When can I unmold?

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Mar 26, 2014
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Hello all!

This is my first time posting on this forum, although I have posted several times on TalkSoap forum several times this past week. I've been making bath bombs, lotion, sugar scrubs, etc for a while now, but I am very new to soaping and am trying to learn as much as possible. The idea of using lye has always frightened me, as I have young children but I decidede it was time to get over that fear. I have ready hundreds of articles regarding the process over the past few weeks and I finally made my first batch of soap two days a go.

The soap I made 2 days a go was a 5lb Pumpkin Vanilla batch. The process went smoothly, reached trace within 7 minutes and then I poured into one 3lb loaf mold, 3 silicone bunny rabbits and 10 individual silicone heart molds. I was confused at the time about whether or not I wanted my soap to gel, and so I left them on the counter completely uncovered. 36 hours later, they are still on the counter uncovered. At first, they were a pretty orange color and pudding consistency. Now they are much harder and they have changed to a tan color (which I read could be from the vanilla EO) but they also have some white powder on the top of them. I am assuming that this is the dreaded soda ash I've read about?? Anyway, my first question is this: When can I unmold these? Also, once they are cured, can I cut off a thin slice on the top to remove the white powder? Will this work?

Ok, so I loved making the soap so much that I decided to make another batch last night (the following night.) I made a 3 and a half pound batch of Lavender Honey Soap. Once again, the process went smoothly. I combined everything together once they were both at 105 degrees. It reached trace within 5 minutes and I poured into 4lb loaf mold. This time, I decided to attempt to force gelling. I covered the top of the mold with a thin piece of cut cardboard box. I secured the cardboard with a piece of twine wrapped around the mold multiple times and tied. Then, I wrapped the mold with 2 small baby blankets (no longer in use) and 2 towels that I've dedicated to soaping. It is 12 hours later and it is still on my counter all wrapped up. When should I unwrap the blankets, towels and remove the cardboard? When should I unmold this batch and cut into bars?

Ok, I have two more questions! Am I supposed to perform the zap test before unmolding to see if it has saponified OR am I supposed to perform the zap test in several weeks to make sure it has cured properly? I read an article on this but wasn't clear about the exact time to perform this test. Lastly, now that my soaps have been on the counter for 12 hours and 36 hours.. do I still need to wear gloves when touching them? Can I get a lye burn from soaps that have been in molds for that amount of time?

Thank you all so much in advance!! I'm sorry for the overload of questions. I just want to be sure I'm doing everything correctly!! I want to do these processes safe, smooth and I want my soaps to turn out great :)

All the best,
Megan :-D PS: Both soaps were done Cold process..in case I hadn't stated that in the message
I would say, and you might think this is unhelpful but it really is not - unmould it when it CAN be unmoulded without damaging the soap. Each soap (and sometimes different batches) will be able to be unmoulded at different times. So have a look, a wee touch and ask if it would stand up to being unmoulded or not. Same goes for cutting - if it can be cut with out leaving marks, then cut. It's one of those things that comes with experience of a recipe and your process and so on. In the meantime, keep checking to see if it is in that window of time between "too soft" and "too hard" - the Goldilocks stage, where it's just right.

As for zap test, on CP I normally do it after a few days. As above, that might be when I'm cutting or after it has been cut and standing for a day or two, depending on how long the soap had to be in the mould for.

