Friday, June 14, 2013

Soap Seize: Keep Calm and Panic On

You know how it goes. Some days you're making soap and everything is just clicking along perfectly. Every part of the process goes according exactly to plan and your soap even turns out just the way you wanted it to.

And other days you find that you have slipped into the Ninth Circle of Soaping Hell. Having your soap seize is the quickest way to get there.

So what is seizing? Seizing is a result of trace acceleration, meaning that the soap batter rapidly thickens, moving from trace to beyond very quickly. (Trace occurs when the soap batter is fully emulsified and will not separate.) Sometimes acceleration causes the batter to get thick like pudding or mashed potatoes, making it impossible to pour. Other times trace accelerates so rapidly that the soap "seizes" in the pot and becomes a hard mass. This is also known as soap-on-a-stick.

Yikes, amirite?

So, what causes trace acceleration and seizing? Many factors can play a role:

Fragrance and Essential Oils
Certain fragrance oils can cause acceleration and seizing, particularly floral or spice scents. Some essential oils - spice ones like clove or cinnamon - may sometimes cause issues. I'm not a chemistry whiz, but from what I understand, the components and compounds in some fragrance oils can speed trace along. (Something about eugenol.) Sometimes it helps to add your fragrance oil to the base oils instead of adding it at trace. And if you know that the fragrance or essential oil will act up, try using a whisk instead of a stickblender. Also, fragrances containing alcohol can cause acceleration and seizing. I've never tried it myself, but I hear that using perfume or cologne to scent soap is a great way to get soap-on-a-stick due to the alcohol content.

Alcohol
Which leads to another factor: Alcohol. Using a scent that contains alcohol is not a good idea. Using alcoholic beverages in soap can also cause seizing. But, wait, what about beer soap, or wine soap? How do soapmakers successfully replace the water in a soap recipe with beer or wine? The trick is to boil off the alcohol. When I use beer in soap, I bring it to a boil and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Then I pop it in the fridge overnight to let it get nice and cold. I've made several beer batches and not had any problems when I boil it first. (Some of the beer does evaporate, so I either simmer more than I need or simply use distilled water to make up the difference.) I haven't made wine soap yet, but from what I've read I would expect that it could be treated like beer.

Temperature
Soaping temperatures can also play a role. The warmer your lye solution and oils are, the faster your soap batter will accelerate. Conversely, cooler temperatures can help slow trace. I usually soap at about 100-110 degrees F. But if I am using a finicky fragrance oil or certain ingredients that contain sugars that may cause the soap to overheat (like milk, beer, honey, etc.), I'll soap cooler, maybe around 80-90 degrees F.

Recipe Formulation
Sometimes the recipe itself can cause acceleration. Recipes containing a high percentage of soft oils (like olive and avocado) tend to trace more slowly than recipes calling for a higher percentage of hard oils. For instance, Castile soap, which is made exclusively with olive oil, is notorious for taking a long time to trace. Using lots of hard oils - like coconut or palm, for example - may cause the soap to trace faster. I have heard that using too much of certain ingredients - like castor oil, jojoba oil, or beeswax - may contribute to seizes, but I cannot attest to this myself. I've never used jojoba oil or beeswax, but I have made two batches of shaving soap using 10%-20% castor oil without problems.

Another thing to consider when formulating your recipe is the amount of liquid used. You may hear soapmakers talk about a "water discount," which means that they use less water than the recipe calls for. If you use "full water," that means that your lye concentration is about 27% (meaning that 27% of your lye solution is sodium hydroxide and 73% of it is water), with water being 38% of the total oil weight. (I prefer to think in terms of lye concentration instead of percentage of oil weight because it's less confusing for me. Thinking in terms of water discounts is confusing for me, too. If someone says that they use a 20% water discount, I may not really know how much water that translates into if I don't know the water amount that the recipe started off with. And then there's the math. And sometimes I wonder if someone means that they used water as 20% of the oil weight instead, which confuses me even more. It's much easier for me to just think in terms of lye concentration because it seems more solid and easier for me to understand.) The less water you use, the stronger your lye solution will be. Soapmakers often use full water to minimize acceleration. Full water is a good idea if you are doing swirls or something that requires a light trace. Discounting water is a good idea if you want to speed along a slow-tracing recipe, like Castile. Recipes calling for lots of soft oils typically handle steeper water discounts better than those with lots of hard oils. And definitely use full water if you are using a problematic fragrance or essential oil.

