Why did I get tiny little crystal looking flakes floating at the top of my lye water?

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akseattle

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I am wondering why I got tiny little crystal looking flakes floating at the top of my lye water? And, will this effect the bars?
I made a batch on Saturday morning (yesterday). My lye water took its usual course, it went from cloudy to clear. I always mix my lye water on the back porch (pretty cold back there) and I always check they lye water's temperature to see how hot it gets and to know when it has cooled to 140 degrees. By then, I figure the fumes have diffused into the air and dissipated and I take it back into my kitchen. I had forgotten my thermometer gun so I went inside to get it after the water had cleared. When I came back out, I noticed there were a few little crystal flakes floating on top of the clear water. I tried to strain them out with the tip of a fork, but then I saw a few more. I thought maybe I didn't stir long enough so I started to stir the lye water some more. The more I stirred (trying to break up the flakes in case it was un-stirred lye), the more these tiny little flakes formed and floated on top of the lye water. I strained a bunch out with a spoon and then finally decided to leave them. But, now I'm wondering, what happened?
One thing different about this batch is that it was my third time using sugar. My first batch, I used 1 teaspoon for 450 grams of oils. The second batch, I used 2 teaspoons for 450 grams of oil. I've used the same recipe each time (Tallow 33%, OO 23%, CO 25%, Castor 10%, SO 5%, Shea 4%)
Both batches were uneventful during the making and the unmolding ( the jury is still out on how they effect the soap as the soap hasn't cured.)
This time, my phone rang and, out of habit, I answered. I talked only maybe 5 minutes but, I hadn't pre-measured the sugar. So, when I got back to my soaping, I couldn't remember if I had put in 1 teaspoon or 2 teaspoons of sugar.
So, I put in one more 1/2 teaspoon. I'm pretty sure I stirred long enough that the sugar was completely dissolved.
Would these crystal flakes be caused if I used too much sugar? Or, would the lye react poorly with if the sugar had not been stirred long enough, so if the sugar wasn't completely dissolved?
I just don't know why the lye water started out perfectly clear and clean, then the longer I stirred, and as time went by.
I unmolded and cut the soap earlier today. Other than the phone ringing, forgetting how much sugar, and then crystals forming, the batch was uneventful. There was no acceleration. I had forgotten about the crystals when I was unmolding and cutting but I didn't notice any weird texture or hard granules or anything (I'm forcing myself to not go check up on the soap ... )
I did try to go read about this. Somewhere, it said too much sugar can make the soap feel sticky. I probably should have stuck to one teaspoon- I assumed that it was in the making of the soap that I would know if it were too much or too little. I'll go back to 1 teaspoon until I have a chance to try this soap.
But, any ideas about these crystal flakes?
 
@artemis - I didn't mix my lye ahead of time. I mixed it right before I used it as I have always done.

"Lye lint" doesn't necessarily take long to form. Lint can form in the length of the time it takes for the lye solution to cool to your preferred temp. Keep a light cover on the lye container as much as possible to control the amount of fresh air that the lye solution "sees". That will slow, but not entirely stop, the formation of lint.
 
A person can strain or not strain as they see fit if the only issue is the lint. "Lint" is sodium carbonate (washing soda) and there's no harm caused if it ends up in the soap batter.

But straining also ensures any crystals of NaOH don't end up in the soap batter. This is honestly pretty unlikely most of the time, but straining is a good safety measure. In particular, if I use cold dairy milk to make my lye solution, I strain the lye solution to absolutely make sure all the NaOH is properly dissolved
 
"Lye lint" doesn't necessarily take long to form. Lint can form in the length of the time it takes for the lye solution to cool to your preferred temp. Keep a light cover on the lye container as much as possible to control the amount of fresh air that the lye solution "sees". That will slow, but not entirely stop, the formation of lint.

Thank you, but so very strange. It seemed like the more I stirred, the more the crystals formed. There didn't seem to be anything particularly different in the atmosphere- not particularly cold, not windy, etc. I guess I will get a little goldfish scooping net to keep on hand in case this happens again.
So, actually, I'm not sure what the difference is between "lint" and "crystals"? You seemed to think "lint" was okay but not "crystals."
These were tiny, tiny little flakes, not white but more closer to the color of the water.Like if you spat in water, except very time spit flakes.

@artemis and @DeeAnna , so you don't think the sugar had anything to do with these crystals?
 
@artemis and @DeeAnna , so you don't think the sugar had anything to do with these crystals?

I don't, no. After this many years of soaping, reading about other's experiences, watching videos, I feel like it's just a thing that happens to most everyone.

And, even if the sugar caused it (it didn't), like @DeeAnna said-- "there's no harm caused if it ends up in the soap batter." I'm not going to stop using sugar just because I get a little lye lint.
 
@artemis , I'm glad to hear this lye lint isn't unusual. I will get a goldfish net and keep it on hand.
I'm not going to stop using sugar, but I may have gone from 1 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons sooner than I should have. So, I'll back up to 1 teaspoon at least until my soaps have cured and I know what the result is.
 
I'm not going to stop using sugar, but I may have gone from 1 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons sooner than I should have.

I'm not sure what you mean, "sooner than I should have."

Also, I'm still pretty sure the sugar had nothing to do with it. It's the lye in the solution reacting to the air. Try putting a cover on that solution and see if it makes a difference.
 
About sugar, do remember to fully dissolve it or use a cold sample syrup before adding your lye. Sugar can crystallize, usually on the bottom of your container, if not completely dissolved before adding your lye. No amount of stirring will dissolve crystallized sugar in my experience.

