What am I doing wrong?

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FrayGrants

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Okay so I am a new soaper and I have made probably five different small batches of soap and all of them seem to be lye heavy. I tested them all with litmus paper, which I know isn't very accurate and they all appear to be sitting at around 10 which should be good to go. I also tested them with red cabbage solution which came up green, and it's supposed to be blue. I also tested other handmade soaps that I purchased and they were all just slightly lower in ph, seemed to be sitting closer to 9.

Next I tested all the soaps I made in the shower and they all slightly irritate sensitive areas such as the face. Some of them are even unscented and they still bother me. I have slightly sensitive skin but other cp soaps don't bother me. I don't think it is any oil allergy either as the cp soaps I bought contain the same oils.

Also my scale is very nice and accurate so I have no clue what I am doing wrong. I used different recipes, different oils, no scent, all the results are the same. The soap looks good and has low cleansing numbers around 12, but they all burn a bit. My lye is from ED btw.

Are those digital ph meters accurate? Maybe I need to get a decent one of those. I really enjoy making soap and I have put a decent chunk of money into it but I am clearly doing something wrong here. Does anybody have any ideas or advice?
 

Babyshoes

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Best to post your full recipe here, as well as explaining the method you use and any additives.
 

FrayGrants

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Have you tested your soaps by doing a zap test? And are your soaps fully cured?
Yes I tried the zap test and I don't notice any, and yes the soaps are fully cured.

My method is standard to what I have seen in all the videos and posts and whatnot. Weigh all the oils individually into a container, weigh distilled water and add my measured lye and stir to dissolve. Add lye water to oils when both are around 110 to 120. Stick blend to emulsify and pour in the molds.
 

TheGecko

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Okay so I am a new soaper and I have made probably five different small batches of soap and all of them seem to be lye heavy. I tested them all with litmus paper, which I know isn't very accurate and they all appear to be sitting at around 10 which should be good to go. I also tested them with red cabbage solution which came up green, and it's supposed to be blue. I also tested other handmade soaps that I purchased and they were all just slightly lower in ph, seemed to be sitting closer to 9.

Next I tested all the soaps I made in the shower and they all slightly irritate sensitive areas such as the face. Some of them are even unscented and they still bother me. I have slightly sensitive skin but other cp soaps don't bother me. I don't think it is any oil allergy either as the cp soaps I bought contain the same oils.

Also my scale is very nice and accurate so I have no clue what I am doing wrong. I used different recipes, different oils, no scent, all the results are the same. The soap looks good and has low cleansing numbers around 12, but they all burn a bit. My lye is from ED btw.

Are those digital ph meters accurate? Maybe I need to get a decent one of those. I really enjoy making soap and I have put a decent chunk of money into it but I am clearly doing something wrong here. Does anybody have any ideas or advice?
When you tested your soap in the shower, how long had they been curing? If you are testing freshly made so, of course it's going to be irritating. Yeah it's soap, but it's not good soap...it's 'raw' soap. It's like drinking moonshine...stuff is going to burn.

What you need to do is wait at least four weeks. Then wash your hands. Then wait another couple of weeks and then take a shower with it.
 

dibbles

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If your soap didn't zap, I don't think it is lye heavy. I would be able to use a soap made with your recipe after curing for 4 weeks, but your skin might prefer 6-8 weeks. You could try lowering your coconut oil 10-12% to see if that helps. I would have wondered if the fragrance/essential oil was possibly causing a problem except you mentioned that your unscented soaps also were problematic. One thing though, you described the problem as both 'slightly irritating' and 'burning'. Burning would definitely be cause for concern with a fully cured soap. Slightly irritating would point to longer cure. You might try straining your lye solution while adding it to the oils, although I think it's unlikely that it wasn't dissolved.
 
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Your assumption is that they are lye heavy - but that may not be what is causing the irritation. If you have followed the recipe and cured them correctly I don't think they would be lye heavy. The question is really - what is causing the sensitivity? Maybe you are sensitive to CO? or OO? Or maybe you are one of those people who just can't use soap? The latter is unlikely since you state you have used other CP soaps successfully.
Try adjusting ratios - use less CO ( maybe 10%) but keep OO the same. Add the extra percentage to ether palm or RBO as they are less likely to cause sensitivities.
If that doesn't work, try reducing the OO and add the extra to RBO and/or palm.
The difference might just be that the 'old' CP soaps you have are cured for longer - but do you know the ratios of fats used in those?
And when you say 'fully cured' how long is that for exactly? 4 weeks? 6 weeks? 3 months? They can all make a difference.

If your soap didn't zap, I don't think it is lye heavy. I would be able to use a soap made with your recipe after curing for 4 weeks, but your skin might prefer 6-8 weeks. You could try lowering your coconut oil 10-12% to see if that helps. I would have wondered if the fragrance/essential oil was possibly causing a problem except you mentioned that your unscented soaps also were problematic. One thing though, you described the problem as both 'slightly irritating' and 'burning'. Burning would definitely be cause for concern with a fully cured soap. Slightly irritating would point to longer cure. You might try straining your lye solution while adding it to the oils, although I think it's unlikely that it wasn't dissolved.
SNAP! lol
 

FrayGrants

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Okay so all the input so far is definitely putting me at ease. The longest cured soap I have is 4 weeks so maybe a longer cure is required. I was under the impression that the timeline for curing was a bit more strict but I guess it is kinda like aging whiskey ;), you have to be patient and it takes a knowledgeable distiller.

All the advice is giving me hope. I will try and make some soaps with and without certain oils to try and see if sensitivity to certain oils is a factor i.e. castille or 100% coconut soap with high superfat. I am wondering if castor oil may be the culprit as it is the only oil that is in all of my different recipes and isn't in any of the soaps I purchased which don't irritate my skin. I will also try dropping the sodium lactate but I doubt it is a factor at such a small amount. Can you make 100% lard soap?
 