Paranormal Activity
And sometimes the soap gremlins are just bored and mischievous. Try bribing them with cookies and beer. Don't know if that works on them, but it would work on me if I were a soap gremlin. (Make it good beer, though. Something classy. Any kind of cookie is fine.)

***

Wanna see an epic seize? I was filming when one of my batches went from normal to - BAM! - soap-on-a-stick within moments. Not 100% certain what happened here, so I don't want to attribute the seize to any one thing. It could have been one or more of the aforementioned factors. Enjoy:




Pretty cool (and terrifying), huh?

So now you know some of the causes of seizing, what a seize looks like, and how to avoid it. But sometimes bad things happen to good soapers. What can you do if your soap does seize?

If you are confident that your soap batter was blended well before it seized, you might be able to mash it up and glop it into your mold like I did in the video above. Or you can wait for the soap to gel in the bowl so that it is softer and more pliable. Once the soap has gelled  from one side of the bowl to the other (insulate if necessary and peek at it after about 20 minutes), scoop it into your mold. Be extremely careful if you do this! The soap will be very hot and caustic. Wear your safety gear (goggles, gloves, long sleeves and pants, etc.)!

If the soap is too hard to mash up, or if you don't think you got everything mixed before it turned into cement, you still have a couple of options.

Grab your crock pot or stainless steel pot and get the soap into it. Heat the soap and stir it until it has the consistency of oatmeal or applesauce. All of your lye and oils are in the soap, assuming that your measurements are correct, but they're just aren't mixed enough. Heating the soap will liquefy it (although it most likely won't become smooth and pourable), allowing you to finish mixing. Monitor the heat, though, and be careful not to scorch the soap. You may want to use a double boiler if you are using the stovetop. Once the soap reaches the right consistency, glop it into your mold and let it sit for 24-48 hours before cutting. This is also known as the "hot process" method. Although hot process soap is technically ready to use as soon as it is unmolded - since the soap has been cooked down to a pH of about 9 - it is best to let it cure for at least a week or two. It's even better to let it cure for the full 4-6 weeks to allow the water to evaporate for harder, longer-lasting bars. Check out Soap Queen's Hot Process Hero and Crock Pot Camo tutorials for more info on hot process soapmaking.

Or you can wait until the next day to rebatch the soap. Chop or grate the soap (if it's solid enough), put it into a stainless steel pot or crock pot, and add a little bit of distilled water, starting with a couple of Tablespoons and adding more as necessary to get the right consistency. Then proceed as described above.

A seized batch is definitely a bummer, but it doesn't mean that the soap has to be a total loss. Seizing risks can be minimized, and the soap can usually be saved even if those precautions fail.

Soapmakers, have you had a batch seize on you? What has been your biggest soap fail so far?

Updated to clarify info about water discounts and recipe formulations.

67 comments:

  1. Aww, poor Jenny. :( I haven't had a real seize in ages, I hope you didn't just rub off on me!

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    1. Hi, Laura! Yes, I hope that the soap gremlins don't come after you just for thinking about a seize! This is the only time soap-on-a-stick has happened to me, but it's bound to happen again before my soaping days are over. Thanks for your comments!

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  2. Love your sense of humor! Glad the soap is usable, and hope the gremlins will leave you alone for awhile. :)

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    1. Thank you! It helps to have a sense of humor about these things. I was very glad that the soap was usable, too. It ended up being a nice batch, just ugly. I hope the soap gremlins stay away as well!

