Too soft soap

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Fenchurch

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Hi there!
I've made my 8th soap batch last week, and it's the first time I encounter not hardening soap.
Here is my recipe:
Olive oil: 601g
Coconut oil: 300g
Hazelnut oil: 100g
I used a combination of soapcalc and a French soap calculator to determine lye mass according to these parameters:
Total superfat 10% with lye reduction of 5% and superfat at light trace of 50g of wheat germs oil.
Lye (solid): 142.7g
Water: 370g
Fragrance: 29g
Here is the soapcalc sheet:
1618685906944.png

It's the first time I tried this precise recipe, and I didn't add any salt, sugar, or white clay as I sometime do.
I've arleady done some soap with no solid oils but at least 60% olive oil - that gives pretty hard soap, no problem.

I used CPOP as a few previous batches, that are usually dry enough to be cut a couple of days after making.
When mixing lye solution and oils, the former was at around 38°C (ca 100°F) and the latter at 20°C (68°F).
I've done just so for the other batches with no hardening issues.

I poured the batter in individual molds as well as in a cake mold for cutting afterwards.
I put 3 out of 6 soaps out of the individual molds and they're steady, if a tad sticky to the touch, but I don't dare doing the same with the others: the batter seems to adhere too much to the mold.

Is there a problem with my recipe? I'm thinking about the water quantity, or the temperature gap between oils and lye solution, or the lack of hardening additives such as salt, or even maybe it was very thin trace...

So, what did I do wrong? Is there a chance my soap will eventually harden enough?

Thanks in advance for your answers - sorry about the grams vs oz - but you can see the equivalence in the soapcalc sheet.
Bye & happy bubbles,
Stéphanie
 
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Hi Stephanie,

I don't want to overwhelm you with too much right away, but here are the most important issues that jump out at me:

1. You used the default setting of 38% water-as-percent-of-oils. That setting was designed for hot process soap, and results in way too much water for most cold process recipes. For most CP recipes, you would be better off to use Lye Concentration and set it between 30% to 33% as you learn what fluidity you want in each specific recipe.

2. You made quite a large batch of soap for a new recipe. When testing a recipe you have not tried before, consider making a small 500g batch. Otherwise, that is a lot of soap to toss out if you don't like it.

3. Wheat germ oil is not wonderful in soap as it goes rancid quickly and honestly does not make nice soap, IMO.

4. More importantly, you did not include the wheat germ oil in the soap calculator, and you messed around with the numbers by discounting lye and raising superfat outside of the calculator. Even if you want to add superfat later in the process, you will get the most consistent results if you put everything into the calculator and don't apply any other "discounts." In other words, let the calculator do the work for you. This will also help others understand exactly what you did, and help you trouble-shoot, since there are no standard definitions for "lye discount" or "water discount." When you say those things, we can't know exactly what you mean or what you did. If you put everything into the calculator, we can see it right there.

5. A 10% SF is very high unless you need to offset the high cleansing value of high CO, PKO, or babassu. Otherwise, the high SF will make your soap softer, reduce the lather, and create more soap scum.

Overall conclusion: the wheat germ oil, high superfat, high amount of soft oils, high amount of water, and omission of salt all contributed to your soft soap. To get it out of the mold, you can put it into the freezer until it is hard. Then take it out of the freezer and let it sit on the counter for about five minutes. You should be able to pull it away cleanly from the mold at that point. But do not cut it until the consistency is similar to cold cheddar cheese.
 

Fenchurch

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Hi Stephanie,

I don't want to overwhelm you with too much right away, but here are the most important issues that jump out at me:

1. You used the default setting of 38% water-as-percent-of-oils. That setting was designed for hot process soap, and results in way too much water for most cold process recipes. For most CP recipes, you would be better off to use Lye Concentration and set it between 30% to 33% as you learn what fluidity you want in each specific recipe.
Well, as I wrote, I used both SoapCalc and another calculator that indicated up to 390g water, and I used 370g, which is also lower than what gave SoapCalc. Again, nothing new with the way I have been making my soaps, successfully, so far. 🤨 Thank you for the information about the default settings and the recommended setting for CP! 👍

2. You made quite a large batch of soap for a new recipe. When testing a recipe you have not tried before, consider making a small 500g batch. Otherwise, that is a lot of soap to toss out if you don't like it.
Yeah, I guess this is a real good advice! 😅 I just hadn't considered it could completely go west provided I had the recipe within right parameters.

