Wednesday, December 30, 2015

For the Guys.... and Girls

I've been spending a lot of time over the last two days reading about shaving soap on the Soap Making Forum. There is one very long thread (over 80 pages) about shaving soap. I read every single post on every single page. Last night.

About half way in, I decided to make the first recipe that was presented. It is a hot process soap, something I'd not done before. Hot process soap is usually made in a crock pot; the only crock pot I have is a small appetizer sized one that usually comes free with its full sized sibling. I picked it up years ago at a thrift store and have rarely used it.

The first recipe in the thread was for an 8 oz batch, which fit perfectly into my little crock pot. I followed a two step process; first, the coconut oil and shea butter was melted and saponified with the lye (potassium hydroxide), then the melted stearic acid was added. It went immediately to mashed potato consistency. Afterwards, glycerin and essential oils were added and the whole mixture kneaded together into a log, which I rolled up in parchment paper and allowed to cool.

This morning, I cut the log into 1" pucks. This shave soap doesn't become a  hard bar like those made with sodium hydroxide. It's malleable, almost like Playdoh, which makes it easier to lather up with a brush.

I'm still waiting for John to try it but I can tell you that it sure lathers beautifully.

John really needs a new brush; this one belonged to his father and, you can't see it but it has a large piece broken out of the other side that had been badly glued together. I'll see what I can find on my next trip to the drug store, later this week.

That was last night's batch. After reading the rest of the thread, I found another recipe I really wanted to try, for the sake of comparison. It still has a majority of stearic acid and still has coconut oil but has added tallow, lanolin, and shea butter. From what I've read, it may be a more moisturizing soap. John has fairly sensitive facial skin (he breaks out in a rash every time he shaves) so I'm hoping one of these two soaps will be better for his skin than the shave gel he uses now.

Both batches are scented with a combination of bay rum and lime essential oils. I ran the scent past John first as he's the one who will be using it on his face. It met with his approval.

If you're at all interested in making shaving soap, here's a link to the thread about it on the Soap Making Forum:

If you're interested in making your own soap, of any kind, you really should check out the SMF; it's an incredible resource, highly educational, extremely interesting, and filled with all sorts of friendly soap makers who are more than willing to share their wealth of knowledge with anyone who is willing to learn.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Ooops... Distractions Suck!

Well, that was an exercise in futility if ever there was one. The soap looks lovely but that is only half the story.

You can definitely see the difference between the high water (the lighter parts along the outside) and the low water (the white swirly part in the center). There are a couple of issues, though.

I got distracted when some of my lye decided to make a break for it. I spilled a couple of teaspoons all over my kitchen counter and on to the floor. Everything had to be put to the side and my kitchen cleaned up before I'd even consider moving on.

When I did move on, I made the mistake of putting the low water lye mixture (intended for 300 grams of oil) into the bowl with the 600 grams of oil and the lye mixture intended for the 600 grams of oil into the bowl with the 300 grams of oil. That means that the outer two thirds doesn't have enough lye and the soap is on the soft and spongy side, while the soap in the center has too much lye for the amount of oil and it's still zapping like crazy after a good 24 plus hours.

I posted my results on the SoapMaking Forum and was told that because there's no colourant in my soap, this is a good candidate for rebatching. I ran the numbers through SoapCalc and it looks like that may well be the case. Mixing the two parts together will give me a 40% lye concentration, with a 5% superfat.

It won't all fit in my tiny little appetizer size crock pot so I think it may be the perfect opportunity to pick up a second hand crock pot sometime this week, considering I have this week off (to be used for soap only!).

A closer look at the soap, though, does show the difference between the high and low, subtle as it is.

Against a bright light... can you see the streaks along the left side?
I'll give it another try later this week... it will not beat me!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Ghost Swirl Attempt

Christmas is now behind us and I'm off until the new year. That gives me plenty of time to play with soap. Well, it gives me time but I'm waiting for an order to arrive from Voyageur. I'm out of palm oil. The order is in Kelowna but I have all my orders delivered to me at work and, being Christmas, we're not open until Tuesday. I've told the guys to text me when it arrives. No, I'm not impatient... not at all. HA!

