Matching Colors with Fragrances

I decided to use the last of my S.O.A.P. Panel freebies, Mandarin Oasis. I didn’t test this fragrance on the S.O.A.P. Panel—it was not one of my eight fragrances, but it was one of the fragrances tested by the second panel last year. Testers received two ounces of each of the fragrances that were ultimately selected for sale.

Bramble Berry describes the fragrance as follows:

This fragrance smells great for both kids and adults! Similar to Energy, one of our top selling fragrance oils, Mandarin Oasis has a sweet orange top note but with a sophisticated undertone. Mid-notes of papaya, ginger and thyme really hold this fragrance together giving it a sweet and sultry aroma. Crisp notes of cotton, teakwood, and neroli make this fragrance extremely versatile for projects ranging from personal perfume, laundry soap, or sugar scrubs. Take your senses on a mini-vacation!

I don’t smell the similarity to Energy myself, but I do smell the sweet notes in the fragrance. I’m not sure I pick out a mandarin orange scent. It doesn’t smell spicy to me at all. I think I do detect the neroli. My nose is not the most sophisticated in terms of making distinctions among all the layers in a fragrance. However, Mandarin Oasis does smell absolutely gorgeous. It’s very feminine.

I’ve written before about using the color wheel to create soap designs. But I don’t use the color wheel alone when thinking about which colors to use. I also think about what colors match the fragrance. When I think mandarin, the first color that comes to mind is orange. I toyed with the idea of an orange, black, and white color scheme for this fragrance, but the more I thought about it, the more I didn’t think it fit this particular fragrance. I think quite a lot about colors that match the fragrances I use. The image Bramble Berry attaches to this fragrance is black palm trees at sunset. It’s pretty, but it doesn’t quite evoke the fragrance for me either. It seems a little too dark. However, it did give me an idea. What about using sunset colors?

Sunset

Photo credit: Luis Medina

The beautiful oranges, pinks, purples and yellows could work well with this fragrance, and pops of white could help bring the whole look together.

The first thing I did was make an orange embed to represent the setting sun. I neglected to take a photo of it.

I put together my colorants: Rustic Escentuals’s Clementine Pop Mica, Nurture’s Purple Vibrance, Yellow Vibrance, and Pink Vibrance, and titanium dioxide.

Colorants

I mixed the colorants up and decided to use squeeze bottles to make a layered design. I would not do this again. The soap set up a little bit fast, perhaps because of the floral notes in this fragrance or perhaps because of my recipe, but it was very difficult to squeeze by the end.

Mixed Colorants

I attempted to create a video of the process, but it wound up being too long and difficult to capture. I took a picture of the top before I put the soap to bed, but the lighting was not too good by that time (it was after 10:00 PM).

Top of Mandarin Oasis

The next day, I cut the soap. Given how it set up, I was happy with how it turned out.

Mandarin Oasis

It doesn’t look precisely like a sunset. It reminds me more of an impressionist painting of a sunset. Perhaps you can see the glycerine rivers in the titanium dioxide. I think sometimes this look suits better than a solid white, and in this case, I’m happy they happened. They look a little bit more like wispy clouds than they might otherwise have done.

If I were to do this soap again, same colors and all, I might try to use a spoon to create the same effect, as the squeeze bottles proved difficult to use, especially by the end. Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of using squeeze bottles in soap designs because they are terribly difficult to clean. I thought they might be faster than using a spoon, but I’m not so sure. I took about two hours to make this soap from start to clean-up. It wouldn’t look exactly the same if I had used a spoon.

On a less complicated note, when a wholesale customer of mine asked for Green Tea & Cucumber, it seemed like a no-brainer to create a soap with a subtle green hue, much the same shade as cucumber flesh. How to get that hue, however? Chromium green oxide might have been a good choice, but it tends toward a moss hue. I wasn’t sure I wanted to use a mica either, as they tend to be more vibrant, and I needed something subtle. Hydrated chromium green oxide is not quite as dark as chromium green oxide, and it has a teal note to it that I thought might work well. The trick is to use just a scant amount. I think I may have used less than 1/8 teaspoon to color this whole batch.

Green Tea & Cucumber

The pureed cucumber in this recipe may also have contributed to the green shade, but it’s mostly the hydrated chromium green oxide because cucumber alone (unless you include the peel) will not result in even this much color. The leaves on top are Chinese green tea leaves—the green tea was a gift from one of my Chinese students. I didn’t think she’d mind if I sacrificed a little bit of the tea for soap. This one hasn’t gelled yet, so I’m not sure what the final color will be, but I don’t think it will stray much from this light, cool green. If anything, it might pick up some yellowish undertones, similar to the color of green tea. It’s exactly the shade of green I wanted, and it complements the fresh green scent of of the Green Tea & Cucumber fragrance oil I used:

This fragrance smells just like freshly steeped green tea with a hint of cucumber. It isn’t your typical sweet cucumber fragrance. The earthy green tea is the most upfront aroma in this fragrance oil giving cosmetic products a fresh and clean scent.

