Sub-a-Dub-Dub, Soapmakers Learn About Oils for the Tub

Sub-a-Dub-Dub, Soapmakers Learn About Oils for the Tub. . . yes, it’s a little cheesy, but it leads to the question, “How do I know which oil would be a good substitute for the usual oils in my soap?”

 

If you’ve been making soap, no doubt you’ve asked this question. Perhaps you’ve run out of an oil and need to substitute, or you’re unable to find the oil called for in the formula or you choose not to use the oil specified, you’ll need to know how to substitute oils.

 

If you look at the fatty acid profile for the oil you’d like to substitute and then look for an oil with a similar profile, you can probably make a direct substitution. I know, I know, you’re probably asking if there’s an easier way than possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of any given oil. Fortunately, the answer is yes.

 

Consider, for instance, that you usually want to use coconut oil, but have run out or have a customer who is allergic to it. You want to make a bar that is identical or nearly identical to your usual formula. You may look up the fatty acid profile (and it’s a good idea), but it’s also enough to know what coconut does for soap. It makes a hard bar and a great deal of lather. By looking up oils high in lauric and myristic acid, you’ll know that the other lathering oils include babassu and palm kernel oil. Therefore, you know that you can substitute coconut oil with these two oils and also that they are the only oils that provide the abundance of lather that coconut does.

 

As stated in our last blog, this is the breakdown of the fatty acids:

 

Lauric, myristic – hard, lathering

Palmitic, stearic – hard, some conditioning

oleic, linoleic, linolenic, ricinoleic – conditioning

 

You’ll have to do a bit of work to find out what the properties  are of the oils in your formula and the oil options you have for substituting, but with just a bit of sleuthing, you’ll be on your way.

 

Want to learn more about soapmaking? Subscribe to the Saponifier!

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Learning the Hard Way

Have you been enjoying your January/February 2014 issue of the Saponifier? Safety and GMP aren’t always the most popular of topics, but I do believe that they are vitally important to the growth and survival of our industry. Many of us only think of safety in regards to soapmaking, and to be sure, sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide are dangerous caustics that we need to respect. Nevertheless, it behooves us to be aware of safety precautions in regards to bath and body manufacturing and candle making, as well. I applaud our writers for writing articles that we love to read, but are filled with important information.

 

I know that GMP, standing for, “good manufacturing practice” is another area of concern for those with businesses making soap and bath and body products, so we appreciate Marie Gale’s article, “An Introduction to Good Manufacturing Processes,” introducing us to the topic if we aren’t already familiar.

 

I hope this issue has caused you to review your safety and GMP processes! Share with us what you have learned.

 

If you are as yet not a subscriber of the Saponifier, you can rectify that!  http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

 

This next story is related to GMP, and my failure to properly institute a process. I recently made a five color, swirled soap. I printed out my formula, prepared my surfaces and molds, measured out my ingredients and mixed my colorants. I proceeded to make my soap and was so pleased with the colors and design. I placed my soap in my properly pre-heated oven for a CPOP (cold process/oven process) batch and congratulated myself on a spectacular session. A short time later, I noticed my carefully measured essential oil still sitting on the counter. My elation turned to despair. It was too late to add the essential oil and even if it weren’t, mixing in the oil would mix all five colors together, producing a soap only a mother of said soap could love. As a result, I have a very pretty batch of soap with no scent.

 

Who hasn’t forgotten their scent at least once? Nevertheless, I learned an important lesson. Had I had my GMP properly in place, I would have a procedure posted that included the exact step of adding my essential or fragrance oil at the right time and thus, would not have missed it. I confess to being too complacent since I print out my formula each time, thinking it’s almost as good. I now know that almost isn’t good enough.

 

Have you begun instituting GMP in your business? Share with us your experiences thus far.

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Coloring Soap, Do it Naturally!

I hope all of our US readers had a great Labor Day weekend with friends and family.  For our friends everywhere else, I hope your weekend was enjoyable, as well.

 

Today, we’ll explore natural soap colorants.  If you recall, in my last blog post I promised to write about them, so I’ve been combing my notes to share information with you.  As anyone using natural colorants knows, it’s a complicated topic, and to cover it all thoroughly, I’d be writing a book, not a blog post.  Therefore, I’ll keep it to mostly those I’ve personally used.

So many colorants are used, and in several different ways.  Some are best infused in water, others in oil and a few in lye water!.  Many herbs and such are added as powders or purees at trace.  One of the most important things to know, however, is that the colors usually fade in time.  Few natural colorants keep their color.  If you’re an m&p soapmaker, by the way, powdered colorants are for you, but don’t use much!