Even though yesterday was Christmas Day, I decided to pull out my tiny crock pot and rebatch some ends from the beer soap batches I've made. After chopping all the bits up, I threw them into the crock pot, pretty much filling it, added some water and walked away. After a couple of hours, I mixed it all up and poured it into molds. It will take a while to harden enough to remove from the molds but that's no big deal. I don't mind letting it sit until some of the water evaporates.

The rebatch I did on Christmas Eve is out of the molds and when I say it's ugly, believe it. It looks like raw ground pork, frozen into flower shapes, just nasty. However, it will be used as kitchen soap so, as long as it lathers, it should be fine. The original soap was lovely soap, just not pretty.

See what I mean? It wasn't completely smooshed together but I don't think that really matters much. It was pointed out to me that I probably shouldn't have added goat milk to it because it might cause the soap to go rancid more quickly. If so, I'll toss the batch; I really haven't lost much.

Anyway, I digress. Today, being Boxing Day and me not being the type to be drawn in to the Boxing Day shopping fray, I decided it was a good time to try my hand at the Ghost Swirl, made famous by the fabulous Auntie Clara (

Here's how it looked right after getting it into the mold. The lighter parts are the low water parts and the part in the middle is the high water part.

It's in the oven now, and will be for another half hour or so. Then, I'll move the mold to the bedroom with a cover over it because we will need the oven to warm up the left over prime rib we had for our Christmas dinner yesterday (it was amazing!).

I'm curious to see how it will turn out. Incidentally, I scented the low water part with lavender and patchouli, with no scent in the high water part.

The recipe I used is as follows:

40% lard
30% olive oil pomace
25% coconut oil
5% castor oil

I made two batches, one at 600 grams with water as 30% of oil weight (2.1206:1 water:lye ratio) and the other batch at 300 grams with water as 44% of oil weight or a water:lye ratio of 3.1103:1. To the 600 grams, I added 1 tsp. of lavender essential oil and 1/2 tsp. of patchouli essential oil.

The mold had two dividers and the high water batch went down the center while the low water batch was split between the two sides. Once filled, the dividers were removed and I did a Taiwan swirl.

I'll leave it in the mold overnight (if I'm patient enough) and will cut it tomorrow. I'll take pictures and will post the results tomorrow afternoon. I'd post in the morning but my sister and her husband will be in town before heading out to the coast to visit our family there.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve and I'm NOT Making Soap

Christmas Eve really isn't the time to be making a batch of soap even though I really want to. I just don't want the extra dishes, you know?

It is, however, a great time to do a rebatch of a batch that I was really unhappy with. It isn't making soap per se; it's turning a failure into something usable. A couple of months ago, the Soap Making Forum's challenge of the month was the hidden feather swirl. I did three attempts; the first was an abject failure. There was nothing wrong with the soap but it thickened up way too fast to do a proper swirl. The resulting bars were only about an inch in height and, after unmolding and slicing them, I let them cure and threw them in a paper bag to be dealt with at a later date.

Just not pretty!
Well, a post on the SMF today made me realize that I have the time today to deal with that batch and, possibly, turn it into a soap I'll be happy to use.

After doing some reading, I decided the best way for me to do it was to use the double ziplock bag method. That's where you grate up your soap and place it into a gallon sized ziplog bag, them put that bag into a second bag and seal it up. Then, the entire package is placed into a stock pot of boiling water and left to simmer until it's one melted mass, which should take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

I did add two cubes (1-2 oz.) of goat milk and, once melted, I'll add some scent (lavender and patchouli) and a bit of tamanu oil. If necessary, I'll add another cube of goat milk. Once thoroughly mixed up, all that's left is to snip a corner of the bag and pipe the mass into molds to harden.

I hate to say it but this looks almost like shredded bacon or something, doesn't it?
Because the soap has already cured, once it's hard, it is ready for use, no need to wait another 4-6 weeks. Once it's out of the molds, I'll post pictures and let you know what I think of the resulting soap.

Monday, December 21, 2015

First Try - Valentine's Soap

It feels a little strange thinking about Valentine's Day when Christmas isn't even here yet. However, when your soap takes 4 - 6 weeks to cure, you have to think that far ahead. I've been trying to come up with something luxurious and almost decadent.

This is what I've come up with:

25% olive oil pomace
25% coconut oil
15% avocado oil
15% rice bran oil
10% palm kernel oil
5% shea butter
5% castor oil

I used 30% lye concentration with a superfat of 5%.

