White patches in and on soap!? Just soda ash??

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kellyjeanne

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I keep getting these white areas in and on my cold process soaps. The first one I used 45% coconut oil, 40% olive oil, 10% grape seed oil, 5% castor oil and scented with lavender and lemongrass essential oils. What I thought was soda ash appears to be a thick crust on top and a lot of it runs through the soap. After curing I used the soap with no negative reaction and ph tested it to make sure it wasn't lye heavy. The ph was around an 8 or 9.
The next one was the same recipe. I subbed sweet almond for the grape seed oil and scented it with lavender and bergamot essential oils. It is not fully cured but there is much less ash and random patches throughout the soap.
The last one was the same recipe this time subbing canola oil for the grape seed. Hardly any ash and none in the middles of the bars.
What am I doing wrong!? I don't gel so soaps go right in the fridge after pouring. I unmold after 2-3 days. Is there anything I can do to avoid this??
This is driving me nuts!
Thanks in advance everyone!

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navigator9

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If you take a wet cloth and wipe it, and it comes off then yes, I'd guess soda ash. But if it doesn't rub off, and goes all the way through the bar, then it may just be areas that weren't mixed in as well. I used to get streaky bars from time to time, and my theory is that the stick blender does a good job of mixing, but maybe not as good as we'd like to think. I believe there are many variables that can cause this, like how powerful the SB is, how big a batch you're mixing, how much you move the SB around, etc. The way I've been able to avoid this is just before I pour, I take my spatula and stir the batch well, scraping the sides and bottom of the pot, and just stirring well for a few seconds. I don't get streaky batches any more since doing this.
 

DeeAnna

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Yep, I agree -- it's ash. You're not doing anything wrong; it's just the nature of the beast.

There are many ideas about how to prevent or remove ash, but I don't know of a surefire way to absolutely eliminate it. I can't think of anyone who uses my soap who seems to mind it, including me, so I don't pay too much attention to it anymore.

The most likely way ash happens is when lye on the surface of the soap reacts with carbon dioxide in the air to form soda ash (washing soda, sodium carbonate).

Edit -- Although Navigator has a point too. The soap in the last photo might have that streaky round pattern because of variations in the soap batter when it was poured into the mold.
 
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fuzz-juzz

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Yes, it's soda ash.

Some will argue it adds to the rustic look of the soap, some will hate it with passion. :)
I generally don't stress about it.
Through my soapmaking years I've realised there are many factors contributing towards soda ash. Main ones for me are: not gelling the soap, certain FOs (vanilla based ones esp.), lard or tallow in the recipe.

It will appear on the sides of the bars after cutting, generally within a day or two.
 

kellyjeanne

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Even after using it several times it will not come off. Is it possible to have ash that bad? I was hoping to clean the ash off but it seems to be too deep in the bar.
 

Susie

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You are mixing what is happening on the tops of the bars (and being drug down the side of one) with what is happening in the center of the bar from not-quite-perfectly-mixed batter. They are two distinctly different things.

Do all those round soaps on those racks have that circular pattern in the center? If they all got poured from the same batch (if so, wow you have a lot of molds for a newbie!), then I might suspect some overheating. Not horrible, mind you, but a bit.
 
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kellyjeanne

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The round bars have a bit of a swirl pattern cause it traced quicker than I thought and I had to swirl it to get it flat because that will technically be the bottom. The round ones in person are very uniform in color and have hardly any ash. That's why I found it weird because I used practically the same recipe as the loaves. Those ones also went right in the fridge after. This was a newer recipe and the highest amount of coconut oil I've used. Could that have played a part?
 

penelopejane

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I think the ash is on the top. I have found you can significantly reduce this (or eliminate it) by spraying the top with a tiny amount of isopropyl alcohol and covering the mold.

The streaks through the bar can also happen if your CO (or Shea butter) is not quite hot enough when you mix the rest of the oils in. Try having your CO pretty warm, so you can't see the streaks in the melted oil, then follow Navigator's advice about really stirring well just before you pour.

Just be careful with warm CO. I have my lye pretty cool when I use CO because it can accelerate the mix if it is warm and the lye is warm too.

Are those metal bars you are curing your soap on?
 
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Susie

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The round soaps have much less surface area when in a cylinder shaped mold to have the air react with the fresh batter is why they have less soda ash.

I have found no practice yet that prevents soda ash despite trying every method mentioned in any book, or indeed this forum. I just know that if I want to have relatively ash free bars, I need to rinse them under warm water before unmolding. This eliminates about 90% of the ash.

