Soap Problems? – KarmaDNA

Soap Problems?

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Soap problems?

We will always use soap and it will never get old. If you are interested in making or selling soap, congratulations! You have chosen a great product.

If you are just starting to make Cold Process Soap or just curious for now, you should read this blog.

Cold Process soap is made by mixing lye and oils. This causes a chemical reaction which is called saponification.  

Below are some common problems and solutions to making cold process soap.

trouble shooting cold process soap


Acceleration occurs when a fragrance oil brings the batter to trace too quickly to work with. Sometimes the fragrance oil may thicken the batter to a pudding like consistency. If you have a seizing or accelerating fragrance, just get that batch into the mold as quickly as you can. Do not try to make designs. Be prepared for it to heat up quickly. Often there is a correlation between the acceleration/seizing and excessive, quick heat in your soap batch. I do not recommend stick blending fragrances into the soap. It can cause acceleration or seize up.

Ricing occurs when an ingredient in the fragrance oil binds with some of the harder oil components in the recipe to form little hard rice-shaped lumps. Ricing can be stick blended out. However, in utilizing the stick blender to smooth your soap out, you may end up with a much thicker trace than expected.

Discoloration can occur as a result of the vanilla content in the fragrance. It may look like a nice creamy white in the mold, but after hardening for a few days this soap may turn into brown or have brown swirls. Choose the fragrance oils from the less vanilla content products.

Separation occurs when the fragrance oil can’t be mixed into the soap batter, and oil can start to pool on top of the batter. Separation can look a lot like ricing, and the two sometimes occur together. The main difference is you can see pools of oil on the soap with separation. It almost looks like it’s breaking up.

Seizing is when your soap batter has high saturated fats and low on water. Also essential oils may have sped up the saponification process. When using new fragrances, high amounts of saturated fats or some essential oils, it is a good idea to use the full 38 – 40% of water recommended. Check your temperatures. It is best to soap between 90 - 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If your soap is still workable, get it scooped into your mold. Be sure to watch it in case it starts to overheat.

Soda ash, is when you see white powder like layer on your soap. This means you have a lye heavy soap. Check the pH level to see if it is still safe to use on skin. If not you can use it for washing clothes.

Alien brain, happens when the soap overheats, which is clearly what happened here. Notice that the entire loaf is gelled throughout! The great thing about Alien Brain though is that it is a purely cosmetic issue and does not affect the rest of the soap.

Soap Volcano: Natural sugars like fruit purees and alcohol in cold process soap can super heat the soap and cause eruption. Once unmolded simply cut a few inches off the end.

General tips:

Although some fragrances will cause issues, there are a few things you can do to make sure you get a manageable batter.

Make sure you are soaping at lower temperatures when lye water and oils are about 120 degrees F.

Make sure your recipe checks out with the lye calculator and that you are using the recommend amount of water. Using less water can cause the batter to accelerate.

Whisk in fragrances and colorants after the batter reaches trace. Even the best recipes and fragrances will thicken up if you stick blend them too much.

Using recipes with lots of soft oils, such as Olive, Sunflower or Rice Bran, tend to maintain a thinner trace longer.


by Karma Hunter



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