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  3. So sorry you had a seize, but that's awesome that you caught it on tape! You had me chuckling with your sad, dramatic music and commentary...lol. I have only had one seizure in the recent past, which I HP'd only semi-successfully :/

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    1. Thanks, Cee Gee! I was glad that I caught it on tape, too. Fortunately, seizes rarely happen, and I thought other soapers might like to see one if they haven't already. I'm glad that you liked the video! I may have to try to HP the soap if I get another seize now that I know that that's a good way to try to save it.

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    2. I made Rose soap last evening & had a classic seize.Normally i do Rose soap hot process,no problem but my cold process batch seized badly.I masked it & got it into the molds.Will check this evening for result.!!!Not holding my breath though.

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    3. Oh, no! I hope that your soap still turns out okay, Sandie!

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  4. So sorry..I feel your pain!! I really liked your video though, lol. I'm glad your soap is usable...I don't have such luck when my soap seizes.

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    1. Thanks, Kalla! I'm glad that you liked the video. And I was happy that the soap was usable, too. I would have been bummed if I had had to throw it out! A seize is a major bummer, but at least there are a few ways to try to save it.

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  5. Grate post Jenny! I experienced soap seizing several times and it was really frustrating! But I did not give up of the FO which caused seizing. I tried in the meanwhile to change soap recipe and method of soap mixing.I like your term "paranormal" :) Sometimes chemistry is like that: you can make your soap according to your favorite recipe but due to unknown reason (or let’s call this soaping gremlins at their best) project can turn into disaster!

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    1. Thank you, Gordana! It's interesting that you can have major problems with a fragrance oil using one recipe or method and then use the same FO successfully with a different recipe. Good for you for sticking with the FO and figuring out a way to work with it! So many things can make a soap batch go wrong. Sometimes you think you know what the problem is, and other times you have no idea. That's when I chalk it up to paranormal activity. :)

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  6. Oh Jenny,such a great post,sad story and amazing video. I have to say I was smiling while watching it your sense of humour and your excellent directing skills are so great. You really have a talent for filming!
    I think water discount refers to full water amount (given by the calc.) that recipe calls for. That's method I find easiest to count with.
    And yes, I have had seized batches, but not on-the-stick. While I was watching your video,I just thought you could have waited a gel phase and remould it! But,the soap is saved,so you can use it hundreds ways. And I'm sure, your desirable swirled soap is on its way...

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    1. Thanks, Maja! I'm glad that you liked the video! I tried to have fun with a frustrating situation. The water discount thing can be confusing to me. When someone says, "I used a 20% water discount," I think, "Twenty percent from what?" But if they say, "My lye concentration was 40%," now that's something solid that my mind can grasp. I guess it just depends on how you think of it. And I've read that one solution for a seize is to wait for the soap to enter gel phase in the bowl and then scoop it out while it's soft and pliable. I probably would have ended up with smoother soap that way. This was my first seize and I was a little freaked out, so I just mashed it up and got it in the mold since I was pretty sure it had been mixed well before it turned into cement. It turned out to be a nice batch, just ugly. One of these days I'll try those swirls again, and maybe I'll get them right! :)

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    2. As for the water discount: according to soap.calc (I use that one) , water is prescribed as 38% of the total oil amount, meaning you need 380 gr of water for one kilo of any oils. So, if you do 30% water discount, it makes 266 gr of water (360-(360*.3)), right? I always count this way, because there is only one variable (water) to count with!
      Sure,if you're used to your calculation method,I'm sure you find it work best for you!

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    3. Thanks for the clarification, Maja. It sounds like you're saying that the water discount refers to the percentage subtracted from the full water amount, if I am understanding correctly. Thanks for helping me understand better!

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  7. I'm sorry this batch went wrong but it sure makes an educational (and funny) video and blogpost ;) . It happened to me once, I think it was the sandalwood PO's fault. I tried rebatching but it only got worse.

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    1. Thanks, Marieke! I'm glad that you liked the video! I'm sorry that you had a batch seize and couldn't save it. It's a bummer, but sometimes you just have to trash it and move on.

