things going to keep me busy while my soap cures and stuff. I'm very excited about all of it! I have a passion for candles and bath products so I put lots of love into them! I'm totally happy using everything myself or 'gifting' to my family or close friends but I also like working towards a goal.

    Sorry I kind of went on and on, thanks again for the help!
    I appreciate this a lot! The reason I thought about getting into this is because I tried one of those horrible Pinterest recipes for bath bombs after hating spending like $7 at Lush for them and wanting to save some money. That's when I found this website and I've run with it. My bath bombs are much, much better. I also love making candles! I love making soapy things! I FEEL LIKE A MAD SCIENTIST. I think it is SO much fun!

    Funny you mention that, I actually do write stuff down each time I make bath bombs. I figure, if I want to replicate a batch I need it. I cross out, make notes. My bathroom has been flooded with my creations and ingredients... I have to keep all my makeup somewhere else now to make space for things like my soy wax, clays, fragrance oils...BUT I GET TO BE A MAD SCIENTIST SO WHO CARES???
    I just saw this message too! Haha. I am definitely planning on having separate everything from soaping and cooking, and even soaping vs my other pretties like scrubs and whatnot.

    I have a stick blender picked out that my dad actually just picked up for cooking and said was great. I'll definitely be investing in that. I also just picked up an apron this weekend (I've been eyeing the apron for years but never thought I'd need one until now, THANKS SOAPING!) and definitely will wear long pants/sleeves/shoes. I am going to mix the lye water on my patio thanks to you instead of inside. I didn't even think of that! Thank you again, you've been a really big help. I try to read the forums but I think they will be more useful after I try it for the first time since I get a little lost from time to time.
    I think that is what I'm going with for molds. That's an awesome idea.

    As for my scale while I didn't spend a ton of money on it, I use it for bath bombs and it seems generally accurate and it does switch between grams, oz, and some other quantity I am not familiar with that I don't use lol.
    Thanks! I've been watching quite a but of youtube videos on CP soap so I feel pretty ready. I've watched the safety videos and have a bunch of gloves on hand as well as my apron, long sleeves, and closed toed shoes. Also THANK YOU for mentioning a great way to let them cure! I was trying to figure out the best way and I think that is it.

    I'm not going to sell my cured soaps. I am planning on practicing, tweaking, testing my soap for a very long time before I sell anything. I'm not that person who cures and sells her first batch of soap lol. I only mentioned that because I know there are some measures people who sell soap tend to go to that one who was strictly planning on using or gifting might not, and I know that EVENTUALLY I want to so I figured I'd get those good habits together now.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 7, 2016
  17. Jun 7, 2016 #17

    RamenParty

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    THANK YOU a million times.

    I never even thought of using those stackable cookie sheets but that is an awesome idea!

    You really helped me understand what makes soap, soap a little better.

    I love the Soap Queen videos so far that I've watched so I'm definitely planning on doing more youtubing on the subject!

    Thank you for these awesome points! I have a little shot glass looking thing that has measures on the side like a Pyrex glass measuring cup but smaller that I usually use for fragrance and EO's in my candle making and bath bombs that I love. I do plan on getting a stick blender for sure!

    I LOVE PICS TOO. I have been seriously documenting all my firsts and progress like my first candles, bath bombs. I love pictures.
     
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  18. Jun 7, 2016 #18

    KristaY

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    Welcome RamenParty! I just want to 2nd all the great advice previously given.

    As for mixing containers for lye and soap batter, use paint buckets. You can find them at Home Depot, Lowe's, True Value, Walmart, etc. The smaller 1 qt is perfect for lye and the larger 2 1/2 qt is perfect for the oils/batter. They'll have either a 2 or a 5 in the triangle on the bottom.

    As for curing the soap, you can tuck them anywhere that is out of direct sunlight and gets good airflow. I have large metal storage racks for this. I put each batch on metal baking trays I buy from the dollar store. I line each tray with freezer paper or plastic wrap then slide the tray onto the shelf. This way it's easy to pull a batch off the curing rack and turn the bars, weigh them, move them to another place, whatever. I also use a sticky note I put on the front of the tray so I know what batch is there and when it's ready to be wrapped up.

    Welcome to the joyful addiction that is soap making! :wave:
     
  19. Jun 7, 2016 #19

    dixiedragon

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    IMO, Soaping 101 videos are better than Soap Queen. I like Brambleberry a lot, but their videos, tutorials and recipes are designed to sell you stuff.

    One of my best early tips - keep your scale in a ziplock baggie. That way, if you have a spill, your scale is fine. The scale is the most expensive and delicate piece of soap making equipment.

    Colors - I really like clays and oxides. Micas can be lovely but many of them don't perform in cold process. Rose clay is absolutely gorgeous, well behaved, natural, and inexpensive.

    Mold - I recommend silicone. I hate hate hate lining molds. I really like my 10" silicone mold and also my small 1 lb silicone molds.

    Best superfatting percent - 5%. That's pretty much the "standard" here. Plenty of folks go higher or lower, but 5% is the best place to start.

    Best storage - stackable flats from Costco. Free, available in lots of sizes, and if they get greasy just toss 'em. I go in and get all they have of a certain size.

    Additives to try - I think coconut milk is a good one. by that I mean the full fat version in a can, not the stuff you pour on cereal or drink. Oatmeal is another good one. Take some rolled oats and puree in your food processor.
     
  20. Jun 7, 2016 #20

    McMomWV

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    I lined and used cardboard boxes (usps flat rates were my favorites) as molds before deciding on what sizes I wanted to purchase for slab molds.
    Precise weighing and measuring is so important. Always keep a notebook. Jot down everything. Go back and make notes beside your recipe after making and all through the cure process. Even if your note is "wow never do that again". Note temperature of the day, if you gelled, did it rain. That will help you understand why the same recipe or colorant behaved differently.
    Wear gloves and eye protection.
    Experiment, have fun, and laugh at your mistakes.
     

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