The beautiful thing about soap is that you can use whatever fragrances and scents you want, and you can match colors with fragrances, or you can use whatever colors you want with fragrances.

What do you do? Do you try to match colors with scents? If you have tips, feel free to share in the comments.

 

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Experimenting with Australian Washed Blue Clay

I have admired the way soaps made with Cambrian blue clay look for some time. Once when placing an order with one of my vendors, I decided on a whim to purchase some Australian washed blue clay, thinking it was the same thing as Cambrian blue.

As it turns out, it’s not. After doing some research, I discovered that Australian washed blue clay is actually a kind of bentonite clay. I have used bentonite clay before in shaving soaps because it adds slip, but I hadn’t tried it in a regular soap before. I know that it’s considered to be good for acne, but I decided it was probably fine since I have used a bentonite-clay based shaving soap on my legs and suffered no dryness as a result.

Australian Washed Blue Clay

I’m not sure if everyone sells Cambrian blue clay wet, but Bramble Berry does. Obviously, my Australian washed blue clay is dry. I thought it looked sort of green, but it’s hard to tell with clay until you get it wet, and even then, it doesn’t always look the same as it will in soap.

I decided I would experiment with it anyway because even if it turned out green, that would work just fine with my planned batch. I had decided to use the Lavender & Cedar fragrance oil that Bramble Berry sent me as a thank you for participating in the S.O.A.P. Panel last year. I haven’t seen too many people talking about this fragrance in soaping circles (or perhaps I’m not looking in the right places, which is entirely probable). Bramble Berry does warn that the fragrance loses some of its camphor notes in cold process, which suits me fine. I also thought that it would work well with either a green or a blue soap, so it would be perfect for my experiment with Australian washed blue clay.

I use kaolin clay in most of my soaps because it adds silkiness and creaminess and also helps anchor fragrances so they stick better. French green clay is a staple of my Provence soap. I have used pink rose clay (a form of kaolin) to color some soaps as well, and I have used rhassoul clay in my Guinness Beer soaps. I almost always just add my clay directly to my oils and stick blend before adding my lye. I have had the fewest number of problems with mixing when I have followed this method for using clay.

Another method includes adding clay to the lye water (which you would also only do if you were coloring the soap with the clay only). I have never tried adding it to my lye water.

A third method involves making a slurry with clay and water or clay and oils. I have sometimes had clumps in my clay when I have used this last method, especially if I make a slurry and then add it to a bit of the soap, and then add the colored soap to the rest of the batch and blended as David Fisher describes here. I have had the best luck with this method if I just treat the clay like any other colorant and add the oil or water and clay slurry directly to the soap and blend. If you are doing a swirl or using other colors, it’s the method to try.

Since my Lavender & Cedar soap was going to be one color, I decided to add the clay to the oils and blend. It definitely looked green, but the final test would be adding the lye water and blending. Sometimes the color of the soap lightens once the lye is blended well with the oils.Blending the SoapIn the early blending stages, it looked a lot like French green clay to me. Once I was done blending, sure enough, it was still green.

Blended Soap

It’s pretty, but it’s sure not blue. I poured the soap into the mold.

Blue Clay Soap in the Mold

I decided to sculpt the tops a bit and add some pretty safflower petals.

Blue Clay Soap in the Mold

Here is a close-up:

Close-Up of Blue Clay Soap

In the close-up, you can see the soap has tiny flecks in it. Neither bentonite or French green clay does that (at least in my experience), and I really like the look of it. It’s not quite the same shade as French green clay, but it’s not far off. The safflower petals set it off nicely, but they would also have looked nice with a blue soap.

I would just have to wait for the unmolding and cutting to see what the soap would ultimately look like. So what happened in the end?

Lavender & Cedar Soap

A lovely shade of green. Definitely nothing remotely close to a blue. For the record, I gelled these soaps, too, so if it were likely to morph or change color at all, it would have done so.

Lavender & Cedar Soap

The real shame here is that you can’t smell them, looking at them on your computer screen. Oh my, do they smell good. A nice scent of cedar underlaid with the floral lavender and some other more complex woodsy notes I can’t quite pick out. Ultimately, I think the color is perfect for the fragrance.

Lavender & Cedar Soap

It doesn’t quite look like French green clay, either. The flecks in the soap are quite pretty, and the color does look nice with the safflower petals. The soaps have a nice, silky feel.

Even though the results of my experiment were not what I had anticipated (a blue soap along the shades of a Cambrian blue clay), I’m still quite happy with them. I love the fragrance, and really hope my customers enjoy the soaps.

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Soap Challenge Club: Butterfly Swirl

Butterfly Swirl Entry

I haven’t participated in the Soap Challenge Club in a long time. I really wanted a chance to try out the Butterfly Swirl, perfected (maybe invented?) by Zahida of Handmade in Florida. I don’t have a deep mold like Zahida, but the beauty of the Butterfly Swirl is that you can get pretty decent results even with a regular mold like mine.