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  8. Great post Jenny, and fab video. I've not had one seize like that, though I've had a few rice on me and go all wee lumps. Not a nice looking soap in the end but usable. Glad yours is too xx

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    1. Hi, Polly! Thanks for your comments! I've had a batch rice on me, too, and I was able to stickblend most of the lumps away although it was still a little bit gritty-looking. Glad that your riced batch was usable, too!

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  9. I think the gremlins expanded beyond your soap because I could've sworn I had commented already and now it's gone.

    Your video is great, especially all the commentaries that went with it. :) That's too bad that your soap seized, but you certainly made lemonade by showing us how you saved it.

    Hopefully the gremlins have moved on and won't bother you again for a long while.

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    1. Hi, Monica! Hmm, that's strange that your comment went missing. I looked in my spam folder to see if it ended up there for some weird reason, but didn't see anything. Thanks for coming back to comment! I guess there are all sorts of gremlins out there. I'm glad that you liked the video! I tried to have fun with an un-fun situation. I hope the soap (and Blogger) gremlins leave us all alone, too!

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  10. I know it's not a funny topic, but your comments during the video made me smile :).
    It happended to me too when using FO( so I gave them up) and once when combining goat milk and clove bud oil because of too high temperature.
    Very interesting post, Jenny!

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    1. Thanks, Natalia! I'm glad that you liked the video! I tried to have fun with it. I can understand getting frustrated with FOs. Some EOs can cause problems, too. I can see where clove EO would give you trouble, especially if the soaping temperature was high. I hope you don't have any more problems with seizing!

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  11. Thank you for sharing this. I am still working through a few moments like this and others where my beautiful soap batch turns an ugly brown. It's good to know that this happens to the best of us (and not just me!).

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    1. Thanks, Cynthia! I'm glad that the post was helpful. Fragrances containing vanilla can turn your soap brown, as can sugars from things like milks, beer, or honey getting too hot and caramelizing. I hope you are able to work through the problems! Soapmaking can be quite an adventure, that's for sure!

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  12. Wow! It really is fascinating to see it happen within a matter of minutes. I'm sorry to hear that this batch didn't turn out how you were expecting -- but happy to see that you were able to get some soaps out of it! =)

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    1. Thank you, Anne-Marie! It was disappointing to have the batch seize, but it was also fascinating. I've always wondered what soap-on-a-stick looks like and now I know! I don't need to see it again for a while, though, LOL. And I am very glad that the soap was usable. It turned out to be a pretty nice soap!

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  13. Your video and whole post are so great, Jenny! :D And you still got a soap that you can use. I had major problems with Carrot Cake FO ans red palm oil in the same recipe. It seized before I mixed the oils and lye water. I just mixed it so much I could and let it be in the mixing bowl. I even tried it with one part lye, 3 parts water, but the effect was the same. The soaps still smell good.

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    1. Thanks, Marika! So sorry to hear about your trouble with the your soap. Some FOs and recipes are like that. I'm glad that we both still ended up with nice-smelling soaps!

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  14. I just made beer soap which also had shea butter & hemp milk added. I thought I was doing really good at first! I mixed at about 95 degrees but before I even added FO, it seized. I forced color anyway & plopped it in a tube mold. After 2 days I cut it & it looked awful. I don't think all of the FO blended either. So into the crockpot it went! The end result...UGLY swamp green but nice fragrance & lather & silky texture. Definitely useable. I'm going to try the recipe once more but try to blend at a cooler temperature & see what kind of results I get. Your video is a good reminder to just push forward!

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    1. Thank you, Gina! I'm glad that you enjoyed the video. Sorry to hear about your soap troubles. It must have been something about the recipe if it seized before the FO went in. Alcohol can cause soap to seize. Did you boil the beer first? I like to simmer beer for about 10 minutes the day before I plan to use it and then pop it into the fridge to get nice and cold so it's ready to go the next day. Cooler temps may help, too. I just made a goat's milk soap a couple of weeks ago and soaped at about 85 degrees F and all went well. I'm glad that you were able to rebatch the soap and save it! Sounds like it ended up being a nice soap. I hope you have better luck next time if you try the recipe again!