To the batch, I added 2 tsp each of sodium lactate, silk protein, and simple syrup.
At trace, I added about 2 Tbsp of heavy cream and scented the soap with lemongrass and ylang ylang. I used coconut milk instead of water.

I had hoped to do a Taiwan swirl but I forgot to make the dividers until the very last minute, when it was too late, so I ended up layering the two colours and swirling slightly. On the top, I sprinkled some opalescent glitter.

I also cut the Sweater Weather and suddenly my soap supply is looking much more healthy.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


With so much soap having gone out the door these past couple of weeks, John has finally realized that more soap needs to happen. He's also committed himself to learning how it's made.

To that end, we made two batches of the Sweater Weather soap yesterday, partly to replenish my beer soap supply and partly to use up the remainder of the Sweater Weather ale so we can get that jug out of the fridge. With Christmas coming this week, we need all the room we can possibly make in the refrigerator.

I did have to go out to get more olive oil pomace and another bottle of vetiver essesntial oil, even though my least favourite thing to do is go shopping just before Christmas. I hit it right, though. The essential oil was the more difficult of the two items. I had to go to three different places in order to find it, including.......... the mall. Yes, I braved the mall. Needlessly.

After we had finished the first batch of Sweater Weather, John said we might as well make the second batch right away. However, there wasn't enough olive oil for another batch so another trip had to be made. We discovered that the best place to buy it is at the Save On More closest to our home. John suggested trying the Mediterranean Market but they're further away and their prices are about the same.

Interestingly, after I unmolded the soap last night, I tested both for zap. One still zapped but the other didn't. I wanted to illustrate to John what zap was so I rubbed a wet finger on to the zapping soap and put it on his tongue... nothing. No reaction whatsoever. He figures it's because he's a long time smoker and his taste buds have become desensitized. I guess I can't use him to test the soap's zapability; I'll have to rely on my much more sensitive tongue. And he needs to quit smoking.

Making the two batches has depleted my stock of palm oil, so I've put in another order with Voyageur Soap & Candle. I don't anticipate seeing the order until early in the new year so if I want to make soap between now and when the order comes in, it will have to be without palm oil.

With this order, I've also ordered some potassium hydroxide (caustic potash); I'd really like to try making a liquid soap and a true shaving soap. Now, though, my mind has turned to Valentine soaps; I'm trying to come up with a recipe for a soap that would reflect that day and it isn't easy. I want it to be a luxurious blend of oils and scents. I'm not over thinking the aesthetics of the soap; I'm not into making works of art. I do, however, want it to be something lovely.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

It's Still Sweater Weather Time

Even though soaping is still happening, it almost feels like it's been a long time since I did any soaping and yet, it was really only just last weekend. After this past week, though, soap making has become almost necessary.

My inventory of soaps has been seriously depleted this week. After one order of ten bars (to start), someone else ordered ten bars plus three for herself and a friend ordered twenty bars as Christmas presents. I'm pretty sure that with Christmas just around the corner, anything crafty will be put on the back burner. After the new year, though, soap making will be ramping up again.

I did make another batch of the Sweater Weather Oatmeal Stout soap, though. I still have quite a bit of the beer in the fridge and want to use it up. And, for the first time, I had some help. My 11 year old granddaughter asked this morning if she could help make this batch. I was more than happy to walk her through the process, teaching her what's involved with making soap.

After the sales of this past week, John is finally realizing that this really could be something people like. He's even expressed an interest in helping out and learning about the process... and is thinking of ways to turn this two bedroom suite into a production facility. Yeah, I don't think so. He will, however, become my apprentice.

One more thing that I've been working on this past week is making labels for some of my more popular soaps. It may not be the easiest to see in this picture but I'm trying to match the background of the label to the soap it's wrapping. In this case, with the Sweater Weather soap, the background is some knitted fabric, mirroring the name of the beer.

I like the format - simple, clean, relevant to the product. What do you think?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Chilling and Productive

After the stress and emotional upheaval from the past month, it's been really nice to be able to put it all behind us and move on with the healing process. It sounds simplistic when I write it like that but it's true that the funeral has been a way of putting paid to the entire situation.

This weekend has been spent in pampering myself with hot baths, hair masks, facial treatments, cooking, knitting, and making soap. On Friday, it was the Sweater Weather soap and some much needed lip balm; yesterday, I decided to make some tallow based soap, in addition to some tallow balm.

