Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fireburst Soap

If you've been following this blog for a while, you may remember some Candy Cane soaps that I made for the holidays using the Impressionist Swirl technique. To do the Impressionist Swirl, you divide your soap into as many colors as you'd like and then use squeeze bottles to drizzle the soap into the mold.

Typically, the soap is drizzled horizontally into the mold, along the long sides, to create the Impressionist Swirl. A while back, I saw a post by the Otion Soap Blog where they did something similar to an Impressionist Swirl, but instead of squirting the soap horizontally, they squirted it vertically, making S-shapes along the short sides of the mold.

I thought I'd give that a try for this batch.

For a project like this one, you want to pick a well-behaved soap recipe and fragrance oil. For the recipe, I chose David's palm-free recipe using vegetable shortening, olive oil, coconut oil, and castor oil. (Make sure you check the label carefully on the vegetable shortening if you want a palm-free recipe. Some shortenings contain palm oil. The one I used was a blend of soybean and cottonseed oils.) To calculate the recipe, I headed over to SoapCalc to figure out the lye and water amounts. For the vegetable shortening, I selected "Crisco, old" from the Oils, Fats, and Waxes list. (For tips on which shortening to select from SoapCalc's list, see FAQ #9 on their website.)

I have been experimenting with palm-free recipes lately. I haven't settled on a favorite yet, although I have tried many that I enjoyed. I have used David's recipe once before and knew from my notes that the batter stayed nice and loose for me, which is exactly what a project like this one requires.

For the scent, I chose Bramble Berry's Energy fragrance oil. It is one of my favorites, and it has always behaved well for me.

To do the swirls (or whatever you want to call them), I used squirt bottles that I found in the baking/candymaking aisle of the craft store. After I brought the soap to a light trace - the soap needs to be emulsified, but still fluid and loose - and scented it, I divided the soap evenly among four plastic measuring cups prepped with colorant. For my colorants, I chose Bramble Berry's brick red oxide, yellow oxide, titanium dioxide, and orange mica. (BB no longer carries the orange mica, which gives me sad face.) To avoid clumping, I mixed each colorant with some liquid glycerin before adding the soap to it. After I added the soap to the measuring cups, I whisked it to mix the colors in well, and then gave it a quick buzz with the stickblender to make sure that the colors were fully incorporated, being careful not to blend too much in order to keep the soap at a very light trace.

Once the soap was colored, I poured each color into a squeeze bottle. (Tip: Be sure you snip the tips of your bottles to create a bigger opening so the soap flows more easily.)

Then, instead of squirting the soap along the long sides of the mold, I squirted the soap in a S-pattern along the short sides, alternating colors as I went. I tried to hit different spots while drizzling, going in between one color with another and covering different parts of the mold.

After a few sweeps, it's good to rotate the mold so that the colors are more evenly distributed throughout the loaf. Tap it against the countertop, too, to get rid of air bubbles. And if the soap starts to thicken in the bottle, just put your finger over the top (very important!) and give it a good shake.

When squirting the soap, I try to drizzle the same amount each time I sweep through. A good thing to do is to count to three or whatever each time so that roughly the same amount of soap is being used with each squirt.

Even though I try to evenly split the soap, it seems that I somehow always end up with more of some colors than others. And it also seems that no matter how hard I try to drizzle the same amount each time, I end up running out of one or two colors before I'm done with the batch. This time, I ran out of yellow and orange before I was completely finished. Fortunately, I was almost done, and I was able to finish off with the red and white without compromising the effect too much. Once I was done drizzling all of the soap, I took a toothpick and did a sort of herringbone swirl on the tops, dragging the toothpick just below the surface in alternating directions.

Here is a video showing how I made this batch:

I love this effect, and I really like how this batch turned out. Because the scent and colors are so lively, I decided to call this soap "Fireburst." I'm not sure if the soap gelled, as it was still very soft a week later when I cut it even with the sodium lactate that I added to the lye solution at 1.5%. I may experiment with adding some cocoa butter or something like that to the recipe to make a harder batch.

Squirting the soap vertically along the short sides of the mold creates wavy lines in the cut bars, while squirting the soap along the long sides horizontally creates more of a teardrop effect. Here is how the two compare:

Right: Impressionist Swirl (horizontally); Left: Twist on Impressionist Swirl (vertically)

Oh, and here's another tip - after I was done with the squirt bottles, I got as much soap out of them as I could and then added a couple drops of dishwashing detergent to the bottles along with some warm water. I gave each bottle a few shakes, emptied and rinsed it, and repeated until clean.

I've already tried an end piece from this batch, and it is very nice soap with lots of bubbly lather. I can't wait until it fully cures!

Have you used squirt bottles in soapmaking? What are some of your favorite ways to use them?