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FAQ - Soap Making Questions

Using Up Soap Waste

Question:

Even with the very precise equipment there is waste from the ready soap. Would you have a solution to use the little chips and cuts of soap? Could we somehow use the waste? May be you have this kind of inquiry from other manufacturers too?

We would be too happy to have your advice on this issue.

Answer:

We encountered the same problem with waste. Even though we kept careful notes and tried to adjust our batch size to the least amount of waste, there was always some left.

 

We used several methods. One was to make balls of soap. Within a day of cutting the soap we would take the scraps and a small scale and weigh out piles of soap to a specific weights. I our case it was 4 oz (113gr). We would then work the soap as you would dough until it was soft enough to roll into balls. We then would cure it as normal. We sold these to retailers as Victorian Soap Balls. Actually, at the turn of the 19th century this was a popular way to purchase soap. Later it was found if we ground the soap up it was easier to knead and make into balls.

 

Another method was the use of the Soap Shaper. It took a while to perfect it so that it extruded the soap correctly. Basically, you take your scrap soap, grind it up, place in the extruder and squeeze the soap out like a big caulking gun. We offer a number of shapes. The ropes are then cured a week or so (depends on your soap) and then cut into sample bars. These shapes left in long lengths can also be inserted into the blocks of soap. One way is to place the Loaf Cutting Grid over the mold and use it as a guide to place the shapes. When the loaves are cut into bars they will show the cross section of the shape.

 

You can re-melt the scrap and re-pour it. It does not look quite the same as your original cold processed soap and you would need to add a little fragrance back in. You cut it into bars and cure it as you normally would. The problem here with re-melting (called re-batching) is collecting enough scrap. You can experiment with it to see what you think. I am sure there is info on the Net for the best way to do this.

 

We had a customer that wanted shapes cut out of slabs of soap. There was so much waste that we turned to re-batching, to recover it most of it. Personally, I do not like this soap. It does not look good. It is literally cooked to death. Any superfat oils left are ruined and their inherent properties destroyed. There are actually people who make CP soap, re-melt it, re-pour and then cut it. Makes no sense to me but there are those who feel better making things more difficult. :o)

 

For grinding the soap we used a large commercial meat grinder both for rolling the balls and for the soap shaper. A hand grinder works for smaller amounts.

 

We also found a simple way to store the soap for extended periods. Using a bucket, we would put in the scrap soap and tamp it down as evenly as possible. We then would put a round piece of plastic similar to a trash bag over the soap. Another layer would be placed, then more plastic and so on. This separated the different scents and allowed the soap to build up to a larger quantity where it would be more efficient in working with. When it got to the point we were making a lot of soap, we had a bucket for each scent. The soap will keep years in this condition.

 

Ground up soft soap can be molded like clay. It can be kept wrapped in plastic, like a food wrap plastic for quite a while. Great thing for kids to work with. After they mold it, it is just set aside to cure. When it is cured they get to wash with it. A friend of mine Sandy Maine of SunFeather Soap sells little kits just for this purpose. It is sold all over the country.

 

Finally, we have customers who simply put the scraps in a bags and sell the pieces. I hope some of this helps.

Drying Soap

Question:

I am interested in producing bars that are 2-1/2" high by 1-5/8" wide by 5/8" thick. Do you see any problem with drying a bar of soap this size, such as curling while curing? Is there difficulty in cutting a bar so small?

Answer:

You can stack bars on edge, as thin as 3/8", kind of like dominoes and then on top of the row lay other bars flat to bind the row. Bind two rows together with this same layer. Space the bars on edge about 1/8” (3mm) apart This way you can move them on trays and it allows them to dry quickly without warping and without needing to turn them. There is no difficulty in cutting a bar this size.

Lye Tanks

 

Question:

How do you go about mixing the sodium hydroxide with the water for such big batches of soap?

Answer:

For mixing your sodium hydroxide (lye) you can simply mix it in a five gallon plastic bucket, using one bucket per mold/batch. You can use one of our NaOH (Lye) Tanks and gravity feed it into the Pot Tipper sitting on a floor scale. You can put a scale below the tank valve, zero it out and empty into a bucket.

When to cut soap

 

Question:

When must soaps be cut?

Answer:

Generally you cut immediately upon de-molding. If you are asking, when can you de-mold and cut then this depends on individual conditions, temperature of the room, how you cover it, oils used, etc. but usually around 48 to 72 hours for Air Soap Cutter™ molds, 24 to 48 hours for Manual Soap Cutter™ molds, overnight for the Block and Loaf molds. HP Processed cut as soon as possible.

natural preservatives

 

Question:

What type of natural preservatives do you use to protect your soaps. Right now I am not using any and some soaps go rancid and some do not, usually the light colored ones.

Answer:

If made properly and saponified fully, soap will last several years. I am sure you are making it properly so I imagine it is oxidation. Some oils and EOs are prone to this.

 

Using a good food grade sodium hydroxide is important for consistency. Of course you do need fresh oils but I have kept olive oil for two years with no difficulty. There are different compounds you can try. We used to use Rosemary Extract.

 

Contact: Rockland Foods in NY, 914-358-8600 - ask for information on Stabil enhance-OSR liquid product #2601. They should be able to email you some technical information. I forget what the cost is. It has been several years but a gallon lasted us about three years.

