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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 –
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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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