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  15. Great post Jenny! You always do such a great job at breaking everything down and making it informative and fun! Sorry about the soap seizing :(

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    1. Thanks, Roxana! I'm glad that you liked the post. This was my first soap-on-a-stick. I hope it will be my last, but it probably won't be! At least the soap was usable. It turned out to be nice soap, except for its appearance!

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  16. Wow! I'm sorry that this happened! Darn soap gremlins! Here are my wishes that your soap kitchen doesn't keep the gremlins!

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    1. Thanks, Andee! I hope that the soap gremlins stay away from my soap kitchen, too. Things have been going well lately - I hope that doesn't mean that they are due for another visit soon! :)

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  17. I have to think this was caused by soap gremlins -- and you're absolutely right; they can be bribed with a good, classy beer. While any cookie will do, they prefer something with macadamias and white chocolate chunks. I know this from having to bribe them when one of my paintings suddenly went "muddy."

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    1. Thanks for the tips! I didn't realize that the gremlins like white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. That's good to know. I wonder if the paint gremlins are friends with the soap gremlins? They probably all get together for cookie and beer swaps.

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  18. Darn!
    So i make a beer soap and it seizes. My first seized soap, and I make soap for 4 years already.

    Not so bad as "soap-on-a-stick" but bad enough. Mashed-potatoes in 1 minute that is, and it stayed like that, while I was mixing hard to try to get it as smooth as possible. My hands still hurt, even though I was using a blender. But it got good enough to spoon it in the molds.

    I'll see the results tomorrow, I hope I managed to mix everything very well so that I don't get lye pockets.

    So just after insulating the soap I go online, search for "beer soap seizes" and I find your article. Great article, btw. And I sigh, reading what I already knew but forgot, and that is that you have to evaporate the alcohol out of the darn beer... Last time I did the recipe I did everything right, and now i just forgot...

    Oh well. You make soap and you learn :)

    So, again, thanks for the article and keep up the good job!

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    1. So sorry to hear about your soap seizing - that is a bummer! Sometimes we just forget to do things. I hope that you were able to salvage the soap and that it ends up being usable. Soapmaking is always an adventure, isn't it? I'm glad that you enjoyed the post. Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for reading!

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  19. I made my very first batch of CP soap this evening (been doing MP for a while, but I finally got the guts to "go for it"), and guess what...yup, it seized. However, I had it blended really well before it did it, and had even poured some into another container to add color to. It wasn't exactly "pouring" when it went into the mold, but it wasn't as thick as what you had in the video, either. I was planning on swirling the 2 colors, but ended up doing layers...we shall see what it looks like by tomorrow evening. Hopefully...all will be well. Meanwhile, I'm not giving up...I'm too excited about soaping to do that! Thanks for the vid...that was a GREAT laugh, and made me feel much better!!

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    1. Hi, Karen! Oh no, I'm so sorry to hear that your very first batch seized! Sounds like maybe you can salvage it, though, if everything was mixed well. I hope the layers turn out pretty. Just make sure you check the soap for undissolved lye by doing a zap test. And definitely don't give up! We all have these things happen to us somewhere along the way, and fortunately seizing doesn't happen all that often. You got it out of the way early! :D Better luck on your next batch and have fun on your soapmaking journey! Soapmaking is always an adventure, whether it's a seize or the triumph of getting a technique just right. You'll have a great time! I'm so glad that the post was helpful and that you enjoyed the video. Thanks for reading!

