Learning from MORE mistakes – Part 2: The Revenge

Howdy, howdy howdy,

Let’s get to it then – starting making soaps (as with any craft) = lots of mistakes.  I’m listing my mistakes here to try and assist any other folks who may be learning soap making as a hobby/craft/employment opportunity.  Soap making materials are costly and the fewer mistakes made, the better!

 

Use of colour

I’m not going to talk about the benefits/drawbacks of oxides,  micas or natural colourants here – that’s discussed extensively on other websites.  A basic lesson to learn in colouring your soap is to pre-mix the colour rather than doing it on the fly while making your batch.

Exhibit A:  this was meant to be purple

Exhibit A: this was meant to be purple

See those black dots in the soap?  That’s actually purple oxide that would turn an unsuspecting user into Violet Beauregarde –

Not the desired effect...

Not the desired effect…

 

The mistake was simply doing things out of order (again).  I prepared the soap batch and then as an afterthought added the purple oxide directly to the soap batter at trace.  This meant that the oxide formed clumps in the soap batter rather than permeating throughout the entire batch.

What I should have done was siphon off a small amount of liquid oil to be used in the batch (or water, dependant on whether the colourant is water soluble) and mixed the colourant thoroughly into it.  Then, I should have prepared the soap batch and added the pre-mixed oil/water and colourant to the soap batter at trace.

Lesson learned!  In the next batch I prepared, I made sure to pre-mix the colourant which achieved a much better result –

Done properly this time!

Done properly this time!

 

Essential oil measurements

When you buy essential oils in medium to large quantities, suppliers often package them in open top bottles that don’t allow for careful measuring out of your precious (read: expensive) ingredients. It may seem like a no brainer, but I would definitely recommend purchasing a large amount of pipettes for measuring out your essential oils.  This will help you to avoid any waste, spillage and ensure that you use exactly the right amount in your recipes.

For UK readers, I get my calibrated transfer pipettes from The Soap Kitchen which is an excellent supplier of all things for the hobby and business soap maker (this public service announcement has not been endorsed by The Soap Kitchen).

 

Lastly…

I make my soaps/balms/oils while listening to my favourite bands.  I was thinking of adding a ‘Made while listening to…’ section on each of my batches just to personalise them a bit more.  What do you think?  Do you listen to anything specific while carrying out your crafts?  Leave your responses in the comments section, I’d love to hear what you listen to.

As always, stay classy internet peoples.

Chris

 

Learning from mistakes

One of the most common pieces of advice I have read while researching soap making is ‘expect to make mistakes’.  This is something I worried about as –

1.  The materials aren’t cheap and I’d hate to have to discard anything

2. I’m terribly afraid of making something that disintegrates me / anyone else upon touch (this may be a slight exaggeration)

So in our first unsupervised batch I thought I’d keep it simple with a straight forward recipe and follow it to the letter.  While a pleasant experience making what was truly our own soap, we did learn something along the way.  Firstly, using a majority Olive oil base (Pomace) takes a while to get to trace even with Coconut and Palm oil balancing it out.  After whisking for an age, the mixture looked great and with the nutrient (superfatting) oil, essential oil and poppy seeds all added in, it looked to be a success.

Beautiful lavender swirl soap

Beautiful lavender swirl soap

 

Alas, this was not exactly the success we had hoped for.  It looked and smelled fantastic but, when it came to cutting, the soap was very soft and crumbled easily.  On top of that, although I liked the swirl pattern, we noticed that there were concentrated lumps of the oxide used to colour the soap – spoiling the otherwise groovy pattern.

Soap crumble … delicious.

I immediately thought that we had created toxic waste that should be purged from the face of the earth, but, following some further research, it turns out that there are a LOT of things that can cause this effect and not just a lye heavy / caustic mix.  After leaving the soaps for a few more days to cure, I did a quick check to see whether the batch was actually lye heavy and thankfully it was not.  From what I can gather, the things that went awry were –

1.  Mixing by hand (stainless steel whisk) took too long and the mixture cooled too much during saponification.

2.  I was heavy handed on the amount of colour needed for this size batch (I used double what was needed!).

3.  We did a lot of concurrent weighing, heating, mixing – it would have been far easier to just get everything weighed and measured before any heating or mixing began.

So for the next batches, I’ve purchased an essential item (in my opinion) to make mixing quicker and therefore reduce the risk of the mixture cooling too much before adding final ingredients and pouring into the mould – a stick blender!

Beardy man in lumberjack shirt making soap .. GRRRR

Beardy man in lumberjack shirt making soap .. GRRRR

For the colour problem, it’s just a case of measuring out an amount appropriate to the batch size and not just going by what I guess is about right.  Preparedness is the next easy fix, and for our next batch we did indeed weigh, measure and lay everything out in order prior to heating and mixing.  This sounds like an obvious thing to do but, when you’re a newbie and worried about making mistakes, there is no such thing as an obvious thing to do.  These are just a few things I’ve found and I hope my mistakes may help some budding soap makers out there too.

Chris