Soap Making Frequently-Asked Questions
What is Trace?
"Trace" is what most soap makers call the point of no return. It's when the fats/oils, and the lye in your mixture have successfully mixed together. At this point, there's no longer any risk of separation. There are two popular ways you can stir your mixture until you get trace. You can either hand stir or you can use a stick blender. Your soap has reached trace if:
- The soap does not immediately sink back or if it leaves a trail or "trace" on the surface after you drizzle some of the soap on the mixture.
- Its consistency or thickness is similar to that of cake batter after mixing properly or pudding after you've cooked it.
Our article here delves more into the details about trace and how to achieve it.
How do I get rid of surface bubbles on my soap?
Generously spray the surface of your soap with rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol.
What does the term non-bleeding color mean?
Non-bleeding colors or colorants are those that don't migrate with other colors in your soap base. Bleeding or color migration occurs when the color you add in your soap does not stay in place or when the color "bleeds" or "leaks" into other parts of your soap bar. This usually happens with water soluble colorants and usually occurs with bright colorants (i.e. bright red, yellow, blue). Examples of non-bleeding colorants are oxides, micas and pigments.
Can I use fruit as an additive for my soap recipe, like for instance, using papaya pulp?
Yes, you may but you would have to make sure you add preservatives to your soap or you run the risk of molds growing on it.
Is there a general rule of thumb or common ratio when it comes to adding fragrances in your soap?
Yes, there is. For melt-and-pour soaps, add 1/4 ounce of fragrance/essential oil per pound of melt and pour base.
For other soap making methods, a good rule of thumb is using 1/2 to 1 oz. of scent per 3/4 lbs. of soap. Take into consideration that although you may want to add enough scent to make the soap more pleasing, adding too much may cause skin irritations.
For most recipes, how are the ingredients measured?
For most recipes, ingredients are measured by weight. It's good practice to always measure everything by weight. If you encounter a recipe which calls for volume, try converting those values into weight first before measuring your ingredients. Use the conversion table here as reference.
Is there a specific way I should melt my soap base using a microwave oven?
Yes. You don't want to "burn" or overheat your soap. It's best practice to melt your soap base in 30-second bursts, stirring your base in between, until it is completely melted.
What does "gel phase" mean?
This is when your opaque soap turns semi-transparent or translucent for several hours. After which, it will revert back to being opaque. This happens after you've poured your CP soap into your molds. It is normal for your soap to go through this phase. Your soap will start to give off heat at this phase, which is a by-product of the saponification that's occuring in your soap. The gel stage is good (unless you’re making milk soap) and you may want to insulate your soap to help it. To insulate you can wrap an extra dry towel or blanket over your soap or move it to a warmer location in your home.
When is the right time to cut soap?
Some soap makers have their own preferences when it comes to cutting soap. It is advisable however to cut your soap as soon as you "unmold" it or as soon as you take it out of its mold.
Will I need to add preservatives to my soap?
If you used organic ingredients in your soap such as fruit pulp or pieces of fruit, you will want to do so to prevent molds from forming.
You may also want to add preservatives if you tried to superfat your soap (cold process).
Is there a way for me to color my soaps without using synthetic colorants?
There are many ways you can color your soap using natural colorants. Some common examples would be annato seed, cocoa powder, coffee, carrot or cucumber soap. With enough soap making experience, you can even start testing out other potential natural colorants to see if they work.
What particular type of colorant should I use to produce semi--transparent soap?
You may want to use dyes (water-based colors). They're the type of colorants which will allow your clear soap base to stay clear. Be warned that since they're water-based they tend to bleed or migrate.
What is "Flash Point" and how is it relevant to soap making?
Flash point in chemistry is the lowest temperature at which it can ignite in air. In melt-and-pour soap making, it's a good practice when using a microwave oven to melt your soap base, to use 30-second bursts (stirring in between).
Are there fragrants that may affect the color of my soap?
Yes, there is. Vanilla is a fragrant most notable for causing soap bars to exhibit a brownish hue.