When I participated in the S.O.A.P. Panel last year, I tested a fragrance called Mahogany. I said at the time that it reminded me of a sexy man. You can read my thoughts about that fragrance here and here. I loved the way it smelled. I have been wanting to make a soap with a color palette similar to this:

COLOURlovers.com-Mahogany_Soap

I knew I wanted to use Nurture mica. I have the Vibrance mica set and the Pastels mica set. I previously used the 24 Karat Gold mica from Rustic Escentuals in my Inspiration Soap Challenge. Even in cold process soap, it retains a lot of its sparkle. I hadn’t tried Bramble Berry’s Copper Sparkle mica, but after a quick check to see that it was safe for use in cold process, I decided to try it. I ordered it some time ago as part of a sample pack. I have used Bramble Berry’s Cappuccino mica in several soaps in the past. I love the rich brown shade. My palette hasn’t captured the exact tones of the micas, but it’s close.

I recall hearing Celine say in one of her videos that one color that really pulls a soap together is white. I think she’s right about that. Even if it’s just a little bit of white, it really seems to bring out the design. So, in addition to the four mica colors, I also used a little bit of titanium dioxide to produce a cream color in my soap.

I decided to call the soap “Sexy Man Soap” after my first reaction to smelling the fragrance. Here is a video of the making of the soap:

I really enjoyed the entire process of making this soap. The colors are a lot of fun to work with, and the fragrance is delicious. I’m going to have to order more of it.

The more I work with micas, the more I fall in love with them. I used mainly oxides and ultramarines in the past, but micas have such beautiful hues, and even if their sparkle doesn’t always come through in cold process soap, they’re still lovely to work with.

This technique is interesting because it’s hard to tell if what you’re doing will result in a butterfly shape in the soap. I knew that working with a flatter mold like mine would give me less room to get the shape I wanted, and I was quite pleasantly surprised when I cut the soap and found several bars did indeed have a butterfly shape.

Butterfly Swirl

This first set has a lighter top, but I can make out the shape of wings.

Butterfly Swirl

This second set has a nice shape, and more of the gold and brown show through. The blue is the outline of the wings.

Butterfly Swirl

I thought this third set of soaps made the best butterfly. The brown accents look like the edges of wings, and the blue where the soaps join looks like a butterfly body. The splatter tops look like the tops of butterfly wings. It is this last picture that I will enter for the challenge contest. Don’t you just love that Blue Vibrance mica?

I’m happy with how these came out. I made them for my husband Steve, and he’s claiming three, but he says I can sell the rest of them in the shop. Look for them in time for Valentine’s Day, in case you want to get some for your own sexy man.

You know what? It felt pretty good to make a video again after a long hiatus, too.

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Spotlight on Carrot Buttermilk Soap

Carrots are great for your skin. They contain beta-carotene, which is believed to relieve dry skin and reduce fine lines. Buttermilk is also great for dry skin and has alpha-hydroxy acid, thought to remove dead skin cells. Many beauty products on the market contain alpha-hydroxy acid.

I originally tried a carrot-based soap well over a year ago, and I wasn’t 100% happy with the results. It was a fine soap, and those who tried it even complimented me on it and said they loved it. It just didn’t look like it had carrots in it.

Carrot Silk

I made this soap based on a recipe I found at Soaping 101. To be honest, I think I combined the carrot soap recipe in the video with a facial soap recipe. I suspect it was another Soaping 101 recipe, but I am just not sure anymore where I found it. I do know I didn’t formulate the recipe, though I may have tweaked it. My recipe for this soap was as follows:

  • 35% olive oil
  • 30% palm oil
  • 15% coconut oil
  • 10% palm kernel oil
  • 5% sunflower oil
  • 5% castor oil

I used full water, which probably wasn’t necessary, and a superfat of 7% (I typically use 6%). I also added kaolin clay and powdered goat milk, and substituted 2 oz. of water for pureed carrots. I also used tussah silk, but I use tussah silk in a lot of my soaps. The recipe has a lot more palm oil and a lot less coconut oil than I typically use. I also used palm kernel oil, which I do not typically use and have actually discovered I don’t like much.

I was happy with how the soap looked in the mold.

Carrot Silk

However, I noticed that it heated up rather a lot, and it began to look a little bit like brains. If you haven’t experienced this phenomenon in soapmaking, check it out and scroll to Alien Brains. The resulting soap, as I said, was fine. And it was hard as a rock. I just didn’t think it looked like I wanted. I was put off using carrots for a while.

I really liked the look of some other carrot soaps I had seen. For instance, Rocky Top Soap Shop has a beautiful carrot soap, and Chagrin Valley has a very nice Carrot and Honey soap. Both soaps contain carrot juice rather than pureed carrots.