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  20. Hello, I tried making my first batches of HP and CP soap today.. The HP one went well I believe... When I was washing out my crockpot it got all bubbly and soapy! (Yay!)... My CP soap... not sure what happened there...
    I wanted to make a coconut milk CP soap, and I read here http://www.northcountrymercantile.com/soapmakinglibrary/tips-for-making-coconut-milk-soap/ that you replace the water in your recipe with milk, but only use half with the lye, and pour the other half in when pouring in the rest of your additives..... So this is what I did. I found a basic CP soap recipe with 3 oils I had (canola, olive, and coconut) and followed those instructions, but used half of the milk with the lye and set the other half aside for later... Everything was going great... I'm pretty sure I got to trace (pulled the stick blender out and it made a blender imprint in the mixture)... So I added the rest of the coconut milk and started stirring it in.... But then my mixture got super hot and started steaming... And then it turned into mashed potatoes! I didn't add anything else because I didn't want to waste anything, but I threw the mixture into a silicone mold and I'm letting it sit right now... Can I rebatch this soap or do I have to start all over? I believe the lye is still caustic, so I don't want to hurt anyone with my soap! Help please! And great blog, thanks!!!!

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    1. Hi, Katie. I've never tried adding the lye to half of the milk and then adding the other half at trace - I've always added the lye to the full liquid amount - so I don't know much about that technique from personal experience. I would think, though, that the lye solution would be stronger using only half of the liquid and that could lead to trace acceleration. It also sounds like your soap overheated. The natural sugars in milk can cause the soap to heat up and go into a super hot gel phase. I find that it helps to measure out and freeze the milk ahead of time, and then I add the lye to the frozen slushy milk to keep it from scorching. (The lye will melt the frozen milk.) I also stir my lye solution in an ice bath to keep the temps low and to cool the lye solution faster. It also helps to soap cool. I try to soap around 85 degrees F when using milks, beer, wine, etc. As far as what to do about your soap, I always err on the side of caution. If the soap zaps or has lye pockets it's unsafe to use. Rebatching can salvage a batch gone wrong, particularly if you are sure that your measurements are correct. Otherwise I'd trash it if I had any doubts about its safety. You're right, you don't want to hurt yourself or anyone else with your soap! I hope that helps. Thanks for reading!

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    2. Okay, thanks so much! I'll remember to freeze the milk next time I make soap. I'll rebatch the soap tonight and hopefully it turns out the way I want it to. Thanks again!

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    3. You're welcome, Katie! Good luck with your soap!

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  21. I just tried my first hot processed past night. Fractionated coconut oil, evoo. Everything was going right then next thing i know it got too hard to stir couldnt figure it out. Didnt get a chance to use fragrance or color. I just scooped into mold, now praying for the best. Smells good though

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    1. Hi, Jessica! I'm sorry to hear that your batch seized. I've never soaped with fractionated coconut oil, so I don't know how it affects a batch. I hope that you can salvage the soap! Thanks for reading!

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    1. You're welcome! Thanks for reading/watching!

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  23. Hi Jenny Rose!
    I made my first batch of CP soap with beer (Guinness)... When I poured my lye/beer solution into my oil blend, it got to trace REALLY quickly.... I think a little too quickly. It is quite lumpy looking now... Even before I had a chance to put in my essential oils and honey it looked kind of like really wet scrambled eggs. (EW)... Not sure if I should re-batch this soap, or let it be... Help please! :)

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    1. Hello again, Katie! Sorry to hear about your batch going wrong! Alcohol can make soap seize. To avoid this problem, I bring the beer to a boil and let it simmer for about 10 minutes to cook off the alcohol. (Keep in mind that you will lose some liquid to evaporation, so either start with more beer than you need, or replace the evaporated liquid with water.) The sugars in beer can also lead to trace acceleration and overheating to the point of scorching or lye volcanoes. When I make beer soap, I usually simmer it the day before and then let it chill in the fridge or freezer until I'm ready to use it to keep the temperature of the lye solution down. I also soap cooler when using beer. As far as what to do about your soap, I always err on the side of caution. If the soap zaps or has lye pockets it's unsafe to use. Rebatching can salvage a batch gone wrong, particularly if you are sure that your measurements are correct. Otherwise I'd trash it if I had any doubts about its safety. I hope that helps!

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    2. Hi again!
      I let the beer sit out for 3 days before to make sure it was flat, and then froze it before I added any lye to it. I will rebatch it within the next few days! I made sure I followed the recipe correctly, so hopefully when I rebatch it, it will be fine. :)
      Thanks again!

