What is the right temperature for soap? (and water question)

alleyDecember 18, 2008

I have a couple of books on soap making as well as perusing the internet. One book says to mix the lye solution and oils at about 130 degrees. Another book says about 80 degrees. That between 85 and 110 takes longer to trace and it gets better after 110, but makes an inferior soap. On some other recipes I see between 95-100 degrees. Is there one great temperature? What happens if you don't get the right temp?

Yesterday I made my first batch of soap and mixed them at just above 100 degrees (less than 110 though). They were both about the same temp--I think that the lye was slightly cooler. It did take quite a while to trace and they are still in the molds (that seems to be taking while too, but it could many factors and at this point, may not really be an issue--they are harder than when I poured them).

While I'm here, I haven't found anything about the ratio of lye to water. I've looked at different recipes and they are all different. The one book just said too much or too little have different effects, but didn't give a ratio. So far, I've been seeing about a 2 or 3 to one ratio. Is there a science to this part? What is a good rule of thumb?

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I have made cold process soap with temps ranging from 100 to 120 degrees. Nothing bad happens within that range. You still get soap. I don't stress about the temps too much anymore.

I do try to let everything cool to between 100-110 degrees if I'm using essential oils to scent so it doesn't "cook" the scent away. I cool to 100 degrees if I'm using synthetic fragrance oils in the hope that it won't seize up. I go upward to the higher temps if I have a recipe that's heavier in cocoa butter.

In the lower ranges you seem to get a more "solid" looking soap, but that's just cosmetic.

As far as calculating lye, just go to this website and plug in the oils and amounts that you are using and print out the final product.

Here is a link that might be useful: MMM Lye Calculator

    Bookmark   December 19, 2008 at 9:09AM
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It really depends on what you have in your recipe, to what temp would be best.

As a general rule, soap on the cooler side of the temps. I will put my hand on the outside of the lye solution container, as well as put my finger into the oils/fats and aim to get the same temp. If you soap on the cool side, it should avoid having the soap trace too quickly, or "sos" = soap on a stick. Some scents will speed trace as well, so to start out soap cool until your familiar with each scent. White florals and spices tend to speed up trace.

I will put my oils into the microwave to melt them and I put the lye into a pitcher of ice cubes, this way I don't have to wait for the lye to cool down. After putting the oils into the microwave, I'll stick blend (I hope you have one!) and break up the little bits of oils that remain.
If you are cp only another general rule is to have twice the water to lye weight; this will give you a 33% solution.

Any of the hp processes you'll want a full water amount a lye calculator suggests. The above poster suggested a good calc.
Have fun soaping and don't be in a hurry to put everything into your recipes, each additive will have things to consider; milk and honey can be problematic and need to be soaped cool.

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   December 19, 2008 at 4:38PM
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I process at 100 degrees for CP consistently, unless I have beeswax in the recipe, then I process at around 150. Just make sure both water & oils are the SAME temp. I estimate water at 1/3 the total weight of the oils. I have gone down to 1/4, but I don't notice any real difference in curing times & I get more seizing at lower water amounts. If you want to add milk to soap, you can "cheat" and add it at trace, then bring the soap to trace again before pouring. This keeps the milk from curdling, but the soap will still turn brown. If you want a white soap, use powdered milk which I've found works just as well in the end.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 10:07PM
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