I decided to try Amanda’s advice and use carrot baby food. After trying baby food, I am convinced the trick to a good carrot soap is to use pureed carrot baby food or carrot juice to replace some or all of the water instead of making your own carrot puree. It may be that when I pureed my own carrots, I was not using enough carrots as compared to water, and though I have a blender, I had trouble making a very fine puree like you might find in baby food. You have to be careful with using fruit or vegetable purees in soap. Sometimes, they go brown (strawberries, peaches). Other purees seem to be fine (bananas).

I searched for an organic baby food that listed its ingredients as only carrots or only carrots and water, and I found one. I discovered when I used the carrot baby food, the resulting color was much closer to what I was looking for.

Carrot Buttermilk I completely scrapped my other recipe. I used two ounces of carrot baby food, removing two ounces of water from my recipe and reduced the total amount of liquid in the recipe from 38% (which SoapCalc figures as “full water”) to 33%. I superfatted at my usual 6%. As I said, I am not a fan of palm kernel oil, and I decided to simplify with fewer oils. I also used two teaspoons of powdered buttermilk, removing about a tablespoon of water from my recipe before adding the lye and using it to reconstitute the buttermilk. Buttermilk is just wonderful in soaps. I used two teaspoons of kaolin clay as well. I did not add the carrots to the lye water, as Amanda described, but rather to the oils. I blended the kaolin clay, reconstituted buttermilk, and carrots well with the oils before I added the lye water.

The recipe fit well in my 9-bar mold. I left the soap unscented as I intended it to be used on the face and/or sensitive skin. In my opinion, the new recipe, which I formulated myself, is much more face-friendly than the one I borrowed—there is an excellent case to be made for creating your own recipes instead of following others’ recipes right there. Nonetheless, here is what I used:

  • 40% olive oil
  • 25% coconut oil
  • 25% palm oil
  • 5% apricot kernel oil
  • 5% castor oil

I had noticed that my old standby facial soap, Provence, which is a Marseilles-style soap made with olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oil, was making my face feel a little tight after I finished using it. I decided to pull out a bar of my Carrot Buttermilk soap to see how I liked it. I didn’t just like it, I LOVED it. It had a smooth, creamy lather that I didn’t expect to see because of the amount of coconut oil and castor oil I used, which usually produces a lather that is bubbly. Carrot Buttermilk will bubble up quite a bit more if you lather it up for a little longer. It actually feels like a soap that has more olive oil in it than it does (though it has a significant amount, and more than the Carrot Silk soap had). I suspect the difference is the apricot kernel oil. My face absolutely does NOT feel tight after I wash with it, and I am now in love with this little bar of Carrot Buttermilk soap.

You can purchase Carrot Buttermilk from the shop, and it’s even on sale for a limited time.

Creative Commons License
Carrot Buttermilk Facial Soap by Dana Huff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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Free Shipping This Weekend!

Holiday SoapsThis weekend, you can support a small, woman-owned business and get a good deal on shipping. If you use the coupon code FREESHIP here in the shop or on Etsy, you can receive free shipping. There is no minimum or maximum order.

Limited edition holiday soaps include Candy Cane, Cranberry Blood Orange (Etsy only), Frozen, Hot Chocolate, Hard Apple Cider, and Winter Sleigh Ride. Holiday soaps will sell out fast, so don’t miss out!

In addition to holiday soaps, we have customer favorites like De-Stress Stress Relief, Carrot Buttermilk, and Hobbit’s Garden, and seasonal treats like Vanilla Chai Latte, Pumpkin Pie, and Pumpkin Ale.

The coupon is good for any soaps, so why not get yourself a little something, too? Don’t wait—the coupon is good only through Cyber Monday.

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Holiday Soaps Lineup

Candy Cane

Believe it or not, the holidays are right around the corner. Here is a list of the seasonal soaps you can expect to see in the store in time for holiday shopping:

  • Hard Apple Cider, made with Angry Orchard® hard apple cider and scented with a delicious apple cider fragrance.
  • Mayflower Happy Hour, made with Mayflower Pale Ale and scented with a spicy amber ale fragrance.
  • Christmas Cookies, made with a ginger cookie fragrance and cute gingerbread men.
  • Hot Chocolate, made with a gorgeous hot chocolate fragrance and little soap marshmallows.
  • Candy Cane, made with a delicious candy cane fragrance blend including peppermint essential oil in a candy cane red-and-white stripe.
  • Winter Sleigh Ride, made with a fragrance blend of oranges, apple, peppermint, and cloves and a pretty swirl of Christmas red, green, and white.
  • Winter Wonderland, made with a fresh water/snow fragrance and a gorgeous swirl of blues.
  • Cranberry and Blood Orange, made with a blend of cranberry and orange fragrances and a swirl of red, orange, and creamy white with dried oranges embedded in the tops.
  • Candy Apple, made with a holiday candy apple fragrance and a swirl of red and white.
  • White Tea & Ginger, a spicy hint of ginger in a refreshing yogurt-based soap.

