Liquid Soap …. SUCKS!!!
I decided that this weekend was going to be liquid soap making weekend!! I managed to find a place about twenty minutes away from me that sells potassium hydroxide (aka liquid soap lye) which saves on postage and picked up a wee little kilo of it to give it a go.
I had been reading up on it all and was excited to give it a go. I had worked out my recipe and the method by which I wanted to cook it all, so Friday I jumped in! Admittedly, I went in cocky. I make CP soap – I can do this! Pssht! That’s like saying a fisherman can operate a submarine! (You know, coz they both go in water…)
I decided to attempt something new even with kids in the house. I only did so because of the time length involved and the knowledge that if I needed to stop at any point, I could do so safely. Unlike my bar soaps, liquid soaps takes hours (days!) to do and the first stage is anywhere from two to ten hours cooking in a slow cooker. No having to measure, mix and pour all in one hit.
As I measured my oils into the slow cooker bowl, I noticed that my thoughts of doing a small batch to start with wasn’t the best idea when I was using a five litre slow cooker. The oils barely covered the bottom and would be near on impossible to stick blend safely. So, I quickly doubled my recipe.
This is where I am ashamed to admit my rookie mistake. I doubled my oils, but then forgot to run my recipe back through my lye calculator and instead, used the original lye amount. Bow Boooooow. It took a bit to work out why my soap was still milky white after three hours.
It’s Saturday. The kids were dropped off to their dads the night before so I enjoyed a slight sleep in. After waking, I realised that I am either a hard core soap addict, or just completely have my priorities the wrong way round – I get my second batch of soap prepped BEFORE having breakfast.
I ran it all through my calculator again and am satisfied that my recipe is correct this time. I measure everything out and begin the cooking process. It runs a lot smoother this time and I watch it all go through it’s predictable and recorded stages until it becomes translucent as the books say it will. Woo Hoo!
This is where I come unstuck. The soap at this stage is a thick, taffy like paste. In order for it to be liquid soap, you need to dilute it. But, I hadn’t worked out how much water I needed to dilute it, and none of my notes explain the process to work it out. They all had recipes to follow which told you how much to add, but I had made my own recipe.
Not to mention everyone else works in ounces and in backwards upside down land, we work in grams. I ended up finding some Aussie notes that explained the process:
We recommend using the 35% water rate for KOH (liquid soap) recipes to liquify your caustic. The dilution water rate should be the initial water rate x 6 (minimum) or x 8 (maximum).
That made sense!! I worked out my water amount and it ended up being close to 4kgs of water. Yikes!! At the same time as I had found those notes, I had asked in a soaping group I am apart of how to work out a 30% dilution rate and had been given the answer of just over 500 grams. Eeeerm… 500g? 4kgs? Big difference.
So, freaking out that I had poured too much water in, I tipped three quarters out. Then wondered why my soap paste resisted diluting like a delinquent teenager.
I also learned that you don’t try to dilute your soap paste in cold (yes, refrigerated) water. You end up with your spoon stuck to the soap, that is stuck to the container. Doh! Re-reading my notes I realised boiling water. Aaaaah. Lightbulb!
I’m also iffy on the whole ‘one part paste – two parts water’ for the test dilution. I watched a YouTube video where they only grabbed the tiniest amount of soap paste for a test… trying to work that one out.
I woke up late after a pour night’s sleep and after a quick, unsatisfiying breakfast, I began the arduous task of cleaning up the kitchen from the mess created the day before. There was taffy like soap goop on the bench, on the outside of the slow cooked and amassed in the slow cooker bowl.
I managed to get everything cleaned up and was ready to take on attempt number three, I printed my record sheet out, weighed the pot and wrote it down. The same steps I had done two days previous. As I did so it occurred to me that it was unlikely the bowl had in fact lost or gained any weight over night. It’s ceramic. I’m an idiot. (I used the exact same pot all 3 attempts… )
I added ingredient after ingredient, just like I had done the two days prior. Happy with hitting the exact gram weight for all but the coconut oil (four grams over) I transfered the bowl from the scales to the slow cooker container and turned it on.
BOOM!! Sparks flew everywhere!!
“FRACK!!!”, exited my mouth.
What in the hell just happened?? I quickly turned the slow cooker off and realised that it had blown up on me. Oh my! Three or four times I tried to get up the guts to turn it back on, but being the wuss I am, pulled back before reaching the dial. I grabbed a hand towel to protect my hand – yes, like that was going to stop me dying from electrocution. *eye roll*
I leaned forward and turned it on.
