"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Soap-Making Chronicles

I finally got all my soap-making supplies, oils, fragrances, scale, lye, etc. And finally had a day to try my hand at making cold processed soap. I was so excited and anticipating fantastic results. After all, I made one perfect batch with a little help and it wasn't all that hard...

Batch #1 (Coconut, Lime, & Verbena):


Yeah.

Soap isn't supposed to do that. It turns out I have a little more to learn about chemistry and the soap making process. I was so frustrated. All that time and all those expensive ingredients wasted. Grrr.

I hopped online and found what was most likely my error. (Errors.) Temperature. And under-mixing. I learned that I wasn't mixing enough before adding my fragrance, and that my initial mixing temperature was too cool. I was mistaking the clumping of the oils from cooling off for the thickening of the soap due to the chemical process of "saponification". So the lye wasn't finished reacting, nothing was mixed in, and it heated up again too hot and too fast after pouring it in the mold. The result was the gigantic soap monster in my oven. I did sort of fix it by the way. Time will tell if it worked well enough to turn into soap. It smells good though. It's interesting that in making soap the actual temperature isn't as important as the CHANGE in temperature. If it cools/heats too fast or slowly you have problems.


By the way, there are hundreds of things that can go wrong with soap-making. I laughed and laughed to see other blunders on the web. Mine was somewhat minor by comparison. It helps to have a proven and reliable recipe. That takes away much of the margin for error.

Batch #2 (Lavender):

I was determined to get this right. I measured everything perfectly, got my oils heated just right before starting the lye, and poured everything in nice and hot. Too hot, as it turns out. Brandon was helping at this point. We took turns stirring and blending and mixing, and pouring, and re-pouring... It would NOT set up. After forever long it finally started thickening and we made the final pour into the mold. It was still pudding several hours later. But it smelled good... It eventually set up, and appears to be fine. At least it is well mixed. The bars will be nice and smooth.


Batch #3 (Edward, a manly cologne kind of smell):

I almost didn't go through with the last batch. But I was pretty sure I could get it right now. It worked much better. I'm a pro at the temperature thing now. I know just what a light and heavy trace look like too. If anything we waiting a few seconds too long before pouring, but it set up perfectly, smells wonderful, and looks to be the best batch yet.

I'm glad I did all three batches in one day. I learned a lot about the process. I really want to try some of the more "creative" types of soap, like the pretty marbling, or the layered bars, or the exfoliating oatmeal/milk bars etc. After this experiment with a very basic recipe I have some reservations. Maybe I should save my creativity for other things...

And... my very first batch (Apple Jack) is almost ready for use! One more week. Aren't they pretty? (Okay, so maybe beauty is in the eye of the beholder...) I'm really excited to try them out.

10 comments:

Brittany said...

Sounds like third's times the charm. And they do look very pretty. I kind of want to touch them.

Dave and Shatzi said...

Those look beautiful! I think it's awesome the projects you undertake! You are my arts and crafts hero!!!

Melissa said...

Wow! I was just telling Jason how much I wouldn't mind making my own soap and describing all the beautiful ones I saw in the local organic store. Hmmmm ... I am not so sure now. I am still interested, but am feeling a lot of trepidation.

Sharon said...

I made soap once in my 9th grade Home Ec class. I remember it beinga little hard, but there were 4 people in my group, and my mom liked the soap. they look pretty, i hope they work!

Hilarie* said...

Brittany I made soap in my Organic Chem. class in college, it was rootbeer scented soap. I don't think Hilarie has used it yet though. I will have to find it and give you a sample, I am sure your kids would love it.

Chad

Hilarie* said...

also....we were instructed not to use it for a fews weeks or so, have you heard the same thing?

Chad

Bryce and Sharee said...

The 1st sounds so delicious...too bad it didn't work out. Did you have to throw it all out? I think it is funny you got the edward and bella smells...I am very curious! And they do look fabulous. Great job!

The Wendt Wagon said...

You inspire me. I think that when these last six weeks of school are done for me I may just have to try and make my own soap. You are so beautiful prego by the way!!! You make the rest of us look like elephants.

Hilarie* said...

Wow I would love to see your soaps!! Or rather smell then! Way to go. Looks like some fun now that you have it down.

Ariana said...

The soap still looked good either way because it reminded me of cheesecake, which I now really want. I'm glad they got better and better. The lotion wasn't nearly as precise or hard. Good thing I didn't try the soap!