Two newbie Questions

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cathy0727

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Hi I'm new to soaping and getting ready to make my first batch. I apologize in advance for the long message but really appreciate your direction.

Starting off with buying lye & my molds. I'm a little torn because I'm in between buying small amounts to try out & spending more or buying in bulk. I would like to learn & practice soap making for a year or two and eventually start a business if I do well. I'm no where near there and I know I have to practice a lot and let each batch last a year to see how it does in use, put away, in different temperatures etc. Here are my questions.

With lye: I had read that 99% pure lye was better but a lot of people on here recommend ED lye and theirs says 96%. Is 96%-99% in the same range and doesn't matter? If I use 96% and later find a deal on 99% cheaper will the batch be different? Also I'm debating how much to buy. I know I want to do this long term but I also know I won't be doing tons of quantity while I test. I'm planning on buying 50lb from bulk apothecary. They were the cheapest per pound with shipping & I like their site. Approximately how much soap will this make?

Now the molds, I'm torn between small molds to test different things without having massive amounts of soap and buying bigger ones that'll work in the future. Is there a middle ground loaf mold you would suggest? Bought something on Amazon & it's pretty small. Need something not too expensive where I can make multiple small loads to test.

Please do be upset on the business side. It's just something I keep in mind. Right now I've spent a few months reading and have only built up the nerve to get ready to buy lye & molds. Not even close to deciding on oils, FO, and EO. Still have lots of researching to do there. I'm a very cautious person and like to think everything through & plan. I know a lot of money goes into this, just want to make sure I'm not going crazy & overspending on things I won't use later.
 

DeeAnna

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...I had read that 99% pure lye was better...

No, it's not necessarily better. It's just a higher purity, meaning you use less weight of lye to make the same amount of soap with the same superfat. Lye typically ranges from 90% purity on up and all will make fine soap.

...If I use 96% and later find a deal on 99% cheaper will the batch be different?...

Yes, in that your superfat will be lower if you don't adjust your lye weight to compensate for the higher purity. It's my opinion that consistency is more important than shopping around. I generally stick with a supplier that has good service, good reputation, and good products unless there's a strong reason to change.

...I'm planning on buying 50lb.... Approximately how much soap will this make?..."

Somewhere in the realm of 500 pounds of finished soap. Are you sure you are that committed to making that much soap? :)

You can shop for lye with the highest purity and ruin it in short order by storing it improperly -- in my opinion, proper storage is far more important than sourcing 99% purity lye.

NaOH needs to be stored in a low humidity, controlled air environment. If it is not, it will react with moisture and carbon dioxide in the air and the purity will drop significantly in a short time.
 

lsg

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I don't buy lye from ED anymore because I got a bad batch. Nature's Garden has 99% sodium hydroxide for $5.99 for 2 lbs They also carry other supplies at a reasonable price.
Two pounds of lye will last quite awhile for small batches of soap. Lye can draw moisture, so buying in bulk is not always wise for a new soaper. Here are some links to good YouTube tutorials. I suggest you start with the very basics in the videos, like the handling of lye, etc.

https://www.youtube.com/user/soaping101
[ame]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yR6ttCSrLJI&list=PLAADF6209996265D2[/ame]




http://www.naturesgardencandles.com/candlemaking-soap-supplies/item/lye/sodium-hydroxide-lye-.html
 

The Efficacious Gentleman

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I have to ask - if you are so new and all that, and based on the other posts that you've made - why is selling at some point even on your horizon? Park it far away, essentially forget about it, and just enjoy making soap and beginning the journey of becoming a soaper.

I say this for many reasons, one of which is recipes. "I want a lovely creamy but hard bar" will get most people thinking of lard. But then do you have in the back of your mind "but lard cuts out a lot of my market for when I start selling, so I will only look at recipes that I think I might sell, at some point" and you could end up learning to soap only things that you think would sell, rather than making soap that you love.
 

cathy0727

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Oh wow!! Lol. That would of been a huge mistake. Although I am committed to this. At my learning rate it'll take me forever to make 500 lbs while learning. Lol. So glad I came here for help first.

I agree on buying from one supplier. I think id prefer that. I see a lot of people buy from different suppliers but I would think that only works if you don't plan to sell and just want to have fun.

For me consistency Is important, especially since I'm learning I prefer less surprises.

I literally cracked up. Ty again for your direction. I'll scale down my crazy amounts and apply that to everything I buy for now.

Lsg, I've watched all the safety stuff and bought goggles, gloves, and a special mask.

The storing makes sense ty.

Although I'm already in love with just learning about this I don't have the money to make it an expensive hobby. That's why in so cautious with each thing EFC. It may end up that I never sell, life happens and things change. I just can't afford to be careless with the money I spend.

I will relax a bit though and let myself enjoy soap making. My usual overthinking may be a bit exaggerated right now.
 

