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Soap making: first aid for soap problems

Soap making always went well, but maybe it was beginner's luck. Since a few years I make my own soap with laurel berry oil. And a basic olive oil soap. I had excellent results. Until today. What went wrong with the soap? I tell you.

I wanted to make lavender soap, but it already went wrong in the base

The soap calculator had calculated for me:

  • 276 grams of olive oil
  • 184 grams coconut oil
  • 67,55 grams NaOH (sodium lye)
  • 174.8 grams of water (lavender hydrolate, tap water or distilled water)
  • 14.26 grams of essential lavender oil
  • Dried lavender

Luckily I hadn’t added the lavender oil yet.

  1. Add NaOH to the water (not the other way around).
  2. Heat olive oil and coconut oil au bain Marie.
soap making so far so good
Heat olive oil and coconut oil au bain Marie.

The temperature of the lye turned out to sting at 30 degrees. I should have stopped by then, because that’s not good. If you add NaOH to water the temperature rises enormously.

The mixer overheated but no ‘trace’

According to the recipe, both lye and oil had to be between 30 and 40 degrees when they were put together. And that’s what I did quickly. (stupid!) The lye a bit colder than the oil, but between 30 and 40 degrees. Earlier I always had both at exactly the same temperature, between 40 and 50 degrees.

I added oil and lye together and started to mix. The mixer overheated, but the mixture didn’t get thicker, no trace of the so-called ‘trace’. You should be able to put a mark trace the mixture before adding essential oil and pouring it into the mould.

After three quarters of an hour I gave up. And I could have done that after just fifteen minutes, I now understand.

What went wrong with the soap?

I searched the internet in Dutch, but couldn’t find any help with soap problems. Apparently everyone immediately makes good soap. 🙂

Still, I needed to know: was it the sink unblocker NaOH, which didn’t get very hot and, on closer inspection, only consisted of 90% NaOH?

In English I came a lot further. On this great website with answers to a lot of mistakes you can make. It became clear to me right away that my lye is not good. I’d better buy others. And I also read that if you don’t use palm fat (who still uses palm fat? I hope no one else does) it’s better to use a lower percentage of water.

You can change that percentage in this soap calculator. From 38% in my recipe to 33% or even lower, which is recommended according to the Nerdyfarmwife.

I’m going to make another lavender soap soon. With new lye and less water.

See my next blog for a good working recipe to make lavender soap

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What is your experience with soap making? Does it always go well? Do you have a different problem or a different solution? Share it, we all learn from it 🙂

Mariette van Schaik
Mariette van Schaik

owner of Essential.blue

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