In addition to these seasonal soaps, you can expect to see year-round favorites such as Oatmeal, Milk, & Honey; Coffee & Cream; Guinness Beer; Lavender Dream; Lemongrass Sage; Provence; Sweet Honeybee; Baby Soap; and a new hit, De-Stress Stress Relief that was debuted last weekend at the stART on the Street festival here in Worcester—and is already sold out!

Which one are you most looking forward to?

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Fall Soaps

New England Handmade Artisan Soaps has a fall seasonal line of soaps, including some returning favorites and some new soaps you’re sure to love.

Apple Butter Soap

Apple Butter is scented with a rich blend of applejack peel—cinnamon, cloves, and red apples—and buttery vanilla. A gorgeous fall treat perfect for apple-picking season! Ingredients: olive oil, water, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, sodium hydroxide, fragrance, shea butter, castor oil, cream, kaolin clay, colorant, tussah silk. Available now!

Autumn Fig HarvestAutumn Fig Harvest became one of my favorites as soon as I made it. I love the spatter tops of these bars, and the fragrance is one of my favorites—top notes of bright and crisp apple, lemon and ginger with middle notes of fig, caramel, and cinnamon that lead to more earthy base notes of coffee, twigs, and wet forest. Ingredients: olive oil, water, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, fragrance, shea butter, sweet almond oil, castor oil, cream, kaolin clay, colorants, tussah silk. Available September 13.

Carrot ButtermilkCarrot Buttermilk is a lovely facial soap. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene and Vitamin A and have antioxidant and soothing properties. Buttermilk has alpha-hydroxy acid, which helps rejuvenate skin with gentle exfoliation. Ingredients: olive oil, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, water, sodium hydroxide, carrot purée, apricot kernel oil, castor oil, buttermilk, kaolin clay, tussah silk. Available September 21.

Johnny AppleseedJohnny Appleseed, born John Chapman, was from nearby Leominster, MA, right here in Worcester County. This soap is named in honor of our native son, and it smells as delicious as the apples he helped spread across America—a crisp mix of red and green apples. Ingredients: olive oil, water, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, sodium hydroxide, fragrance, shea butter, castor oil, cream, kaolin clay, colorants, cranberry seeds, tussah silk. Available today!

Oatmilk, Milk, & HoneyA great favorite, this soap is made with real raw local honey. I have a beekeeper friend who trades me her honey for soap! It’s also chock full of other great things for your skin, such as finely ground oatmeal and whole oats and goat milk. To top it off, it smells like grandma’s oatmeal cookies! This one will be a favorite with both men and women. Ingredients: olive oil, goat milk, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, sodium hydroxide, shea butter, fragrance, castor oil, finely ground oatmeal, honey, whole oats. Available now!

Coffee & CreamCoffee & Cream is made with a mix of invigorating coffee and rich cream and scented with a blend of coffee house coffee and Turkish mocha. Smooth and silky! Great for either men or women. Ingredients: olive oil, coffee, coconut oil, sodium hydroxide, sweet almond oil, cream, fragrance, cocoa butter, shea butter, castor oil, kaolin clay, colorant, tussah silk, coffee grounds. Available now!

Pumpkin PiePumpkin Pie is a fall favorite. Made with genuine New England One Pie® pumpkin and scented with a heavenly pumpkin pie fragrance, you don’t want to miss this one. Just like pumpkin spice lattes, they only appear once a year. Ingredients: olive oil, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, One-Pie® Pumpkin, water, sodium hydroxide, shea butter, fragrance, castor oil, cream, sweet almond oil, colorant, pumpkin pie spice. Available September 14.

Vanilla Chai LatteVanilla Chai Latte is nice combination of warm vanilla and spices like cinnamon and clove. A wonderful fall treat! Another nice fragrance for either men or women. Ingredients: olive oil, water, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, fragrance, cream, shea butter, castor oil, kaolin clay, colorant, tussah silk. Available September 28.

De-Stress

I’m so in love with this De-Stress Stress Relief creamy white soap! Made with a blend of spearmint and eucalyptus essential oils, believed to be uplifting, soothing, and calming. I certainly can’t stop sniffing them! Perfect for men or women. A note: This soap will be added to my year-round line if customers enjoy it. Ingredients: olive oil, water, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, sodium hydroxide, castor oil, cream, spearmint essential oil, eucalyptus essential oil, kaolin clay, colorant, jojoba beads. Available October 3.

Keep your eyes peeled on the store so you don’t miss your favorites. I have to confess: fall is my favorite season, and the fall soaps are my favorites, too.

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Lye-Heavy Soaps

I think nearly every soapmaker makes a mistake and winds up with lye-heavy soap.Lye Heavy SoapI unmolded these beauties this morning. This soap was supposed to be a really nice lavender goat milk soap. I’m not happy that I used some nice materials with this result, but it does happen.

I knew something was wrong as I was mixing this soap together. It seemed to trace much more quickly than I thought it would, and I wondered if it was false trace, so I kept blending. I am still not sure if it really did get mixed well.

