The Wonderful World of Soap Colorants

Color, color, color!  Although I know that some of you prefer not to add color to your soaps, a great many of you wouldn’t make a batch without.  Why is that?  Is a soap not as good uncolored as it is colored?  Of course it is!  A soap’s performance is not dependent upon color; however, our desire to add color is still important to us and often, to our customers or the recipients of our gifts.  

 

As many soap artisans are truly artists, the appeal of color and design is just too important to bypass and half the fun of making soap is creating colorful designs.  Nevertheless, color isn’t important only to the more fanciful among us, but even to those of us who make simpler, one-colored soaps or other not-so-fancy soaps.  If we’re making soap that smells like the ocean for instance, we want color that is reminiscent of the ocean, and it makes sense that a rosemary mint soap be green.  Moreover, we want our orange scented soap to be. . . well, orange.

 

Even still, many of us are still confused by color.  We don’t know which colorants to use or how to use them properly.  Our colors morph or speckle or disappear.  How do these soapmakers do it, we ask?  Seeing the beautifully swirled and otherwise colored soaps of our sisters and brothers in the soaping world, we know it can be done, but how?

 

I can’t do the topic justice in just a blog post, but the most common colorants for soap are:

1.    Herbs and spices (and other natural sources of color)

2.    Ultramarines & oxides

3.    FD&C

4.    Micas

 

Which one(s) you choose depend upon a few different factors, such as the kind of soap you’re making.  Some colorants that work well in melt and pour soap do not work well under the high pH of cold or hot process soap.  Sometimes, for the effect we want, a bleeding colorant will add to the design; other times, a non-bleeding colorant is imperative.  A number of soapmakers want to use only natural colorants obtained by infusing or powdering herbs, spices and other naturally-derived agents, whether for their properties in the soap for strictly for color.

 

Your first task is to decide what is important to you when choosing colorants.  If bright colors and crisp designs are at the top of your priority list, for instance, choose ultramarines and oxides or micas.  If your desire is beautiful coloring that is easily  mixed into the soap, and you’re making a once-color batch or you want your colors to blend a bit, then FD&C colors are just fine.  If you’re looking for natural colorants, it’s herbs, spices, etc.  Once you decide, you can purchase your colorants and you’re on your way to making colorful soaps.

 

In my next post, I’ll go into more detail about natural colorants.

 

Speaking of color and design, don’t forget to enter our contest!  Details can be found here:   http://saponifier.com/design-mania-contest-submissions/

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Design Mania!

By now, we at the Saponifier hope that you have perused and enjoyed this current issue.  We hope that you liked it so much, as a matter of fact, that you’re busily trying all of the lovely soap designs offered.

 

How’s it going?  Are you so pleased with the tutorials and your creations that you’re busting at the seams?  We’re so excited to see what you’ve done that we’re sponsoring a contest we’re calling, Design Mania.  We want you to show off your amazing designs!

 

Here’s how it will work:

 

Submit photos of your best soaps among the tutorials offered in the July/August issue.  You may enter a total of two photos, but they must each be from a different category:

  1. Drop Swirl

  2. Tiger Stripe Technique

  3. Paint Chip Technique

  4. Peacock Swirl

  5. Squeeze Bottle Swirl

You may submit your photos by filling out the form on the website between August 26th and September 9th, 2013.  We will then post your photos on the Saponifier website.  Beginning September 16 and ending September 30, the public will vote on their favorite soap in each category.  The winner from each technique will receive a prize!

 

Note that the form won’t be up on the website until August 26th; so, until then, get soaping and clicking.

 

Until next time,

 

Beth Byrne, for the Saponifier

We Can’t Wait!

We’re so excited about this upcoming issue of the Saponifier!  Due to be released on July 1st, it is our 15th anniversary edition.  To celebrate, we wanted this one to be beautiful, fun and full of design ideas for making cold process soap.  We affectionately call it, “DesignMania.”  Some of the best in the biz are showing off their design tutorials, along with plenty of photos so that you can learn these techniques to try on your own.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?

