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Home > Features > Living Well > Eco-Tips > Soapmaking Q and A June 1 1998 - Dec 3 1998

Soapmaking
Questions and Answers Archives:

June 1 1998 - Dec 3 1998

Back to Current Q & A's

Post a Soapmaking Question, Tip or Answer Back to Current Q & A's

Substitute palm oil | Conditioner is separating | Suppliers | Shiny Bath Beads? | Tacky Glue | Where to purchase lye | Gooey gloop | A sticky mass | What can I do with remnants? | Alternative to Lye? | Thanks | Benzoin | Fuse together | Powdery residue | won't cure | CANNOT USE LYE | Unscented shampoo | Why Borax? | Soap pH | Fat-to-lye | Oils spoil? | Crumbling Beads | Coloring Bath Salts | Cloudy Oils



Substitute palm oil ~ Date: Thu, 3 Dec 1998 00:44:00 -0500 (EST) Hi Zenda

Another question! I want to substitute palm oil for coconut oil, can I do that without changing the lye amount? I really don't understand the saponification table and figuring the conversion. Thank you for your help.

nellie

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REPLY:

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Conditioner is separating ~ DATE: Sat, 28 Nov

I am making shampoo and conditioner. The shampoo is great but the conditioner is separating. The recipe is from Valerie Ann Worwoods The Fragrant Pharmacy. There is alot of oil in the recipe and I can't seem to get it to work. Any ideas?

Mariah

REPLY:

Mariah-

the problem is the oils. Certain oils don't mix well in combination with others. The only thing you can do is keep stirring or shaking to mix before using.

-z

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Lye and Soapmaking Suppliers ~ Date: Tue, 24 Nov 1998

Hello!

I just found this site and I must tell you that it is absolutely wonderful! I am a new soapmaker (I've only made a few batches) and I have a couple of questions for you: I live overseas (military) and I wonder if it is legal to have lye shipped to me through the U.S. Postal service. If it is, could you give me the name & address of a lye supplier? The lye I've been purchasing has worked, but it's an Italian brand granular drain cleaner (not red devil).

Also, could you recommend a soapmaking supplier with reasonable shipping rates? I appreciate your help and your recipes. It's very nice of you to share them with us.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Thanks!

vjh vhenson@hotmail.com ---

REPLY:

vjh-

I would call UPS or FedEx on shipping hazardous materials overseas. I know that in the US there is a hazardous materials handling fee added to freight when shipping lye.

-z

Also, for suppliers, check out Soapy Links or SoapMaking Made Easy's Links.

-Alan

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Shiny Bath Beads? ~ Date: Tue, 24 Nov 1998

Thanks for all of the soap/bath product recipes. I have a couple of questions for you. First, could I ask for a recipe for shiny bath beads?

vjh vhenson@hotmail.com ---

Date: Tue, 1 Dec 1998

This is the best web site that I ever came by. I was looking for a recipe on making bath beads. How do I make them so round and shiny? I am thinking of sending them to my mother as a xmas gift.

Hey,

Have you thought of publishing a newsletter either to circulate among members or in your home town?

-Pauline ---

REPLY:

Hi, vjh

the shiny is chemically produced in commercial bath beads. There is a woman on the internet known as the pigment lady who sells iridescent powders which could make the beads shiny, but you are introducing chemicals.

z

Pauline-

The store bought bath beads are rounded by machines and chemicals make them shiny. There is an iridisent coloring you can get through the Pigment Lady though. I have never tried it, so I'm not sure of the results.

I have a small scoop that I use for the bath beads, then finish rounding in my hand. Another suggestion is to mold them in small candy molds. I do the same with the bath bombs. I use either muslin or small squares of the colored plastic wrap as packaging.

I am working on a series of small books with all kinds of recipes and gift ideas. I am keeping Alan posted on their progress. I had never thought of a newsletter though. It's worth investigating.

Thanks for your kind thoughts and question.

z

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Yellow Tacky Glue ~ Date: Tue, 24 Nov 1998

Last question: do you have any tips on hand-milling soap. I have successfully made a few batches of hand-milled soap following Norma Coney's book, but lately it's looked like yellow tacky glue. I don't know what I'm doing differently that's causing it to fail. Thank you so much for your time and help.

vjh vhenson@hotmail.com ---

REPLY:

vjh-

Hand milling is sometimes tricky. It works best with tallow or lard based soap. When rendering tallow, I strain through cheesecloth 4 or 5 times to make sure all the foreign materials are out of the tallow. When I don't have time to render tallow, I use Baker's Rite lard. I live in South Texas and lard is used in a lot of recipes, so it is in great demand. I have found when using vegetable oil based soaps, the colors do vary from ivory to yellow.