I check on my soap frequently as it sits to gel, and this one acted up almost immediately. I could see a yellow fluid oozing out of the tops of the bars. And it kept oozing, even after I patted it dry with paper towels. I checked it several more times, and each time, more liquid ooze.

It also seemed to take quite a long time to begin to gel. A few hours passed before I detected the temperature was over 100°F. It also seemed softer than usual. Even if soaps haven’t yet begun to gel, they begin to harden so that you can press lightly on the surface.

Sure enough, when I unmolded the soaps this morning, there was a large amount of that yellow liquid underneath the bars. They were the mottled shade you see in the image rather than a nice uniform lavender shade. I could see the lye much better on the bottoms of the bars, so out of curiosity, I put a pH strip into some of the oozy liquid on the bottom of a bar.

pH TestIf you haven’t used these kinds of test strips before, you might not be familiar with how to read them. Essentially, you hold the strip up to the scale on the package above and compare it to the different sets of colors. I think my test strip looks most like the set labeled 14. If you are not familiar with the pH scale, it works like this:

  • It ranges from 0-14.
  • It measures how acidic or basic (or alkaline) a substance is.
  • Substances with a pH below 7 are acidic.
  • Substances with a pH above 7 are alkaline.
  • Substances with a pH of 7 are neutral and are neither acidic nor alkaline.
  • Each number is ten times greater than the number before. For example, something that is pH 11 is ten times more alkaline than something that is pH 10. Likewise, something that is pH 4 is ten times more acidic than something that is pH 5.
  • 14 is just about as alkaline as you can get. Lye is about 14 on the pH scale.

Yikes! I certainly should not have been handling my soap with bare hands! It was dangerously lye heavy. I immediately washed my hands. The tips of my fingers are a little dry, but other than that, no damage. A quick note: The soap itself was probably not uniformly pH 14. I’m pretty sure the pH strip came in direct contact with a patch of lye in the soap. In any case, I should have been using gloves to unmold. I’m really glad I didn’t try to zap test it.

In the case of this particular batch, I don’t know what I did wrong, so rebatching it in an attempt to fix it is probably not a good idea. If you know exactly what you did wrong to produce lye heavy soap, you can try rebatching it and correcting the problem. For instance, if you know you forgot an oil, or that you used the wrong amount of oil, you can shred the soap with a grater and put it in the crock pot, add the oil, and cook the soap, similar to making hot process soap. I personally hate rebatching. Your rebatched soap is just not going to be as nice as regular cold process or even hot process soap. I have done it once and swore I’d never do it again. However, some soapmakers regularly rebatch their soap and like it just fine.

What can you do if you don’t know what you did wrong? You have two options:

  1. Toss it in the trash.
  2. Use it as laundry soap.

I put on a pair of gloves and shredded the soap. Then I put it in a box in the laundry room. Interestingly enough, the first soaps used were laundry soaps. Ancient Babylonians used soap as early as 2800 BCE. Archaeologists have found evidence of a soap-like residue in containers, and a cuneiform tablet dated from 2200 BCE had a soap recipe on it. The recipe describes the soap’s use for washing clothes. Your grandmother or great-grandmother may even have made soap to use for the laundry. Though lye-heavy soap is too harsh to use on your skin, you can use it to clean your clothes, and that way, at least it doesn’t go to waste. Lye-heavy soap is actually pretty good at whitening whites and cutting grease. It’s best used with some washing soda, Borax, and baking soda to create a nice detergent. The Soap Queen has some laundry soap tips here.

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Luxury Goat Milk Soap: Recipe and Tutorial

Cee from Oil & Butter is my favorite soap blogger for many reasons. She is generous with her expertise and her ideas. Her soap looks incredible (and her photographs are beautiful). She is knowledgeable and friendly. She shared a recipe and tutorial for a Luxury Soap two years ago, and it looks so gorgeous that I have been dying to try it. In the spirit of Cee’s original post, I share my recipe, advice, and reflections.

Luxury SoapIngredients

Lye Solution

  • 291 g goat milk
  • 85 g coconut milk
  • 155 g lye

Oils

  • 56 g mango butter
  • 57 g shea butter
  • 225 g coconut oil
  • 200 g palm oil
  • 430 g olive oil
  • 57 g avocado oil
  • 57 g sweet almond oil
  • 56 g castor oil

Additives

  • 1.5 t honey mixed with 1.5 t distilled water
  • 68 g fragrance (I chose Brown Sugar and Fig from Nature’s Garden)
  • 2 t Diamond Dust Mica dispersed in the sweet almond oil
  • 1 T sodium lactate

Equipment

First, a quick note about grams as opposed to ounces. I use grams to measure the weight of my soap ingredients because grams are more precise than ounces, even if you are measuring tenths of an ounce. I always recommend that soapmakers use grams, and whenever I use a recipe someone else has posted, I convert it to grams using SoapCalc.

