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Thread: Cold Process Soap

  1. #1
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    Cold Process Soap

    Does anyone on here make cold process soaps at home? I just made my first two batches yesterday.

    Any favorite "recipes", tips or tricks to share with a newbie? Where do you buy your supplies from?

    Any info would help!
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    Super Member SewExtremeSeams's Avatar
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    Soap making is always something I have wanted to make but have never done it.

    Linda

    Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.
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    Oh....my, yes. I spent probably 6 years completely obsessed with making soap; and I do mean COMPLETELY obsessed. I started up my own business and was selling my soap in I think 6 different countries through my site. Problem was the profit margin was tiny so instead of having a job and a hobby I ended up with 2 jobs and finally quit in 2008. Still have my scales and molds and some of my oils though....every once in awhile I whip up a couple batches for my own use but my base oils are finally starting to go rancid. (Surprised they didn't go sooner, honestly)

    I'm pretty far out of date on stuff now though...I don't know if Brambleberry is still in business but they were my absolute favorite for buying fragrance oils - huge selection and they test each one in cold process. My base oils & lye was all bought locally; I was fortunate enough to live near a soap supplier and I was buying 5-galon buckets of Palm, Coconut & Palm Kernal oils through them; and smaller amounts of things like Cocoa butter. Pomace olive oil I bought by the gallon at a restaurant supply store (also local). That was when I was living in Sacramento; I just checked and looks like they changed location but are still in business. No idea what their shipping prices are like though: http://www.soapsalon.net/ I recommend looking locally for supplies as much as possible....oil is HEAVY and you will likely pay a lot in shipping.

    About the only fat I bought online was shea butter, and I would get in on co-op free trade buys and buy it bulk directly from African villages (so awesome to support those women directly, and the quality was usually amazing!)

    A great resource, and a place where I spent countless hours, is a forum called Soaper's Asylum. I just googled it and it looks different but seems to still be thriving! That's where I joined up on co-op buys and learned a TON of stuff.

    MMS is another good site (Majestic Mountain Sage) - their lye calculator is amazing and they have some good supplies too. (Or did, anyway...)

    I recommend playing around...I made so many experimental batches and had so much fun with it. Aside from normal experiments with milk and honey and oats and the like, I aslo made soap with wine, with beer, with kool-aid, with crayons...I even tried making soap with Tang! (Made the soap really lathery - probably from all the sugar - but none of the scent came through regrettably)

    Try carrot babyfood in your soap. No kidding, makes the soap lather really creamy! One of my most expensive soap lines had carrot babyfood as an ingredient and I couldn't keep it in stock.

    Silk is another good one, add about a 1" square of pure silk fabric to your lye water. It'll dissolve completely but your lather will feel silky! Oh, and hair does the same thing, LOL - my dog soap contained dog hair!! After washing my lab I'd salvage her hair from the drain and use it in soap. Dissolved into the lye water, it's the proteins from silk & hair that give that later that creamy feel. That got lots of laughs and comments when people would read the ingredients!

    And then there's technique!! I see a bit of ash on your soap there, do you force gel on your batches or let them go cold? Do you do full cold process or one of the modified versions? My favorite version was a totally bastardized version of cold process - RTOP is what we called it: "room temperature oven process". I would heat my solid oils just to melting point, no heat added to the liquid oils. Let the lye water cool until the pitcher was comfortable to touch bare-handed, then blend at "room temperature". (Quickly, because it'd go to trace immediately) Pre-heat the molds in the oven, pour the soap into the warm mold then toss it back into the warm oven (oven OFF at this point) and force gel.

    I'm not sure how new you are, you may not know what gel is!! If not, don't worry, you'll learn! (And nothing at all wrong with the ash on your soap, btw, it just makes me think you didn't go to gel, which is an optional/preference sort of thing and that's all. Ash on soap is totally normal.) Your soap looks lovely and it sure does bring back some happy memories!

    OK, and this email is way too long now! Ask me questions if you like! I'm out of date but this was a major obsession for me, for years.

