Too new for complex recipes?

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Ozzietx

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Location
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I am very new to soap making. I’ve been doing this for about a month. I have made 4 successful batches of soap. I may have gotten too big for my britches( as we say in Texas).

Since I did well on the 4 batches previous, I thought I would attempt a more complex recipe.
I really like the idea of a soap for working folks. After reviewing Earlene’s blacksmith soap, I thought I would give it a try.
This recipe had many new to me ingredients that would require techniques that I had not attempted. I have not used EDTA, borax, KOH,
Pumice, or honey.
So, here are the issues that I had:
First issue was that the borax did not dissolve well into the water. Second issue was that the EDTA did not dissolve well into the water.
When I put the KOH solution into the NaOH solution a thin crust developed on the surface.
When I added the honey to my warm borax mixture it turned light brown. When I added this mixture to the KOH/NaOH solution it turned very dark brown. Once I added the lye to my oils, and mixed with an immersion blender, it went to trace pretty quickly.
My colors were obviously very dirty looking.
I poured my batter into a 3” pvc mold. It got really hot and did a small volcano. It’s curing at the moment.
My NaOh was about 120° my oil was at 96°.
How do you dissolve borax into water?
I used the required boiling water and kept it hot in a Bain Marie.
How do I dissolve EDTA into water?
I did not have a ready solution so I mixed a50% solution with 3.5grams each of water and EDTA. I also kept this warm.
Why did I get the crust on the lye solution?
Why did the honey turn brown? I suspect it scorched.
Did the honey into the lye solution scorch it even more?
I’m not sure this batch will turn out, but I’m betting there is a whole lot to learn here.

I did not reach out to Earlene on this as I thought others may be able to learn from my challenges here. If I DM her, others would not see the solutions.

I would appreciate any input on this.
 
Sadly, Earlene hasn't been around the forum for the past year or so. We all miss her dearly!

I do apologize in advance that I won't answer most of your questions. However, I will say that I make my mechanic soap (gardener soap, blacksmith soap, etc.) by adding Earlene's percentages of borax and pumice to my regular soap recipe. That means I don't use dual lye, honey, EDTA, or her soap recipe.

The purpose of the dual lye and the honey is to make the soap more soluble, so it lathers more easily. I use sorbitol instead, and am perfectly happy with that. You can use plain table sugar if you prefer.

The EDTA is a chelator. I use sodium citrate instead. It works well enough for me, although I understand that some folks with very hard water seem to agree that EDTA works better for them.

Earlene's underlying soap recipe is a nice one, but it isn't magic (and I think she'd be the first to tell you that). Bottom line, the real work-horses in the Blacksmith Soap recipe are the borax and the pumice. Add those plus some form of sugar and chelator to any well-balanced soap recipe, and voila! You now have a soap with extra cleaning power and extra scrubbing power. My mechanic swears by this stuff and orders 30+ bars at a time to keep in his shop (and give to his grease monkey family members, employees, and friends).
 
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I’ll chime in to second that we miss Earlene dearly on the forum.

I made this soap along the lines of what @AliOop said for changes. I decided that I’ll up the pumice a bit next time based on feedback from my Uncle. I also have dried orange peel to add next time based on a suggestion from @KiwiMoose.

As for the borax, I’ve learned your water needs to be boiling to dissolve that stuff, and that you might need to microwave it if it starts to get solid again. It was a struggle for me, although others report it not being as tough as I found it.
 
Well, this is what it looked like this morning.
Not nearly as bad as I thought. I think I could do much better if all of the components worked together better. I will work on dissolving the components better.

Any opinions on why the lye solutions turned dark brown? Did I scorch the honey?
What percentage of water do you use to dissolve the borax? My borax was kind of milky, but definitely not solid. Is that what it should look like?
 

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You’ve already received plenty of good tips above, so I will just add that my solution to the Borax issue is to add a little more water along with heat. As I recall, Earlene’s original recipe calls for a high lye concentration (possibly 40%) and I dropped it to 37% or so. Honey will turn a lye solution orange or brown and may cause the batter to heat up, as discussed in this thread. Congrats on making your first batch of mechanics soap!
 
