|People can spend a lot of money on soap molds for cold process soap. We try to use what is easy to find for our test batches. Certainly we aren’t looking for equal-sized bars or perfectly shaped edges. We make soap in disposable cookie trays like the elf cookies from Keebler. (Hint: Oreos do not come in a plastic tray!) We use Rubbermaid Drawer Organizers. Later in the week, I’ll even show you a cardboard box we use as a mold!
Yesterday’s post shows a drawer organizer in the Rubbermaid line that is 9 inches long and 3 inches wide. It is product number 2915 in this line of products. We like this mold for 1 lb fat batches because the trays store in a nesting format, they are easy to use, and quick to make 20 to 30 tests at one time. While you are learning to make soap, we encourage you to use cheap molds. When you have mastered this week’s lessons, then you are ready for more expensive molds that make each bar look the same.
Yesterday I didn’t take the temperature of the oils or the lye solution. I did the soap batch in the order shown and exactly for the time amounts indicated. You are probably wondering how high the temperatures were. Honestly, I don’t know. There is a lot of talk about temperature being the most critical thing about soap making, but it isn’t. The amount of lye used for the fats is the most critical. Beyond that, there are many areas of input that will make a better batch of soap. Temperature is one. We have made so many batches of soap in this fashion, in this exact size, that I know these timing issues work. The temperatures are in the 120 to 150 degree range. While you are learning, please log the temperatures of the lye and of the fats. It may not seem like a big deal to you now, especially seeing yesterday’s soap, but it will help us help you when you hit a hurdle (also known as a failed batch).
When writing in your soap journal, record the following things:
DATE – When we know the time of year, we can expect certain conditions like humidity, temperatures outdoors, etc.
TIME – The time of day may not seem like a big issue, but it can help us know if the kids just got home from school or you were suffering from insomnia. Read the last sentence this way, “Failed batch at 2 a.m.? Go to sleep and only make soap during times of complete awareness.”
RECIPE – This prevents the confusion of, “I think this soap had shea butter. No, wait! This is the one that had beeswax. I think.” Don’t forget to record the amount of lye you used. Include everything that you add, including that ½ tsp of aloe gel at the end. Nothing gets omitted from the recipe record.
INTERRUPTIONS – Record what happened during the soap making process. It is helpful to know the dog vomited on the newly cleaned carpet, or the phone rang 5 times during your private time. These things lead to left out ingredients or forgotten techniques.
UNIQUE ISSUES WITH THIS BATCH OF SOAP – Did the soap blend smoothly? Did the fragrance accelerate trace? Was the mold filled to the brim? Temperatures of the oils and lye solutions just before combining are important. As is the time to trace, and the temperature at trace. When did you add the extras?
Trust us, all of these things matter. They will help you see new things, fix batch problems before the get out of hand, and most importantly WHAT is happening during the session. If you don’t record it, you will forget. It is hard enough to remember 6 days later, let alone 6 weeks or 6 months. You will never have too much data in your records. All we need is sufficient data to duplicate the results. If results can be duplicated, they can also be avoided.
A note on temperature. Instead of giving you a definite temperature to target, and feeding the inner OCD (obsessive/compulsive disorder) monster we all have inside us, try to target a RANGE OF TEMPERATURE.
In the winter, the temperatures you use should be higher because our houses are cooler and have cooler drafts. In the summer your temperatures should be lower because the air is warmer. If the batch is smaller the temperatures should be warmer to give enough heat for saponification to get started. Larger batches of soap have enough mass that we start with cooler temperatures so the soap batch doesn’t heat up as fast as run-away horses.
Target the lye solution and the oils to have starting temperatures within 10 degrees of each other. Don’t be OCD about temperature! We don’t want you cooling one in ice and heating the other the microwave for split seconds trying to achieve the perfect temperature. Right now it is almost spring; start considering slight drops in your beginning temperatures. July is the coolest you start a batch of soap. January is the warmest temperature target month. Try temperatures around 130 right now, and 110 to 120 in July. However, there are ingredients that can cause these generalizations to be ignored.
So, let me wrap up today and remind you:
Today’s recipe is about trying new oils. We made yesterday’s soap with shea butter. Today we are trying neem oil. As you can see, there are significant color differences. Because neem has a strong odor, there are also odor differences.
2.2 ounces Sodium Hydroxide
Weighing time: 8 minutes
This soap does not have any added scent or botanicals. Try this basic formulation and replace the neem with an oil you want to try. Tell us your results!
See you tomorrow!