 

What?  You’re not a subscriber?  You can fix that, you know!  Readers worldwide subscribe to the Saponifier since it’s a digital publication–no shipping to worry about.  You have your magazine right at your fingertips with just a download.  Couldn’t be easier.  If you haven’t subscribed yet, follow this link:  http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

 

As always, we also feature helpful columnists who teach you, inform you and otherwise help you as a soapmaker, bath & body maker and candle maker.  Melinda Coss is teaching us about balancing design with business, and Marla Bosworth instructs us on writing a business plan.  Yours Truly regaled you with a review of the amazing HSCG conference in Raleigh, NC.  But we also have two new writers.  Sue Finley, our Potpourri column writer and Debbie Sturdevant, our resident herbal expert, who will be sharing with us through her column,  Herbal Wisdom.  Sue is writing about inspiration in soap design and Debbie is revisiting an old favorite, Calendula.  She’s even included a couple of her favorite recipes!

 

Share the fun with us on July 1st.  You know you want to!

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

 

PS – Soap designs just beg for a contest.  Stay tuned.  :-)

Creating Your Signature Soap

Creating your own soap formulas; does the very thought appall you or does it excite you?  Perhaps you’re shrugging your shoulders saying, “I do that all the time.”  or “Been there, done that.  I worked and tweaked and found my own formula a long time ago.”  

 

If you identify with the former, read on.  If it’s the latter, well, read on to see if  you agree.

 

My opinion is that every soapmaker should eventually develop her own formula(s).  It’s fine to start out with a well-designed, simple formula, but somewhere along the line, she should become curious about other oils and percentages and manipulating them to create a signature soap that she loves.  Yes, some of us get a bit carried away with this concept and never stop tweaking, but that’s another story for another day.

 

I’ve known soapmakers who enjoy the experimentation part more than any other component of soapmaking.  I’ve also known a few who found a recipe in a magazine twenty years ago and have used that formula since and that one only.  I suppose that isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s a good formula, but you’ll be a more knowledgeable soaper if you step out of your comfort zone and learn more about various oils and methods by doing some research and experimentation.

 

If you’re a brand new soapmaker, by all means, get a good formula, follow the directions, and make soap (after after putting your formula through a lye calculator).  If your first batch turns out well, it will encourage you to keep going.

 

Once you become more familiar with making soap, study various oils to learn more about what they have to offer soap.  Some oils produce lather, some harden the bar and others are skin conditioning.  A balanced bar will include good percentage of each.  From there, you’ll probably look for formulas for specialty soaps, such as facial bars and mechanics soap.  That’s where knowing your oils will come in handy and will save you valuable time and supplies in formulating those bars.

 

After some time and trials, you’ll consider yourself a knowledgeable soapmaker.  You’ll realize how little you knew at the beginning, and even though your soap was good then, you’re just so much smarter now!

 

Have you created your own formulas yet?  Are you fearful of doing so, or have you enjoyed the process?  Share with us what you’ve learned.

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Molds: Not Just a Tool, but a Passion!

Soap molds.  They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and materials.  Some need to be lined; others don’t.  You’ll find fancy molds and plain jane log or slab molds built with scrap wood in just a few hours.  Molds aren’t just a tool, but a passion!

 

We soapmakers love our molds.  For some of us, a walk through the grocery or hardware store is more of a mold-finding expedition than it is securing food for our families or tackling our next diy project.  Every empty container is eyed as a potential soap mold.  We even have our families trained to save containers that appear to be suitable for soap.  This was especially true for me as a beginner making melt and pour soaps.  I used empty juice cans, plastic packaging and bottoms of soda bottles, to name a few.  In doing so, I also learned what didn’t work.  The plastic packaging had to hold up to hot soap being poured into it and a rigid plastic would be next to impossible to remove soap from.  Yes, every soapmaking session was an adventure in resourcefulness and creativity, and it was fun.

 

This kind of behavior isn’t conducive to production soapmaking, yet many of even the most seasoned soapmakers engage in the practice at least once in awhile.  And why not?  It keeps us on our toes and renews our creativity.  It might even lead to the Next Big Thing in our product lineup!  If you think about it, we might not have round soaps had it not been for some clever person  in the hardware store who took a gander at pvc piping, or upon emptying his cylindrical can of potato chips wondered, “Hmm. . . can this be used for soap?”  What’s even better is how soapers share their discoveries so that all might benefit from both their successes and their failures.