3. Wheat germ oil is not wonderful in soap as it goes rancid quickly and honestly does not make nice soap, IMO.
Wow, that's news to me! From the data I gathered, Wheat germ oil was only "fragile" and it was advised not to use it to more than 10% of the total oils quantity. I thought I was safe here. 🤨 And I also thought it has good characteristics for the skin. Thanks! I'll be more careful with it in the future. :)

4. More importantly, you did not include the wheat germ oil in the soap calculator, and you messed around with the numbers by discounting lye and raising superfat outside of the calculator. Even if you want to add superfat later in the process, you will get the most consistent results if you put everything into the calculator and don't apply any other "discounts." In other words, let the calculator do the work for you. This will also help others understand exactly what you did, and help you trouble-shoot, since there are no standard definitions for "lye discount" or "water discount." When you say those things, we can't know exactly what you mean or what you did. If you put everything into the calculator, we can see it right there.
Sorry, I was not clear when I wrote in the first post.
I used another calculator too, and in this other one you can use both lye discount and superfat by adding oils at the trace. I use SoapCalc to get other parameters of the soap such as cleansing, conditioning, iodine, etc. as an indication. But I didn't mess things up using the calculator.
Here are the parameters in the other calculator I used:
2021-04-18_00h39_10.png

2021-04-18_00h39_21.png

And if I add the wheat germ oil in SoapCalc, hardness is still good.
1618700364832.png

But clearly, I used too much water if compared to 30% oil weight. From what I read, it can be leveraged just by.... time (If water quantity is the only problem). Is that right?

5. A 10% SF is very high unless you need to offset the high cleansing value of high CO, PKO, or babassu. Otherwise, the high SF will make your soap softer, reduce the lather, and create more soap scum.
I also used 10% superfat values with my other soaps, including some without CO, babassu or other exotic oils. But then I guess I was lucky.😅 I'll try with a lower superfat rate next time with this recipe - if I use it again. Thanks again for your insight. 👍

Overall conclusion: the wheat germ oil, high superfat, high amount of soft oils, high amount of water, and omission of salt all contributed to your soft soap. To get it out of the mold, you can put it into the freezer until it is hard. Then take it out of the freezer and let it sit on the counter for about five minutes. You should be able to pull it away cleanly from the mold at that point. But do not cut it until the consistency is similar to cold cheddar cheese.
By "high amount of soft oils", do you mean that it's untrue that 60% olive oil soap will be hard enough even without any hard oils?
Do you always use salt or another hardener in your recipes?
I'm always afraid it will reduced the bubbles too much, so I wanted to try without...
I've seen controversial opinions regarding freezer, for instance that it could stop saponification. But from what I read from you, it's not a problem. Is it because at this time saponification is well under way and a period of time into the freezer won't do any harm?

Thanks, AliOop, for the amount of time you took to answer thoroughly 💖 and for your advice!👍 And sorry for my asking more questions! 😅
I'll just wait some more, hoping time will enable hardening...
And next time use less water, a lower total superfat and add salt again.

Happy bubbles,
Stéphanie
 
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Thanks for clarifying about the second calculator. That still seems to be a very complicated way to create a soap recipe.

And it's part of why I don't recommend using "Water as percent of oil weight" at all. That is an HP setting and does not allow you to scale your recipes up or down very well. Instead, select the lye setting entitled "Lye Concentration." It is just below the Super Fat box. That is the box where you would enter something between 30% to 33%, which is a good average range for a new soapmaker.

By using that setting, you don't need to use any lye discount or water discount - the lye and water numbers are already appropriate for almost any CP soap recipe. This makes your formulation so much simpler, and the results are much more consistent no matter what size of batch you make.

Regarding the high amount of soft oils, that is not necessarily a problem on its own. As you noted, even 100% OO will create a rock-hard soap eventually. But you also had very high water, very high superfat, and no salt. The combination of all that made your soap softer than you expected. It may harden up in time, but if you want to get it out of the mold sooner, putting it in the freezer will not hurt the soap at all. It can slow saponification early in the process, but you are a few days in, so it's probably done saponifying.

ETA: you are correct that salt can inhibit lather. You can use sodium lactate instead, or investigate vinegar as a water replacement. It does require a lye adjustment, but some soap calculators will take care of that for you.
 