A couple of months ago, I was able to score two quarts of beef tallow from my (very) local butcher (within walking distance). It's been in my refrigerator, waiting for the perfect time and the perfect recipe. Yesterday was that time.

The recipe I used is a variation of one I found online, using oils and milk I have on hand. I think the original recipe used sunflower oil and water to dissolve the lye. John cleaned out our freezer yesterday and reminded me that I still have coconut, goat, and hemp milk cubes in the freezer. Because of that, I decided to substitute the sunflower oil for hemp oil and use hemp milk instead of water to dissolve the lye.

The recipe:

60% beef tallow
30% olive oil pomace
5% castor oil
5% hemp oil

5% superfat and a lye concentration of 40% (water:lye ratio - 1.5:1)

I did squirt in about 2 tsp. of titanium dioxide (to make the soap less green from the hemp oil) and added 2 tsp. of sodium lactate, and 2 tsp. of simple syrup (1:1 sugar water).

It seems I've been on a bit of a patchouli kick lately; I added about 1 tsp. to this batch, giving it a very light scent.

Looks a bit like slices of vanilla ice cream, doesn't it?
While I was out and about yesterday, I stopped at my favourite kitchen shop and bought a wire cheese cutter. It has definitely made cutting the soap easier; I just need to get used to it. The soap slides a bit on the board and tends to be pushed around by the wire. If anyone has any suggestions for making it more stable, I'm open to them. Just leave me a comment.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Sweater Weather - Cut and Curing

By this morning, the Sweater Weather soap was ready for cutting. I really need to get a proper soap cutter; cutting by hand is NOT the easiest for getting uniform bars. At this point, while the soap is still fairly moist, the scents of the beer and the vetiver are quite strong. That will change as the soap cures; I've found that to be true in all the batches of beer soap I've made so far.

I know that I wrote briefly about the dental soap and the Lavender and Goat Milk soap before we headed out to the coast. Before we left, I unmolded the dental soap; it was just barely firm enough to come out of the mold but I wasn't sure about leaving it to sit for three days. Looking back, I think it would have been fine but I'm not the most patient when it comes to getting my soaps out of the mold.

I'm quite excited to try it, to be honest. I can smell the anise in it but I don't think it will flavour the soap much.

It was really nice walking into the spare bedroom after we arrived home, to be greeted by the scent of the Lavender and Goat Milk soap. Lavender is such a homey scent and the room smelled quite strongly of it. I suppose one of the benefits of making soap is that the house always smells good.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Sweater Weather

A new soap sprang into being today, inspired by the ale my daughter brought me last week. It's another BNA Brewing product; this one is called Sweater Weather, an oatmeal stout. According to their website it's, "jet black with a coffee coloured head. Has aromas of chocolate, espresso and roasted malts".

I've been contemplating what I should do with this one. Because it's a different variety, I didn't want it to look the same as the Blackstrap Ale soap. This is the hard part. Today, it finally came together. I started thinking about sweater weather, when the weather turns cold. That's when the hot cereal comes out, so I decided to add colloidal oatmeal to the soap. Oatmeal is also very good for your skin, mild and emollient.

Skin gets dry in the colder weather and exfoliation is important when the weather turns chilly. Once exfoliated, your skin can more readily absorb a good cream or body lotion. For that purpose, I chose to add some finely ground hops, which also ties in to the whole beer making process. The hops are only in part of the batter, not the entire loaf.

Then came scent. I really like the cedarwood base that I've been using in the Blackstrap Ale soap but I'm out of the cedarwood essential oil, so I chose to go with vetiver instead. It is also, a woodsy, deep scent. To lighten it up a little, I added some lavender essential oil.

Colouring this soap was the next challenge. Again, I didn't want it to be the same as the Blackstrap Ale soap. I decided I would try a reverse swirl, leaving the base of the soap however it came out with just the stout. I think it will be a light tan. To about one third of the batter, I added some cocoa to darken it. I poured it over the top and spoon swirled it into the lower layer, bringing some of the lighter batter to the top and the darker batter to the bottom.  On the top, I sprinkled some oatmeal.