  4. #4
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    I have made soap in the past but my family hated the scents of the drying soap. And I don't like using lye, I am just not careful enough.
    Don't have any suggestions on buying, I got a lot of things from a private individual but my favorite fragrance oils were purchased at Sweetcakes.
    It is a fun hobby, enjoy.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sewnoma View Post
    Oh....my, yes. I spent probably 6 years completely obsessed with making soap; and I do mean COMPLETELY obsessed. I started up my own business and was selling my soap in I think 6 different countries through my site. Problem was the profit margin was tiny so instead of having a job and a hobby I ended up with 2 jobs and finally quit in 2008. Still have my scales and molds and some of my oils though....every once in awhile I whip up a couple batches for my own use but my base oils are finally starting to go rancid. (Surprised they didn't go sooner, honestly)

    I'm pretty far out of date on stuff now though...I don't know if Brambleberry is still in business but they were my absolute favorite for buying fragrance oils - huge selection and they test each one in cold process. My base oils & lye was all bought locally; I was fortunate enough to live near a soap supplier and I was buying 5-galon buckets of Palm, Coconut & Palm Kernal oils through them; and smaller amounts of things like Cocoa butter. Pomace olive oil I bought by the gallon at a restaurant supply store (also local). That was when I was living in Sacramento; I just checked and looks like they changed location but are still in business. No idea what their shipping prices are like though: http://www.soapsalon.net/ I recommend looking locally for supplies as much as possible....oil is HEAVY and you will likely pay a lot in shipping.

    About the only fat I bought online was shea butter, and I would get in on co-op free trade buys and buy it bulk directly from African villages (so awesome to support those women directly, and the quality was usually amazing!)

    A great resource, and a place where I spent countless hours, is a forum called Soaper's Asylum. I just googled it and it looks different but seems to still be thriving! That's where I joined up on co-op buys and learned a TON of stuff.

    MMS is another good site (Majestic Mountain Sage) - their lye calculator is amazing and they have some good supplies too. (Or did, anyway...)

    I recommend playing around...I made so many experimental batches and had so much fun with it. Aside from normal experiments with milk and honey and oats and the like, I aslo made soap with wine, with beer, with kool-aid, with crayons...I even tried making soap with Tang! (Made the soap really lathery - probably from all the sugar - but none of the scent came through regrettably)

    Try carrot babyfood in your soap. No kidding, makes the soap lather really creamy! One of my most expensive soap lines had carrot babyfood as an ingredient and I couldn't keep it in stock.

    Silk is another good one, add about a 1" square of pure silk fabric to your lye water. It'll dissolve completely but your lather will feel silky! Oh, and hair does the same thing, LOL - my dog soap contained dog hair!! After washing my lab I'd salvage her hair from the drain and use it in soap. Dissolved into the lye water, it's the proteins from silk & hair that give that later that creamy feel. That got lots of laughs and comments when people would read the ingredients!

    And then there's technique!! I see a bit of ash on your soap there, do you force gel on your batches or let them go cold? Do you do full cold process or one of the modified versions? My favorite version was a totally bastardized version of cold process - RTOP is what we called it: "room temperature oven process". I would heat my solid oils just to melting point, no heat added to the liquid oils. Let the lye water cool until the pitcher was comfortable to touch bare-handed, then blend at "room temperature". (Quickly, because it'd go to trace immediately) Pre-heat the molds in the oven, pour the soap into the warm mold then toss it back into the warm oven (oven OFF at this point) and force gel.

    I'm not sure how new you are, you may not know what gel is!! If not, don't worry, you'll learn! (And nothing at all wrong with the ash on your soap, btw, it just makes me think you didn't go to gel, which is an optional/preference sort of thing and that's all. Ash on soap is totally normal.) Your soap looks lovely and it sure does bring back some happy memories!

    OK, and this email is way too long now! Ask me questions if you like! I'm out of date but this was a major obsession for me, for years.

    I just started yesterday lol. Two batches in. I believe the ash you see is stuff that got blown into the batch (I was working outside and it was VERY windy). I will be sure to email you with any questions! Thanks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by thart795 View Post
    I just started yesterday lol. Two batches in. I believe the ash you see is stuff that got blown into the batch (I was working outside and it was VERY windy). I will be sure to email you with any questions! Thanks!
    It could be windblown but it looks like standard soap ash to me - if that's not what it is on this batch, you'll get it sooner or later!

    But don't worry, it's not a problem at all and nothing went wrong, it's just a by product of the saponification process; you see it more commonly when the soap didn't go through gel phase - gel phase is when the soap mix continues a chemical reaction and gets hot after going through trace; it changes the texture of the soap and it will temporarily appear be a translucent gel while it's happening - hence the name. Some people like it because the soap generally cures faster and (sometimes) results in a harder soap bar; some people hate it and deliberately chill the soap to avoid it because it tends to 'burn off' a lot of fragrance and they don't like the harder texture. Uneven gel can happen too, where the center of the mold goes into gel but the rest doesn't, which gives you some bars that are half-and-half. It's harmless as far as function goes; the soap works just as well, but it can look and feel a little different.