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In the second soap calc recipe you have adjusted the lye concentration to 32% which seems a better recipe to me. You can see the water amount is less (315g instead of 380g) and the lye amount is more (148g instead of 142g). You have also included the wheatgerm oil and the total superfat is 5% with this inclusion. Previously you had 5% superfat and then added the wheatgerm oil to effectively increase the superfat to 10%.
This new recipe should set up quicker than your original recipe, but of course, bear in mind with the high amount of soft oils it will take at least six months to provide a hard bar, and preferably even more.
Also remember that hardness does not equal longevity. For example - if you add the palmitic and stearic values in your recipe you would normally aim for at least 30 to get good longevity. Yours is currently only half this. However, just to confuse matters, OO does make a hard bar with a long curing time. In addition - whilst CO contributes to the hardness factor, because it is so soluble ( it creates the bubbles) it will make your soap dissipate faster ( i.e. a hard bar that doesn't last long).
 

Fenchurch

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Thanks for clarifying about the second calculator. That still seems to be a very complicated way to create a soap recipe.

And it's part of why I don't recommend using "Water as percent of oil weight" at all. That is an HP setting and does not allow you to scale your recipes up or down very well. Instead, select the lye setting entitled "Lye Concentration." It is just below the Super Fat box. That is the box where you would enter something between 30% to 33%, which is a good average range for a new soapmaker.

By using that setting, you don't need to use any lye discount or water discount - the lye and water numbers are already appropriate for almost any CP soap recipe. This makes your formulation so much simpler, and the results are much more consistent no matter what size of batch you make.
THANKS a lot for this tip. I didn't use the "Water as percent of oil weight" but something in the water weight range the second calculator gave - with no mastery of the impacts, especially combined with high superfat.
I'll make sure to use this setting for now on.👍

Regarding the high amount of soft oils, that is not necessarily a problem on its own. As you noted, even 100% OO will create a rock-hard soap eventually. But you also had very high water, very high superfat, and no salt. The combination of all that made your soap softer than you expected. It may harden up in time, but if you want to get it out of the mold sooner, putting it in the freezer will not hurt the soap at all. It can slow saponification early in the process, but you are a few days in, so it's probably done saponifying.
Thanks for this confirmation!👍

ETA: you are correct that salt can inhibit lather. You can use sodium lactate instead, or investigate vinegar as a water replacement. It does require a lye adjustment, but some soap calculators will take care of that for you.
Thanks, again, for this lead. I'll do some research with vinegar. I guess you can also do the calculation yourself with the % of acid in the vinegar regarding water, but I'll check how it's done. Or maybe the adjustment is so slight it can enter in an acceptable variation of superfat % - I mean maybae with water a given recipe will give 8% superfat and with vinegar 9%. If that so, one just has to aim for 8% and use vinegar and so be safe. But I'll check how it's done.

Thanks again for your time and patience!
Happy bubbles,
Stéphanie
 

Fenchurch

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In the second soap calc recipe you have adjusted the lye concentration to 32% which seems a better recipe to me. You can see the water amount is less (315g instead of 380g) and the lye amount is more (148g instead of 142g). You have also included the wheatgerm oil and the total superfat is 5% with this inclusion. Previously you had 5% superfat and then added the wheatgerm oil to effectively increase the superfat to 10%.
Oh, sorry, that's not a "second recipe" but just the recipe I used translated into SoapCal to let show Wheat Germ oil. I don't intend to use it as a new recipe.

This new recipe should set up quicker than your original recipe, but of course, bear in mind with the high amount of soft oils it will take at least six months to provide a hard bar, and preferably even more.
Thanks for this information. I hadn't in mind the expected duration with this kind of recipe. But that makes sense, and I should have thought of it, since Marseilles soap (traditionally 100% OO) is said to require a year of cure...

Also remember that hardness does not equal longevity. For example - if you add the palmitic and stearic values in your recipe you would normally aim for at least 30 to get good longevity. Yours is currently only half this. However, just to confuse matters, OO does make a hard bar with a long curing time. In addition - whilst CO contributes to the hardness factor, because it is so soluble ( it creates the bubbles) it will make your soap dissipate faster ( i.e. a hard bar that doesn't last long).
Great thought here! Thanks! I don't really mind about non-lasting soap as I make rather little quantities and give them away: they are all used together at the same time ^^
But the indication you provide with palmitic and stearic acid quantities will be very useful for me in future recipes. THANKS, KiwiMoose! 👍

Happy bubbles,
Stéphanie
 

Fenchurch

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Hi there!
Sorry to come back so long after last time... here's good news: I used the freezer tip to remove the mold and it worked perfectly. I notice the very smooth surface of the bar where it was in contact with the mold when still freezed vs the parts I tried to separate earlier. I guess I'll use this tip more often ! :thumbs:
The soap eventually hardened and was nice to use, even if it had a tendency to do slime... 😅
Thanks to both of you for your advice!

Happy bubbles,
Stéphanie
 

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