Here are some natural colorants commonly used in soapmaking.  Most of these, I have tried and have included my results for; but not all:

Yellow – Calendula (I’ve never gotten intense color with an infusion, but more with powder), turmeric, chamomile flowers (powdered), annatto seed (great color, but some are allergic.  Infuse in oil) and pureed carrots (yes, yellow)

Orange- paprika (don’t use much!), pureed pumpkin (really nice as a portion of the water amount), safflower petals (haven’t tried it, but sounds good), ground rosehips (peach)

Green – dill weed (bright green that fades quickly), ground parsley (good, but expect fading), French green clay (try infusing in lye water), kelp (be prepared for the smell), ground spearmint (green to brown)

Brown – comfrey root, cocoa powder, wheatgrass powder (green to light brown), beet root, cinnamon and cloves (but I suggest not using them since they are irritants), tea (green, black or white), coffee grounds, berries, corn silk (attractive gray/brown)

Purple – Alkanet (if you’re lucky.  Infuse in oil first), Madder Root, Red Sandalwood Powder (brown/purple)

Blue – Indigo (don’t go overboard because it stains), woad (I haven’t used either of these)

Red/Pink – cochineal (yes, ground bugs),  Moroccan Red clay (brick red), Rose pink clay (pink, but deeper if infused in lye water)

When it  comes to natural colorants, experimentation is to be expected.  Depending upon the method used to extract the color or to add it to soap, results vary widely.

It’s also important to note that the FDA requires approved colorants to used in cosmetics, so be aware.  Fortunately, most natural colorants also lend cosmetic properties to soap that make them advantageous to use.

If you’re willing to work with the inconsistencies of natural colorants, you’ll find a whole world of possibility at your fingertips.  If you’ve used these or others, tell us how they worked for you!

Speaking of fingertips, have you seen your new copy of the Saponifier?  Our writers have worked hard to give you a great issue sure to be helpful in preparing for the holidays!

Until next time, may your days be full of bubbles and wax–and colors!

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

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

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

It’s Scentsational!

Have you been too busy with after-holiday chores to sit down with your newest edition of the Saponifier?  Well, do as I did.  Pour yourself a nice cup of tea and sit down for a bit to rest and rejuvenate for 2013.  

 

This issue (January/February 2013) is a particularly enjoyable one because it’s all about scent, and few topics interest soap and candle junkies as scent does.  From the lovely cover photograph that sets the tone to Aaron Polczynski’s advice on selling more of your wonderful, scented creations in, Tips for Soap Sales at any Venue, to a cupcake tutorial (and don’t we love the smell of cupcakes?) authored by Loyce Henderson, you’ll be treated with a great read.  Of course, since you’re this far in, you’d might as well also read, Tammy Lane’s, Holidays You’re Going to Love.  It will help you plan ideas for producing and uniquely marketing all of those wonderful items you can give or sell  this new year.

 

If you’re building a line of scents and are looking for advice, be sure to read, Creating a Scentsational Line by Beth Byrne.  She interviewed Jo Lasky, who is a treasure trove for all things scent and most generously shared some of her knowledge with us!

 

If you’re a soap history buff, you’ll devour Melinda Coss’, Savoir Faire, where she describes the history of soapmaking in France, as well as explaining the current situation that soapmakers face there.

 

What scent could be more wonderful than the scent of herbs?  If you’re hankering to begin an herb garden this year, let Wayne Gorman help in his article, Herb Gardening 101.  

 

Isn’t this the perfect time for trying new formulations in body butters?  Marla Bosworth treats us to formulas and instructions for, Winter Comfort:  Slip Into Rich Cocoa and Vanilla Body Butters.  Mmm. . . I can smell them already!  This is also the best time of year, at least in my hemisphere, for enjoying candles.  You’ll find Lyschel Bersch’s Testing for Wick Size in Candles to be informative and helpful.

 

When it comes to narrowing down a scent line, you’ll enjoy Victoria Donaldson’s survey of friends and  family in, Because it Smells Good!  Armed with the most popular scents of our 2012 Raves for Faves article, Victoria describes how various individuals decided upon their favorites and why.

 

Other than making all of the goodies, what could be a better way to spend a little time than reading about them?

 

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

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

Meh or Yeah?

As I was showering the other day, I noted how quickly my husband and I go through soap.   It’s a good thing I make it!  

 

You see, hubby likes that soap-to-body experience– no wash cloths or soap savers for him.  I’ve tried to convince him to use them, but to no avail.  He also tends to judge a soap by its lathering capability, the more lather, the better.  You can quite imagine how low he would rate castile soap.  Moreover, he isn’t particular about scent, as a general rule. If it’s in the shower, he’ll use it.  He also likes larger bars than I do, and prefers rectangles.

 

I confess that I like lather, too, but I also like soap savers, cloths, and other cleansing and holding devices.  Additionally, one of my criterion in soaping is to make a hard soap, except for facial use.  Not that I don’t engineer it to be moisturizing, but if my batch wasn’t hard, then I would consider a batch to improve upon.  I do enjoy a wide variety of scents,  whether essential oils or fragrance oils and yet, I am much more discriminating when it comes to scent than hubby is.  I like different shapes in soap as long as they fit in my hand, as well.

 

Of course, as a soapmaker, I am more attuned to colors and patterns in soap than most of the general public is, and admire those so skilled as to create them.  That same consideration ranks at the bottom of my husband’s checklist.

 

Thinking about our marked preferences caused me to wonder, what makes soap perfect in your book?  Do you insist on hard bars?  Do you search for the most conditioning oils and make them a large percentage of your soap?  Perhaps scent is your biggest concern or you prefer only essential oils or only fragrance oils.  Is a particular shape or size your favorite?  Does it have to be artistic or do you prefer Plain Jane?  Are soap savers and so on, a godsend or a hindrance?

 

Tell us about your perfect bar.  What changes  ”meh” into  ”yeah” for you?

 

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

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