Off. On. Off. On. Off-on-off-on. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
Well phooey! My slow cooker was dead. “Craaaaaaaap” I assume it’s due to soap or water getting into the base from when the batch over flowed or from when I was cleaning it. Or both.
After my heart resumed it’s normal beating rhythm, I grabbed the second slow cooker I had – that silly little thing that was one day waiting to cook actual food. I began scraping all of my oils into the back up plan and realising that some were being left behind, thought to myself that, ‘(a) that extra four grams of coconut oil was actually a bonus, and (b) I am so smart, I can just weigh the pot and it should equal the oil amount, right?’
It was then that it came to my attention that the back up pot was smaller. Meaning it would weigh less. “Craaaaaap”
After resetting the electrical box (thank goodness for safety switches), I hesitantly put the new slow cooker on. No light on the front, but I’ll assume it’s working. I chuckled to myself that it was only yesterday I was thinking I should look for a spare bowl for my slow cooker so I could make batch after batch without having to wait for it to be clean. Looky that, I just created a spare bowl! HA! Not funny…
Like the day before, the soap batter went through all the required stages including hitting the taffy – rock like taffy – softer taffy stages and eventually translucent. After approximately three and a half hours I was ready to start diluting. Only this time – I would do little bits at a time.
250g of boiling water added.
*poke poke, prod prod*
Another 250g of boiling water added.
Now I realise that liquid soap takes levels of patience my brain just can not comprehend, but after nearly an entire day I was ready to rush it along. I grabbed my stick blender and tried not to kill it breaking up the paste. This would then later prove a nearly pointless task as the taffy was in fact that silver liquid terminator guy and would congeal back together after a few minutes. Grrr…
Today (technically day 4), I have been seeking out my fellow soap makers to try and help me see where I am going wrong and after showing pictures of what I was working with, was told to add more water. Enter another 250g of boiling water – bringing the grand total of 750g of water to approx 1.9kgs of soap paste.
From there, it went ok. More of the goop broke down and I ended up just scooping off the last bit. I poured what was left into some plastic pitchers and stared it down. I had either made liquid soap…. or Guinness.
Now goat’s milk will make the soap go brown. Not worried about that as I’m after the quality, not the clarity. Cocoa Butter will make a soap go cloudy, so I assume that’s why you can’t see the pint size Guinness confused drunkard I buried in the middle of each jug.
The only problem I have with it, is it’s watery thin. After doing LOTS of research and reading, that’s a normal trait amongst ‘real’ liquid soap and is usually overcome by a thickening agent. The common one – borax. Hrm… not really an ingredient I am happy to use.
I am tempted to use an ‘out of the book’ recipe tomorrow – including it’s borax – just to see if it’s something I am doing specifically, or just that I haven’t learned enough to wing the process with my own recipe / dilution rates. The one I have even gives you how much water to add in order to dilute. Coolah proof!!
The Weekend Wrap Up:
1 x Blown up Slow Cooker.
1 x Broken Stick Blender.
3 x Batches of Ruined Liquid Soap
Immeasurable levels of frustration.
Tomorrow morning after Kinder drop off I will be picking up some borax and giving it yet another go. I’m stubborn. I simply can NOT let this rest until I beat it. That’s how I got the nickname Soapinatrix – if you don’t do what I want, I bring out the whips until you do!!!!
Picture Gallery of Failure:
The beginning of the first batch, when my hope was still high!
I thought this stage was cool – one I don’t normally see with my CP soaps. But this is the start of ‘gelling’ and the soap reminded me of chewy caramel!! Caustic, burn your tongue right off but calorie free chewy caramel.
If any of my non soap maker readers get confused when I talk about ‘gelling’ – this is what I am talking about. It’s cooking the soap all the way through. This is a ‘full gel’ meaning that all of the soap has been cooked through … right to the edges.
For my liquid soap, this is what I was looking for. The soap begins to go translucent and starts to losen up again. Trying to stir it between gel and the ‘taffy’ stage was near on impossible!
Coming unstuck. I kept ending up with this hard bubble crust on top. Was driving me nuts as every time I would stir it in, it would re-appear!! But I think I got my answers to all that today and am curious to see if I can avoid it tomorrow.
I WILL master liquid soap! And I WILL master goat’s milk liquid soap that is what people would expect (thick and gel like, not too dark, etc). Once I set my mind to something I don’t give up!! Like…. EVER!
Welcoming ALL comments, tips, tricks, advice from any fellow liquid soap makers. It’s the dilution part I am really coming unstuck. How much water to add, how long it takes to dissolve, do I stir it periodically or just ignore it like the weird kid at school, etc, etc. Oh… and how to thicken it !!