    That's why I always forced gel phase with the whole warm oven routine; guaranteed consistency from batch to batch. Important for sales...not nearly as critical for hobby.

  7. #7
    Power Poster lynnie's Avatar
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    wow, what a lesson i just got!!
    Cold version sounds easier to me. Is it difficult to do.
    Should i try my hand at it, or should i just get the stuff
    at Michaels and melt and mold that for now.?
    put off till tomorrow what you can do today, and if you procrastinate long enough, you may never have to do it.

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    Lynnie,

    The stuff at Michaels is called 'melt & pour' soap ("M&P") and is a very different beast from cold process soap! Melt & Pour is pre-made soap that you can simply melt down and then add stuff to. It's not all created equally either - personally I find the brands usually carried at craft stores to be very harsh. If you or anybody you are giving it to have sensitive skin, it's not going to be a good fit. On the other hand, you can make some very artistic and gorgeous soaps with M&P that are really really difficult (if not impossible) to make with cold process, and if you're willing to shop around and spend a little more you can buy some M&P bases that are better quality and easier on the skin. It's a lot easier to play with than cold process (especially if you're new to all of this) and is generally a better choice if kids are going to be participating because there's no lye involved; that part is already done for you.

    Cold Process ("CP") is actually MAKING the soap - you start with raw ingredients (essentially; lye, water & fat/oil; plus whatever color/scent/etc.) and actually go through the chemical reaction (saponification) to convert those ingredients into soap. For this you need an accurate scale and you need to be careful; lye is dangerous if you don't handle it properly. If you measure wrong it won't turn into soap, so a good scale is really important, and you need to carefully follow your recipe. BUT...in my (not particularly humble) opinion, cold process soap is FAR superior to M&P soap as far as quality goes, and since you have 100% control over the ingredients you can do specific things - like my father had very sensitive skin so I was able to tailor-make a very gentle soap just for him. And you can still get very artistic with the soap, lots of fun ways to jazz it up.

    If you've got a secret inner mad scientist that enjoys things like formulas and learning about fatty acid chains, CP soap is totally the hobby for you. I even bought myself a lab coat. If you're more of a dabbler or just want to make some pretty soap that will smell good and look nice in the bathroom, go for the M&P. I did both! M&P is fun to make stuff for kids, you can do stuff like add plastic toys inside the soap. Can't do that with CP, the toy would melt!

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    I had to dig around and see; I think most of my soap pictures are on my old PC, but I did find this one.

    This is cold process ("RTOP" I talked about earlier, technically) - it was made in 2 steps. First the blue soap was made, and as soon as it was firm enough (probably a day or so) I chopped it up and mixed it in with the white soap. If I remember correctly, this blue batch was colored with melted soy-based crayons! (A big no-no, but I ignored the soap police same as I ignore the quilt police!)

    It had a mixed berry fragrance, so I named it "Chunk Berry". (Augh, painfully bad pun!).
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    thanks for more good info, there's a world to making soap, wow, it's just amazing
    put off till tomorrow what you can do today, and if you procrastinate long enough, you may never have to do it.

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    Excellent info sewnoma!
    I have made cold process for years and years! RTCP (room temperature cold process).
    I get my oils from Columbus food in Chicago.
    I sell at an herb shop where they don't want me to use essential oils but love the fragrance oils.
    I'm ready to quit but they beg me to continue so I will for a while.
    I make beer, goat milk or distilled water or a mixture! It's a fun hobby or business but don't expect to get rich.
    I don't even color or swirl anymore but my customers love my recipe the way it is. Everything natural but the FO. My favorite to use is unscented goat milk soap. I have also used carrots and silk. Even tried dried corn silk! Just the thought of using crayons makes me cringe! Fun playing.
    I find that spraying the top of the soap in the mold with 91 percent alcohol will help prevent ash.

    I agree with your assessment of M&P. Might be fun to play with but I won't use it personally.
    Enjoy the process but use safety measures handing lye.
    "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"
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    How ironic, selling in an herb shop that doesn't want essential oils?? I would expect the opposite!

