Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Gumball Soap

So, a few months ago I picked up a bunch of one-ounce sampler fragrance oils from Nature's Garden. One of the scents I bought was their Bubble Luscious FO. Out of the bottle, it smells to me just like pink bubble gum, and the scent stays true in soap, too.

Sometimes you can smell a scent and know right away how you want to soap it. Other times, you have to think on the design for a bit. And sometimes you know what you want your soap to look like and you have to find a scent to go along with your plan.

With this fragrance, I saw colorful gumballs embedded in a white soap. A few years ago, I picked up this ice cube mold at a kitchen store and had yet to use it. This mold makes cylinders of ice for water bottles, but it's great for soap, too! I figured I would use it to make cylinders of melt-and-pour soap and embed them in my cold process soap. When cut, the soap tubes will look round, like gumballs!

Soap balls would have also worked great for this project, but I didn't have the energy to make a batch of CP soap and roll it into soap balls. I thought about using my silicone ball molds (Bramble Berry carries them in small, medium, and large sizes), but since I had only two of them I decided to use the ice cube mold instead.

Melt-and-pour embeds
I confess that I am lazy when it comes to making CP embeds. Oftentimes I don't feel like making a batch just for embeds, requiring two days of soaping to complete one project. And other times I just fail to plan ahead. I tell myself that one day I should just make an extra pound of soap when I'm already soaping, separate it out, color and scent it, and make some embeds for a future project and also gee whiz was that so hard? Trouble is that I never remember to do that, or I don't have enough time, or I don't know what kind of embeds I want for what kind of project, blah, blah, blah. So CP embeds just never seem to happen for me. At least, not so far.

But melt-and-pour soap offers flexibility, and embeds can be made quickly and easily with it. So, M&P was my go-to for embeds once I planned this gumball soap out in my head.

For my embeds, I chose clear M&P base and Fizzy Lemonade, Tangerine Wow, and Electric Bubble Gum neon colorants from Bramble Berry. (Tip: These pigments are best mixed with glycerin to work out the clumps before adding them to the soap. Don't disperse them in rubbing alcohol - it doesn't work.)

I chopped up the M&P, covered my container with plastic wrap to prevent the moisture from evaporating, and nuked it in the microwave for 30-second bursts until melted. Then I added my colorant and poured the soap into the ice cube mold. Because I had only one ounce of the fragrance oil, I didn't scent my M&P embeds. But I totally would have if I had had more FO. (Another tip: There is one cylinder in the center of the mold that does not have an open bottom. It's got this crisscross design instead, making it impossible to get the soap out. Avoid that particular cylinder. I had to soak my mold in water for, like, an entire day before the soap disintegrated enough for me to remove it. I don't know why it's like that or what it contributes to the mold - stability, maybe? - but there must be a reason for it. Just wanted to give you a heads-up.)

Ideally, I would have made my embeds the day before and allowed the soap to cool overnight. Of course, I didn't do that, so I was pressed for time. After pouring the M&P, I put the mold in the freezer for about 30 minutes or so to make the soap harden faster.

After I put the M&P in the freezer, I made my CP soap. I opted for a one-pound batch using a palm-free recipe from The Nova Studio Blog. I used the first recipe listed, which uses 40% vegetable shortening, 30% olive oil, 28% coconut oil, and 2% castor oil. If you give this recipe a go, make sure you read the vegetable shortening label carefully! Some shortening contains palm oil, which would totally defeat the purpose if you're trying to go palm-free. Look for a soybean/cottonseed blend. (SoapCalc has "Crisco, old" on their list of oils, and I used that to run the recipe using soybean/cottonseed shortening through their lye calculator.)

I added the FO to the cooled base oils, along with some titanium dioxide dispersed in glycerin to whiten the soap.

By the time my CP soap was ready, the M&P was due to come out of the freezer. Once the soap was hard, I partially pushed it out with my thumb and gripped it with a paper towel to pull it the rest of the way out. I also used said paper towel to dab away the condensation on the surface of the soap.

