Saturday, May 19, 2012

Update: Castile Soap

My Castile soap
If you've been following this blog from early on, you may remember this post about my Castile soap. I made that batch on January 6. As you may know, Castile soap benefits from a nice long cure. Well, mine has been curing for about four and a half months now, so I figured it was time to give you all an update on its progress.

Castile soap is traditionally made exclusively of olive oil. A more typical soap recipe may include several different oils and butters in a single batch.

Ideally, Castile soap is left on the curing rack for much longer than regular soap. Curing allows the excess water in the soap to evaporate, creating a harder, longer-lasting bar. Soap also becomes milder as it cures. My typical soap recipe usually includes olive oil, coconut oil, and sustainable palm oil, along with a small amount of another oil or two (like avocado oil, castor oil, shea butter, etc.). After about 6 weeks, a typical batch is cured and ready to be used. Castile, on the other hand, is best enjoyed after a longer cure - I've heard four months as a minimum, with six months to a year as being even better. (But it seems that any soap gets better with age, whether it is Castile or not.)


Castile soap's lather improves as it ages. Olive oil on its own does not create a fluffy lather - you need oils like coconut or palm kernel for that. Olive oil does create a stable, conditioning lather, though. In my typical soap recipes, coconut oil is what creates big bubbles and abundant lather. Castile's lather consists of smaller bubbles and has a more slippery feel. Some folks refer to this slipperiness as "sliminess." Castile does seem to be a bit stickier and tackier than my other soaps, but I don't find the texture unpleasant.

An interesting thing about Castile is that it is made entirely with a soft oil. Often oils such as coconut and palm are included in soap recipes to contribute to a harder bar. Although olive oil is a soft oil, Castile soap becomes very hard over time. Initially, my Castile soap was very soft and I had to wait almost a week after making it before I was able to cut it. If I had done a steeper water discount, my soap would have hardened more quickly and I could have cut it sooner.

Comparing the lather of my regular soap (l) versus Castile (r)

Below is a short video that I made comparing the lather of one of my regular soaps with the lather of my Castile soap:




It's pretty much me washing my hands and sudsing up a shower pouf with each, but it gives you an idea of how Castile performs. In the video, I used my Orange Patchouli bar (made with olive, coconut, sustainable palm, and avocado oils) as an example of one of my regular soaps. The Castile soap had cured for 18 weeks by the time I shot the video. I made the Orange Patchouli soap soon after the Castile, so it had been curing for about that long, too.

Castile's lather after 6, 12, and 18 weeks
With all of this talk about long curing times for Castile, I should point out that it is perfectly safe to use Castile after the usual cure of 4-6 weeks. It won't be as nice, though. I'll admit that when I tried my Castile for the first time after allowing it to cure for six weeks, I wasn't impressed. I had to work very hard to achieve any sort of lather, and all it seemed to do was run off my hands and down my arm. I will say that although my regular soaps feel very nice on my skin, the Castile left my hands feeling a bit more nourished and moisturized after I rinsed. I didn't notice too much of a difference after 12 weeks, but I did see a change after 18 weeks. As you can see in the photos to the left, the lather is a bit more bubbly and less slippery by Week 18. I think after 24 weeks, it will be even better.

I believe that the way to best maximize the lather of any soap is by using a mesh shower pouf, and this is especially true with Castile. The pouf kicks up more of a lather, and it seems that the more you scrub, the more lather you get. In the shower, the Castile's lather doesn't seem too different from the lather I get from my regular soaps when I use the pouf. Less bubbly and fluffy, yes, but still creamy and dense.

So, it was a bit of a rough start, but Castile eventually won me over. It seems that most folks either love Castile or hate it. Those who love it enjoy its luxurious, creamy feeling, and those who hate it don't care for its lack of bubbles or its "sliminess." And although I wasn't sure what to think at first, I did find myself liking Castile very much after it had cured for a while. I think the four-month cure as a minimum is a good rule of thumb, and, if you have the time and patience, an even longer cure is probably better.

How do you all feel about Castile? Love it, hate it, never tried it?

17 comments:

  1. I've made a castile soap a few months ago and mine didn't look nearly as light, nearly white, as yours does. Did you add any TD? My olive oil was EVOO, rather dark a green in colour, so that seemed to stick around even after the cure time was pretty far along. Was yours a lighter variety of OO?