Tomorrow, I will unmold and, likely, cut the soap. Between the scent of the soap (I can really smell the vetiver and the beer) and my dinner (pork chops with sauerkraut and tomatoes, sprinkled with brown sugar), my house smells amazing!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

More, More, More!

Though I didn't write about it, I did make more soap last weekend. I was getting very low on the Lavender and Goat Milk soap; it seems to be another popular one. A work customer wanted more and there are only a couple of pieces left so I thought it was time.

Pardon this week's pictures; it's evening and the camera isn't cooperating very well.

The first time I made this soap, I didn't even have a proper mold. It was made in a foil baking pan, if I remember correctly. The lavender is really strong in this soap and it scents the spare room amazingly! It smells SO good!

I also decided to try another version of the dental soap, this time without palm kernel oil as I've read that it, too, can give a "soapy" flavour to the finished soap. This time, I used peanut oil and cocoa butter at an 80/20% split. I added one crushed Tums (for the calcium carbonate) and 3 capsules of activated charcoal, along with 20 drops of peppermint essential oil and 10 drops of sweet anise essential oil. I doubt the essential oils will do much to flavour the soap but I have read that the calcium carbonate can help to remineralize teeth. It certainly can't hurt, right?

I had a cutting board laying over the mold but one of the kids leaned on it... hence the smudge of batter.

Last time, I did a 4 ounce batch, this is a 6 ounce batch. I think the next batch, if I want to fill the mold, will be a 12 ounce batch of soap batter. Next time may not be for quite some time, though. One of these little bars will probably last me a couple of months!

Even John is on board with dental soap - he likes the fact that there's no waste.. no tubes to dispose of. I like that, too, although I am still using my regular toothpaste (with added charcoal) in the mornings and the tooth soap at night. There's something about the mintiness in the morning - it's definitely a wake up and after that one cup of coffee? Mintiness is a good thing!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Soapy Goodness!

It's been a busy and emotional weekend. As a family, we're waiting for news of my grandson, when his funeral will be held. In the meantime, around here, it's "Keep Calm and Soap On". I have an order for five bars of the Java Jumpstart soap for Christmas so I needed to get on that right quick. Christmas is just around the corner and soap needs a minimum of four weeks to cure.

My soap curing room (aka the spare bedroom) smells amazing - a blend of orange, cinnamon, clove, ginger, and patchouli. It really does smell good!

A week or so ago, I received a package from an online friend from California. In it were three luffas, along with some seeds, luffa and a variety of others. Yesterday, I bleached and cleaned the luffas and, after letting them dry out a bit, made Luffa (or Loofah) Soap.

I made these in my silicone mold; there are eight in total with two small bars of leftover soap. The recipe is based on one I found online.

Loofah (Luffa) Soap

25% Coconut oil
25% Beef Tallow
20% Olive oil pomace
10% Palm oil
10% Castor oil
10% Hemp oil

Superfat at 5% with water as 33% of oil weight or a lye concentration of 30%

I added 1 tbsp. of honey to my oils and added 1 tsp. sodium lactate to the lye water.

My 500 gram batch is lightly scented with 50 drops of Rose Geranium essential oil.

At light trace, the batter was poured over the moist luffa in the silicone molds.

Above is the full batch, with the two small extra bars at the right. At the moment, the soap is fairly soft but I think it will firm up quite nicely. I'm kind of excited to try Loofah Soap.. can't say I ever have!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Time for Cutting

The second batch was cut this morning and I'm happy. Using the new mold, I managed to get 18 bars; John thinks the bars are on the large side, which might make it difficult to lather up in the shower but I don't think they're any bigger than most of the bars I see people making online. I know I prefer mine a little smaller but I have smaller hands.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Beer Me Another One

I have some wonderful customers. One of my customers, Dave, makes apple crates, which he sells at our local farmer's market. They're great little boxes; I've bought one from him in the past. A few weeks ago, I asked him if he could make a wooden mold for me; I gave him a plan and he said he'd be happy to build it for me.

A week or so ago, he came in with the finished mold and wouldn't take payment for it. I have a feeling that mold will come in very handy if/when I need to make larger batches of soap. It holds seven pounds of soap batter! That's a lot of soap!

Today, I used that mold for the first time.

It seems that my Blackstrap Ale soap is going to be a popular one at the brewery where Kristen got the beer for me. Every time she goes in to have her growler refilled, they ask about the soap and when they'll see it. It still has a few weeks curing time but they'll definitely be getting some.

