Soapmakin’ Troubleshootin’

As frustrating as it was for me last night having to work quickly to pour my almost pudding like soap batter into the mould (and forgo my kaolin clay in the process), since then I have found some very interesting techniques that will possibly help the whole process go a little easier for me next time.

When I began to mix the lye water with the oils at first it didn’t seem to emulsify much at all. Even when I began to use the hand blender to mix it all together (and I made sure to stir it first), there still wasn’t much of a trace but as soon as I poured in my fragrance oils (lily of the valley and iris), it started to turn. In my eagerness to avoid it turning lumpy I immediately used my hand blender to blend the mixture which seemed to improve it momentarily but then soon after it began to get really thick and clump like. I realised then I couldn’t wait much longer – I had to pour it into the mould.
Doing the texture as I had wanted, on top of the soap was near to impossible as it was by then so thick that I was unable to manipulate it easily.

There are a few things that I’m going to try in my next batch, namely, soaping at a lower temperature. Last night I was following a guide of soaping between 80 degrees farenheit to 110 degrees farenheit, but a conflicting process said that you could soap all the way up to 145 degrees farenheit so long a both the oils and the lye were within 10 to 15 degrees of one another. My oils and lye water was taking aaaaages to trace, I even resorted to putting the bowl of lye on a table near to the open window to try and cool it down but it was still taking an age, so in the end I combined the oils at around 130 degrees farenheit each. I know now that this was perhaps too hot, so in future I am going to wait until the oils come to almost room temperature and either pop the lye into the fridge and wait for it to cool down to almost the same temperature or into a cold water bath.

The fridge option isn’t so encouraging for me as I soap at the very top of the house (3 storeys up), and the fridge is on the ground floor so going up and down the stairs with scorching hot lye solution isn’t the safest option.

Also I’ve just recently found out that fragrance oils accelerate trace so that’s something to bare in mind also. I wonder why that is?
Anyhoo as this is as much a science experiment as much as an art experiment I will have to try these variations using the same recipe and see what happens. One solution for working with potentially trace accelerating fragrance oils is to add them to the melted oils first which I think is pretty smart.
If I get into the habit of adding the fragrance oils to the melted oils first it should give me a bit more time to work with the soap once the mixture has been blended with the lye water and hopefully more of an accurate estimation in terms of the best combining temperatures.

There is so much to learn about soapmaking – lots of potential disasters that could occur, and indeed what to do if you ever experience any of these disasters. Once you know all of the potentials it’s probably becomes much easier to identify and correct over time.

I prefer the look of simplicity with an artistic edge and there is lots of techniques that I want to try out but until I get that perfect trace (and some people have recommended doing only a very light trace for such experiments), then I think it’s best to wait to try to do these.

I am a huge fan of this girls soaps. She is based in Australia and makes some utterly beautiful yet simply designed soaps and I would love to learn her technique. I could never get sick of using or looking at her soaps – they are totally beautiful and unique!

Vice and Velvet

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