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    1. Hi, neecy, and thanks for your comment! I was surprised that my Castile turned out so white, too. I didn't add any titanium dioxide, but I did use a lighter olive oil. I used a classic olive oil instead of extra virgin, so that's probably why it turned out lighter in color. :)

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  2. I like the video comparing the two kinds...your castile soap looks very creamy! I've never made or tried castile soap before...I bet it feels really good on the skin though! I don't think I have the patience to wait out the cure time, lol.

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    1. Hi, Kalla! I'm glad that you liked the video. The Castile does feel very nice. It does take some patience to let it cure for so long. I have a hard enough time waiting 6 weeks for my regular soaps to cure! The long wait for Castile is well worth it, though.

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  3. Love the video -- good comparison! I've never used Castille soap before, but I definitely want to try some now.

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    1. Thanks, Mom! Glad you liked the video, too. It was difficult to capture the differences between Castile and regular soap using just photos. I think I sent a bar of Castile home with you in March - now that it has cured for a good while, you'll have to try it and let me know what you think! (Of course, if you have the patience, it might be even better after another few months.) ;)

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  4. Interesting post, Jenny! I will have to try also this Castile soap; can't wait :)

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    1. Thank you, Natalia! Castile is definitely worth trying if you've never used it before. I hope you enjoy your batch!

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  5. I just found this post googling castille soap. I made two batches, they are both still curing. But I do love castile soap, I just finished a store-bought bar. Can't wait to try my own. It's good to read though that curing time longer than 3 months is even better. I'll try to be a bit more patient.

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    1. Hi, Marieke! Thanks for your comments. Patience definitely pays off with Castile soap. I just used a bar from this same batch a couple of weeks ago - the soap is just over a year old now and it is sooo nice! The lather is creamier and more dense now than it was when it was only four months old. Castile soap is definitely worth the wait! I hope that you enjoy your batches!

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  6. Thanks for the work you do for us. Sometimes its hard to find answers to a simple question. I was planning to make a batch but wanted to know its lathering quality before wasting 50 ozs of oil. Good informative review. Think I'll go make some soap :-)

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    1. You're very welcome, Jeannine! And thank you for the kind words. I'm glad that the post was helpful. I hope you enjoy your batch of Castile!

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  7. Hi, I am new to soap making and have just tried to make my 2nd batch of castile soaps, since I am a lil bit confused of how my first batch turned out. In the first batch, I made my castile using 2 recipes, one with steep water discount (1:1 lye to water ratio) and one with no water discount. I used EVOO and silicone mold (no need to cut when unmold).

    It turns out that the soap I made with no water discount became hard and I was able to unmold it in 2 days! While the one I made with water discount turns out to be way softer than the no-water-discount castile. The no water discount recipe makes the soap solution yellow, and becomes white soap. On the other hand, water discount's soap solution is greenish and turns out to be a yellow soap.

    I thought I've made some mistakes in my first try, so I made a 2nd batch using the same recipe and made sure everything was right. However, it happened again, turned out the same as the first one I made. Have you ever experienced this?

    Thank you, and I must say, very cute blog name! I like how you nicely reply all of the comments here. Lovely blog! :)

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    1. Hi, Dewi! Huh, how interesting! I would have thought that the batch made with the steep water discount would have hardened sooner, and the batch made with full water would have been softer. The two batches of Castile I have made have been with full water and they are quite soft - I usually have to wait at least a week or so before I can cut or unmold them. I thought that I would try a steeper water discount next time in the hopes that the soap would firm up faster. I'm not sure why the opposite happened to you. My first thought was that maybe there was a miscalculation with your lye amount or something like that, but you said that you double-checked it. I assume that the soap doesn't zap? I would be curious to know why your soap with the steep water discount is so soft, too, while the full-water batch is hard. Hmmm ...

      Thanks so much for reading and for the kind words! I'm glad that you enjoy the blog. Have fun soaping!

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  8. Brilliant source of the exact information I was looking for! Thank you for all the pics and video! It is way helpful to see what "slimey", "soft lather", big bubbles compared to tiny bubbles looks like. Thank you!!!

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    1. You're welcome, Sudsy! I'm glad that the post was helpful. Thanks for reading and watching!

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  9. Hello Jenny,

    I was hoping you could help and provide some guidance on how to properly cure PURE olive oil soap. We are using our olive oil from our farm in greece, www.iliasandsons.com. and not sure how long they need to sit before taking out of the molds.

    Thanks,

    Kris

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