Soap Making Instructions: Soap Disasters and How to Fix Them 

Got problems making homemade soap, eh? Yeah, been there, done that. Actually, still doing that sometimes.

Making mistakes while soap making is fairly common for beginners; sometimes it even happens to a professional. I’ve actually never met a soap maker whose batch didn’t turn out bad at least once or twice. It can be quite frustrating, trust me, I know.

But, practice makes perfect.

If you fail, try to find what went wrong, and then try again. If you know what you did wrong, you won’t make the same mistake twice.

To make it easier for you to find out what went wrong with your batch or to avoid the common mistakes, we’ll review some of the flops that can happen while making homemade soap!

Soap Making Disaster: Inhalation of Fumes

Protective Gear

Remember when we talked about the most important part of soap making - safety? 

The most common mistake you can do at this very first step – mixing lye with water – is to bend over the batch, and inhale a bit of the evaporating mixture.

Now, this can cause redness in your eyes, sometimes a stinging sensation, and it causes your nasal passages and throat to hurt a bit. 

But as long as you get some fresh air, you should be okay in a minute or two.

Soap Making Instructions - Solution

Just remember not to bend over directly over the batch of lye and water, and to always work in a place that is fairly airy – make sure that you get a lot of fresh air; you don’t want to get caught in those nasty fumes!

 Crack a window or two, or you might get a massive headache like I did one time.

Disaster: Soap Texture Problems

Yikes, this is an annoying one!

When I began making soap, this was a constant problem for me. It really depends on a lot of things; temperature, essential oils, natural oils, ingredients such as herbs, oatmeal, coffee beans…

The right temperature is particularly hard to get at first, especially because not all ovens or microwaves heat the same. Sometimes you overheat the batch, and then the soap starts to crack. 

Soap Making Instructions - Solution

  • Now, the best way to stop the soap from cracking (because you’ll try to wash with it, and it will literally crumble in your hands, and we all know how annoying it is to bend over in shower to pick up something, or trip on something slippery) is to place it in a cold place. 
  • I don’t recommend the fridge, because my soap had some weird condensation on it after I placed it in a fridge. 
  • Try finding a cold place – like a pantry, or since its winter – just place it on the outside window sill.
  • The only problem with the cracks is that sometimes they happen inside the soap, and you can’t see them until you cut it. 
  • So, sometimes you’re left with little holes in the middle of the soap, which I think it’s caused by an air bubble when the mixture is too hot. To avoid it, try to pour the batch into the mold slowly.

Disaster: Soap Volcano

Remember the science experiment – rainbow foam you did in Chemistry class? Aha, that can happen in soap making, too. It’s called a Soap Volcano (it usually happens if you use coconut oil). 

Basically, after you pour the mixture into the mold, it starts crawling out. Usually not right away, but in a few minutes. Sometimes you’re not there to see it happen, and after you go and check on your soap – all you find is a foamy mess all over your table.

Soap Making instructions - Solution

So, just in case – try to find something – I use old newspaper – to line beneath the molds. If you see that the soap has stopped before it runs over the mold – you don’t have to redo it. 

I actually love the way it looks! But if you see it happening fast, here’s what you do – quickly dump it back into the mixing container (watch it, it’s still hot!), and let it cool off for a bit, then place it back into the molds.

Disaster: The Brain Soap

The Brain soap is actually my favorite mistake! This mixture overheated as well, but instead of raging like the volcano before, it just slightly curdles and creates this sort of – brain shape. 

It reminds me of the mars surface actually – imagine having red or orange brain soap – Mars soap! 

A tiny hint – if you actually want your soap to look like this, try using sunflower or olive oil – it doesn’t work 100% the time, but it increases the possibility!

Disaster: Soap Mixing Problems

This issue usually occurs when oils don’t mix well with the mixture.

Sometimes you just see this layer of oil on the top of the soap that is cooling off in the mold – if it’s thin, you don’t have to do anything, the soap will absorb it in a few days, but if it’s a thick layer, you might want to re-batch. But, this only works in the first 24 hours.

Soap Making instructions - Solutions

  • Soap Making instructions recommends just lightly heating the batch in your mixing container, mix it, and pour it back into the mold.
  • If you see oil in your mixture being separated from the rest of it right after you pour it into the mold, instead of throwing the entire batch away, just place it back into the mixing bowl, and mix again. This is basically a solution for almost any mistake you make with your mixture.

Disaster: Fragrance or Essential Oil Problems

Essential Oils Problems

Fragrance or Essential Oils can cause a lot of problems, as well. 

As I said before, getting to the perfect temperature is hard, and not all of your ingredients are going to be the same temperature, which makes it hard for them to merge. So, sometimes you see tiny little dots, or even layers of oils – which are usually essential or fragrance oils. 

