The Soap is Curing

I am sure anyone who makes cold processed soap will agree that the hardest part about it is waiting for the soap to cure.

Maybe I should backup a step for anyone not familiar with soap making. There are basically three methods that can be used for making handcrafted soaps. There is the melt and pour method which involves buying a premade base soap and melting it to add ingredients such as fragrances and colorants then remolding it perhaps into pretty or cute shapes. The other two methods are hot process and cold process. Both of these methods involve mixing lye with liquid and oils. With hot process, once the ingredients are combined the soap is heated in order to speed up the chemical reaction, known as soaponification, which must occur in order for the soap to be safe to use. This soap can be ready to use in a matter of hours. Cold process soap, on the other hand, is poured into the mold after the lye/liquid is mixed with the oils. While it can usually be taken out of the mold in 24 to 48 hours it needs to cure for several weeks while the soaponification takes place. Many factors can effect the speed which soaponification takes place including the soap recipe, the size of the soap bars and the temperatures in which the soap is curing. I allow my soaps to cure for a least six weeks and have almost always found this period to be sufficient.

I have several batches of soap in various stages of curing right now including the soap I made a few days ago by request https://donteatitsoap.com/category/lard-soap/ I honestly found it difficult to make that batch of soap because it was such a simple recipe. It lacks the creativity and experimentation aspects that I find so challenging and fun. While it was very tempting to add extra ingredients I restrained myself because this, three-ingredient, soap was what the person who requested needs.

Some of the other soaps that I have curing have allowed me to be more creative so I will tell you about those. Both the Sweet Dandelion and Coffee soap that I made a while back are cured and ready to use. I have made both of these recipes in the past and they are both favorites.

This time when I made the coffee soap I decided to experiment with it. I have been having some success at getting light fragrances and or colors in my soaps by infusing herbs into the oils. I wondered if this would work for coffee as well. In the past when I have made coffee soap I used brewed coffee for the liquid, I also added coffee grounds. This time in addition to using brewed coffee I added the coffee grounds to my oils. I knew that in order to release the oils from the coffee grounds the coffee would need to be heated much higher than I normally heat my soap oils. I put the coffee grounds into my oils and heated them about 190 degrees Fahrenheit. I then let the coffee infused oils cool.  As usual I mixed my oils with my lye/liquid (brewed coffee) when both were cooled to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

IMG_3461
Coffee Soap

The coffee infused oils gave the soap a dark, rich coffee color but the fragrance that I had hoped for is still largely absent. I have since read that the optimal temperature for brewing coffee is between 195 and 205 Fahrenheit so next time I will heat it just a little bit more.

I have had positive feedback from a few people who have used this soap. Comments were things like “it’s a really nice soap” and “I really like it” and my sister who called me yesterday said “I love the coffee soap” and she found it to be “refreshing”.

Among the other soaps that are curing is a completely new recipe. I decided to try this back in the summer when we were harvesting our beautiful cucumber crop. I know that cucumber is often used in skin care products so I wanted to give it a try. I don’t usually make a lot of soap during the summer so I pureed a couple of cucumbers and put them in the freezer until I was ready to make the soap.

About 5 weeks ago I was ready to use the cucumber puree in my soap but I wondered what ingredients would pair well with the cucumber. The most common way we eat cucumbers is as pickles but for more than one reason that doesn’t work for soap. It took me a while to figure it out but I eventually decided to try yogurt. Since milk based soaps are known to be gentle and creamy I though yogurt could add this as well. I also wanted to add an herb to this soap so I decided to infuse my oils with rosemary that I had harvested from our garden. I didn’t want to leave the rosemary leaves in the soap so I put them in a teabag then placed the teabag in the oils as I heated them. I again brought the temperature up higher than I would normally heat them for making soap in order to draw out some of the rosemary properties. When adding the cucumber puree and yogurt I knew that they should be counted as liquid. Since I didn’t know how they would react to being mixed directly with lye I decided to add them later in the process. In order to do this I discounted the amount of water I was mixing with the lye. I decided that the combination of cucumber puree and yogurt should equal 1/3 of my total liquid, I divided the amount of water my recipe called for by 3. I then measured my cucumber puree and added enough yogurt to bring this mixture to 1/3 of my total liquid. I set that mixture aside then measured the other 2/3 water and added my lye to it.

Once the lye/liquid and the oils cooled to around 100 Fahrenheit I removed the rosemary from the oil then I mixed the lye/water with the oils. I blended this mixture until it came to a light trace (started to thicken) then I mixed in the cucumber/yogurt mixture. I continued to mix until the mixture had come to a full trace ( the consistency of a thick gravy) then I poured the mixture into the molds. I am excited that this soap will be ready for testing this week.

I don’t have a formal testing process. It basically goes like this – I use the soap first. I pay attention to it’s properties – hardness, creaminess, lather, does it rinse off well, does it leave my skin feeling soft or dry, is there any scent. I then give my husband a bar to use and get his opinion. With new recipes I generally like feedback from a couple more people, so a friend or family member who stops by when I have a new soap ready will likely be given a bar to try with the condition that they provide me with honest feedback about the soap. I’ll be sure to let you know how this soap turns out.

I do have one major concern about this new recipe with cucumber, yogurt and rosemary.Maybe you can help. The  problem is what the heck do I call it? You can leave your suggestions and any other questions or comments about this post in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading.

🙂 until next time.

 

 

9 thoughts on “The Soap is Curing

  1. How do you know when the soap is safe to use? And what happens when you use it too soon? I was just recently thinking I’d like to try candle making (beeswax or non-petroleum (paraffin) added soy wax, but now you’ve got me thinking about soap making. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great that you are thinking about making your own soap. I would advise you to get a good soap making book and/or read several tutorials before starting.
      I think the best way to make sure that your soap will be safe is to make sure your recipe is properly formulated. So if you find a recipe you want to try put the amounts of oils into a soap calculator and it should tell you the amount of lye and liquid you need to use. This is the one I use. http://soapcalc.net/calc/SoapCalcWP.asp It is more complicated than some others but will give you way more information as well. I usually super fat (add additional fat) by 5% just to make sure there is not extra lye in the soap.
      Lye is the dangerous ingredient when making soap and becomes less so as the soaponification takes place. I always wear protective gear gloves, safety glasses when making the soap and pouring it into the molds. When I am ready to unmold it 24-48 hours later it is not necessary to wear gloves. If the soap has not become solid yet or there is any liquid on it I would consider that something is not right and would use caution (gloves) when touching it. After it is unmolded I cut the soap into bars. Sometimes when I’m cutting the bars the soap will sliver off so I will take that small sliver and wash my hands with it to check how the soap feels and the lather. Usually when I do this I notice that the skin on my hands begins to peel a few hours later, the other thing I notice is a prickly feeling on my skin. It is not really painful nor does it last long. This happens because soaponification is still in progress.
      After 4-6 weeks when I begin testing my soap if I notice that my hands begin peeling or if I feel any prickling on my skin those would be indicators that the soap is not ready. I let it continue to cure for another week or two.
      The recommended PH of soap to use on skin is between 8 and 10 and there are many methods for testing the PH. Most of these methods are questionable as far as accuracy. So maybe it sounds crazy but I prefer to test the soap by trying it on my own skin. After I have used it enough with no ill effects I let others use it. I hope this helps.
      We have also been experimenting with making bees wax candles but have been challenged by finding the right wick. I will write about it once we get it right. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Not only is soap making fun I find that making all of the skin care products we use is the best way to avoid artificial fragrances, colorants and preservatives that may cause health issues. Thanks for following.

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