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    3. Hi again!
      I let the beer sit out for 3 days before to make sure it was flat, and then froze it before I added any lye to it. I will rebatch it within the next few days! I made sure I followed the recipe correctly, so hopefully when I rebatch it, it will be fine. :)
      Thanks again!

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  24. I feel like I'm always bothering you!

    I just wanted to make sure.... How do I tell if I have lye pockets in my soap? I know that I always carefully follow the measurements, so nothing is lye-heavy... but I dont know the difference between lye pockets, and a cool swirl effect in the soap...

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    1. I have a bar of soap that I was looking at the picture just now... I thought maybe, OMG i hope those aren't lye pockets... I sold one of these bars already! (i hope only one! but I actually can't remember if I made 8 bars or 10 in total). I quickly ran downstairs and grabbed a bar and started licking it all over, and i didn't get any zaps... it did taste like soap... and I did take the bar and washed my arms/hands all over with it, and no burning sensations... so am I safe?

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    2. I've had one batch where I ended up with lye pockets. When I cut the soap, there were white spots and little holes in the bars that oozed a clear, zappy fluid. Sometimes you may get streaks of unsaponified lye in your bars, too. You can check for zap by using the tongue test or pH strips. I'm not really able to say with certainty if your soap is completely safe or not. Use your own judgment - if in doubt, throw it out!

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  25. Thanks for the reply. I did the tongue test, and no zapping... I've also been using one of the bars to wash myself with and I haven't had any issues so I'm going to say it is okay.... Maybe I just didn't mix my essential oils in as well as I thought I did and that's why I have a cool/weird swirling pattern.
    Thanks again!

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  26. Thanks for the reply. I did the tongue test, and no zapping... I've also been using one of the bars to wash myself with and I haven't had any issues so I'm going to say it is okay.... Maybe I just didn't mix my essential oils in as well as I thought I did and that's why I have a cool/weird swirling pattern.
    Thanks again!

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  27. I'm new to soap making and made a batch this past weekend which seized on me. I got it to light trace then poured in a mica for color and a mixture of fragrance oils when bam! It started hardening and became like mashed potatoes. I quickly tried to put it in my loaf mold but it was getting harder and harder. I was pushing it with my hands (in gloves) to try to get in the corners when I noticed portions were getting extremely hot but also much softer. I believe it was entering the gel phase. So I grabbed my stick blender and started working it. The good news is that this allowed me to get it better mixed and into the corners of the mold. The top just looks like a crumb topping for a dessert. So when I cut the bars I had some small air pockets but not bad overall. I tell u though it was discouraging and made me think twice about if I can do this soap making stuff. I think the lesson is to know the source of the fragrance oils. these were a mixture from michaels someone had given me.

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    1. Hi, Eleanor! I'm sorry to hear that one of your early batches went so badly! That can be discouraging for any soapmaker, but especially in the beginning stages. Don't give up - these things happen every once in a while. It does sound like maybe the fragrance oil made the trace accelerate, causing the batch to seize and go into gel phase quickly. Sounds like you did good, though, working it into the mold like that. (I assume that you checked for zap/unsaponified lye.) I'm glad that you were able to save the batch and that it wasn't a total loss! It definitely helps to know as much as possible about your fragrance oils before soaping with them. Vendors like Bramble Berry, Nature's Garden, and Elements Bath and Body - just to name a few - usually test their fragrances and make notes about how each one behaves so you know better what to expect. The good news is that this has happened to me only once in the past five years, so hopefully you just got it out of the way early! :) I hope you have better luck with your next batch. Keep soaping, and thanks for reading!

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  28. Hi, I need to infuse oils with powdered hard spices (that incl cinnamon & other eugenol types) in the superfat liquid fat But that liquid (caator oil) is insufficient to allow me to strain off the powder. FYI tge remainder / majority of the superfattibg is solid at room temperature & therefore unsuitable. So the castor oil creates a ball with the powder. Help! As a solution, can I increase the liquidity of the infusion with a liquid base oil, discount that base oil when emulsifyung the base oils & lye solution and then, add the infusion at light trace? Will adding the base oil so late & with a superfat alter soap qualities? If this can work, what percentage of base oils can I use? Will some liquid base oils be better than others as I use sunflower & olive oil. ... OR can I resolve this otherwise without access to liquid essential oils? Thanks.

