Emergency Preparedness — 06 April 2013

Okay….it seems that my first attempt at making homemade soap has failed.  Instead of a beautiful hard piece of soap that I can use to lather up, it looks like this:

2013-03-26_19-24-21_91Whats this all about?  It looks like dried mud.  When I pick it up it crumbles apart into a fine powder.

How did this happen?

I’ve thought of a few things that maybe went wrong:

  1. I added the wrong amount of ingredients.  maybe I added 28 oz of shortening instead of 38 oz…It could have happened ….who knows.
  2. I didn’t stir it enough.  I don’t think this is the case, since I stirred it almost twice the amount the recipe said to expect.  I also don’t think this is the case, because there didn’t seem to be any separation of the oils from the liquid.
  3. I added the lye mixture to the oils at the wrong temperature.  I added them at about 105-degree F instead of about 98-degrees F.
  4. The amount of lye wasn’t correct.

After talking with someone that has made a lot of soap, she thought that it must be the amount of lye wasn’t correct.  She pointed me to a website that help you calculate the amount of lye to add for a soap recipe.  The website is: https://www.thesage.com/calcs/lyecalc2.php it is an online lye calculator.  You put in the amount and types of oils and fats, and it calculates the amount of lye and water is needed.

I went on the lye calculator website and did some investigating.  I think I’ve figured out what I did wrong.  I messed myself up when I substituted some of the olive oil for the coconut oil. The recipe called for 24 oz of coconut oil and 24 oz of olive oil.  I only had a 14 oz container of coconut oil, so I put in 14 oz of coconut oil and 24 oz of olive oil.

Blame it on the Lye (and the coconut oil)

Here is the original recipe that I had:

  • 24 oz of coconut oil
  • 24 oz of olive oil
  • 38 oz of shortening
  • 12 oz lye
  • 32 oz water

Using the correct amount of coconut oil and olive oil, the lye calculator says I should use:

  • 22 to 32 oz of water
  • 11.92 to 12.04 oz of lye

This matches pretty closely to the original recipe.  The calculator shows that maybe I could have used a little less water.

Using my modified amount of coconut oil and olive oil, the lye calculator says that I should have used:

  • 22 to 32 oz of water
  • 11.46 to 11.59 oz of lye

Since I added 12 oz of lye, I think I added too much.

Lessons Learned

Soap making may not be as easy as I thought.  The recipes need to be followed exactly, since they appear to have bad consequences if they are not followed.

The next time I make soap, I am going to use the lye calculator to check quantities.  This seems to be a great resource that I can even use to make my own recipes with.

Often a bad batch of soap can be rebatched.  This generally involves heating the soap slowly, adding any missing ingredients, then putting back into molds.  Since I suspect the soap has too much lye, it can’t be rebatched.   At least that is my understanding.  If I had too little lye, I could rebatch and add lye.

It seems that instead of bar soap I may have just made some laundry detergent.




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