Take care z



Where to purchase lye ~ Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1998

I'M WRITTING FROM HYANNIS M.A. CAN YOU TELL ME WHAT STORES I CAN PURCHASE LYE AT AND HOW MUCH DOES IT COST.

CAROLINE ---

REPLY:

Caroline -

I buy Red Devil Lye at my grocery store. In San Antonio it is running about $4.00-$4.50 for a 12 oz can. Don't buy Drano because it has other chemicals besides lye and will ruin your batch.

z

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Gooey gloop ~ Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1998 15:59:05 -0500 (EST)

Hi! I just found this site, it's great. I have been following Norma's book for about a year now. I have a question, though. My first few batches of "plain white soap" were easily milled, colored and scents, but now every time I try to rebatch, I have a "gooey gloop" of soap in my remelted batch. Help! What could I be doing wrong now that I didn't do wrong last year?

Valerie ---

REPLY:

Hi Valerie - you're not doing anything wrong. I have different results when I rebatch depending on the weather(the soap may have too much water still or not enough), whether it is a vegetable oil based soap or tallow based soap, ect. The vegetable oil based soap is harder to rebatch. Keep trying and don't give up. When I have a gooey batch, I go ahead and add oatmeal or dried herbs and make soap balls or soap on a rope.

Hope this helps.

z

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a sticky mass ~ Sun, 22 Nov 1998

Help! I made a batch of soap using veg. shortening, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil. It set beautifully. After 2-3 days I grated it to remill it and after adding distilled water and heating it I ended up with a sticky mass that stuck to my spoon. What did I do wrong?

Irene ---

REPLY:

Irene-

Actually, you did nothing wrong - adding a little more water would've helped. The soap will never liquify though. You will always gets a very thick oatmeal consistency when rebatching.

-z

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What can I do with remnants? ~ Wed, 18 Nov 1998

I make soap using specialty oils, shea butter, distilled water and lye. My QUESTION is: I always have remnants after cutting my soap into bars and hate to dispose of them. How can I melt the remnants down to make a liquid hand soap? Any and all help most appreciated. THANKS!

Carol Castro (cbc17@juno.com) ---

REPLY:

Sat, 21 Nov 1998 07:57:58 -0600

It's going to be hard to melt to make real liquid soap. Even mixed with water, the soap doesn't melt to liquid state, more of very thick oatmeal.

Here's a suggestion though, grate your soap chips, melt with water(rebatch) and form soap balls. You can add fragrance, herbs, dried flowers, etc.. To spruce up the bathroom, place a shallow bowl next to the sink with dried rose petals, lavender, rosemary, ect and place the soap balls on top. Turn every day.

Another idea is to form the balls around rope to make soap on a rope. Hope this helps.

z

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Alternative to Lye? ~ Sun, 15 Nov 1998

Can you suggest a nontoxic alternative for lye in soapmaking? Will I just end up with a liquid lotion? Thanks for any advice,

Jennifer ---

REPLY:

Mon, 16 Nov 1998

Jennifer-

In answer to the question, there is no way to make soap without lye. The lye causes the chemical reaction that makes soap.

-Zenda

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Thanks ~ Date: Thu, 5 Nov 1998

Hi! I'd just like to say that i never realised just how many people make their own soaps and things! A woman came into the shop I work in looking for chocolate moulds saying that she would like to use them to make bath bombs. I looked this heading up here, and came across all these interesting sites. I am now looking to make soap and bath bombs etc for christmas presents. Thanks for all the info guys and gals, keep it up!!

Sushi Woman (sushi_woman@hotmail.com)

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Benzoin ~ Date: Mon, 2 Nov 1998

How important is benzoin in making hand milled soaps using vegetation?

