Comes with the territory

As with all soapmakers, we are aware of the obstacles, hazards, and pitfalls of the everyday things that can go wrong with a soap batch, either at the beginning or the end.  We also will often call the result of these obstacles ‘gremlins’ or ‘demons’ as they will show up without invitation, be extremely unwelcome guests who take up residence for an extended period of time.  They quickly wear out their welcome.  Often we don’t know they’ve entered the soaping room until the results of their havoc is seen – seizing, ricing, acceleration, discolouration, caustic volcano soap overflow, and our worst one – DOS or Dreaded Orange Spots.  These are the worst of the worst, or the SMF’s (Soap Maker’s Fellowship)  Most Unwanted.

Recently I had one batch that was made without a hitch.  No gremlins during the process of making the soap came up, no hint of what lie ahead.  Then it happened.  I cut the loaf up into bars and there they were.  Small to pinprick sized points of orange.  Why?  No idea.  None of the obvious reasons came to mind.  I’d used all new oils so it couldn’t have been the oils.  Was it the fats in the coconut milk then? Hm, not sure on that one.  I take the milk out of the can, separate it up into 3 oz portions and freeze them, taking one out when it’s time to make a batch.  That alone should have prevented it from causing DOS.  I might never figure that one out, but the entire batch went into the trash because I couldn’t save it anywhere and watch the progression without it spreading to other soaps from other batches.  There’s little to no room for storage here.  So, out it went.  I also didn’t keep it up on any of the sites -blog, Facebook page, Twitter and it wasn’t put up in Instagram, so there’s no record of it here to use for comparison of what went wrong as opposed to a very successful batch.  At the time it seemed best to just get rid of everything, but looking back I realize that was a step in the learning process.  Finding the cause & effect of  what works & why as  compared with what doesn’t work & why.  Despite many years of soapmaking under the belt, it’s never too late to learn something new, find out why something failed, how to prevent future failures from occurring because of one part in the process.  Of course there are plenty of other points in the process to cause issues and we will find them!  Or maybe it’s more like they will find us.

Discolouration
Discolouration

This is discolouration and it was caused by a fragrance oil.  It’s not the DOS we all dread seeing, but it’s still annoying.  This is a beachy scent that states it behaves beautifully in cp soap, but it discoloured the bars right on the tips of the outside edges.  Only there.  Why it happened is a mystery to this day.  They smell wonderful though!  Truly it is a beachy scent with watery notes, marine notes, sand, salt air, beach breezes.  Very nice.

Cutting into bars too soon
Cutting into bars too soon

Ripples on water are mesmerizing, but ripples on soap is disturbing.  This is what happens if it’s cut too soon.  It can also be caused by a knife that hasn’t been cleaned completely or a cutter with wires that are not quite as clean as they should be or are getting worn.   My cutter is a wire cutter and apparently they’re starting to drag. Time to visit the guitar store!

DOS
DOS

I’ve left this image large in order to make it easier to see this batch’s problems.  It has the beginnings of DOS near the bottom of the bars, though nearer the tops, there are a few bits that might also be starting to go orange.  The major cause is old oils.  This batch did not have old oils, but the fats in the coconut milk might have been behind this batch’s problem with the spots.  This batch has multiple problems.  Read on to see the rest.

Cracks & ashing
Cracks & ashing

This batch, my Alpha mens soap, got tremendously hot.  Even though it was placed in the fridge right away, it continued to heat, bulge, then develop mammoth cracks all the way across the top.  It probably would’ve volcanoed out of the mold had it not been in the fridge!  The tops are also a bit ashy, due to sodium carbonate forming via oxidation on the areas exposed to carbon dioxide in the air, but while it isn’t harmful, it does detract from any techniques employed to make the soap’s tops look pretty. Of course, that Grand Canyon-sized gap down the center didn’t help either! Nothing would’ve stopped ash from forming, but it can be dealt with easily enough.  Two techniques many soapers use is either steam, like from the spout of a tea kettle, or water run over the surface that’s ashy.  Water helps, but might wash off a bit of the glitter if any is applied.  It might also help with any sweating or beading that might have developed on any embeds placed on the top as decoration as well. Summertime is hard on melt & pour embeds!

gaps due to seizing
gaps due to seizing
cracks formed in coloured areas of bars
cracks formed in coloured areas of bars

Here’s the inside of this Perfect Storm of Soap Gremlins in a soap.  I pretty much covered every aspect of what can go wrong with a cold process soap batch in one fell swoop.  The burgundy didn’t want to stay burgundy, it went mauve, and thickened so quickly it was difficult to pour, then was riddled with cracks, gaps, and even a huge hole in a couple of bars.  This was banged in the mold numerous times to eliminate any holes, so these had to have formed after the fact.  The Peacock Blue didn’t crack nearly as much, in fact I don’t recall seeing any holes in the blue at all.

You can also see the beginnings of DOS in the bar on the right about halfway down.

I’m not blaming the colours, nor the fragrance oil at all.  I think the biggest problem with this was the coconut milk.  I also added some, about 4 oz, of frozen coconut water, which also contains sugars, natural sugars.  This coupled with the milk made for a volatile combination. Though it hasn’t been such an issue with other soaps, this particular one cannot be done with both coconut water & milk and remain stable.  This fragrance will have to be done with no extras, or adding the extras later in the process of creating the batch.

So that covers the major issues.  If anyone has other issues, please share them and let us know what you tried and successfully did to alleviate the problems from occurring in future batches.  Soap is on a constant learning stage.  What have we learned?  That sometimes it’s fixable, and at others, it’s completely out of your hands!

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