You can see the first two batches in the background, behind the charcoal soap. Today's batch is the same recipe, just more of it. After this, if I want to make more beer soap, I'll need more beer. I used the last of it in this batch.

I'll definitely be saving a bar for Dave.... as a thank you.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Genny's Shampoo Bar

On the Soap Making Forum, any time the conversation turns to shampoo bars or a very gentle facial soap, Genny's Shampoo Bar comes up. I decided I'd read enough about it; it was time to try it.

Once again, I made a very small batch, 7 ounces. This small batch made a total of 10 and one half of the mini bars. I scented it with just a little bit of patchouli (12 drops).

The recipe is as follows:

30% Avocado oil
10% Castor oil
40% Olive oil
10% Shea Butter
10% Sunflower Oil

5% superfat with a lye concentration of 40%
I added about half an ounce of coconut milk with the water (one ice cube's worth) and about 1/2 tsp simple syrup, in addition to the patchouli.

After just a few hours, the soap is firming up nicely. I don't think it will be a very hard bar. Once again, it's going to be hard to wait to try this soap, whether I use it as a shampoo bar or as a facial soap.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Wash Your Mouth Out.... With Soap??

I've been doing a lot of reading on the SoapMaking Forum and, in the course of that reading, I came across a thread about using cold process soap as a dental soap. It does give new meaning to washing your mouth out with soap but I was intrigued.

I read the entire thread and paid attention to a few things:
  1. Don't use coconut oil in it. Apparently, coconut oil is what gives soap its "soapy" flavour.
  2. Peanut oil gives dental soap a bit of sweetness
  3. Don't make it too "scratchy"
Some people use their dental soap along with baking soda, some add bentonite clay. Some add peppermint oil to theirs, others add cinnamon oil. Some add xylitol as a sweetener, some add honey. 

Since I had a day off, I decided to try making my own. Here's my recipe:

10% Cocoa Butter
30% Olive Oil
30% Palm Kernel Oil
30% Peanut Oil

3% superfat
40% lye concentration

I added about 1/2 teaspoon honey to the water/lye mixture and about 1/2 teaspoon charcoal blended into a bit of glycerin.

The batch I made was with 4 ounces of total oils. Yup, this was a SMALL batch! I even went out and purchased a small bar mold. Each bar is only 1 ounce. They're so cute!!

Obviously, the soap needs to cure; it just came out of the mold this morning. It's going to be tough waiting the full six weeks, I can tell you. I'm settling for using my Castile soap which, incidentally, has a rather bland flavour. I can live with it.

As far as brushing your teeth with soap? Well, I can tell you that my teeth feel cleaner than they have in a very long time (and I brush twice a day, every day, thank you very much) and I'm already noticing a reduction in plaque buildup. I'm sold.

The mold I bought is a Fat Daddio's silicone oval mold. Each cavity is one ounce and the mold has sixteen cavities. I think I'll be using this one quite a bit, whether it's for making samples, guest soaps, or using it for bits that don't fit into full size molds... the leftovers.

I also splurged and bought a new digital scale. I have a digital scale but it measures ounces in 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 ounces (and grams). The new one measures ounces in hundredths of an ounce, as well as grams. It's invaluable when it comes to making 4 ounce recipes, believe me!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

One More Thing...

...the Hidden Feather Challenge is over and the winners have been announced. I wasn't one of them but that's not the idea of the challenges. It's the challenge. I have to say, that was a fun one.
You've already seen the soap I didn't enter. Now, I can show you the soap I did enter.

And to refresh your memory, here's the soap I didn't enter.

Activated Charcoal Soap and A Teachable Moment

Last night, after all of the Halloween festivities were over and the house was quiet, I unmolded the charcoal soap. I was a little cautious, a little leery as to what I would find. Why, you ask?

Well, let's go back a bit. I left the soap in the oven at about 160ºF for about an hour, then turned the oven off and left it until it had cooled. When I took it out, it looked like this:

That's not ash. I know what ash looks and feels like and this ain't it. It's more like orange peel, tiny little bubbles all over the entire surface of the log. I've had something like this happen only once before, with my last Taiwan Swirl soap.

In the case of the blue swirl, though, the soap stayed soft for quite some time. It's fine now, after its full cure but it did concern me. So, understandably, I was a little leery about the charcoal soap. Apart from the bubbly top, though, I had no reason to be concerned.

