Friday, May 17, 2013

Castile Soap Revisited

Almost a year and a half ago, I made my first batch of Castile soap. Traditionally, Castile is made with only one oil - olive. Just olive oil, lye, and water. This simple recipe creates a creamy, luxurious bar of soap.

Castile soap benefits from a long cure. Typical soaps are ready to go after about 4-6 weeks, although I think they get better, too, with age. As you can see from this post about my Castile's progress over weeks and months, I wasn't quite sure what to think of it at first. The soap had to sit for quite a while before I started liking it. I wasn't particularly impressed at weeks 6 and 12 - the lather was minimal and slimy. I started to notice a change in the lather around week 18, though. By then, the lather seemed less slippery and a bit more bubbly. After six months, it was even better. And now that the batch is over a year old, it is fantastic. Castile may never have big, fluffy bubbles, but the lather does become creamy and dense over time. (I like to use a  mesh shower poof to help kick up a nice lather.)

Swirling mica/oil drizzled on top.
Because Castile requires a very long cure time and I have only a few bars left from the last batch, I figured that I better make more now so it can sit for a while.

I made this batch with a classic olive oil, lye, distilled water, and essential oils of lavender and peppermint. (I have a difficult time leaving things unscented.) And because the soap recipe is so simple, I decided to jazz things up by attempting a technique that I have been wanting to try for a while now - mica oil swirled tops. To make mica oil swirls, mica is mixed with a small amount of oil, drizzled over the soap, and then swirled. The oil saponifies along with the rest of the soap, leaving the shimmery mica swirls behind.

 Here is a video I made of the process:


I had some challenges with this batch. As you can see in the video, the soap turned out really soft. Even after sitting for a week, it was like prying room-temperature butter away from the mold. I tore the side of one bar trying to slide the side away, and bits of the soap stuck to the bottom. When I made my first batch of Castile, I used a log mold. The soap was soft when I went to cut it, but I don't remember it being as soft as this new batch was.

Could be a couple of things. First, I probably need to do a much steeper water discount with Castile batches. I usually use full water in my regular recipes, with the water being 38% of the oil weight (which gives me a lye concentration of about 27%). For the Castile, I bumped the water down to 33% of the water weight - which, honestly, isn't much - and I think I need to bump it down even more. My first batch did okay at these ratios, although it was a bit soft initially. I don't know why this batch seemed so much more softer. Maybe it didn't gel in the slab mold? I'm not sure that my first batch of Castile gelled, though. I didn't see either batch gel. (I usually peek after insulating and often catch my soap gelling. It's so cool-looking!) Methinks the water is the problem, though. I've been doing some reading and it seems that a lye concentration that's closer to 40%-50% would be better. Regardless, it should still cure into nice, hard bars, especially since I'm going to let it sit for 6-12 months!

I also wonder if the additional oil for my mica swirls had anything to do with it. Probably not, since I used so little oil to mix the micas. I doubt it was enough to dramatically alter the soap.

Overall, I am happy with how this batch turned out, although I wish that my swirls were prettier. I still need some practice with that. But I do like how the oil/mica mixture worked out, leaving the shimmery mica behind on top. It's such a fun and easy way to dress up bars! The mica swirls can give lots of fun color to a bar, or give some personality to a batch that discolors dark brown due to the fragrance oil.


I'm glad that I have another batch of Castile waiting for me! It will still take some time to get through my last batch. And I've got other soaps besides the Castile to use, too! It's always so fun to go into my soap room and pick out a new bar!

29 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Mom! It's such a neat idea to mix the mica with oil, leaving only the mica behind. I probably never would have thought of that myself!

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  2. I like that mica swirl. It looks like patterns from cut wood (if you know what I mean).

    I also like Castile only after a 6 month cure (or more). But I "need" to have Castile soap at home all the time. I make mine unscented and with no color so I can use the soap for scrubs and other stuff.

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    1. I was thinking about your soft soap. The first soap I made was a Castile soap and it was nice and hard, and I could cut it after 12 hours. Made my second batch almost a year later and it was soft like a mixture of glue and pudding. It was difficult to cut it after several days. I checked my recipes and now I know why the soaps are different. For the second soap I used 38% water of the oil weight, but the first soap had only 25%. I have to thank you for making me think of my Castile soaps. Earlier I just thought that the olive oil was somehow bad.

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    2. Thank you for your comments, Marika! Castile soap is very nice, but I like it only after a long cure, too. I'm glad that you were able to figure out why your two batches were so different and that it had to do with the water amount! I plan to do a much steeper water discount next time and maybe try soaping with a 40% lye concentration. I don't know why my first batch of Castile was soft but manageable, and this batch was super-soft. Could have been a few variables. But I definitely need to tweak my method!

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  3. Awww, you're much too hard on your swirls! I love the way your mica oil swirls came out, and your castile soap looks wonderful!