Also, welcome! Ask lots of questions, because learning about soaping is so much fun.
Hello and welcome. Your first batch of soap will probably take longer to unmold since they probably didn't gel. The soap in small molds may need to be put in the freezer to unmold. Some help regarding the soapyou gelled. You can just cover it with a piece of cardboard and then lay a towel or two over and that will generally be enough to have it gel. You can take a peak at it to see what it's doing and to make sure it doesn't overheat. I usually keep mine covered overnight if it doesn't look like it's overheating. For the ash you can trim it off but you anc also just steam it off. I have a tendency to just embrace any ash I get if it doesn't look too bad. Also unmolding will also depend on your recipe. Mine I can usually unmold between 12-24 hours.
I would just steam the tope of the soap to remove the ash. A Shot of Steam iron or a steamer does the trick. I hate the idea of wasting soap by cutting off a slice just to get rid of harmless ash. You can also spray the top with rubbing alcohol and buff the ash off, if the soap is hard enough.
Thank you both for your help! Both of my batches ended up being ready to unmold last night. I did put the little hearts in the freezer for an hour before I took them out. The soap I gelled might have overheated a bit while it was covered with towels.. it looked greasy on the surface (but not on inside) and had some little bubbles on the surface when I uncovered it. The soap I didn't gel had no such look. It look more normal and soap-like. The odd thing is that my first batch of soap (pumpkin vanilla, uncovered) was poured into two types of molds.. a 3lb loaf and silicone hearts. Strangely enough, the loaf mold soap turned a brownish color with a darker center (looks raw in center) and the heart soaps stayed the same color.. a yellowish orange. Now, I knew there was a possibility that the vanilla EO I used could brown my soap but why would it only brown some of it? Is it possible that the loaf mold partially gelled? Please help me with this because I am stunned that the same batch of soap could look so very different in seperate molds. Could it be the recipe I used? I ran it through lye calc before doing and used a scale to measure everything. I am including pictures of this batch and also the second batch (gelled, greasy). Let me know what you guys think, being it was my first two times making soap. What did I do wrong, where can I improve? I'm just excited that they both reached trace, molded and unmolded without crumbling or getting messed up! So far, so good in my eyes, lol :)


You may have gotten partial gel. As for the different colors, when you gel the heat of the process with accelerate the discoloring a lot of the time with fragrances that have vanilla. The ungelled soap will likely darken with time.
Those are pretty!! How do they smell? You're giving me the courage to try a vanilla scent, I quite like the look of those.
Being that this was my first CP soap ever, I wasn't a hundred percent sure but I had a feeling it was a partial gel, being that I've seen multiple pictures of this in the past few weeks.

Thank you, Seawolfe. That means a lot to me.. I know they're not too fancy or perfect but for my first time.. I'm proud! They could've came out far worse, I suppose, right? Everyone kept telling me to do something simple my first time.. like "olive oil, coconut oil, lye and water" and nothing else. I couldn't do that, though.. I needed something a bit more exciting! And so I found a recipe, tweaked it a lot, ran it through lye calc and so I started my Pumpkin Vanilla venture. To answer your question, it does smell good. It is not a strong smell, nor is it a sugary vanilla smell..it's much more mature. I am not sure if the smell will change as it finishes curing. I used multiple things that may have affected the way it smells: canned pumpkin, ground oats, ground almonds, and lastly, the vanilla EO. I added all of these at trace. Everyone told me that vanilla EO doesn't scent soap well.. that the smell doesn't last through trace and curing. So far, it smells really nicely. The vanilla EO I have says its combined with a bit of Jojoba oil. I bought it was Wild By Nature for $22 (expensive, I thought.) Keep in mind, I used the entire thing in my 5lb batch. That is a total of about 13ml (I had used a few drops in other things before this). I'll let you know if the smell lasts :)
Congrats on your first batches of soap! Welcome to the fun journey! I agree with others, the first batch looks partially gelled. I have found that colors change if my soap overheats. Also, I cover my loaf with a single layer of bubble wrap, and then usually 1 folded towel. I never get ash when I do this. I do check on it every 2-3 hours to make sure nothing unexpected is happening. Some additives accelerate trace so I usually only lightly cover those or I'll skip using towels on those batches so they don't overheat. I've had pretty good luck so far. Your scent ideas inspire me to use pumpkin! Yum!
Those look like they turned out really nice! Pumpkin vanilla sounds like a nice combo!
As for unmolding and cutting - not very scientific but I unmold when it feels hard and is no longer warm to the touch and I cut when it doesn't feel tacky.
As for the color I think that you are right and the loaf gelled. I have never minded the darkening from vanilla, the color has a rustic feel to me :)