Friday, 29 November 2013

How to deal with a curdled disaster!

Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos while making this so the post is going to look a bit boring. This soap started out as a disaster for me but I managed to remedy the situation and ended up with a really nice bar of soap in the end. I have outlined below what went wrong, how I remedied it and what to do to prevent this happening to you.

This soap contains lots of really rich oils to provide lots of moisture for sensitive facial skin, along with kaolin clay to cleanse and gently exfoliate dead skin cells.

Please read the health and safety instructions, and the whole post before attempting this recipe.

Rose and Kaolin Facial Bar

Olive oil 100g
Coconut oil 100g
Shea Butter 25g
Lard 125g
Rapeseed oil 75g
Palm oil 25g
Cocoa Butter 25g
Distilled water 190g
Sodium hydroxide 68.9g
Kaolin 1tbsp
Pink mica 1tsp
Rose fragrance oil 20mls

  • Place the water into a plastic container and slowly add the sodium hydroxide bit by bit until it has completely dissolved.
  • Gently heat the oils in a pan until they have completely dissolved.
  • Wait until both the lye mixture and the oils have cooled to 45C then combine them in a plastic container.
  • Blend the two together until the soap mixture reaches trace.
  • Add in the kaolin, mica (you may want to add more than 1tsp, I wanted a really pale shade of pink for my soap so this is why I used such a small amount).
  • Then I added the fragrance oil and about two seconds later the mixture started to resemble curdled milk with lots of the liquid oils separating out (apparently this is common when dealing with certain fragrance oils especially floral ones)
  • I spooned it into the mold in one big glob and hoped that the soap would sort itself out when it reached gel phase.
  • The next morning I checked on it and it was still an oily mess.
  • My plan was to heat it up in a pan to rebatch it but I know you can't make soap in an aluminium pan so I tried all the pans we have with a magnet to find a steel one and no luck!
  • As a last resort, I set our big soup pan on the stove and filled it with boiling water.
  • I spooned the dodgy soap mix into a zip lock plastic bag and the put another bag around it to keep out the water.
  • I boiled the soap mixture in the bag until it had completely melted, at this point the soap turned from a curdled mess into a nice smooth soap mix which I squeezed out of the bag back into the mold and allowed to set.
  • I left the soap for two weeks to dry out, then it was ready to use. I'm really pleased with it as it moisturises my dry facial skin really well and has a lovely light smell of roses.

I have done some research and there are several things you can do to prevent the soap seizing so badly when you add certain fragrance oils. I will give these methods a go next time I work with fragrance oil.

1. Add your fragrance oil to the melted oils before adding the sodium hydroxide as the effects of the fragrance oil will be diluted by the other oils.
2. Mix the oil and sodium hydroxide together at a lower temperature to prevent the mixture reaching trace as quickly.
3. Make your soap base with a higher amount of liquid oils as this will also slow down trace.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Chef's Coffee Soap

This is designed to be used in the kitchen, the coffee grounds are great at absorbing odours and the rosemary and patchouli essential oils give it a wonderful smell that appeals to both men and women.

This soap smells amazing and the exfoliating coffee grounds are great for removing stubborn dirt. My husband used this soap after boxing with some really stinky gloves on. Usually the smell won't go away even if you wash your hands several times with regular hand soap, but his hands were left smelling great after just one wash. He also liked the smell as it isn't feminine at all.

Please read the safety information and make sure you are confident in handling sodium hydroxide before you attempt this recipe.


225g Olive oil
100g Lard
125g Coconut oil
50g Rapeseed oil
190g strong freshly brewed coffee cooled to room temperature (I used espresso)
68.55g Sodium hydroxide
2 tbsp. Coffee grounds
10g Rosemary essential oil
10g Patchouli essential oil
A soap mold (I used a plastic box lined with cling film)


Start by weighting out all of your ingredients so they are ready when you need them.

Slowly mix the brewed coffee with the sodium hydroxide little by little until it is completely dissolved and set aside to cool.


Heat the oils on a low heat until they have completely dissolved, once more set aside to cool.

When the sodium hydroxide mixture and the oils have both cooled to 35C you can mix them together. This may require cooling one of them at a faster rate in cold water to get them to the same temperature.

Mix with a hand blender until the mixture thickens and reaches 'trace'. This is the stage where you can see a mark left behind on the surface for a couple of seconds after you have removed the blender. My mixture reached trace after about six minutes of blending. You can see from the picture what this should look like.

Now add the essential oils and coffee grounds and blend for a few seconds to make sure everything is mixed thoroughly.