When the CP and M&P soaps were both ready to go, I poured enough CP soap into my loaf mold to create a base to nestle a few cylinders of M&P end-to-end. I covered the embeds with more CP, and then laid some more embeds. I did three layers of embeds total, and topped the loaf off with the end pieces I had trimmed from the M&P cylinders.

Here is a video of the process:

I placed the soap in the freezer overnight to avoid gel phase because I feared that the M&P soap might melt if it gelled. I also soaped cool - around 95 degrees F.

The fragrance oil and the recipe behaved beautifully. The trace was nice and slow, and the scent is strong. And I'm happy to report that this FO does not discolor. Sweet scents often contain vanilla, which can cause the soap to discolor brown. But this FO has a 0% vanillin content, and it stayed nice and white!

And I love Bramble Berry's neon colorants! The colors are so bold and bright, and they really pop against the white.

The soap held up fairly well in the shower. I worried that skipping gel phase might cause the embeds to not adhere as well. Once the soap got worn down and became thinner and more pliable, a couple of embeds came loose near the end of the bar's life. No biggie for me, though.

Have you combined melt-and-pour with cold process soap before? How did you like it?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Geranium Patchouli Soap

Patchouli. Some people love it, some people hate it. I am a big fan. One of these days, I need to make a straight patchouli soap. A while back, though, someone suggested that I try a geranium/patchouli essential oil blend, and I decided to give that a try since I had both on my fragrance shelf.

Since patchouli is so strong - and not everyone loves it - I decided to go with a blend that was 30% patchouli and 70% geranium. The geranium is not pure grade because, gawd, have you seen how much that stuff costs?! The scent is mostly rose with a nice earthy base. Kinda like a rose garden after a ground-soaking rain.

Not that I've ever been in a rose garden after a ground-soaking rain. But it's how I imagine a rose garden would smell after a ground-soaking rain.

I recently got some Red Moroccan Clay and figured it would make a deep rosy pink color. I used about one Tablespoon of clay per pound of oils, and once I mixed it with some glycerin to work out the clumps, I was afraid that it was going to turn out rather brown. As you can see in the finished soap, the color ended up being a dusty rose, so, yay!

I hear so many wonderful things about clays, and I want to experiment with them some more in soap. I'm thinking that this should make a lovely facial soap because of the clay.

Another concern was the tint of the essential oil blend. In the middle photo of the collage to the right, you'll see a bowl of orangish liquid toward the rear. That's the EO blend, and I worried that the patchouli would impart an orange tinge to the soap. All was well, though. The portion I colored white stayed white, and the pink stayed true, too.

For the oils, I tried a palm-free recipe from Amanda at Lovin' Soap. (I went with the first recipe listed: olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil, cocoa butter, and rice bran oil.) This is my first time using rice bran oil. I see a lot of palm-free recipes calling for it, and it's supposed to have great moisturizing qualities. I tested an end piece from this batch, and although it has been curing for only about two weeks, it is very nice! (Thanks for sharing your recipe, Amanda!)

To make the soap, I added the essential oil blend to my cooled oils. I soaped at around 105 degrees F, but I probably could have gone a bit cooler. Then I added my lye solution and stickblended to trace. The soap traced quickly - I poured about half of the batch into a separate measuring cup, and by the time I whisked the Red Moroccan clay into one half and the titanium dioxide into the other half, the batter was thick like cake frosting.

I had read that geranium could be tricky to work with, so I planned my batch accordingly. The plan was to do a layered soap, so the trace acceleration actually worked in my favor. It's important to bring the soap to a thick trace when doing layers so that each layer sits on top of the previous one instead of sinking. The thick trace also helped me to achieve pretty textured tops, which is often my Achilles heel! After layering the pink and white soap, I drizzled some reserved pink soap on top and then swirled it and pushed it around with the back of a spoon.

This should be such a lovely soap! It seems wonderful already, but it will be even better after it cures for a few more weeks.

And the scent combo is fantastic. I'll bet that even my mom - who is a patchouli-hater - will love this one!

What are some of your favorite blends with patchouli? Do you like patchouli, or do you straight up hate it? How about geranium? Have you tried them together? Did you like it? Do you want me to stop asking so many questions?