Why Does Liquid Soap Nearly Always Turn Amber When Saponified?

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Nibiru2020

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Okay... inquiring minds (or my mind in particular) would like to know why liquid soap nearly always turns an amber color, regardless of the oils used.

I started out 20 years ago using the only book on the market, at that time, by Catherine Failor. It's been my bible more or less since then.
Today I tried this recipe on a whim, making a half-sized batch and it came out perfect! Hot Process Glycerin Liquid Soap Recipe

IMG_20210220_165945.jpg


IMG_20210220_170002.jpg


All the oils were light in color, yet there's that amber coloration. I will make a crass assumption that it must have something to with the heat and saponification process.
Perhaps the light olive oil contributed to the amber coloration.

I have tried searching on the interweb, but nothing really popped up regarding this. Perhaps I was using a wrong search terminology.
I am not a rookie or newbie when it comes to liquid soaps. Also the above batch turned out crystal clear in an amber sort of way. :cool:
 
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KimW

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The only time I've succeeded in making totally clear and "uncolored" liquid soap is when I've used 100% coconut oil. Not saying that's the key, just giving my experience. :)
 

Nibiru2020

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The only time I've succeeded in making totally clear and "uncolored" liquid soap is when I've used 100% coconut oil. Not saying that's the key, just giving my experience. :)
KimW - I remember Catherine Failor mentioning the same thing, if I'm not mistaken. A 100% coconut oil soap would be a little bit harsh however. I'm happy with the new batch I did today. I just added a couple of photos of it in case you're interested.
 

Zany_in_CO

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Okay... inquiring minds (or my mind in particular) would like to know why liquid soap nearly always turns an amber color, regardless of the oils used.
Good question! I've wondered that myself. LOL From my experience, 100% coconut oil LS is light amber colored as well. I use it for laundry soap and sometimes in a foamer. I don't find it harsh at all. But that's just me. :)
I started out 20 years ago using the only book on the market, at that time, by Catherine Failor. It's been my bible more or less since then.
Same here, except you have a few more years of experience than I do. I started making LS in 2004 when I first joined the Liquid Soapmakers Yahoo Group. Failor is my go-to reference for troubleshooting. :thumbs:

I like all the recipes I've tried on Elements Bath & Body. I didn't know she had one for LS. I recognize it as Carrie Petersens' GLS which I've made a few times. I particular like it for making 100% Olive Oil Castile soap because OO takes the longest time to trace and cook. I make small 16 oz. batches. It's exciting to watch it go through all the stages of becoming soap in 2 minutes! It tests fuscia with phenolphthalein drops at first. Then an hour later it tests clear.

I agree with @KimW. That is a beautiful rich color! I can't help but wonder if the lye solution got too hot? Did you have any problems dissolving the KOH in glycerin? TIP: I take it off heat the second I see heat waves rising off the surface to prevent scorching.

On another thread here you mentioned that you normally use a 4:1 water to KOH ratio. Did you do that with this batch? Just curious. 🤔
 

Nibiru2020

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Zany_in_CO
I used a slow cooker (Crock Pot Brand) for the cook as instructed in the recipe. Nothing scorched, no off odors or such. Just the smells of heated oils really.
I really had no problem with dissolving the KOH in the glycerin.

Using this site's soap calculator, for the half batch, I also added 1.5 oz. of distilled water to the glycerin prior to adding the KOH. I have a small steep sided stainless steel utility bowl, about a quart capacity, and heated it over an electric cooktop. It bubbled for a while whilst stirring continuously with French whip. It took about 4-5 minutes total on a medium-high heat setting. The KOH/glycerin mixture never changed color at all. Pulled it off the heat for a little bit and it cleared up and then I kept it on a low setting while the oils melted and came up to around 145° F or so. Perhaps it was that small amount of water which prevented scorching? The KOH to water/glycerin ratio was 3:1, according the recipe.

I added the KOH solution to the oils and began SB blending. It did not trace very fast at all. It was semi-translucent with an slight amber tone, like slushy weak iced tea. After about 3-4 minutes of blending all of a sudden it turned a milky color, like cream in hot tea. I continued blending for about 2 minutes more until a very thin trace occurred similar to the consistency of a thin gravy. Put the lid on and let it sit on HIGH heat setting on the cooker and watched it change to a clear amber liquid underneath a thin layer of creamy foam, like shaving cream consistency.