This recipe was adapted from Cee’s own Luxury Soap recipe. I removed the jojoba oil mainly because it’s terrifically expensive. I don’t have much of it right now, and I prefer to use it for leave-on products like lotions, like other soapmakers. It’s perfectly fine in soap, however, and I didn’t remove it because I thought it shouldn’t be used. Using it would certainly have added a bit of decadence to an already almost sinful soap, but I think the recipe is plenty luxurious without it, too. I didn’t have chamomile extract, so I didn’t use that either. Aside from removing the jojoba and chamomile extract, I tweaked the numbers of the other oils and swapped almond milk for coconut milk. Otherwise, the recipes are quite similar.

I began by preparing the oils. First, I measured out the butters.

Mango ButterMango butter is truly wonderful. It is similar to shea butter in some respects in that it has a significant amount of unsaponifiables, meaning that more of the conditioning and moisturizing qualities of the butter make it through the saponification process. It also contributes to a creamy lather.

Shea Butter I added the shea butter to the mango butter. I use shea butter and/or cocoa butter in almost all of my soaps because I love what it does for skin. It does speed up trace, so be careful.

Coconut OilIn with the coconut oil. It’s so hot here today that it’s completely melted already. Actually the mango butter was kind of soft as well. It’s usually a little harder (and almost brittle) than it was today. Coconut oil is great for bubbles—it contributes to fluffy lather and cleansing as well as bar hardness. I use coconut oil in almost all of my soaps.

Palm OilThe last hard oil is palm oil, which I use because it contributes to bar hardness, stable lather, and conditioning. I use it in a lot of my soaps.

What I like to do is put all my hard oils in the soap bowl together, then melt them in the microwave. It saves time as opposed to melting each separately and adding them together. I warmed these oils for about one minute (try 30-second bursts). At that point, the shea was almost melted, so I stirred it until it was completely melted.

Olive OilA quick word about olive oil: you can use any grade of olive oil in soap, but I always use pure golden olive oil. I don’t think it’s necessary to use extra virgin olive oil in soapmaking. In fact, it’s not different enough from pure golden olive oil to warrant its own category in SoapCalc, though olive oil pomace is. I personally don’t use pomace because pure golden olive oil is available at my local discount membership warehouse for a really good price (and no shipping). I use olive oil in every single soap I make. It’s highly conditioning and contributes to stable lather and bar hardness. I believe it to be the single best soaping oil there is.

Soft Oils

I prepared the soft oils—olive oil, avocado oil, and castor oil—measuring them out one at a time, and then adding them all to the melted hard oils and butters.

Avocado oil contains vitamins A, D, and E, and contributes to the bar’s conditioning properties.

Castor oil is the best source of ricinoleic acid and make the lather much fluffier and more stable. I use castor oil in most of my soaps. Castor oil is also a natural humectant, which means it draws moisture to the skin. I usually only use 5%, except in shampoo bars.

Mica Added

I added my Diamond Dust Mica to the sweet almond oil, mixed it with a small hand mixer, and then added the sweet almond oil to the rest of the oils. Sweet almond oil is another of my favorite oils. It contributes to a stable lather and conditioning bar. It works well as a carrier oil for colorants, too. It’s also great in lotions.

I blended the oils so that the Diamond Dust Mica would disperse. Look at that pearly sheen!

Diamond Dust Mica

I believe this mica is probably similar to Bramble Berry’s Super Pearly White Mica. That lovely, pearl sheen will not completely make it through the soapmaking process, but if you use it in melt-and-pour soap, you should see a nice shimmer in your soap. I do still notice a little bit of shimmer in cold process soap as well, and it definitely adds something that just plain titanium dioxide lacks.

Goat Milk and Coconut Milk

After my oils were prepared, I prepared my milks and lye. Why didn’t I do that before preparing the oils? Well, if I were using water, I would have prepared the lye mixture first because it needs time to cool. However, if I am starting with frozen milk, there is no reason to start with the lye mixture because it doesn’t need to cool. In fact, I find that I can control my milk and lye much better if I prepare it after the oils. I have found that if you prepare the milk and lye before the oils, the fats in the goat milk begin to saponify, and while that’s not necessarily problematic for any reason, I just find I like it better if the milk is still liquid. I used a 6% lye discount in this soap, but you could alter it to your preferred superfat if you like. I find 6% to be my personal sweet spot.

Lye MixtureWorking with milk requires a bit more effort than working with water. I use a stainless steel pot because if I need to quickly cool it down the mixture, stainless steel is a better conductor (hot or cold) than plastic or glass. I also add the lye to the milk just a little at a time and stir until the lye is dissolved. Then I add more. It can take a little while. Once all the lye was added, and I was relatively sure the all of it had dissolved in the milk, I added the sodium lactate to the lye mixture and stirred well to dissolve it.

Lye MixtureI checked the temperature of the lye mixture, and it was about 82°F. Pretty good. I don’t like it to rise above 90°F. If it starts to become too warm, I put the pan in a cool water bath to bring the temperature down.