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    always wanted to, but didn't! Sounds complicated, but definitely worth the effort!!! thanks for the soap making lessons, Sewnoma & others, I enjoyed reading them!
    "variety is the spice of life"

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    Oh boy, so glad to hear from you soapers out there. I am also a newbie to soap making. I have the supplies which I got at thrift stores and from my shelves. Sewnoma wish I had all your info in my head, your responses were great and full of information. I don't plan on a business but really want to make soap for myself, friends and family. The idea of making soap intrigues me and to have pleasant smelling soap really sounds like fun. I have several questions I hope one of you can answer. First it was mentioned that you used fragrance oil and not essential oil. I am confused because I thought I read that fragrance oils don't mix well in soap and there was chemicals in fragrance oils. Another question is how do you all measure your fragrance oils? I tried a dropper but if I was afraid the dropper with one scent would tarnish the second scent if dipped in bottle. I can't figure out how to accurately measure the fragrances. I think I will subscribe to this link so I can keep up with you soapers out there. So now to finish piecing my quilt then maybe a batch of soap will be started. Where do you all make the soap? I don't have a sink outside. I have granite countertops and stainless steel sink. Is this a problem with the lye? Thanks for any responses! Thart795 thanks for starting this post.

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    Senior Member quiltin-nannie's Avatar
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    I have never made soap, and have no desire to do so, but I found this thread fascinating, even though it was way over my head! You gals are so talented!
    Julie
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    WOW! I didn't think soap making had so much information to absorb! I'm thinkin' I"ll just keep supporting those who already have the info and make the soap. Love any soap with shea butter.
    "A woman is like a tea bag-you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water." Eleanor Roosevelt

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    Quote Originally Posted by jude by the sea View Post
    First it was mentioned that you used fragrance oil and not essential oil. I am confused because I thought I read that fragrance oils don't mix well in soap and there was chemicals in fragrance oils.
    Not all fragrance oils (FO's) are the same! Look for FO's made specifically for cold process soap; they are made without any alcohol which is usually the "problem" ingredient. M&P soap fragrances are usually NOT okay for CP soap, but you usually can use CP soap fragrances in M&P. Essential oils are nice in some ways, not so nice in others. People tend to assume that "natural" means "safe" but that is NOT always the case!! Some essential oils are downright hazardous to touch; some are hazardous only after long term exposure (so wear gloves!), some are fine until they hit sunlight (mostly citrus oils). So if you do intend to use essential oils, please please do research on each one you would like to use to protect yourself and others, and make sure you buy them from a reputable source.

    Quote Originally Posted by jude by the sea View Post
    Another question is how do you all measure your fragrance oils?
    By weight! That's the most accurate way to do it, and another reason why you need an accurate scale that can measure down to 0.1 oz. (one tenth of an ounce) Some fragrances are stronger than others; I usually added about .5-.7 oz of fragrance per pound of oils used in the recipe.

    Quote Originally Posted by jude by the sea View Post
    Where do you all make the soap? I don't have a sink outside. I have granite countertops and stainless steel sink. Is this a problem with the lye?
    Nope, shouldn't be a problem unless maybe your granite isn't sealed well. If you're concerned, it's not a terrible idea to get a cheap plastic tablecloth to work on - just give it a good rinse when you're done. I did most of my soaping outside...I'd hose out my lye pitcher after pouring the mix together but other than that...I would actually leave my soap pot out somewhere safe overnight after making soap. Why? Because by morning, enough of the mix would have saponified right there in the pot that cleaning it was super easy. Why scrub out a caustic mix of lye and oil when you can just rinse out soap the next day??

    And a few quick words about safety...I've read soap books that advise keeping vinegar on hand and say that if you get lye on your skin to douse it in vinegar. I think this is TERRIBLE ADVICE!! Vinegar is an acid, lye is caustic (alkaline/base) - what this means is that if you mix lye and vinegar they do cancel each other out, but they do this by going through a chemical reaction that generates heat!! You don't want that happening on your skin! Instead, if you get lye on your skin, rinse it with lots of water. This dilutes the lye and washes it away, and if you do it relatively quickly you're likely to get off scott-free. Vinegar is fine for wiping down your surfaces if you've had a lye or uncured soap spill but water is really what you want if you get lye on your skin. Lots and lots of water.

    If you've been making soap and later on you notice a new red or itchy spot on your hands or arms or elsewhere, that's probably from lye or uncured soap touching you. Don't panic, just wash it off and you'll be fine! If you get lye in your eyes, immediately flush with water. I definitely recommend wearing goggles whenever handling lye.