What you need to do here is –

  • Before you place your natural oils or fats into the batch (olive oil, coconut oil…), mix them with your fragrance or essential oils, and heat them up slightly, together.
  • They will combine because they will be the same temperature, and because they will be slightly heated they will easily mix with the rest of the batch.
  • But not all of the fragrances are the same – some cause the mixture to harden and it gets lumpy; this means your soap is seizing. Quickly dump your soap back into the bowl, and heat it! 

A tiny hint – The one fragrance that causes the most problems like that for me is cinnamon fragrance. It’s like that thing has a mind of its own. It just doesn’t cooperate well with others, but sometimes it’s enough if instead of a wooden spoon, I use a whisk!

Disaster: Unmolding Problems

This one is quite tricky if you don’t have a silicone mold, or can’t use petroleum jelly – which prevents soap from sticking. 

Soap sticking to its mold still happens to me from time to time, but it doesn’t bother me as much anymore – I mostly use empty milk cartons which are of course - yes you guessed it – made from paper. It doesn’t matter if paper sticks to the soap, because I just simply cut it off!

Soap Making instructions - Solutions

  • If you can’t get your soap out of a plastic or any harder mold, sometimes it helps if you turn it over and tap on it. 
  • When that doesn’t work, I have a little trick I do – I use a butter knife to shimmy the edges, and then it usually slides out. 
  • At times, the edges will crumble because they’re a bit softer than the middle, but that’s more an esthetic issue, the soap is actually perfectly fine. If you don’t like the way it looks, just cut the crumbled edge away.
  • If you did all of the above and the soap still won’t budge from its mold, then I give you permission to put it in a fridge for a couple of hours – preferably two. It will shrink in the cold temperature, and now it should slide out perfectly.

Other Issues and Their Solutions

Soap Making Instruction 1 - 

If the soap is squishy like clay, then you must have used too much of the oils and not enough lye. Technically, you can still use it - don’t throw it away - but I’m not sure how big are you on washing yourself with play-dough. 

This is usually the problem when you use soft oils like castor, olive or sweet almond oil, so next time try using a bit less of them. 

However, if you see that your soap is soft while still in the mold, you can let it sit out for at least three more days – it may harden, but if it stays the same, you’ve used too much oil.

Soap Making Instruction 2 - 

If you want to always know the right amount of ingredients you should use, use this online soap calculator. It tells you the exact amount of all of the ingredients you should use, depending on how much of soap you want to make! It’s a great way to be sure!

Soap Making Instruction 3 - 

Using too many ingredients can be an issue, too. I did that just the other day. I mixed four oils, and added in oatmeal, and about three fragrances. What happened is the soap began getting little brown spots. 

Now, I don’t know exactly why, but it still smelled quite nice. After a while, all of the edges were completely brown, but the inside was okay – light amber. 

You should be careful while using certain ingredients, as you may find some of them don’t mix well. Also, some of them may be spoiled or past their due date – always check that!

Soap Making instruction 4 - 

The soap mixture can also thicken up too much! It should be almost liquid when you pour it in a mold, but sometimes it looks like pudding. 

Why? It’s because you placed in the fragrances and colorants before the batter reached trace. What does trace mean? Trace is when lye water and oils have emulsified – which means there are no visible oil bubbles, the mixture seems smooth, but it’s not too thick yet. 

After this happens, you can add your colors or fragrances, and your mixture should stay more liquid than pudding-like.

A word of advice while soap making – Try heating the mixture, whether it is lye, water and oils or a melt-and-pour base, slowly on a lower temperature rather than fast on a large temperature. Be patient, and you’ll avoid a lot of overheating mistakes!

Last But Not Least 

Lastly, a warning about goat’s milk; now I always make melt-and-pour goat’s milk soap base, so I don’t have that problem anymore.

But – if you choose the lye and water method, and you decide to add goat’s milk – I’ve had a lot of problems with this one. 

It would never cool off properly, and a bunch of oil would usually make a thick pool on top of the soap. I’ve tried olive oil, and coconut oil, but it was always the same, so I’m guessing goat’s milk just doesn’t mix well. If you want a goat’s milk soap, try using melt-and-pour base instead!

So, as you see, you don’t always have to throw the entire batch of soap away if you see something wrong with it. Mostly, you just have to re-heat it, mix it slowly, and it should be fine. 

Actually, the only time I would throw the soap batch away is if it crumbles a lot – this means you’ve used too much lye, and well, let’s not play with lye. 

But otherwise, most of your soap mistakes are easily fixable, so don’t sweat over it!

Happy Soapy to You !

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