I have tried many times to get swirls in soap. What I’ve actually gotten is halfway seized blobs of colour. Still works, still smells nice … but it doesn’t look like the pretty soaps I see online.
Everything I’ve read says to mix the components to a light trace so it won’t seize before you get it poured and swirled. Many attempts later, I have swirls! Two tricks — I mixed the essential oil into the oil before adding lye. Adding the EO after the oil:lye is mixed was just too much mixing. I also used more water than the normal 2:1 water to lye ratio.
Added the lye water to the oil/EO mixture and used the stick blender until it was just combined. There were no longer oil spots floating on top, the entire mixture was a homogeneous colour. I split the soap into two pots and stirred in the clay with a tiny whisk. At this point, I still had REALLY runny soap.
I used a modified column pour technique — a rounded cup in the middle of a large mold. This made concentric rings of colour. I then used a very thin wooden dowel / gigantic toothpick that was used in a sandwich at a local restaurant and dragged lines from the perimeter of the mold into the center. The shape held! Popped the whole thing in the oven with the light on and let it sit for 24 hours. Removed it from the mold and it was really soft compared to my normal recipe. That’s the extra water – it needs to cure longer. Bonus, though – it was soft enough to cut easily with a knife.
When cut into bars, there are actual swirls!