Tuesday, January 06, 2009

About Failed Soap & Other Things

First, please take a look at the photo-a-day participant list in my sidebar - we've added Sherry Goshon to the crew!

A couple of folks have left comments on yesterday's post asking about why the soap failed, or wrote to ask me about it. What you see in yesterday's photo is the result of pouring a batch of 24 bars into a flat mold, only to find it 24 hours later - soft, spongy, and covered in a white substance called "ash." It was so soft, it broke into pieces when I flopped it out of the mold, instead of coming out in one hard slab, often difficult to cut. When I found the lovely, pale green soap, in this condition - and knowing the amount of quality oils contained and the cost of those oils - I decided to do what's called a re-batch.

First let me tell you that I know what I did wrong. Because I was using a new-to-me fragrance oil, and because fragrances can occasionally cause soap to "seize" or speed up and solidify before it's in the mold, I did less stirring than usual. I often stir less when using a fragrance for the first time - I bring it to a thin, almost liquid "trace," and add the fragrance, until I know the nature of the fragrance. When I made this batch of soap, I worried that I hadn't stirred it long enough, and it's now obvious that the elements of soap didn't get introduced and "marry" to make a nice, solid bar.

Most soapers hate to do a re-batch, and I'm no exception. The texture of the finished soap is not the same, and you take a chance on putting in more time and effort to only fail further. What you see in that photo is the pale green soap chopped into small pieces (that WAS 24 bars of soap), with a small amount of liquid and animal fat added (I added emu oil and a very small amount of water - normally my soaps don't have animal fat) and then simmered on low until it was goopy. Here's a step-back photo of the chopped soap ready to cook:

I glopped the hot cooked soap back into the mold, put on a lid, put a heating pad on top of that, and covered the whole mess with a lap-sized blanket. Hopefully, keeping it warm longer helped it solidify further and pulled the extra moisture out of the soap. I make soap in my basement, which isn't very warm, and soap likes to be nice and toasty at this phase.

The finished bars will be "aesthetically challenged," in my opinion. The texture won't be as solid, and the top won't be as smooth. However, if cleaning the pot was any indication, it will lather nicely! These bars of soap will most likely not be sold - I'll give them away to my ugly soap recipients, or use them myself. It's a shame, because the fragrance was one I made especially for my daughter's sister-in-law, and the color was exactly what I wanted. What are the chances of that happening again?

The good news is that I made two other batches of soap the same day, and they are fine. One is a pale tan and scented with "Spicy Geranium Verbena" and the other is a nice yellow and scented with "Yarrow." Both are fragrances I purchased from another fragrance seller - I just love fragrance, even if it isn't one I sell!

Thanks for your interest in my soap failure. I've been making soap for resale for nearly 12 years; at one point I was making 5,000 bars of soap a year. It's good for me to have the occasional failure - it keeps me on my toes.


HElen said...

To create a soap looks like a lot of work and creativity and a right match!
The kits that are being sold in crafts store not even coming close to all the work you have to do.
Sorry that you had to re-batch but hioefully it will come up good!

BumbleVee said...

maybe you could add some grit to this batch and label it as an exfoliant soap.. I just found on with some fine walnut shells in it...very scratchy.... but kind of fun.... my husband likes it. Hey..what about a rugged Manly Man batch?

suzanne.artist said...

I like your take on "failures" keeps us all on our feet to re-direct our focus. Good luck with your next batch!

Suzanne in CT

Barbara said...

funny when I first saw this I thought it was articokes. I guess I am hungry but I don't think the soap would taste very good. Sorry it didn't work out this time.

Sandy said...

I didn't realize that you make your soap! How cool. And enjoyed seeing the vase and room its' in. Nice photo.