Pour the mixture into your mold, I used a plastic box lined with cling film to help release the soap. Cover and insulate to keep heat in while the chemical reaction is occurring. Leave for at least 15 hours before removing from the mold and slicing into pieces. Leave in a cool dry place to cure for six weeks.


Friday, 18 October 2013

Orange Smoothie Cold Process Soap

I'm being brave and attempting an orange scented soap, I'm going to add milk powder to add extra creaminess hence the name 'orange smoothie'.
I know that it is hard to get citrus scents to stay in soap and have no idea how successful this will be but I've done some research and adding certain complimentary essential oils is supposed to help the scent hold. That's why I have included patchouli, bergamot and lemongrass to the mix. Also adding fresh zest is another method of trying to help the scent to hold.

This soap turned out really well, it was nice and hard so it works really well as a shower soap as it doesn't dissolve in your hands. It has just the right combination of cleansing and moisturising properties for washing your body. The smell is wonderful and has not faded much after curing, the smell really fills the shower cubicle in a morning and it is a great scent to wake up to.

Be sure to read the heath and safety section before attempting to make soap with sodium hydroxide. It is extremely caustic and can cause serious injury if handled incorrectly.

So here goes :


100g Distilled Water (bottled water will do)
70.19g Sodium Hydroxide
250g Olive Oil
100g Lard
150g Coconut Oil
90g Distilled Water mixed with three dessertspoons of milk powder with a few strands of saffron for yellow colouring
Zest of two oranges
20g Sweet orange essential oil
20 drops of bergamot essential oil
30 drops lemongrass essential oil
10 drops patchouli essential oil

Step One

Carefully weigh out the sodium hydroxide and the distilled water in two separate containers. Slowly add the sodium hydroxide bit by bit until it is completely dissolved, stirring with a wooden or plastic spoon. Set aside to cool as it will get quite warm. You can barely see it in the bottom of the jug there is such a small amount.

Melt the oils together over a low heat and also set aside to cool. I also added the orange zest at this point as I wanted the mixture to be as smooth as possible, you can add it when you reach trace if you prefer larger chunks of zest in the soap bars.

Heat up the remaining 90g distilled water and add the strands of saffron, mix until the liquid is a nice shade of yellow then strain out the saffron through a sieve. Add the milk powder to the yellow water and stir until mixed.

At this point I also measure out my essential oils into a glass container, large volumes can take a long time to get out of the bottles drop by drop so I make sure I have everything ready in one place to pour straight into the soap, this will avoid it setting too quickly before getting it into the mold. I then cover the glass container with cling film to keep the strong smell at bay.

Wait until both the sodium hydroxide and oils have cooled to around 35C. You may have to use a bit of cold water in the sink to get one or the other to cool at a faster rate so they both reach the same temperature at the same time.

Combine the oils, sodium hydroxide mix and the milk powder mix.

Start to blend with a hand blender and the oil and water will emulsify and go a creamy colour.

The mixture will quickly heat up due to the sugars in the milk, keep blending and eventually the mixture will start to thicken. I blended for just over 10 minutes before the mixture reached trace. When you pull the blender out the mixture should be thick enough that the drips are visible on the surface of the mixture for a few seconds before disappearing, this is trace. (I couldn't get a good picture of this unfortunately) You must reach this point before putting your mixture into a mold. If you do it too soon then the sodium hydroxide and oils are not sufficiently mixed and your soap will not set properly. At this point I added my essential oils and blended for a few more seconds to make sure the oils were mixed in thoroughly.

Line your soap mold with cling film to make removal much easier. Then pour your soap into the mold, I used a cheap plastic box with a lid from the pound shop. Cover the soap mix with another piece of cling film to prevent soda ash from appearing on the surface. I then put the box lid on to act as a safety measure and prevent spillages.

Your soap mixture should be an opaque creamy yellow colour at this point. Normally  you would insulate your soap to make sure the chemical reaction completes fully, but the sugars in the milk react and produce huge amounts of heat so insulation isn't necessary. The soap will change to a dark orange colour and go translucent, this is called gel phase and shows that the reaction is occurring properly.

Leave the soap in the mold for at least 15 hours to ensure the reaction is complete. The soap can then be removed from the mold and cut into bar sized slices. It should be pretty soft but firm enough to handle. If it is still too soft remove any surface coverings and leave to air dry for a bit and hopefully it will harden enough to remove and cut. The soap then needs to be left to air dry or cure for six weeks, during this time it will dry out and become a nice firm bar of soap. I leave mine in my spare bedroom as it is away from my pets and the environment is cool and dry, perfect conditions for curing soap.

I will update this post after the soap has cured and let you know if I was successful in keeping the orange scent from disappearing.