I would never be able to use those bars with that much CO, but you could have just not quite gotten it all mixed in as well as you thought. I have some bars that are brown due to the FO, but there are streaks of white where the oils did not get colored by the FO. I thought I had it all mixed well in, but alas, the evidence states otherwise. There is nothing wrong with those bars, they are just not as pretty as the others.
 

kellyjeanne

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Penelope Jane it is a steel rack but it is coated. Thanks everyone for your help! Think I'm gonna try one last time with this recipe and if I still get the same results I'm gonna ditch it all together.
 

earlene

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At one point, it occurred to me that IF spraying isopropyl alcohol helps deter or prevent soda ash on soap (sprayed just after pouring into the mold), then would it also help if done after the soap is cut?

So I tried that. Not only does it look like it works (to me, it looks like it works), but it also gives the soap such a nice sheen which I really like. I have found that I do have to be careful not to overdo the alcohol spray, because too much too early just makes the soap melt (much like letting in sit in water does). So a very light misting of alcohol. I let it dry and turn the bars and spray again, to make sure I get all the sides.

I do this with all my new bars of soap, but have also done this with older bars that weren't yet wrapped and labeled. If they had ash, I washed it off with warm water and let them dry thoroughly, then sprayed with alcohol. Would the ash have come back without the alcohol? I don't really know, because I did not try it that way. I prefer the post-alcohol spray sheen to the totally matte look. I've been doing this now for a few months and no ash has returned as yet.

I agree with the others about the appearance inside the bars. Sometimes it looks well mixed, but as it dries, we find that it was not as well mixed as we thought.
 

penelopejane

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At one point, it occurred to me that IF spraying isopropyl alcohol helps deter or prevent soda ash on soap (sprayed just after pouring into the mold), then would it also help if done after the soap is cut?

So I tried that. Not only does it look like it works (to me, it looks like it works), but it also gives the soap such a nice sheen which I really like. I have found that I do have to be careful not to overdo the alcohol spray, because too much too early just makes the soap melt (much like letting in sit in water does).
I haven't yet (touch wood) got ash on the sides of the soap. I CPOP, cover my soap and don't use lard. Still, I do get it on top if I don't spray with isopropyl alcohol. But if I spray too much I get tiny pin holes. Not sure if this is is the soap has reached (or not reached) a certain hardness by the time I get it wrapped up or not. Would be interested if others have noticed this? Maybe it would be better to let it harden on the bench then spray, then cover?

Maybe I was just too heavy handed with the spray.
Currently I don't worry about the timing and use a tiny amount of spray.
 
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earlene

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I haven't yet (touch wood) got ash on the sides of the soap. I CPOP, cover my soap and don't use lard. Still, I do get it on top if I don't spray with isopropyl alcohol. But if I spray too much I get tiny pin holes. Not sure if this is is the soap has reached (or not reached) a certain hardness by the time I get it wrapped up or not. Would be interested if others have noticed this? Maybe it would be better to let it harden on the bench then spray, then cover?

Maybe I was just too heavy handed with the spray.
Currently I don't worry about the timing and use a tiny amount of spray.
Can you turn the nozzle to make a finer spray? It seems to be less damaging to the surface of the soap, I have found.

The tiny pinholes, yes, I have had them. I think it had something to do with too strong of a stream when spraying, as well as holding the sprayer too close to the soap,

So now I use a finer spray and hold the bottle not too close while spraying.
 

penelopejane

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Can you turn the nozzle to make a finer spray? It seems to be less damaging to the surface of the soap, I have found.

The tiny pinholes, yes, I have had them. I think it had something to do with too strong of a stream when spraying, as well as holding the sprayer too close to the soap,

So now I use a finer spray and hold the bottle not too close while spraying.
I hadn't though of spray distance!
My spray is very fine but I can see myself getting up close and personal with the mole to get the spray into the corners and edges. So I will stop that!
 

joy.

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Are you using distilled water or some other liquid? I tend to get ash when using coffee or salt water for my liquid, but not with milk or plain distilled water.
 

earlene

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I just cleaned off the worst soda ash I have ever had. I reviewed my recipe and absolutely used distilled water and no other liquid. It was an OO, pomace OO, and Castor mix of oils with a Dual Lye 95%/5% recipe at 40% lye concentration and 2% SF, using oxides as colorants. Pretty simple. The soda ash turned all exposed surfaces white in a mere 10 days (perhaps less, as I had not looked at them since the cut. I could barely see the design underneath. If I recall correctly, I did not spray these with alcohol after cutting; I don't know why, but I think I was in a hurry & forgot to get back to them.

After cleaning off the outsides of the cut bars, they look so much nicer. I did a double coat of alcohol this time, just because.
 

Steve85569

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Soda ash.
A touch of bee's wax helps me reduce the problem when I remember to use it.

Since I am reacting a soda base with oil acids the "fire" creates some ash. That is what you are seeing. As mentioned it should just wash right off.
 

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