You’ve already received plenty of good tips above, so I will just add that my solution to the Borax issue is to add a little more water along with heat. As I recall, Earlene’s original recipe calls for a high lye concentration (possibly 40%) and I dropped it to 37% or so. Honey will turn a lye solution orange or brown and may cause the batter to heat up, as discussed in this thread. Congrats on making your first batch of mechanics soap!
Thank you for the thread reference. I will definitely mix my lye solution the day before.
 
Well, this is what it looked like this morning.
Not nearly as bad as I thought. I think I could do much better if all of the components worked together better. I will work on dissolving the components better.
Not so bad, I'd say ~ I've never tried this type of recipe at all but I'd say ❤️ Bless your Texas heart ❤️ for diving in! I say that with respect! Sometimes the best soaps aren't necessarily the best looking 😉 but it appears to look like a regular mechanic's soap.
If I ever give it a go, I would follow the advice of @AliOop and add the pumice to a soap recipe that I already know and love. I am just starting to experiment with adding a chelators (just ordered some sodium citrate yesterday) and am not keen on the idea of dual lye solutions because I hates the maths 😵‍💫🥵😭 but I would definitely start simple ~ but that's just me 😄
You're doing great! Welcome to the addiction, I mean hobby!

Any opinions on why the lye solutions turned dark brown? Did I scorch the honey?
What percentage of water do you use to dissolve the borax? My borax was kind of milky, but definitely not solid. Is that what it should look like?
Honey is always a challenge to work with from what I've researched. Was this the first recipe you added it to? It does heat up a recipe, if I remember what I've read, because it's a sugar (?), so in a normal recipe it's recommended to stir a little water into the honey, then add it to the recipe near the end before pouring into the mold. But it can cause a recipe to overheat and I already work with milk recipes (which can scorch) so I haven't added that fuel to the fire yet, only because I don't want (can't afford) to ruin a batch of soap.
So my guess is yes, it definitely added more heat to the already hot working equation. But as I already stated, I've never made this recipe so I have no idea the reasoning behind all the ingredients and steps involved.
 
As @AliOop said above, EDTA is a chelator, you may not need it if you have soft water. I have really hard water, I have to use it or I get terrible soap scum. But you *must* dilute it properly or it won't, um, dilute. Here's a post where Irish Lass, one of our teaching stalwarts, lays it out: Questions Re: EDTA Use

ETA: given that you're new, I think trying to juggle so many ingredients may make things a lot less fun, though. I would just follow AliOop's advice and add the pumice, borax and sugar/sorbitol to a recipe you are comfortable with unless you get bad soap scum and need the EDTA as well. Re EDTA, I make it 12 oz increments and keep it in a squeeze bottle in my fridge so I don't have to make it up new each time I make a batch of soap.
 
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When I mixed the borax I had to keep it hot to dissolve it ( and even put it in the microwave to do so) . I kept that separate from my lye solution and just added the borax solution to the soap batter after I had already mixed it to a light trace. I have never used honey, but I notice you've used a pvc mold, which are notorious for heating up anyway, which, coupled with the honey, would have caused the volcano.
 
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As @AliOop said above, EDTA is a chelator, you may not need it if you have soft water. I have really hard water, I have to use it or I get terrible soap scum. But you *must* dilute it properly or it won't, um, dilute. Here's a post where Irish Lass, one of our teaching stalwarts, lays it out: Questions Re: EDTA Use

ETA: given that you're new, I think trying to juggle so many ingredients may make things a lot less fun, though. I would just follow AliOop's advice and add the pumice, borax and sugar/sorbitol to a recipe you are comfortable with unless you get bad soap scum and need the EDTA as well. Re EDTA, I make it 12 oz increments and keep it in a squeeze bottle in my fridge so I don't have to make it up new each time I make a batch of soap.
I agree about too many components for a newbie. Will follow the advice. Thanks also for the link. That was very helpful.
 
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