The recipe and it's few slight modifications is in the recipes database listed as: Half Batch - Hot Process Glycerin Liquid Soap w/Soybean Oil
I didn't have any sunflower oil and the stores were out. I live in Austin TX and we've been through the STORM OF THE CENTURY down here, what with power outages, water outages, etc. Just yesterday things started to get some semblance of normalcy. There are A LOT OF UPSET PEOPLE right now and there will be some might big changes coming down the pike and probably some head being rolled too. (In the proverbial sense that is.)

BTW, I grew up in Longmont, CO
 

KimW

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So, on the subject of a clear soap - Funny enough, this video came up in my feed last night, but I forgot to post it here. She adds Fractionated Coconut Oil to hers. I wonder if that might make it less harsh. Although, as Zany has said, just 100% CO might not be harsh for you - it's not for my hubby. :)
 

Zany_in_CO

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@Nibiru2020 Howdy, fellow Coloradoan! Thank you for that detailed information.
Thank You.gif

I'm so sorry to read that you were caught in that terrible storm and power outage aftermath. My heart goes out to you and your dear ones. I hope all are safe, warm & cozy somewhere. What a horrible mess!

@KimW Have you tried that recipe? FCO (Fractionated Coconut Oil) aka CCT Oil (Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride) is wonderful in leave-on products like lotions, creams, butters and balms. It is an emollient and has an indefinite shelf life.

In soap, it's not so great. As a hand soap, it feels greasy and doesn't rinse off. Tried it once at 100% in LS and it didn't even come close to the efficacy of coconut oil 76°. I was very disappointed. :(
 

KimW

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@Zany_in_CO I have NOT tried that recipe. I was curious, and so glad to hear of your experience, because I too really like FCO in my lotions and creams and was wondering how it would perform in soap. Thank you so much for the heads up on using it in soap!! Now I don't need to waste one of my favorite oils on a test batch. :D
 

Zany_in_CO

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I have NOT tried that recipe. I was curious, and so glad to hear of your experience, because I too really like FCO in my lotions and creams and was wondering how it would perform in soap. Thank you so much for the heads up on using it in soap!! Now I don't need to waste one of my favorite oils on a test batch. :D
You're welcome, Kim.
Yes. It's one of my favorite oils in lotions and creams too! I don't know why it's listed as one of the soap making oils. To my mind, it really doesn't belong there and may disappoint those who don't know any better. Forgot to mention, the lather is flat too.
Also, MCT Oil (Medium Chain Tryglyceride) is aka Fractionated Coconut Oil. Costco has it at $18 / liter.
 

Nibiru2020

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One thing I must make mention of. When I was mixing the heated glycerin and KOH mixture, I did not witness any extreme reaction at all. As a matter of fact, after slowing pouring in the KOH into the room temperature glycerin mixture, I then began to heat it up slowly on the stove. It's not like I was frying chicken @ 350° F or anything. The mixture came to a slow steady simmering boil, which I held for about a minute or so until it cleared up. During this entire time I had the vented range hood on max airflow too. There was no color change of the glycerin / KOH solution either. I use an infrared laser thermometer gun to check my temps since it is the fastest and most accurate method I've found.

Since I have had experience in a chemistry lab back in the school days I was not in the least intimidated by this procedure. The recipe is from Elements Bath & Body website. It's the best recipe, at least for me, for quickly and effectively making a crystal clear liquid soap with complete saponification in just a few hours.

The procedure lined out for mixing the KOH into the glycerin stated the following:
"Combine the potassium hydroxide and the glycerin in a 2-3 qt. stainless steel saucepan. Bring the lye mixture to a simmer on low/medium heat. DO NOT WALK AWAY WHILE HEATING THE LYE SOLUTION. The glycerin will foam and may even crackle a little. Do not be alarmed! Keep stirring the lye solution constantly until the lye dissolves, 5-8 minutes. If you see any remaining undissolved chips of lye, turn the heat back on and stir some more."

For me, this lye dissolving procedure only took about 4 minutes and there was no crackling noise or foaming. What it really reminded me off was the way sugar syrup looks when it is boiling, such as when one makes hard candy. In addition, when I added the hot 195° F glycerin / KOH mixture to the hot oils (about 165° F ) there was no adverse reaction whatsoever.

For me, this is a procedure that one must use common sense and be attentive to the procedure involved. Don't rush it. Slow and steady wins the race.
Wear all the safety gear if that so suits you. I take the Uncle Jon approach and try to keep things as simple as possible. Too much protective gear can actually be a hindrance to safe soap making as gloves, aprons, etc. may get snagged on utensils, pitchers, pots etc.

I wear eye protection. For any splashes I just rinse under running cold water; a far better method then trying to use white vinegar which can cause it's own exothermic reaction with lye on its own. Then again, I've only been hit with a couple of tiny droplets of hot lye / oil solution over that past 20 years of making soaps. All because I was in a hurry.