Another benefit of preparing the oils first and then the lye mixture is that the oils have a little bit more time to cool down as well. I didn’t take their temperature, but my guess is that they were 90-95°F by the time the lye was ready. They would likely have been about 100°F when I began preparing the lye mixture.

Once the lye mixture was ready, I added it to the oils and stirred a little bit. Anne-Marie Faiola of Bramble Berry likes to pour the lye mixture down the barrel of her stick blender to reduce splashing and bubbles. I did that this time, too.

Stick Blending SoapI stick blended until a very light trace, then I added the honey. Honey will accelerate trace, so make sure you add it at a light trace, or you may find you have gone too far with the stick blending. When I use honey in soap, I mix it with an equal amount of distilled water. In this case, I used 1.5 t of honey, so I mixed it with 1.5 t of water. Then I microwave the honey for a very short time—only 5-10 seconds. I stir until it dissolves in the water. I find that I have fewer issues with scorching, overheating, and caverns in soap if I dissolve the honey. I have also learned not to use more honey than I need. I wouldn’t go higher than a tablespoon in a batch of this size, and given I used a log mold instead of a slab mold, even that much might have caused temperature issues. Honey is a natural humectant and contributes to the lather in soap.

I added my fragrance, which was Nature’s Garden’s Brown Sugar and Fig. I wanted a scent that evoked the creaminess of the soap. I chose this fragrance also because I knew that it had a very small amount of vanillin in it, and reviews said that it didn’t discolor. I love the fragrance description:

This magical, complex fragrance oil by Nature’s Garden is composed of top notes of fresh figs, peaches, and passion fruit; followed by middle notes of coconut milk, vanilla orchid, jasmine, muguet, and freesia; well-balanced with base notes of vanilla beans, caramel, maple sugar, fig leaves, and musk.

To be honest, I don’t smell any fruit notes, with the possible exception of the fig. I mostly smell vanilla, sugar, and musk. It smells great, and I think it’s perfect in this soap. I had no issues with acceleration or ricing. I’ll have to wait and see as the soap cures to determine whether the claims that it doesn’t discolor are true.

I should think other good fragrance choices might be Nature’s Garden’s Baby Bee Buttermilk or Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey or Bramble Berry’s Wildflower Honey (which will discolor, but to a nice honey shade).

TraceI blended to a pretty thick trace, then poured the soap into my 10-inch silicone loaf mold, which was the perfect size for this recipe. Bramble Berry recommends using sodium lactate to make it easier to remove soap from this mold, and in any case, sodium lactate adds a nice silky feel to soap.

Soap In the MoldLike Cee, I spooned soap on the top after doing a little bit of sculpting, but I didn’t think my tops were as pretty as hers, so I experimented a bit with a skewer to create a slightly different design.

Swirled Soap TopsI spritzed it with 91% isopropyl alcohol, which might not have been strictly necessary since I didn’t choose to gel the soap, but it can’t hurt anyway. Isopropyl alcohol can help prevent soda ash on the tops of soap, but it’s not 100% effective.

A quick word about gelling milk soaps. You will hear some soapmakers insist that you can’t or shouldn’t gel milk soaps. I don’t see any problem with it. I gel most of my milk soaps. Even the ones with honey in them, too. I have only had a problem with overheating once, and it was because I used way too much honey. My advice is to do what you want. I chose not to gel this one because I didn’t want it to darken as much as I knew it would if I gelled it. You might not need to insulate, or perhaps just to insulate lightly, but your milk soaps will gel just fine if you are mindful of the other additives you use and keep an eye on the temperature.

Cut Luxury SoapThe cut soaps smell wonderful. I am going to let them have a nice long cure and give them to family and friends for Christmas.

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The Store is Open!

Romeo and JulietWoo! It’s time to celebrate because the online store is now open. You can access the store at any time by clicking the Shop link in the menu bar at the top of every page on this site.

You may be asking yourself why buy New England Handmade Artisan Soaps here instead of at the Etsy store? Customers who purchase soaps here will have a couple of advantages over customers on Etsy.

First, all new soaps will appear here for a full week before they appear on Etsy, so you can be the first to order new soaps and make sure you don’t miss out if you order via the shop. That also means that if items sell out in this shop, they may never appear on Etsy, so if you really don’t want to miss it, check it out here.

Second, the shipping in the shop has been calculated by weight instead of by item. Etsy will not allow shipping to be calculated by weight, which is how the USPS calculates shipping. As a result, I have to calculate by item, which sometimes results in inaccurate shipping charges. While I do refund shipping overages that amount to more than $1.00, it is much simpler to pay the correct amount in the first place.

A final advantage to customers in this shop is that they will have the opportunity to order more items. I plan to list fewer numbers of soaps on Etsy—in many cases, only a maximum of three bars of the same soap will be listed on Etsy.

With all these reasons to try the new shop, it is my hope that if you have been a loyal customer of my Etsy store, that you will give the new shop a whirl.

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