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    Wow, a big thank you to Sewnoma! So concise, I so appreciate it. So you worked you soap batch outside! And you used a hose and a hot plate to melt soaps and such? When you mix the lye and water do you simply rinse off the container it was in into the soil? Or down the sink if I work inside...I am trying to get place set up just to make soap etc. I have been getting into making things like laundry soap myself and lovin it...so a little work space outside might be an idea? Since I been reading so much on the soap making about not putting lye in sinks on counter tops and clean up is difficult I have been afraid to start the journey...so far I have done malt and pour but I want to move on. Are you object able to having a private message with questions. I already feel like I owe you a fee! Lol but I truly appreciate your input and I hope Thart750 is reading this too nice to see others on the soap path that is a newbi too!

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    Quote Originally Posted by thart795 View Post
    Does anyone on here make cold process soaps at home? I just made my first two batches yesterday.

    Any favorite "recipes", tips or tricks to share with a newbie? Where do you buy your supplies from?

    Any info would help!
    My daughter makes one with olive oil and oatmeal that is divine.
    If you always do, what you have always done, The results never change. Change is the wings you give yourself.

  20. #20
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    I didn't use the hose much; I just had it handy in case of "oopsies" and for that single rinse-out of my lye pitcher. I'd just dump it on the ground - it's such a tiny amount it never even discolored my grass. (And lye does occur naturally!)

    I never worried about lye on my counter tops or in the sink as I started off using Red Devil brand drain opener as my source of lye - it was 99.9% pure lye which was perfect for soaping. Then meth became a huge problem and apparently lye is a main ingredient, and Red Devil stopped making their pure lye. So lye won't hurt most kitchen surfaces and may actually help clear your drains.

    I worked outside mostly because of smells - my DH has a sensitive nose and I'd often make 2-3 different batches at once so the combinations of the different smells were often not so lovely, LOL. I did eventually get a hot plate for convenience but most of the time I'd just melt my oils inside and then bring them out - I do the "room temperature" method so I only added enough heat to melt my solid oils so it didn't take much. And then of course my oven (where I'd put the molds after pouring to force gel) is indoors so the soap ends up back inside at that point anyway! In the winter I'd do most soaping inside but I would always mix my lye water outside. Those fumes are EVIL and the cold air would help cool it back down anyway.

    Feel free to send me PM's! I'm a little rusty but it's coming back to me. Actually all this talk is really making me want to dig my stuff out and see how much of it is still good! It's been too long since I've donned my mad scientist lab coat, LOL.

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    Thanks for all of the comments and suggestions. Sewnoma, I wish I lived near you and could learn by watching an expert!

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    Oh goodness, I'm so rusty I'll probably destroy at least one batch trying to get back into the swing of things!!

    It is a lot of fun though, and for me it was really addicting. Just as addicting as quilting is turning out to be!

  23. #23
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    Interesting! I had considered trying to make some home-made soaps. It is a little more complicated than I thought. Maybe I will try some melt and pour and some without lye and leave it to those of you who are a little more into it.


    My newest Grandson, Caleb Austin, was born May 29th. I am now Grandma to 4 precious babies. I am so blessed!!!!

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    Again, so much knowledge here. Thanks for all the info. Truly at this time, this is over my head to start into it. I've made over 60 washcloth and dishcloths for gifting. I was planning on giving soaps with them, NOW I'm not making them. was planning on it, but so much is involved, I'll try to find a shop that sells homemade soaps as gifts. I don't know if the giftees will appreciate the homemade soaps for the price I'll pay. Maybe for by dh's boss, I always make her a gift, and she seems to like them.

    I love this thread and will continue to follow it. Very interesting information.

    Thank you to all that have contributed to it.
    put off till tomorrow what you can do today, and if you procrastinate long enough, you may never have to do it.

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    Lynnie, if you want to buy a relatively large amount of soap (like over a dozen bars), I'd recommend going someplace like etsy and contacting some of the soap sellers and see if they'll give you a bulk discount. My individual soaps sold for a lot more than if someone was willing to buy a whole batch, especially if they didn't want me to package them (I had fancy boxes, I trimmed each bar, etc.). That saved me time and materials and I'd give steep discounts (nearly half off) if they'd buy an entire batch at a time and all they wanted was for me to slice it into bars for them. My batches were 16 or 32 bars each, depending on which mold I was using. Plus it's so much less hassle to box up a dozen or so bars for one person, rather than a dozen individual sales. I loved my (few) bulk-buy customers!

    Can't hurt to ask!

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