Aside from that I never worried about straining out lye lint.
 
@artemis , what i meant by going from 1 to 2 teaspoons "sooner that I should have" was that,
Since I'm a new soaper (10 small batches so far), I probably should start out basic, trying things out slowly (I think @DeeAnna encouraged that- which I promptly blew off... ) until I've really got a handle on the basics, and then start adding things one at a time- colorants, fragrances, exfoliants. This way, if something goes wrong, it's easier to figure out what went wrong. I started adding colorants and fragrance right away, trying swirls, etc. So, when I started adding sugar. I tried one teaspoon. Things seemed okay, so next batch I added 2 teaspoons. Then next (last batch)- the phone rang, this lint thing happened.
So, I'm not disciplined enough to just stay completely basic - no colorants, no fragrance , etc. until I have complete confidence in what I'm doing - I may finally be able to spot "emulsion" after watching a video suggested by @AliOop a number of times...... But, thinking that it was the sugar that caused the lint, brings home the wisdom of moving slowly. So, as far as sugar goes, I'm going back to 1 teaspoon until I have a chance to let some soap cure and try it with the sugar in it.
 
...so very strange. It seemed like the more I stirred, the more the crystals formed....

Um, no, that's not very strange. I would expect this to happen if you keep stirring an open container of lye solution.

By exposing the NaOH solution to the open air, it will continue to react with CO2 in the air. This has nothing to do with the humidity or weather and everything to do with simple exposure of NaOH solution to the air. Stirring will accelerate the formation of the lint (aka crystals if you prefer).

Stop stirring when the NaOH crystals are fully dissolved, cover the container (lightly if the solution is hot) to reduce exposure to fresh air, and leave the container alone until you're ready to make soap.

Do NOT use a goldfish net, because it is not rated for use with concentrated alkali.

There is no real reason to strain out the lint/crystals, but if you feel you must, then get a stainless steel kitchen strainer for this purpose.

...so you don't think the sugar had anything to do with these crystals?

No, sugar has nothing to do with this issue.
 
@akseattle I agree with the others, sugar has nothing to do with creating lye lint floating on top of your lye solution. That lint is just from exposure of the lye solution to the air. The longer the exposure, the more lint will form.

Totally harmless, but do know that extended exposure will eventually reduce the strength of the solution. That’s why I cover my MB solution immediately after making it, and I don’t measure out my solution for a new batch of soap until I’m ready to combine it with the oils. HTH!
 
I agree sugar had nothing to do with your immediate issue of lye lint and was not trying to add confusion. I just wanted to remind you to dissolve your sugar before adding your lye.

Personally prefer Sorbitol at the rate of 1% batch weight instead of sugar if you are using sugar to help with lather.

ETA: correct spelling errors, posted from my phone
 
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Um, no, that's not very strange. I would expect this to happen if you keep stirring an open container of lye solution.

By exposing the NaOH solution to the open air, it will continue to react with CO2 in the air. This has nothing to do with the humidity or weather and everything to do with simple exposure of NaOH solution to the air. Stirring will accelerate the formation of the lint (aka crystals if you prefer).

Stop stirring when the NaOH crystals are fully dissolved, cover the container (lightly if the solution is hot) to reduce exposure to fresh air, and leave the container alone until you're ready to make soap.

Do NOT use a goldfish net, because it is not rated for use with concentrated alkali.

There is no real reason to strain out the lint/crystals, but if you feel you must, then get a stainless steel kitchen strainer for this purpose.



No, sugar has nothing to do with this issue.

Well, I probably won't strain out the lye lint since the consensus is that its not really harmful.
But, to avoid getting caught with my pants down "just in case" an extraordinary amount of lint starts to float around up there, I might get a stainless steel tea strainer. I actually have a few small tea strainers I have been using to dust with clay or mica. Unfortunately, I don't know what they are made of.
Aahh, so many things to think about....

I agree sugar had nothing to do with your immediate issue of lye lint and was not trying to add confusion. I just wanted to remind uou to dissolve your sugar before adding your lye.

Personally prefer Sorbitol at the rate oh 1% batch weight instead of sugar if you are using sugar to help with lather.
@cmzaha correct, I am using the sugar to help with lather.
I did read that there are a couple products that can help with lather. But, since I have sugar in my kitchen, that's what I used. And since now I'm feeling like I should slow down on introducing new elements (besides trying different micas, clays, fragrances etc.) I'm going to stick with sugar for awhile. Plus, since I rarely bake these days, I'd like to use this sugar that's been in my cupboards for a very long time.

I usually strain the lye water, if I see any floaties, before adding it to your oils.

@lsg Being the lazy bone that I am, and having enough things to freak out about when soaping, I have decided to take a more zen approach and ignore this lye lint. That said, I'm going to get a stainless steel tea strainer just in case one day there is an extraordinary amount of lye lint floating around ;)
 
So I've made the sugar boo-boo. I've absent-mindedly added it to the lye water after I added the lye, and I've lazily not fully dissolved the sugar crystals in the water before adding my lye to it. In both cases, the sugar caramelizes and gets clumpy and sinks to the bottom, and/or sticks to my stirring implement.

I've also found that if I measure out my lye pellets and leave them sit for a bit before mixing to the water, lye lint will form. I guess its pulling moisture from the air. So, now I measure out my lye only when I'm ready to mix it to my water. The last bit of dry lye in my 2lb bottles will also form lye lint when poured. I guess its from exposure to moist air.

I don't strain lye lint. But on the occasions when I did feel the need to strain my lye, I used a stainless steel kitchen spider lined with a coffee filter.
 

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