Tag: soap

Soap Swirls!

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!

New Soaps

We’ve made a bunch of new soaps this past week — mostly using the same 20% super-fat all coconut oil recipe, although I made a 0% super-fat coconut oil soap to use as laundry detergent. We just have to visit some store that actually stocks washing soda (WalMart – not somewhere I frequent, but according to their web site … it’s stocked at every local store here).

We made a rainbow swirl soap with orange essential oil — important thing about making rainbow swirl soap? Don’t try to smooth out the top! The whole top is a consistent lavender colour … cool, though, because the rainbow bits appear as you use the soap. Totally not what I was going for, though.

Another swirled soap using activated charcoal and green zeolite clay with tea tree essential oil. Again the swirl didn’t turn out the way I wanted … I think you’ve got to have really fluid soap batter to get these swirl techniques to succeed. This batch was less thick than the rainbow above … but it still got gloppy as I poured it. Also – there’s a reason the ‘column pour’ technique has a square in the middle. If you use a round object (say, a glass that you happen to have and know won’t be harmed by soap) , you get concentric circles. Not a design with scallops to it.

And I’ve found a few new recipes that I’d like to try — one is using pureed cucumber in place of water in the soap. And one that’s got to wait for next year — using daffodils as the colourant!

New Soap Recipes

For a few years, I’ve been using this coconut oil recipe almost exclusively. I’ve added clay to color holiday soaps, but beyond that we’ve got the same basic pure white soap. I get 35 pound pails of coconut oil from a local distributor, Bulk Apothecary, and avoid shipping fees. You can make a lot of soap with 35 pounds of coconut oil (a year supply for us, plus a bunch to give away).

I’ve wanted to make a pumice soap with orange essential oil for cleaning greasy hands (like Fast Orange) for some time. Decided to make a couple other ‘special’ batches of soap too.

A skincare soap with tea tree oil using:

33 oz coconut oil
4.8 oz lye
9.6 oz water
2 oz tea tree oil


A colorful lavender scented soap with the same coconut oil recipe:

33 oz coconut oil
4.8 oz lye
9.6 oz water
1.3 oz lavender essential oil
.6 oz bergamot essential oil
2 t purple Brazilian clay


A ‘mechanic’ soap with pumice and orange essential oil for cleaning greasy hands. The soap will be 5% superfat instead of the normal 30% to aid in cutting greases:

33 oz coconut oil
5.74 oz lye
12.5 oz water
2 oz bitter orange essential oil
8 T pumice


Homemade Soap

I’ve been making my own soap for about three years now. I’ve used several different recipes, but my default is a 100% coconut oil soap recipe. I double the recipe to make a six pound batch of soap (66 oz coconut oil, 9.6 oz lye, 19.2 oz water, and 3-6 oz of essential oil if I add any).

The process is quite easy — put the oils (or oil, in this case) in a pot and heat until melted.

In a safe container (heat resistant plastic like polypropylene 5), combine the water and lye slowly — it gets HOT. I use a graduated pitcher from a science supply center. Soap recipes have a weight of water and not volume, so the markings aren’t useful for this particular application.

I turn the oven light on – it’s an incandescent bulb and heat the oven to about 110 degrees F. I then put the lye container and warm oil in the oven and let them set for an hour or so to reach thermodynamic equilibrium.

When the hour is about up, get everything ready. Always a stick blender. If essential oil, colorant, herbs, or abrasives are going to be added, I weigh them out and have them waiting. Remove the pot of oil and set it somewhere (Not a hot burner! This was the one thing that absolutely stumped me on my first batch.). Set the stick blender in the pot. Get the container of lye water. Turn on the stick blender and get the oil moving. Slowly add the lye mixture.

Keep the stick blender going until you reach ‘trace’ — kind of like making whipped cream or egg whites where there’s a soft peak and a firm peak state. You’re looking for it to thicken up enough that lines will form or a little bit dropped back into the pot stay in a little mound. You are NOT looking for something that holds peaks (it would be difficult to get into molds at that point).

If you are adding ‘stuff’ you want to do that at the first sign of trace. Some add-ins will accelerate trace (basically harden your soap quicker), and adding them into a medium trace can get you a big block of solid soap pretty quickly.

Once the soap mixture reaches trace, put into the soap molds. Tap the molds on a solid surface a few times to remove air bubbles. I place these molds on a cutting board (hard surface) and then place them back into the warm oven. Proper instructions tell you to wrap it up in towels to retain the heat. After about 12 hours in the warm oven, I turn off the oven light. Let it sit a few more hours to cool, then set on the counter overnight. If the soap is hard to get out a mold, pop the whole thing in the freezer – frozen soap pops right out.

Voila, you’ve got soap. Let it sit for a few weeks to cure (dry out).