The Efficacious Gentleman

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Absolutely - which is why I always ask here before I do anything new, just to make sure that I'm not making a terrible soap. So often people post something like "I made this and it seems rubbish, what is wrong with it?" and the answer is "The recipe, because it's terrible!"

Soaping doesn't have to be expensive. You'll always have soap to use and never run short of little gifts to give to people, which actually saves a lot of money. But ultimately, a hobby will cost money. If people like going to the cinema (not a cheap way to spend your time) they don't think of making money from it, but they do it as often as money allows. If you can only afford to make soap once a month, make soap once a month
 

DeeAnna

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I started out buying single jars of sodium hydroxide at my local Menards or Lowes store. Ace Hardware carries lye too, although you may have to order it and have it delivered to your local store. (I'm assuming you're in the US.) That was good enough to keep me happy through the first year or so. Then I wanted to try liquid soap and I needed potassium hydroxide for that so I placed an order for both lyes with The Lye Guy. He packages the lye in 2 pound plastic jars, which helps with the proper storage issue.
 

cathy0727

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Ty DeeAnna, you been really helpful. I'll try Lowes. The Home Depot had no idea what I was saying.
 

Seawolfe

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I get my lye from my local Ace hardware.

Regarding molds. I have gone through a few. I like wood lined with freezer paper. What I wish I knew then, is that I can block off a large mold for smaller batches. After much trial and error, I learned that I like tall skinny bars (2" x 4" x 1") or 2" x 2" x 1" travel size. I made a 5 lb mold that makes 18 bars. But I have markings on it for 2 or 3 lb batches. If I put a block of wood snugly in place at those marks, I can make a smaller test batch with bars of the usual size. Not sure why it took me so long to realize that.
 

DeeAnna

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I started out with nice, sturdy cardboard boxes lined with parchment paper or freezer paper (not waxed paper!) After the boxes didn't meet my needs, I made three simple loaf molds out of leftover plywood. These are sized to hold recipes with about 1500 g (a little over 3 lb) of fats (14 bars). These molds are short enough they can fit in my oven. That lets me keep curious cat and dog noses out of trouble and I can CPOP the molds if I want. I can put one or two partitions in one of these loaf molds to partition it into one or two small test-size loaves (3-6 bars each). Later, I bought a slab mold that has its own built in cutting system. I like making soap in a loaf mold the best, but the slab mold comes in handy once in awhile. So ... four large-ish molds all told. I also have a couple of garage-sale silicone cake molds with 6 cavities per mold. Each cavity holds 3 to 4 oz of soap batter. I usually use these for any leftover soap batter -- they make cute hand soaps. I'm pretty happy with what I've got as a hobbyist. If I scaled up from being a hobbyist to a serious small business, I'd have to re-think all this, but I doubt that's going to happen.

I think there's something to be said for getting some experience with soaping before getting locked into large molds and other large soaping equipment. Everyone has their own way of working, and I think some soapers would rather pour soap into several smaller molds rather than one big one. Also if you have back and neck problems or have to work alone, you may be limited to what you can lift, so a huge single mold that weighs 50 lb filled would not be a smart thing to buy. Also, those large molds require space to fill, schlep around, empty, and store, so it's also important to have enough work space to handle larger equipment.
 

JuneP

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My advice for you now, would only purchase enough oils, butters, lye, fragrances that you think you could use up in a year. Many only have a one year shelf life. The only reason to think about bulk buying would be if you expect to me making soap to sell very soon, and that is probably unlikely that you would be doing that right away. It takes time and experience to create some good recipes, learn techniques, and do all the other things you would need to have under your belt before even thinking of selling.

Also, you can buy very inexpensive small, silicone molds at the Dollar stores. You can find them in the baking section, They also have pourable white, plastic bowls for handles for mixing, measuring cups and silicone spatulas - everything $1. Check out charity shops for tools suitable for soaping. You can find things like cheese cutters, silicone baking pans, whisks, spoons, silicone spatulas, Stainless Steel pitchers which are great for your lye, etc. etc.

Look at garage sales, junk shops for old wooden drawers that can be made into molds. Or buy some high quality pine at Lowe's (they will make one or two free cuts from one board, and then charge something like fifty cents for other cuts. I would look at the size of some of the commercial 5 lb soap mold, and use those measurements, and then cut a block piece that would fit in that mold so you can use it for as many or as few bars as you would like.
 

DeeAnna

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Ah, I remembered I had taken a picture of one of my loaf molds with two mini-loaves of soap and thought it might be helpful to this conversation. Each mini loaf will make 3-4 bars of soap. The unused center of the mold is filled with extra partition blocks to help keep the partitions next to the soap from shifting around by accident. The center could have been left empty.

I hope this makes sense.

P1020122 600.jpg
 
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dixiedragon

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Re: molds. I really like the small 1 lb molds from American Soap Supplies for test batches. I also like column molds. The advantage of column molds is that the same mold can hold 8 oz or 2 lbs. For column molds on a budget, I love vinyl downspouts from Lowe's or Home Depot.
 
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