Troubleshooting: Unintentional "designs" on soap surface

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DeborahH

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Hello, all -- I'm having a weird problem with some soap batches and wondering if anyone has ideas about what's going on.

Four batches out of 10 or 12, fresh from the mold -- when I cut the bars, the interior surface of the soap has "designs" on the surface, swirls that seem etched into the soap. Photo attached. Exterior of log is fine, smooth as usual.

I've looked for differences between the ones with designs and the smooth batches to explain this, but so far, no luck:
Oils -- all batches have olive and coconut, otherwise variable, comparing with "good" batches, there isn't any discernible pattern
Super fat -- all are 5%
Gel -- all went through gel phase
Temp at mixing -- 110-120 degrees
Scent -- some FO, some EO, didn't seem to make any difference
Mold -- mostly silicone in stainless basket from Essential Depot, but one batch was in wooden mold lined with freezer paper
Time in the mold before cutting -- probably 2-3 days
Quality of finished soap -- fine, as usual -- good lather, cleansing, fully cured

I've been making soap for over 10 years, so I know what materials should look like at various stages in the process. All of these batches were poured at medium trace. I can't think of anything I did differently to cause this!

I buy all raw materials from reputable soap-making suppliers EXCEPT:
Olive Oil -- WalMart
Coconut Oil -- Walmart
Sodium Hydroxide -- local chemical company

Any thoughts will be greatly appreciated,

Deborah

image.jpg
 

toxikon

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It looks to me like the soap batter isn't being blended fully, resulting in a bit of separation when you pour.

When do you add your FO/EO/colourants? Do you stick blend it in well?

As an experiment, you could add your fragrances/colourants to your oils first (before lye) - stick blend very well, THEN blend in your lye water to trace.
 

kchaystack

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I agree with BrewerGeorge, that looks like 'glycerin rivers'. Which is a misnomer - what was your lye concentration?
 

shunt2011

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Another vote for glycerin rivers. Generally get them when using full water and getting a really hot gel.
 

lenarenee

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You said you've been soaping for 10 years; is this the first time you've experienced this? If so, then I wonder what's different in the ingredients/process.

I don't have an opinion as to what the phenomenon is because it is feasible that its glycerin rivers; however I've had the same result but it wasn't glycerin rivers. I use a 33 to 35% concentration, and I almost never gel. I always chalked it up to mixing. When I hand mixed my fragrance into the batter after emulsion, I often get what you have in your picture. I now always stick blend the fo and no longer have the issue.
 

earlene

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That is the inside of the soap? It's really kind of pretty. I'd probably be really happy to get something like that in plain soap, but I can see where it could mess up the desired look of some swirls. I know I have seen it some of my soaps with TD, and I know some of my colorants have a bit of TD so could that be a factor in your soaps? Could the colorants themselves, combine with the heat and water amounts be contributing?

I get top surfaces that look like that until I plane them. At first that's what I thought I was looking at but then I re-read what you wrote and see that it is the inside of the soap.
 

DeborahH

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After reading your responses, I think the culprits are:
1. Too much heat; and
2. Too much water
I started using the Soap Calc app and now that I'm comparing their recommendations for water:lye with my old tried-and-true MMS calculator, I'm finding that they're at the high end of the range in terms of water. All 4 of the batches with the "surprise" designs were 28% lye solutions.
Also, I reviewed fat and lye temps for all 10 batches in this series, and with one exception, most were on the higher end of where I normally soap.
AND, last but not least, as I looked at the fats I used, all 4 of these batches had castor oil -- is it correct that CP soap with castor oil requires a lower temp? I've heard that, but never confirmed.
I wasn't thinking glycerin rivers because I associate them with titanium dioxide and none of these had any. And I always think of glycerin rivers as being kind of ugly -- these soaps are actually pretty, but I like my soap-making to be a little more predictable.
Thanks for all your responses, they really helped me know where to look.
Deborah
 

DeborahH

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P.S. Thanks, DeeAnna, for the link to the Antie Clara blog -- I find her posts very helpful but hadn't seen this one, and one of the soaps she includes looks a lot like mine. I think, as she says, there is something about the cutting, as the exterior looks totally normal.
Deborah
 

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