 

We used 11 grams per 54 lbs of oil. Very little is needed. You can also put it in your olive oil to get more life out of it. This does make a slightly darker shade on your soap even though it is a tiny amount. You want to shake it when you use it and keep it in a dark place. Every few months warm it to about 120F, then shake it up.

 

Vitamin E (natural) helps but is expensive. There are other products that are available.

 tracing time

 

Question:

You say on your site that the Pot Whipper will reduce my tracing time and give me a better blend of ingredients. Can you give me an idea as to what my tracing time might be using the Pot Whipper?

Answer:

Generally speaking, your tracing time will be between 5 to 7 minutes, depending upon your batch.

coloring and swirling

 

Question:

Can you give me some advice on soap coloring and swirling? There is very little information and I am a bit desperate. We have pigments here but they are not dissolving. Do you know anything about that?

Answer:

If you could tell me the kind of pigments you got and where, it would help possibly. Some are water-soluble and some are oil soluble. It sometimes helps to heat the medium (water/oil) to around 180 F to dissolve.

 

When we would swirl soap, we would use anywhere from 1/4th to 1/3rd of the entire batch to make the swirl color. It was sometimes difficult to incorporate the scent in the swirl color since it could be getting pretty thick by the time the main pour was made. We would just put all of scent in the base and not divide it up into the swirl solution.

 

Pour the soap with the swirl color, into the tray in an S pattern, back and forth. Then using a spatula, just swirl it around either across this pattern or with it. Experimentation will show you what look that you prefer. You can do the same with large block molds by just layering it up. Here are some sites that give tips on swirling.

http://www.halderman.net/soap/instructions/cpswirling.htm

http://www.geocities.com/blueaspenoriginals/how_to_swirl.html

http://www.teachsoap.com/swirlsoap.html

 large quantities

 

Question:

I want to produce soap in large quantities but in single molds with a 3D look and hopefully with a logo. Would this be cost effective?

Answer:

M&P (melt & pour) soap works well with single cavity molds but CP (cold processed) does not. The soap must go through a saponification stage where the sodium hydroxide / water and oils combine to form soap and glycerin. Heat generated by this process, helps in the conversion of the oils. Small cavity molds do not allow the soap to fully develop and finish off and you get an inferior quality soap. You also generally get ash on the top of the bar that must be removed by scraping it off, again displaying incomplete conversion of oils.

 

M&P would be fine for single cavity, 3D molds but it is not cost effective for CP production. M&P can be cooled rapidly and de-molded fairly quickly,. CP must sit for 12 hours or more, even in the small cavity molds. Large production of M&P has it's problems which we can explain if you like.

Lye Tanks

80 Gal. NaOH Tank

Question:

You said that I can add my goats milk into the oils instead of when I mix my lye/water solution. Will this affect the lasting quality of the soap over the old tried and true method of mixing in with the lye/water.

Answer:

That is correct. You can just put the goats milk into your oils, then mix in the lye/water or put in the lye/water into the oils, then the milk, it doesn't matter. The reason that someone originally and probably thought they had to put the milk into the lye/water, at the same time the lye/water was mixed, is because they probably considered it as part of the water. And.....they probably didn't think past this solution since they were making small batches for friends and family.

You see, most of the early books on soapmaking were written by people making small batches without much care to production and efficiency. There was little need for a "better way".

Some of this filters down into what I call, < Urban Legend >. One very good example of this is pouring in your lye. There is no need to dribble it in, you just dump it in. It is amazing the bad habits I run across regularly that people have passed down to others.

You can also let the lye cool down completely to almost room temperature, then add the milk. It will increase in temperature a little due to reacting with the new liquid but it won't scald your milk. If you are doing multiple batches you can do this in the lye tank. With a little observation and note taking you will soon know exactly what temperatures you will have.

There are probably other ways to add milk that I haven't thought of but rest assured, your soap will last just as long both ways, if everything else in the formula is just the same. The method of incorporating the milk will make no difference. Matter-of-fact, if you think about it, your milk will be going through less stress and fewer temperature changes, so your actual end product should by all rights be of higher quality.

Drying Racks

 

Question:

The drying racks are wonderful, but from there should they (Soap Bars) be in cardboard, plastic, bins, open, or closed or what??? (until they (Soap Bars) get into stores)

Answer:

You can just push the soap together on a drying tray and then put a piece of liner paper or butcher paper over the tray. This holds the scent in better than spaced apart, yet lets the soap breath.

However, you can put them in cardboard boxes but make sure there is some breathing room on top and don't line with plastic. In humid climates the soap can sweat, if too tightly enclosed. Plastic bins work but should be vented in humid climates.

If you are in a dry climate, you may find you can store in air tight containers or tightly packed in boxes.

How long my soap will last

Question:

I wanted to know if the soapmaker software shows how long recipes will last before it goes rancid. Does it provide expiration dates for the products? How long before bacteria forms; and if not how can I test my products for bacteria and expiration dates?

Answer:

Unless your formula has a very high superfat percentage the soap should last years. It is unsaponified fats that will cause rancidity. If you use no more than a 5% to 6% superfat you will be fine.

We have had soap last 6 years or more sitting in the shop, no air conditioning, high humidity. The only thing that may occur is that some EOs can discolor, lavender is prone to this.

Due to individualized formulation, the broad and extensive range of possible combinations, no software will be able to predict or quantify the outcome of a formulation.

 

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