Seizing, Ricing and Accelerating; Soapmakers in Crisis

Seizing, ricing and accelerating.  If you’re not a soapmaker or are a beginner, you’re confused.  If  you are a soapmaker, you’re probably recalling your nightmares. . . um. . . experiences, with each.  Few soapmakers survive their years without encountering any or all of them, causing instant crisis mode behaviors.  All three phenomena are caused by fragrance, and are caused by either fragrance or essential oils, but are most common with spice and floral scents.

 

Here’s the scoop:

 

Seizing:  aptly named, seizing takes place after adding fragrance to the soap.  It suddenly turns from a lovely, traced liquid to a hard block of Incredible Hulk-like material.  It seizes up and refuses to budge, hence the alternate term, “Soap on a Stick.”  Yes, I am exaggerating, but when it happens to you, it doesn’t seem that way.  Can anything be done to save the batch?  The best course of action seems to be adding cold water and stirring like crazy.  Pummel it into the mold as soon as possible.  After an episode like this, you will look as though you have just wrestled an alligator.  Consider this a win.

 

Ricing:  This sweet little phenomenon is a little better than seizing.  Upon adding fragrance oil, the mixture creates little rice-like bits in the mixture.  Unless you’re aiming for an attractive rice pattern, you’ll want to know how to counteract this one.  If you are surprised by the ricing, as in you had no prior knowledge of the possibility, stick blend like a mad person until you can mold your soap.  It may work.  If you know ahead of time that this fragrance will rice, then hold out a small amount of your soaping oils, warm them, and add the fragrance to these oils before adding to the soap.  Do not use a water discount with a fragrance that rices.

 

Accelerating:  Like a teenaged boy with the family car for the first time alone, upon adding an accelerating fragrance, the soap will speed up trace as if you floored the gas pedal, meaning you may have pudding or even mashed potatoes within seconds.  This makes fancy coloring, swirls, and anything artistic almost impossible.  Again, it is caused by fragrance.  You may find that adding cold water helps when it happens, but mostly, you just want to get that puppy into the mold.  Yes, you may add color, but taking a long time to make many colors and fancy designs that require pourable soap is out of the question.  This is when I personally resort to the “Glop Swirl,” slapping spoonfuls of soap into the mold.  This should only be done in a safe spot where no one or no thing will be hurt by flying, unsaponified soap.  Try the ricing remedies and be ready to work fast when you know a scent accelerates.

 

Soapmaking, not for the faint of heart!  If you have other remedies, please share them with us.

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne, for the Saponifier

Comments

6 Responses to “Seizing, Ricing and Accelerating; Soapmakers in Crisis”
  1. Robbin says:

    Two letters….HP :-)

  2. Chris says:

    Great Article!! Very helpful I would like to say I won’t need it but no one is that lucky LOL

  3. SavonTalk says:

    It was written tongue-in-cheek. ;-)

  4. Robert says:

    When a mixture seizes, isn’t it also possible for it to do so so quickly that it produces non-uniform product, with patches of lye excess and other patches of excess superfat? So unless you rebatch it wet, or powder it for laundry, it’s pretty much garbage?

    Anyway, both seizing and ricing are consequences of acceleration, and the good news is that acceleration is a consequence of catalysis by the fragrance oil, which is reproducible based on the exact composition of that fragrance oil. And acceleration can be a good thing if you take proper advantage of it. For instance, makers of liquid soap frequently use alcohol to accelerate saponification.

    Another point is that a fragrance known to accelerate saponification will also tend to catalyze hydrolysis of other esters, alkali-mediated or otherwise. Somebody mixed my bubble bath liquid with lemon verbena FO, and it caused an esthetically displeasing partial breakdown of the sulfosuccinate esters in the mixture.

  5. SavonTalk says:

    Thanks for your enlightening comments.

    Personally, I have had success with rebatching and creating a uniform soap and have never been forced to throw it out, but I do it while the soap is still fresh.

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