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  29. Hi, I need to infuse oils with powdered hard spices (that incl cinnamon & other eugenol types) in the superfat liquid fat But that liquid (caator oil) is insufficient to allow me to strain off the powder. FYI tge remainder / majority of the superfattibg is solid at room temperature & therefore unsuitable. So the castor oil creates a ball with the powder. Help! As a solution, can I increase the liquidity of the infusion with a liquid base oil, discount that base oil when emulsifyung the base oils & lye solution and then, add the infusion at light trace? Will adding the base oil so late & with a superfat alter soap qualities? If this can work, what percentage of base oils can I use? Will some liquid base oils be better than others as I use sunflower & olive oil. ... OR can I resolve this otherwise without access to liquid essential oils? Thanks.

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    1. Hi, Tropical Gardener. Honestly, I really have no idea. I have never attempted anything like that. Have you tried asking your questions at an online soapmaking forum? There are many forums out there, but one that comes to mind is the Teach Soap forum. There might be people there who can better answer your questions. I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help. Best wishes to you, and thanks for reading!

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  30. Hi. Sad to see and hear about your soap seizing but yet glad to get some andistanding about the whole thing. I have got soap on a stick twice the two past weeks. Everytime i used goats milk ( and fragrance oils) so i´m not sure what caused it. And when i was going to cut the soap into bars it just fell apart in small, small pieces. But there were also some big pieces, do you think i could use them after 4-6 weeks, despite the soap being as hard rock stone from the first day?
    I also tried to rebatch some of it but that soap turned up as stonehard as the rest and with some oil floating around!!!!!!!!! yak, so boring and sad

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    1. Hi, Tina. It's hard to say with certainty what caused your soap to seize without more information, but a few things come to mind.

      If your soap is lye-heavy it can crumble. Too much lye can also accelerate trace and cause your soap to get very hard very quickly. I would recommend double-checking the recipe with a lye calculator like SoapCalc, and also check the soap for zap using either soapmaking pH strips/pH meter or the tongue test.

      If you are using goat's milk it could be that the soap overheated. The natural sugars in milk can cause the soap to heat up, which can cause acceleration and a super hot gel phase. I find that it helps to measure out and freeze the milk ahead of time, and then I add the lye to the frozen slushy milk to keep it from scorching. (The lye will melt the frozen milk.) I also stir my lye solution in an ice bath to keep the temps low and to cool the lye solution faster. It also helps to soap cool. I try to soap around 85-90 degrees F when using milks, beer, wine, etc.

      Ungelled soap can be crumbly if it is cut too soon, but ungelled soap is usually softer than gelled soap, and you said that your soap was rock-hard, so that may not be the case here.

      Another thing to consider is the recipe itself. If you do a steep water discount, the trace can accelerate. Your oil proportions (hard oils v.s. soft oils) could have something to do with it, too. As I already mentioned, if you use too much lye you can end up with hard, crumbly soap.

      And, of course, certain fragrance oils can cause acceleration and soap-on-a-stick.

      I'm not sure what to tell you as far as rebatching or using the soap. If the soap is lye-heavy or if you have any doubts about its safety, I would toss it.

      I hope that helps. Thanks for reading!

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  31. Hi Jenny, thank you for this post! It's lovely that folks can take their gremlins with such good humour!
    I just had a seize: 45% hard oils, 5,5% superfat, combined at 55° C, clay in water added, and mixed with a spoon before stick-blending. Oh, and I moved citied, so new water. Before I could blend or add my EO the lot seized - I feel like a Real Soaper now! But to avoid this happening again I need to identify the cause. Can you suggest some resources (books etc) that will help me learn how, or recommend a next step?

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