I'm thrilled with the resulting soap, glycerin rivers and all!

After posting a question in the Soap Making Forum about what was happening to my soap, I received numerous suggestions, many agreeing that it was probably ash... it isn't. One poster commented that it likely had to do with high water content and overheating. She referred me to Auntie Clara's amazing blog and this post in particular: Glycerine Rivers: Trying to Understand Them.

The post goes into the science behind glycerin rivers (see the lighter splotches? Those are glycerin rivers) and is very detailed but absolutely fascinating. Without repeating what Auntie Clara has already written so eloquently about, I learned that if I want to avoid the results I ended up with, and if I want to CPOP (cold process oven process), I can drastically reduce the water content in my soap. Higher water content in the soap will result in faster gel and higher temperatures, which is the culprit in this case.

I'm not complaining, though. I love the look of the soap. As for the top, I simply trimmed it off.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

I Smell Like Licorice!

The charcoal soap is in the mold!

I decided to do a Taiwan Swirl on this one, with the charcoal at either side and white in the center. One of the guys at work cut some coroplast down for me to use as dividers and it worked marvelously. The black is made with charcoal (obviously) while the white has been coloured with titanium dioxide. I've scented the soap with 1 tsp. peppermint essential oil (because it's what I had on hand) and 2 tsp. star anise essential oil. I managed to get a little of the star anise on my hands so I smell like licorice at the moment. It's not a bad scent, to be honest, but it is definitely creating a craving for licorice! 

Right now, the batter is in the oven; I wanted to do a CPOP (cold process oven process) just to see how it would come out. It can intensify the colours, from everything I've read.

Tomorrow, we cut!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

It's the New Black

I've been reading a lot about soap lately, as I'm sure you can imagine, considering how much soap I've been making lately. One soap that intrigues me is Activated Charcoal soap. If you look up the benefits of activated charcoal in soap, you'll find all kinds of information. One thing they all agree on is that it is a good soap for anyone with acne or problem skin.

Generally speaking, I have pretty good, if dry, skin so I'm not planning on making it for myself. I do know people, though, who do have skin issues; there are also some pre-teens in my family circle who may benefit from some good skin-loving soap.

To that end, I've picked up some activated charcoal, hunted out a recipe and plan on making a batch on the weekend. The recipe I'm planning on using is this one:

40% Olive oil pomace
20% Coconut oil
20% Palm oil
15% Avocado oil
5% Castor oil

Activated charcoal - about 1 tablespoon for my 30 oz batch
Scented with anise and peppermint essential oils.

I might even decide to swirl it with half the batter lightened with titanium dioxide. I haven't decided yet.

And yes, the soap will be black.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

It's Not Dove... Again

Even though the "not Dove" bar isn't ready for use yet, I really wanted to play with the recipe this past weekend. I was going to post about it but ran out of time. What is it about weekends that that always seems to happen?

The basic recipe is the same as the first try but this time, I added some pink ultramarine colouring, a bit of titanium dioxide to keep the pink delicate, and scented it with one of my favourite scents, patchouli.

I only made enough to fill four of the cavities in my Fat Daddio's daisy mold; I made a mistake in my math calculations... big surprise. I do seem to be a little math-challenged.

Even after only a few days (I made this on Sunday), these bars are already nice and hard. They're not too strongly scented and I'm really pleased with the colour. I think this is a recipe I can play with in the future.

The first bar... I'm really looking forward to trying it in a few weeks.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Beer Soap - Second Try

With one batch of beer soap under my belt, I decided to try another and tweak it a bit. The first thing I did was to use a different, tried, recipe. I went back to a recipe I know works well, the one I use as my confetti soap base. It's a simple recipe with coconut and olive oils, using the beer as the liquid.

Once the batter came to trace, I coloured approximately one third with titanium and coloured the remainder with cocoa powder, made into a paste with a bit of safflower oil. Again, I used a hanger swirl to make it look like the foam in a glass of dark beer.

I'm much happier with this batch which, incidentally, is scented with a blend of cedarwood, patchouli, and peppermint (1 part each of the cedar and peppermint, 3 parts of patchouli).

