Monday, 29 August 2011

What is the Gel Stage?

Since posting about the Cinnamon Orange Partial Gel we were asked to explain what exactly  happened for the non-soap savvy readers. So we decided to give you an explanation of the gel stage in the soap making process.

When oil is mixed with lye it goes through what is called saponification. The word literally means “turning into soap”. Oil is a fatty acid and lye is a base, when they combine, they neutralize each other. This is an exothermic (produces heat) chemical reaction where lye and oils combine to make soap and glycerin.

So what is the gel stage? It is part of the saponification process. After mixing the oil and lye and pouring it into a mold, we insulate our molds and place them in a warm dry place, usually the oven (but we don’t turn it on!). The heat produced by the chemical reaction radiates from the center of the soap toward the outside and it starts to look like translucent gelatinous goo…this is the gel stage. Once the process is complete, the whole thing should be completely gelled.  After 24 to 48 hours the saponification process is pretty much finished and we can take it out of the mold.

When we made the Cinnamon Orange Soap, we attempted to stop the gel stage by putting the soap in the fridge. In the picture of the Orange Cinnamon Soap you can see that the center of the bar is gelled and the outer edges are not. For this bar of soap, the gel stage started but since it was in the fridge being cooled down from the outside in, the gel did not reach the outer edges. To completely stop the soap from gelling, it would have to be cooled down faster…perhaps by mixing the oil and lye at a lower temperature and putting it into the freezer.

There is some debate on whether you should let your soap gel or not. Some soapers do and some don’t. Skipping the gel stage does not mean that the oils are not fully saponified at the end of the process; it just means that the process takes longer and the bars need more time to cure. The Orange Cinnamon soap was our first attempt at preventing the gel stage so we can’t really speak to the quality of gelled versus non-gelled but you can see the difference in color in the Orange Cinnamon Soap. The outer edges are a brighter more yellow-orange color and the center is darker.

For pictures, take a look at my previous post called “Cinnamon Orange Partial Gel” or take a look at the information on Ask Anne-Marie about the gel stage Ask Anne-Marie Part2 | Soap Making FAQ | Teach Soap

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Cinnamon Orange Partial Gel

Our goal with the orange cinnamon soap was to keep it from gelling by putting it in the fridge. We like the colour of the non-gelled soap better and we were hoping that the orange EO would be more prominent.

Well, we cut the soap yesterday and it looks like the soap did a partial gel.

In the picture below you can see that the middle of the soap gelled and the outer edges did not. We should have left it in the fridge much longer or maybe even put it in the freezer to prevent that but oh well.

This might dissapear after a few weeks of curing and that is just what we are hoping it does. If not, we will know for next time to keep it cold for a longer period of time.

It is also still really soft and sticky. You can see a fingerprint in the middle of this bar.

I did try a little bit of the was nice and bubbly like soap should be...too bad about its appearance.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Spicy Color Trials

Two days ago, we filled 4 jars with 10 ounces of coconut oil and about 4 tablespoons of spice each. Normally our coconut oil is solid at room temperature but due to the warm temperatures in my apartment, the coconut liquefies and makes the perfect oil for infusing spices. 


Madder Root (I know, not a spice, but whatever)

Wondering what that strange white stuff is? It's cheese cloth. We originally made a cheesecloth packet of madder root but the oil was not soaking through fast enough (we are impatient) so we opened them up and shook the root right into the oil. We'll remove the cheesecloth later.

Ratan Jot


Stay tuned for the thrilling results because in about two weeks we will strain the oil and start making colourful soap!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Orange Cinnamon

This soap is our favourite so far.

We have made this recipe before and the only problem we had was that the bar was too soft. This time we tweaked the recipe a little bit to fix that problem.

As you can see below, the log is too soft to cut just yet. We usually cut the day after we make a batch but this one is going to need a bit more time. It was so mushy that the first slice had to be rolled into a sticky ball. We may have to tweak the recipe again though, we will see once the bars are cured and ready to try. 

The smell is GLORIOUS! Orange and cinnamon mixed together not only smells wonderful but the orange EO gives the soap that lovely orangey yellow colour. We will definitely continue to make this recipe and soon enough we will have a great bar of soap that someone might actually pay for!

Ocean Breeze?

Not so sure about that...this soap smelled nothing like an ocean. We had been looking for essential oil blends that smell like ocean for a while and when we came upon a website that listed three options, we were eager to try one of them.

We went with a blend of Lavender, Bergamot, Rosemary and Eucalyptus Lemon...yikes! The smell was REALLY strong and antiseptic, nothing like an ocean. (Smell gave me a headache)

The colour that you see below is a result of adding a mixture of French green clay, Australian washed blue clay and spirulina powder. The first picture looks lighter than the soap actually is. The colour is closer to the second picture.

The original plan was to split the recipe in two, add green clay to half and blue to the other, then swirl them together. We were hoping for a pastel green and blue mixture. Obviously that did not happen; the green clay made a green colour but not the green we were looking for and the blue clay didn’t add any colour at all. In the end we just mixed everything back together and added some spirulina in the hope that the colour would turn out somewhat ok.

We also had an issue with a SUPER FAST trace for this batch. We have made this recipe before with different additives so we think that the super fast trace was due to the high temperature in the apartment at the time (26 C) and maybe the huge amount of clay we added trying to get the blue to show up. We barely had time to get it into the mould!

Our conclusions? Don’t use that EO blend ever again! Mix at a lower temperature! Blue clay doesn't make blue and spirulina makes a really nice green! Also, get an air conditioner...

Lemon Poppyseed Soap

While looking online for unique soap scent ideas, we came across a nice yellow soap with poppy seeds for exfoliation. We immediately thought of making a "Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin" soap using vanilla and lemon so we went to work creating the perfect recipe.

While mixing, the soap was a lovely creamy yellow colour. We hoped that the colour would stick but low and did not.

The pictures below show the dull translucent yellowish grey that was eloquently described as looking like a "dull kiwi".

These pictures were taken the day after. We hoped that it would magically morph into a nice colour but it has been about 5 days and that's definitely not going to happen. 

When it's ready to try, if it feels nice, perhaps we will try making it again with some sort of natural yellow colorant...Maybe turmeric...

As for the smell, the idea was for this soap to smell like lemon and then an outer layer would smell like vanilla. With the colour fail though, we decided to just try again another time. So this is no longer "Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin, its just Lemon Poppy Seed. 

We also added some lemongrass and a bit of vanilla in the hope that it would make the lemon smell stick longer...we shall see. 

Oh...and that "original" idea for a poppy seed muffin soap, turns out it's not so original. After cutting the soap and finding that drab colour, we googled for a bit on how poppy seeds affect the colour of soap and discovered that everyone and their dog has made this "flavour" of soap.