24 February 2007

Violet soap

Hot on the heels of last Saturday's batch, I decided that I was going to do another batch of soap on Sunday.

I wanted to do a smaller batch this time, sticking to 1-pound. I also decided against the molds (some of the soap is STILL stuck a week later). Instead, I used the small plastic tray I used for my first batch. This is a rubbermaid drawer organizer, about 12-13" long, and about 4" deep. It holds one pound of soap perfectly. I lined it with freezer paper, and it produces nice square bars.

Anyway, for this soap, I came up with this recipe:
Rice bran : 35%
Soybean oil : 25%
Olive oil : 20%
Coconut oil (76 deg) : 13%
Castor oil : 7%

I'm running low on fixed oils, hence the odd proportions. It's not a particularly hard bar, but it should be really conditioning. I guess the low coconut oil percentage plays a lot into the low hardness. This one rates as 26% hardness, 9% cleansing, 69% conditioning.

Since I had about 3409809 new scents to try, I was super excited to try one of them out. I settled on violet-sassafras, which really, smelled like straight violet. I did something different this time, adding the fragrance and dye with the other oils at the beginning. I don't know if it was this method, or the chill in the room, or both, but it came to trace almost immediately! I threw in a bit of MAC purple & purple irredescent glitter (I almost NEVER use them, so this seemed like a good application) after I had the stick blender in there for a minute or so. The effect is pretty subtle, which is what I wanted.

The oddity of this batch was that I had added a generous amount of blue & red dye at the beginning. Violet soap, so a purple color seemed appropriate, no? Well, as the soap was stirred around for a while, all the dye that was in there seemed to be losing a war against green. I was not sure how that was happening, since I put a fairly generous amount of blue & red in there. So I added more blue. And more red, to no avail. Maybe some ingredient in the fragrance discolors the soap, like vanilla does. The color was a mossy-olivey-greenish-brown. Not unattractive, but not the purple I was hoping for.

Then I spilled. I think about half the batch fell out of the bowl. The stick blender was too heavy, and as soon as I turned my back, the bowl fell over. Screaming "AHHHHHHHH," I grabbed a spatula and dumped the batch back into the bowl. Barehanded. Now, this is not something I'd recommend to people because cold-process soap uses lye, but it did not burn me at all. I guess this goes with the theory that most of the lye is used up in the saponification/trace process. Either that, or I'm a superhero!

I went ahead at this point and poured my soap into the mold. It seemed a little runnier than the last batch, but that one was quite obviously past trace. I put it atop the radiator in the kitchen (under the kitchen counter), covered with a hand towel. This is a warm place, out of the reach of inquisitive kittens. I left it be for a good 24-36 hours to set up before I could cut it into bars. When I unwrapped it, lo and behold, it turned PINKISH PURPLE. What a pleasant surprise. I used my corregated blade to cut them; they seemed a bit stickier than the vanilla batch I made, but I think I just didn't recall that it was soft & sticky. I got about 12 small bars out of it, which are now curing. They smell so good.

And now I will wrestle with the last few bars of the green "Fresh Sugar" soap stuck in the molds. I did manage to get more than half of them out, which is some progress. Unfortunatly, since it was so overly-thick when we poured, the batch didn't settle into the molds properly (especially where there was fine detail) and there were quite a few air bubbles as well. So, most look quite ugly, but thankfully the space ship/rocket ones are a bit better. At least they smell fantastic. I have a few of the others in the freezer (in an egg-shaped knobby mold), hoping that will help them release. The last two? I'm not sure how I'm going to get them out. The mold is not flexible at all, and they're quite firmly smooshed in there. I think I might resort to an x-acto knife and a blow torch. Next time, LINE OR SPRAY THE MOLDS FIRST, DUH.

19 February 2007

Making soap

I had my first introduction to cold-process soap making last year, on a cold, snowy, blustery day. My friend Sara ordered a kit from thesage.com (I think), with pre-measured oils & lye. We mixed the ingredients together, and waited, and waited, and waited until it finally came to trace. We added the recommended amount of scent, poured it into the included cardboard mold, and let it sit out. A few weeks later, Sara gave me some of the cured soap. It was ok, but the bars didn't really retain any of the scent, and the whole process was very non-mystical and un-Mr. Wizard-like.

Last December, I decided I'd like to try this all over again, but without a kit. I wanted to choose the oils, the scent, the coloring, and I wanted to play with dangerous chemicals. I went to the local neighborhood hardware store to get goggles & gloves, and ordered some lye, dye, scents, and fixed oils from bittercreek.net. I used an online lye calculator to configure the ratios and percentages of oils and lye for a 1-pound batch of soap. I came up with:
Olive oil: 45%
Rice Bran oil: 25%
Coconut oil (76 degree, solid) : 15%
Soybean oil: 10%
Castor oil: 5%

I added these together, with the lye, and decided on adding some nice reddish-pink soap dye to the mix. I added the two scents: Vanilla Bean & Pomegranite. It might sound weird, but it's a great combination of a warm & cozy basenote with a bright, fruity top note. Unfortunately, what I did not know was that vanilla-scented fragrance oils will turn soap batches brown. So I was stuck with brown soap. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just not reddish-pink. ;) Overall I"m pretty satisfied with it; it lathers well, doesn't dry out my skin, and it has a pleasant scent in the shower.

Last Saturday, after Sara & her bf kidnapped me to help them use up a $50 gift certificate at a Cuban restaurant (btw, total yum), she and I made up a new batch of soap. We used the lye calculator to figure out a 1.5 pound recipe based on what oils I had lying around. We came up with:
coconut oil (76 degree): 33%
soybean oil: 25%
grapeseed oil: 23%
rice bran oil: 12%
castor oil: 7%

I had just gotten a bunch of oil samples from 3 or 4 different companies that day, so we used one of the new scents. It's a dupe of Sugar by Fresh. It is a very clean, bright, sugary citrus fragrance. We also had some powdered pigment that Sara brought over to dump into the soap.

The batch went pretty well, and when it got pretty close to trace, we threw in the green pigment, and about 1.5-2 oz of the fragrance. I think the scent accelerated the trace quite a bit, so when we were finally ready to pour it into the various molds, it was super thick. I think too thick for anything but a loaf-mold. But we smooshed some into various shaped molds, and put them away for the saponification process.

I unmolded two of the bars from the flexible molds today. The soap seems rather soft still; the other not-so-flexible molds won't release, so they are currently in the freezer in preparation for my cursing and wailing in an hour or so. A lot of the mold detail in these has been lost, and I can see pretty lumpy air bubbles in the others. I'm willing to forgive it because they just smell SO amazingly good. Like whoa.

Oddly enough, this batch has a higher hardness factor than the other batch I made. Hopefully the curing process will help firm them up. I think the vanilla soap was pretty mushy when I unmolded it, but that was 2 months ago, and my memory isn't what it used to be. I guess I'll find out in 2-4 weeks time.

I may make another .5 or 1-pound batch later today with another of the scents that I ordered. I tracked down a dupe of Gap's "Om," a scent I wore a lot in college, discontinued long ago. It's a nice woodsy-incensey fragrance, and I cannot wait to scent everything in the world with it. I also found some other great dupes, like Bath & Body Works "Warm Vanilla Sugar," Aveda "Rosemary Mint," and Gap "Grass." But first I have to wash all the dishes in my sink & all the equipment left over from Saturday. I guess it all depends on how lazy I am today, and how many zombies I can kill in this game.

Wish me luck unmolding the other bars!