 

What about you?  What is the most unique container you’ve ever used for soap?

 

Until next time,

 

May your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

New Column–Savoir Faire!

We at the Saponifier are delighted to announce that we have added a new column and author

Many of you are quite familiar with the author of soapmaking books, Melinda Coss. Melinda is the author of 27 books on various crafting topics, three of them featuring soapmaking. They include: The Handmade Soap Book, Gourmet Soaps Made Easy and Natural Soap.

What you may not know about Melinda is that she is widely credited as the pioneer of modern cold process soap making in Europe. She began a soap making company in the 1990?s in the UK, which subsequently became the largest company of its kind, supplying UK stores and hotels with soap and other toiletry products. She sold her company in 2004 and moved to France, where she began teaching classes there and in England, which she continues to conduct. She also acts as a consultant to soap making companies. Melinda additionally works with social concerns in Africa.

And now, Melinda will be writing a column for the Saponifier, Savoir Faire.

Join me in welcoming Melinda to the Saponifier!

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

Beth Byrne

Suited Up and Suitable for Soaping (and Candlemaking)

How do you dress to make soap or candles?  Are you covered head to toe in protective gear or are you be found in a t-shirt, shorts, and bare feet?

 

If it’s the former, you’ll want to read on to feel good about yourself or to make sure you’re doing things the right way.  If the latter, well, consider this a lecture.

 

Making soap and candles comes with inherent dangers, mainly pertaining to heat and caustic substances.  We’ve all heard stories about people being burned by lye, caustic soap getting in the eye, burns from a forgotten pan of wax.  To be sure, things happen.  Soap gets spilled on the floor, unnoticed.  A pot volcanoes, sending soap lava out of the pot and all over the surface it’s sitting on.  The candle wax heated up faster than you thought it would and flames appear.  A properly suited up person is in a better position to react quickly and safely than one who isn’t.

 

If it seems like overkill, think about it as if you were an employee of a company or that one of your loved ones was.  What if that company allowed its workers to be barefoot, making soap?  What if your child or other loved one were put to work in that environment without access to safety gear?  I can predict that you would rightfully expect that both you and your loved ones would be properly protected, so offer the same to yourself.

 

Chandlers, think you’re off the hook?  Not so fast!.  Hot wax is dangerous and cannot be removed easily, so as with soapmaking, shoes and socks and a heavy apron are essential equipment for protecting from splashes.  Long sleeves and eyewear are also important.

 

Even in creating bath and body products, certainly safety rules must be obeyed.  The first one that comes to mind is a mask to filter out particulates from powders such as cornstarch and powdered herbs.  The second is to protect the skin from scent by wearing gloves.

 

Finally, wearing a respirator mask when working with scent, whether fragrance oils or essential oils, is just plain smart.  We often worry about scent in regards to our customers, but tend to forget that we are exposed to much stronger scents, more frequently and for longer time periods than  the average user and thus, are more likely to develop problems with scent than the general public.

 

My advice:  get yourself suited up so you can safely pursue your craft!

 

Until next time,

 

May your days be filled with bubbles &  wax.

 

Beth Byrne

Are You a Mad Scientist or Tried and True?

Oil.  I never thought in my life that I would care so much about oil.  Animal or vegetable, organic or refined, it captures my interest.  And for what reason?  Making soap, of course!  Now, I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of oils and enjoy using many of them and experimenting with them in soap and other products.  Do you?

 

Oil choices and percentages play a major part in making good soap and a soapmaker who wants to be knowledgeable simply cannot remain ignorant of each oil they use and its properties.  Certainly, it’s possible to make soap out of 100% coconut oil or 100% olive oil, and it is common.  In fact, some of the world’s most famous soaps are 100% olive oil.  Yet, to my way of thinking, a truly wonderful bar comes from a mix of oils, each with properties that contribute to a bar that is moisturizing, cleans well without stripping the skin, lathers up well, and is hard enough to last in the tub or shower.