Rachel ---

REPLY:

Date: Wed, 4 Nov 1998

Rachel-

It is used as a preservative. The vegetables or fruit would spoil and ruin the soap without it.

z

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Fuse together ~ Date: Sat, 31 Oct 1998

How or what do I need to fuse two bars of soap together? I made a small snowflake out of glycerine and I want to put it onto a bar of soap I made, also of glycerine. Everytime I attempt this the two pieces fall apart. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

mquigley----

REPLY:

Date: Mon, 2 Nov 1998

Your best bet is to put the square or round soap back in the mold, pour a thin layer(1/8 inch) of glycerin, set the snowflake on top and let cure as normal. Trying to "glue" the snowflake using a little glycerin as glue, won't work.

z

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Powdery residue ~ Date: Sat, 31 Oct 1998

I would like to add a tip, I've found that using plastic containers with lids and covering immediately upon filling, eliminates the powder residue that forms on the surface. I don't have to scrape anything off

nellie (gismo14120@aol.com)---

REPLY:

Date: Sun, 1 Nov 1998

Nellie,

That's a great tip. The white powder is called soda ash and is the lye that didn't saponify reacting with air. It can cause some nasty rashes if not scraped or washed off.

I use PVC pipe for molds and I cover with a couple of layers of plastic wrap to keep the soda ash from forming.

z

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Soap won't cure ~ Date: Sat, 31 Oct 1998

Can you tell me what I did wrong? I've made several successful batches of soap and tried a shampoo recipe using castor oil and after 3 days, the soap is still curing. The edge is gel like.

nellie (gismo14120@aol.com) ---

REPLY:

Date: Sat, 31 Oct 1998

nellie- Was the Castor Oil part of your beginning fats or was it superfatted(add addtional oil at tracing instead of in the beginning)? I have only had luck with Castor Oil when superfatting. You have to make sure it is well mixed before pouring. After adding, I usually will stir for another minute or two to make sure the added oil is blended thoroughly.

Any time you superfat it does take more time to hardened. It does take longer for the soap to cure enough to cut.

z

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CANNOT USE LYE ~ Date: Thu, 29 Oct 1998

I AM A DESPERATE 5TH GRADE ROOM MOM WHO IS LOOKING FOR A SOAP RECIPE THAT I CAN MAKE WITH THE KIDS FOR A "COLONIAL DAY" EVENT. WE CANNOT USE LYE - DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING. I WOULD BE WILLING TO PAY A SMALL FEE FOR A GOOD RECIPE--THANKS,

DIANE GROSSO RGROSSO@IX.NETCOM.COM ---

REPLY:

Diane - Unfortunately, you can't make soap without lye. Saponification is the chemical reaction between lye and fats that makes soap. z

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Unscented shampoo ~ Date: Tue, 27 Oct 1998

I would like to learn how to make shampoo because I am allergic to the fragrance in everything I use and it's difficult to find unscented shampoo. Can you tell me how to do it or where I might find out about it?

Jeanne ---

REPLY:

Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1998

Jeanne - Liquid Castille soap is all natural with no scent. I can send you the instructions for making liquid soap. It is rather lengthy, so email me with your address and I'll put it togther next week for you.

z zenda.weaver@bpsolutions.net

Thu, 29 Oct 1998

Jeanne - Your best bet is to buy liquid castille soap, add herbs, essential oils, etc. You can buy brand name unscented liquid shampoos, but they have a lot of chemicals. Making real liquid soap is quite involved. It is easier to buy the liquid castille soap. You can make shampoo, liquid hand soap, ect.

I do have recipes for shampoo bars if you are interested?

z

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Why Borax? ~ Tue, 20 Oct 1998 From: benzev@iafrica.com (Tessa Mitchell)

Dear Zenda,

I tried making your bath bombs with quite a lot of success, but I am wondering why you use a potentially toxic compound like borax powder? Is there something I am missing? Is the borax absolutely necessary? Is there an alternative product? Is 20 Mule team a brand name of Borax powder?

Sorry for the lengthy list of questions

Regards

tessa ---

REPLY:

Thu, 29 Oct 1998

Tessa - Taken internally, yes it is potentially toxic. Externally, it is a great water softener. Along the same lines as Epsom salt. It is harmful taken internally, but beneficial externally. I make borax soap, let it over dry, grate it to a powder and use it instead of laundry detergent. Yes, 20 Mule Team is a brand of Borax Powder.

z

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Soap pH ~ Wed, 14 Oct 1998

In Norma Coney's book she didn't mention the importance of pH in the soap. Therefore, in her recipes, the pH is unknown to me. What pH should soap be and what are the characteristics of it then? Does this make the soap more or less drying or harsh? (Boy, you can tell I haven't had anyone to ask soap questions to, huh?)

Thanks.