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    1. Aww, thanks, Ashley! The swirls turned out really nicely on a couple of bars. I like the purple and green together, and the mica/oil technique is fun! Now I just have to wait about six months or so before I can use the soap!

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  4. I have never made or used Castile soap, I shall have to give it a swirl...I mean whirl!!

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    1. Heehee! Thanks, Laura! If you try Castile, I hope that you like it! It is wonderful after a long cure!

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  5. I really like your Mica Swirl Jenny. I have not tried making castile soap just yet. That may be a future project to plan for and I just will do my research about my lye concentration now that I have read your blog :)

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    1. Thanks, Roxana! I like the mica/oil swirl technique, too. It allows for a whole new level of creativity! I definitely need to experiment with a different lye concentration. My first batch of Castile was soft but manageable, but this batch was super-soft. I think I'll up the lye concentration to 40% next time and see how that goes.

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  6. Ooooh, your mica swirl is so pretty! I haven't tried castile soap either, I must jump in and try it one day! It's nice to have the benefit of your tips, thanks for sharing that info!

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    1. Thanks, Cee Gee! The mica swirls are fun. I hope you give Castile a try someday - I think you'll like it, especially after a nice long cure!

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  7. Castile soap is also one of my favorite! It is really amazing how simple recipe can provide such luxurious soap quality! I can imagine the “struggle” to leave this batch unscented but adding combination of lavender and peppermint EO was grate choice. Additionally, color combination and swirls are just grate!

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    1. Thank you, Gordana! It really is amazing that three simple ingredients can make such a lovely soap! And thanks for the compliments on the swirls - the purple and green work well with the lavender and peppermint scents.

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  8. The top is beautiful, Jenny! And the properties of this soap are so well known.
    Thanks for your post, I haven't made yet a Castile soap but I have read about its long time cure.
    Enjoy your soap!

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    1. Thanks, Natalia! I like how the mica/oil swirl technique can instantly dress up a plain bar. I hope that if you give Castile a try you enjoy it! It does need to cure for a long time, but it is worth the wait.

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  9. The soap look very luxerious - nice swirl -

    Greetings Krissi

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    1. Thank you, Krissi! Castile is a very luxurious soap, especially after a nice long cure.

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  10. I didn't know what castile soap was, so thank you for this explanation Jenny. And your swirls are really beautiful, almost Rorschach-ish? ;)

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    1. Haha, we could do personality tests and psychological evaluations with our soaps! "Look at the swirls and tell me what you see ..." Thank you for your comments and compliments, Teresa! I'm glad that the post was helpful.

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  11. I think the mica swirls are lovely! I still haven't tried castile (or even bastille) and I'm sure it's very luxurious...I'm just so impatient! :)

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    1. Thanks, Kalla! Castile soap is very nice, but it is difficult sometimes to wait six months or more for it to cure. It's worth the wait, though!

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  12. i've never made or even used a Castille soap but they do sound wonderful. Your soap looks so pretty too xx

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    1. Thank you, Polly! Castile is very nice. It's difficult sometimes to wait so long for it to cure, but it is worth the wait!

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  13. Castille soap isn't for everyone, but I'm a huge fan of it. Your design is gorgeous as well. =)

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    1. Thank you, Anne-Marie! I like the mica swirls, too - I plan on using that technique again. Castile is very nice, especially after a long cure. And congrats on the birth of your beautiful baby girl! She's precious!

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  14. Hi. Revisiting your blog and love Castile design. I made Castile for the 1st time and it hardened/set up very quickly. I used a 33% water discount. I also love the moulds but don't want to depend on an oven or freezer to release my soap. Could you share how the moulds work without the oven/freezer method from your own experience? I live on the UK and thinking of purchasing but would love some feedback as this is going to be costly, especially on shipping but hopefully it's worth it. Thanking you in advance and hoping to hear from you when you have the time, I'm sure you ate also a very busy lady.

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    1. Hi, Christine! Looking back, I should have done a much steeper water discount for the Castile. I think that would have helped the soap to release from the mold easier. I used an acrylic slab mold for this batch. I haven't tried putting the mold in the oven, and, if I remember correctly, I don't think I've used the freezer with this mold either. I usually wait several days before unmolding to make sure that the soap isn't too soft. A big tip with this mold is to slide the sides of the mold away from the soap instead of pulling to prevent tearing the bars. Of course, the recipe makes a difference, too - some recipes create hard bars that unmold easily, while other recipes create softer bars that have to be handled with extra care. Sodium lactate can also help make harder bars. But I like the mold very much and enjoy not having to line it. This acrylic mold was purchased from Soap Making Resource (http://www.soap-making-resource.com/slab-soap-molds.html). They have a phone number and online form if you want to contact them directly. (Contact info can be found under the "More" heading and then "Contact Us.") I hope that helps! Thanks for reading!

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