 

How do we find out which oils do what for soap?  Research and experimentation is the answer.  Begin with an established formula and tweak the oils until you reach what for you, is the perfect soap.  It’s part of the process for becoming a confident soapmaker.  Hint:  recipes that you run across calling for a can of this and a cup of that are best ignored.  Can sizes may change over time, so if it doesn’t state what that can size is by weight, move on.  Cup and other types of non-weighed  measurements are also potential problems. Why?  Because even cup measurements from cup to cup can vary, so a cup of shortening might not weigh eight ounces, and lye calculations are based on the weight of each oil.  You could potentially end up with either a very soft batch or a lye-heavy one.  Soap isn’t as forgiving as cooking and the ingredients were meant to be weighed out.

 

But what about you?  Perhaps you have a formula that you have used for years and you’re very happy with it, so you see no need to waste time or money on changing it.  You admit that you know just so much about each oil that goes into your soap, but you do know how to produce a consistent product from batch to batch.

 

Where product production is concerned, I understand the need for a consistent formula, but couldn’t exist without my r&d (research and development) time, but that may not be true for all.

 

Weigh in (no pun intended).  Are you an experimenter (mad scientist) type or a tried-and-true soap/bath and body maker?

 

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

 

Beth Byrne

Whipped Soapmaking

 Have you made whipped soap?

 

I’ve been perusing sites recently, and thought I’d share a few with you:

http://nizzymoulds.com/Whipped/WhippedSoapGallery.htm (this one is classic)

http://www.soap-making-essentials.com/how-to-make-soap-whipped-cream.html

http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/coldprocesssoapmaking/ss/whippedsoap.htm

Ooh, look at that beautiful soap!  I get excited about trying it just looking at the pictures.  Although I should admit to myself that it won’t happen until after the holidays, I have a tiny glimmer of hope that I’ll sneak in a batch somewhere here soon.  It keeps me going.  For you, is it the fact that the soap floats or the creative possibilities that intrigue you?  I am definitely part of the creative possibilities camp.

LaShonda Tyree did a demo in July at the NY Bubbles & Blazes Gathering and it looked easy enough, so I don’t have any qualms about trying it, I just haven’t.  I love the possibilities with color and the impressive confection-like soaps that can be made with whipped soap, and am betting that anyone with cake decorating experience would go wild with the possibilities.  If you do decide to try it, be sure to read the instructions carefully to be safe.  Careless mixing or not paying attention to the length of time the soap needs to saponify and cure could be your undoing–but then, we soapmakers are used to exercising caution!

What about you?  Have you tried it, are you interested, is it on your soapmaking bucket list?  If you have tried it, what do you think of the technique?  Any drawbacks or special cautions you’d like to share?  Tell us.

A Soap For Every Soaper

Most of us, I believe, would consider cold process soap to be the standard, or most common method of soapmaking among those who are creating soap using lye and oils.

Nevertheless, there are quite a few variations on this theme, not to mention other types of soap altogether.

I recently watched whipped soap being made and soap being felted.  The whipped soap we worked with was simply done, but I have seen on the internet, soaps that look like bakery creations  using whipped soap.  The felted bars are like having the washcloth on the soap, and can be done mixing colors and patterns.  Some theorized that these would be particularly helpful for the elderly as they make holding on to the soap easier than a plain, slick bar.

My favorite soapmaking method is CPOP (cold process, oven process).  Some love the instantaneous results of HP (hot process).  Still others, though few it seems, rebatch or handmill each of their batches, noting with confidence that their additives are not being destroyed by the lye.

As if that’s not enough, we have liquid soap, made with potassium hydroxide (KOH) rather than sodium hydroxide (NaOH).  Naturally, then, why not a combination of KOH soap and NaOH soap, and call it cream soap?

So, you’re afraid to work with lye or your work is very artistic.  In this case,  melt & pour, sometimes known as glycerin soap, is your soap of choice.  Not that I haven’t seen amazing works of art with lye soaps, but it’s a different kind of artistry that is created with m&p, and many use it for special effects, like the adorable soap I just received.  It has a solid base, a cow embed in the middle, which is clear, and then a solid top.  Who wouldn’t love that?

What types have I missed?  What’s your favorite?  What haven’t you tried that you would like to?

 

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