The recipe:

70% Olive Oil pomace
30% Coconut Oil

5% Superfat with a lye concentration of 38%, a ratio of 1.6316:1, water:lye

I think this recipe is one I will be going to time and time again. It works, it's a nice hard soap and it's easy to modify.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Blackstrap Ale Soap - the Reveal

Before I went to bed last night, I decided to dust the top of the soap with copper mica. As much as I love the look of the mica, I don't think I'll do that again. It really doesn't "go" with the look of the finished soap.

By this morning, the Blackstrap Ale Soap was ready to unmold. It's still a touch on the soft side but I went ahead and cut it anyway. Inside, it was even better than I imagined it would be but, I think that the next time I make this, I'll add more cocoa to the bottom half and colour it completely. I think, too, that the swirl should be more concentrated down the center of the loaf, more like beer being poured, if that makes any sense at all.

As for the scent, I'm still not sure. It's not strongly scented but I'm not sure what it is I don't care for. It might be the sage essential oil. I'll have to think on that a little more.

All in all, though, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. Now, it just needs some cosmetic tweaking.

The recipe I used is as follows:

33% Coconut oil
33% Palm oil
34% Olive oil pomace

5% superfat
Lye concentration at 30% with somewhat reduced ale as my liquid.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Blackstrap Ale Soap

I did it! Kristen bought me the beer this week; the same night, I boiled it down to make a more potent "syrup". I dissolved the lye in the beer syrup a couple of nights ago, very slowly and deliberately. Last night, I mixed my oils. Today, I made the essential oil blend and tonight, I made my beer soap.

The ale Kristen bought for me is BNA's Blackstrap Ale, a nice dark ale that smells of molasses. The bottom part of the loaf is lightly coloured with cocoa, just to darken it up. The top has been lightened with titanium dioxide to mimic the foam. I did a hanger swirl between the layers, which will, hopefully, mimic what it looks like as the ale is poured into a glass.

Since I poured the batter into the mold, I've put some copper mica on the top, just to give it a polished appearance. I might regret that... we'll see.

I scented the soap with a blend of Dalmation Sage, Cedarwood, Lime, and Patchouli essential oils. Again, I'm not sure of the scent but I didn't put a lot of scent in it. I hope it will be alright. It was difficult to decide what to use. I may rethink that. 

Kristen told me this evening that the guys at BNA are very interested in trying the soap. I'll know by tomorrow whether or not this experiment is worth pursuing and perfecting; I think it will be.

Monday, October 19, 2015


That's a shot of the two coconut milk soaps, the lighter one being a bar from the very first batch of soap I made. Amazing!

I've been told this last batch might lighten up a bit but it really doesn't matter; the soap will be good, that I do know and that's all that really matters.

I'm now planning to make a beer soap for the guys in my life. I've commissioned Kristen to buy me some nice dark beer from her favourite brew pub and I'll be hunting for a recipe this week.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Coconut Milk Soap

Well, that's another batch of soap finished. Coconut Milk soap was the first soap I made once I got back into making soap. My first batch was made in August and is almost gone now. It's a lovely gentle soap with creamy lather that feels so good even on my face.

In the above picture, it's the soap at the front (the one at the back is Castile, 100% olive oil soap). At the time, I didn't have a proper mold and was using a square baking pan lined with plastic wrap (if I remember correctly). 

This time, I made one small change to the recipe by adding 5% castor oil; otherwise, it's the same as the above batch. Interestingly, it's a completely different colour!

Even though I'm using the same brand of olive oil pomace as I have for every one of my soaps, this tin seems to have a much greener oil than the previous cans. It's turned the soap a darker colour than the first batch of this soap. Apparently there is no consistency in oil colour from batch to batch.

Right now, I have the mold in the oven to promote gelling. It's a process called CPOP (cold process hot process). I preheated the oven to about 170ºF, then turned the oven off but leaving the light on. Hopefully, this will allow the soap to gel completely.

The recipe this time:

65% Olive oil
30% Coconut oil
5% Castor oil

SF of 5% and the water:lye ratio of 1.5:1 (or 40% lye concentration)
If you're into that kind of thing, it has an INS of 150

In this case, I didn't use water to dissolve the lye, I used full fat coconut milk, 2 chunks of frozen and the remainder refrigerated. It traced quickly and I ended up spooning the last bits on to the top of the soap.

Approximate ready date: November 29 (six weeks)