If one doesn't feel comfortable utilizing this method... then don't attempt it, period, Use the standard distilled water / KOH blend method for liquid soap. If one goes into a procedure feeling fearful or not sure, then something bad usually happens because they're more focused on the possible bad result rather than paying attention to the procedure itself.

Common sense, attention to the small details, going about it slowly and with a steady hand will ensure a great result.
 
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Tara_H

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I was meaning to reply to this thread the other day and completely forgot about it! I wanted to say thanks so much for the interesting discussion, particularly the issue of heat, since this amber colour in liquid soap is one that's been bothering me also.

I've made a few batches of LS using the crockpot technique that seems to be everywhere, and while I've got to the point where I'm reasonably happy with the result, it's such a dark colour that I can't really colour it any further, and I also feel like it limits the fragrances I can use (I really like to have them match if at all possible).
IMG_20210304_102419.jpg

Partly inspired by your thoughts here I went searching for a CP LS recipe and found the one that IrishLass recommends. I did everything I possibly could to keep the temperature low at all times; diluting the KOH in distilled water before adding the glycerine at room temperature, having the oils just melted enough, not adding any further heat, and even limiting the amount of SB use so as not to drive the temperature up by means of friction.

I think the evidence speaks for itself - after diluting to the recommended amount, the soap is actually lighter than the olive oil which went into the recipe!
IMG_20210304_102142.jpg

I hope the results of this experiment will be useful, certainly I'm going to follow that procedure from now on, and continue testing with different oils to see what I can do to improve the colour further.
 

Nibiru2020

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Okay... nice job! You didn't provide a link to the recipe that the IrishLass recommends. I would like to see it.
I do notice that the soap you're holding is murky. Will it clear over time as it sequesters? Is sequestering recommended?
 

Tara_H

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Ah, sorry, the recipe is in this thread - here's my exact post where I started if you want to follow all the details: Soaping 101 liquid soapmaking video?

It actually came out perfectly clear, but I added some ginger and lemongrass EO which seems to have affected the clarity a little bit. I was more concerned with the shade rather than the clarity so that doesn't really bother me, but I guess something to be aware of depending on your priorities.
 

Nibiru2020

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Thanks for the link! It's appreciated! I have had liquid soap go mucky when adding essential oils or fragrance oils, however after a several day or a week or so of sequestering, they tend to clear up nicely. I'm sure yours will get clearer also. ;)
 

Nibiru2020

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Update on Elements Bath and Body. They have pulled the recipe for the Hot Glycerin Liquid Soap Recipe! I hope I wasn't the cause of that... by providing links, etc.

I am glad I was able to save the instructions a couple of weeks ago by copy and paste.
 

Nibiru2020

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Apparently a couple of my links have been removed referring to where I posted recipes on the recipes section of this website.
I wasn't notified or asked why or anything... hmmm. This is disturbing, at least to me it is.

I don't appreciate the fact that someone has the ability to delete items from posts without the courtesy of explaining the issue/problem to the original poster. I was a moderator on three different Windows 7 websites for several years and I never would have deleted or modified anyone's posts with first discussing it with them in a private discussion area. If an admin or site moderator has an issue with what I post or link to... then TALK TO ME about it.
That's just common courtesy!
 
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Zany_in_CO

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If an admin or site moderator has an issue with what I post or link to... then TALK TO ME about it. That's just common courtesy!
If you have a problem with the administration of the forum you can contact our Admin/Mods by clicking on their names or avatars: Angie, Irish Lass, Relle, lsg, Shunt 2011
 

Peachy Clean Soap

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Okay... inquiring minds (or my mind in particular) would like to know why liquid soap nearly always turns an amber color, regardless of the oils used.

I started out 20 years ago using the only book on the market, at that time, by Catherine Failor. It's been my bible more or less since then.
Today I tried this recipe on a whim, making a half-sized batch and it came out perfect! Hot Process Glycerin Liquid Soap Recipe

View attachment 54238

View attachment 54239

All the oils were light in color, yet there's that amber coloration. I will make a crass assumption that it must have something to with the heat and saponification process.
Perhaps the light olive oil contributed to the amber coloration.

I have tried searching on the interweb, but nothing really popped up regarding this. Perhaps I was using a wrong search terminology.
I am not a rookie or newbie when it comes to liquid soaps. Also the above batch turned out crystal clear in an amber sort of way. :cool:
Sorry couldn't add any valuable info' Iv'e never made liquid soap, its on the bucket list though. 🧼💫🐝
 

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