Milk Soaps Challenge 4

Donna submitted her milk soaps for our Milk Soap Challenge. Here is her perspective on the process of making milk soap.


First, here’s the recipe I used — it’s a little varied from my usual mix, because I wanted to use the last of my cocoa butter & shea butter, hence the odd numbers:

400g Coconut Oil
400g Palm Oil
200g Water
200g Coconut Milk
200g Olive Oil
172g Sodium Hydroxide
100g Grapeseed Oil
56g Cocoa Butter
22g Shea Butter
28ml Lemongrass Essential Oil

I did the usual measuring out of the lye & water. I can’t be sure, but I think the lower volume of water made it heat up more. At least, I can only assume that’s the reason that the glass jug I’ve been using for 8 months to hold my lye/water solution broke off cleanly at the
bottom when I submerged it into the water bath. Crap. Well, at least it broke in the sink and not all over my counter. At worst, my sink will drain a little more clearly. Lye all over my kitchen is NOT something I want to think about.

So, I switched to a pyrex measuring cup instead. This worked fine. Phew. Left that sitting in the water bath while I went on to measure & mix the rest of my oils.

The shea butter & cocoa butter were already measured out, because I needed to see how much I had left so I could run that through my lye calculator first. I added the rest of my oils, and measured out the coconut milk and set it aside. Heated the oils, cooled the lye until
everything was about 120F (Yes, I measure my oils in g, and my temperature in F — “120″ is a bit more exact than “50″ so being a degree or two off is less of a big deal.)

Got my stick blender out, and started stirring the lye solution into my oils. Blended in very short bursts — I’ve discovered before that a low-water soap can go from “untraced” to “seized in the pot” SUPER fast, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to end up with a solid lump again. Huge pain in the butt. When I guessed it was roughly halfway to tracing, I added in the room temperature coconut milk, stirred a bit more to get everything fully blended, added in my essential oil (lemongrass — yummy!) and grabbed my prepared mold.

It was starting to trace super fast at that point, so I started lumping it into the mold as fast as I could. I usually make round soaps, using a lined PVC pipe, so the more firmly traced it is, the harder it is to get it into the mold. By the time I was finished molding it up, it was roughly the consistency of playdough, which is ridiculously hard to work with, especially with a narrow mold. Upon reflection, I probably should have grabbed one of my flat pan molds, but I really like my round soaps. Here’s hoping there aren’t any major air holes in there — I pushed at it a lot with my spatula to try to shove it down. Next time, I think I’ll add the essential oil at the
same time as the milk so I can avoid extra stirring.

I had a bit more than fit into my single round mold, so I grabbed one of the washed, clean milk cartons I save for exactly this purpose. They’re neat, they make perfectly square soaps.

So, everything is in the molds, and I’m leaving them uninsulated because… well, it’s a milk soap, and I’m told those heat up a ton. They’re sitting out in my pantry right now, and I’m looking forward to unmolding them on Wednesday.


I unmolded my coconut milk soaps, and hooray, they seem to have turned out! Will wait a few weeks to really try them, but washing the residue off my hands sudded up quite nicely and left my hands nice and soft, so I think it’s going to be pretty good stuff.

As expected, there are a few “gaps” where there were air pockets. Next time, I have to work on getting it into the molds faster, it’s difficult to work with a long narrow mold when you’re at a super thick trace.

Color: Not much different from my normal soaps, maybe a tinge more yellow… although that’s probably from the lemongrass, which has some minor discoloring effects. Next batch I do (I still have another 200g of coconut milk) I will probably try to color a bit. We’ll see.

I scented these a lot stronger than I usually do, and my kitchen smells very strongly of lemongrass. I am totally okay with this, because lemongrass is awesome.

And there we have it. I’m super pleased with it, and definitely plan on making more. I really like the half and half method, it works like a charm (even if I did manage to break a jug trying it!) 🙂

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About Andee

Director of Happiness. I'm a thirty-something soap snob. I've grown up with handmade soaps, and I love them! I really like making lotions, soaps, and perfumes. I adore mixing scents to come up with something new. My favorite scent is either Wicked or Cotton Candy. I tend to hoard fragrances, I even have an Earl Grey Tea from the MMS catalog. I won't tell you how old it is, but it sure is good!

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4 thoughts on “Milk Soaps Challenge

  • Finnishcandles

    I have found, in my experience, that the grapeseed oil causes soap to trace at super sonic speed. I have quit using it in my soaps for this reason. (with so many other excellent oils to choose from I’ve had many opportunities to compare grapeseed against the other oils)
    For a lighter version of this soap I’ve found that since I make large batches at a time I need to mix my coconut milk with water so I mix the lye with the water until it begins to cool then add the coconut milk during the cooling period and mix well. It seems to produce a much lighter soap than traditional milk soaps, thats if the darker color is unpleasant to some soapmakers……definitely experiment. The soaps you made look great and I’m sure they are wonderful! (btw, I still insulate coconut milk soaps without issue thus far)

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    • Andee Post author

      Grapeseed oil is very different than Grapeseed Extract. And it certainly could be the case that a purchased bottle is incorrectly labeled.

      Grapeseed oil is wonderful in soaps and it doesn’t accelerate trace at all. It is a good massage oil and good in lotions too. You can find it in the grocery store with the specialty oils on the top shelf. It is generally a bit green, but can be more yellow too. All grapeseed sold in the general market is partially hexane extracted. While some will have issue with this, most do not. The oil will make a nice soap. Just don’t buy GSE and expect the same results. Ouch! That will accelerate incredibly.

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  • donnamatrix

    Ah, definitely good to know — I really like grapeseed oil, so I use it in most of my soaps, but I think I’ll have to try a batch or two without to see if it slows the trace down. It’s definitely annoying (and occasionally scary) to go from “totally untraced” to “thick pudding” before I can even grab my mold! 🙂

    I’ve been using my test bar for the last week, and holy crap do I ever love it. SO creamy!

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  • Finnishcandles

    Another reason for super sonic trace is the fragrances. I’ve had some that had little effect on the trace and some that will lock that soap up so fast I can barely incorporate the fragrance before I have to pour. I always have my mold ready for quick pours. (and my daughter at my side to help since I make such huge batches)

    I have been super LUCKY to have found someone to give me the medication coolers (for free yay!) used for shipping insulin. They have to be the BEST for soaps (not milk or honey based soaps) in my opinion. I do use petroleum jelly inside the cooler and I cut wax paper and use the wax paper on top of the petroleum jelly just in case I have a batch that doesn’t want to come out I have 2 barriers so I don’t have to wreck a much coveted cooler. ( I now have 15 coolers) So far I have only wrecked one and it was an experimental milk based recipe that caused the problem. (I wanted to see if it would heat/cool too much…….and it did so I dont recommend the insulating properties for milk soaps. Maybe someone has had better luck than I did but I’ve only wrecked one cooler, the rest are very well used.

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