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Okay so all the input so far is definitely putting me at ease. The longest cured soap I have is 4 weeks so maybe a longer cure is required. I was under the impression that the timeline for curing was a bit more strict but I guess it is kinda like aging whiskey ;), you have to be patient and it takes a knowledgeable distiller.

All the advice is giving me hope. I will try and make some soaps with and without certain oils to try and see if sensitivity to certain oils is a factor i.e. castille or 100% coconut soap with high superfat. I am wondering if castor oil may be the culprit as it is the only oil that is in all of my different recipes and isn't in any of the soaps I purchased which don't irritate my skin. I will also try dropping the sodium lactate but I doubt it is a factor at such a small amount. Can you make 100% lard soap?
Yes - I think it might just be time. By all means keep using them, but judge them not until they get to two-three months of age.
 

Babyshoes

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Can you make 100% lard soap?
Yes, I've tried it.
It is a fairly nice, hard soap, which has a small, creamy lather.

I personally prefer lard at 40-50% though, since I find the other oils and fats bring their own qualities to the party. That's just a preference thing though; it's worth trying small test batches with varying combinations.
Depending on your lard and your nose, you might apparently find the finished soap has a slight piggy smell, though I've not noticed anything objectionable when using supermarket lard.
 

earlene

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I don't use soap on my face at all. But if you normally do and with the soap you purchase, there is not sensitivity, then I suspect you can use soap on your facial skin, but you just need to find the right balance, be that length of cure or to fine-tune your formula. When you say the soap you buy doesn't bother your facial skin, where do you buy this soap and how exactly does/do the ingredients list(s) appear? Is it commercial soap or from an artisan like ourselves?

If castor oil (aka Sodium Castorate or Sodium Ricinoleate) is not in any of the store bought or artisan-purchased soaps, then that would be a first step as to which direction to take for your next formula. Also, it would be helpful for you to attach a link to the ingredients list of soaps that do not irritate your facial skin. Sometimes the inci names need a bit more investigation. I find a reference with the inci names for saponified oils to be helpful: INCI Terms for Saponified Oils - Saffire Blue Inc.. Some calculators also list the inci names for the oils included.
 

Zany_in_CO

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I find a reference with the inci names for saponified oils to be helpful: INCI Terms for Saponified Oils - Saffire Blue Inc.. Some calculators also list the inci names for the oils included.
Interesting. SoapCalc has that feature. Once you calculate the lye for your formula, go to the next page for Print View. At the top right is a button to click for INCI.

I plugged the most common soapmaking oils in and the INCI nomenclature is quite different from Saffire Blue. I wonder why?


Screen Shot 2022-05-23 at 8.02.24 AM.png

ETA: HAH! I figured it out. SoapCalc lists the INCI for the oils; Saffire Blue lists the INCI for saponified oils (FAs).

Duh!.GIF
 
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Zany_in_CO

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@AliOop It should be noted that the INCI nomenclature for oils is handy for labels for leave on products. The nomenclature for saponified FAs is an option for soap labels.
Most manufacturers, including home-based businesses use "Saponified oils of" followed by common names on their soap labels -- because that's what customers are comfortable with. They want to know what's in it without the fancy nomenclature. ;)
 

earlene

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Most manufacturers, including home-based businesses use "Saponified oils of" followed by common names on their soap labels -- because that's what customers are comfortable with. They want to know what's in it without the fancy nomenclature. ;)
I don't find that to be the case in my experience reading soap labels. True many artisan soapmakers do, but not all, and certainly most of the large soap manufacturers I see, used INCI names.

Just a few bar soaps: Palmolive, Kirk's Castile, Ivory, and many more.
 

Zany_in_CO

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@earlene -- You're right! That's where we see the "tallowates", "cocoates" and such. Do they still make Palmolive and Ivory? I had no idea. LOL But then I don't get out much. Not for soap shopping for sure. 😁

I was thinking of the all-natural soaps like Dr. Bronners and similar all natural soap labels.
 

FrayGrants

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I don't use soap on my face at all. But if you normally do and with the soap you purchase, there is not sensitivity, then I suspect you can use soap on your facial skin, but you just need to find the right balance, be that length of cure or to fine-tune your formula. When you say the soap you buy doesn't bother your facial skin, where do you buy this soap and how exactly does/do the ingredients list(s) appear? Is it commercial soap or from an artisan like ourselves?

If castor oil (aka Sodium Castorate or Sodium Ricinoleate) is not in any of the store bought or artisan-purchased soaps, then that would be a first step as to which direction to take for your next formula. Also, it would be helpful for you to attach a link to the ingredients list of soaps that do not irritate your facial skin. Sometimes the inci names need a bit more investigation. I find a reference with the inci names for saponified oils to be helpful: INCI Terms for Saponified Oils - Saffire Blue Inc.. Some calculators also list the inci names for the oils included.
One of the soaps is from a big brand that makes CP soap, got it as a gift. The other is from a local crafter. Also, I have used CP soap in the past and it didn't bother me but I have no clue what was in it. Here is a list of the oils that are in the current ones I have:

Olive
Coconut
Palm
Goat Milk
Avocado
Meadowfoam Seed
Soybean
Corn
Hemp
Shea Butter

This is a list of all the oils in both of them. Like I said I am going to try some very simple soaps like 100% coconut with high SF of course and ZNSC and I am omitting castor as I read studies that say it is a skin irritant, and it is the only outlier. I also bought a digital ph meter so I can test them all and I will return with results. Glad to see this thread is spinning off into greater discussion though. Flex your soap knowledge!!!
 
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