Thu, 29 Oct 1998

REPLY:

Alicia-

As for the PH balance, there are PH strips that you can buy which will monitor the PH balance of your soap. It is a good idea to use these strips until again you are comfortable with making soap.

Hope this answers your questions.

z

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Fat-to-lye ratio~ Wed, 14 Oct 1998

If I want to experiment with different oils in a basic soap recipe, what is the ratio of fats to lye that I need to stick to?"

Thank you.

Alicia.

---

REPLY:

Thu, 29 Oct 1998

Alicia -

The fat to lye ratio depends on the type of fats you are using. There is a website with a table. The problem with using different oils(canola, grapeseed, etc.) is that these oils greatly affect the soap texture and hardness.

It is best to stick with the recipes until you are comfortable making soap, then start working with the different types of oils.

I use 1 or 2 recipes, then right after tracing and before pouring I will add an ounce or 2 of grapeseed, almond, or safflower to the mixture. Stir until blended, then pour. This is called superfatting. It just makes the soap a little milder to me.

There is a lye table on the Mountain Sage website to help calculate the ratio. Rule of thumb - don't have more than 50% of your fats coconut oil. It is very drying. The coconut oil is for suds. Olive oil and palm oil are used to balance the drying effects of the coconut oil.

z

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Oils Spoil? ~ Tue, 13 Oct 1998

Hi Zenda,

I rarely visit the internet. Enjoyed your page, anxious to try some of your recipes. I've been making soap now since Labor Day and have made 3 batches of tallow, and 1 batch of olive. I'd say yes, I am addicted. It's great fun. I love to do the hand milled stuff.

I learned from Norma Coney's book and thought it quite complete, but yet had no one to ask questions of, so I was glad to see your email. I read on the internet last night that the olive and coconut soaps would spoil after a few weeks if not refrigerated, is this true?? Norma didn't mention anything like that, and I find it hard to believe after the soap is finished.

Since learning the process from Norma's book, the recipe you posted was interesting. I didn't know you could put in additives before letting the soap "make". I can't think of any other questions right now . Thanks for your time.

Alicia---

REPLY:

I have never refrigerated any of my soaps. Even the milk based soaps. As long as they have cured properly, they should be fine. I actually learned how to make regular soap first. I actually haven't done mutch rebatching. You do have to watch what you put in regular soap - the lye kills a lot of the colors and essential oils.

-z

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Crumbling Beads ~ Thu, 1 Oct 1998

I tried your bath bead recipe and could not get it to a dough consistency. It was very thin, very sticky and would not roll into balls. What could have gone wrong? On the otherhand, the bath bomb recipe turned out fantastic!

Ruth ---

REPLY:

Hi, humidity may have been the culprit or the dry ingredients may have been what I call dry/wet. Everytime I bake bread it takes a different amount of liquid to make a dough because of moisture in the flour and into the air. Try again and add wet ingredients a little at a time until you have a dough consistency.

-Zenda

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Coloring Bath Salts ~ Wed, 3 Jun 1998

Zenda,

Thank you so much for publishing your beauty recipes on the internet. They are very helpful to me. I have a question about the bath salts. Is it possible to color the bath salts? If so, what is the best coloring to use?

Your help is much appreciated!

Patty M. ---

REPLY:

Bath salts are easy to color. Before adding the essential oils, add a few drops of your favorite food color. I mix in a bottle, by putting the lid on and shaking vigorously. If you want to have dry salts, spread out on paper towels until dry. If not put in a decorative jar.

-Zenda

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Cloudy Oils ~ Mon, 01 Jun 1998

I'm making herbal bath oils for family gifts and I'm having a problem. They look beautiful when they're first finished, with a sprig or two of herbs and maybe a pansy blossom floating in them. But in about a week and a half they become cloudy and unattractive. I'm using either sunflower or grapeseed oil as my base. This morning I unsealed a bottle and strained it through a coffee filter. That helped, but I'm afraid the cloudiness will return. What can I do?!!

Gratefully,

Sandi ---

REPLY:

Try sweet Almond oil with a little vitamin e oil. It is absorbed into the skin and I have had good luck with it not clouding. On the epicurian side, use Canola or olive oil to make the flavored oils. Heat will also cause clouding. I'm in central Texas and before May was over, we had 4 or 5 days of 104 degree weather. Even with central air conditioning, I have to keep my oils in the refrigerator!!!!

-Zenda

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