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Common Problems, Questions, & Tips

We get lots of questions every week, and we've probably experienced most of the problems you inevitably will run into when making soap (or know someone who has). If you have a specific question - browse this page! If you don't find the answer, email us and we'll do our best to answer it for you.

QUESTION: What do all of the letters (CP, CPHP, etc) on soapmaking sites refer to?
ANSWER: Soapmakers use anacronyms for soapmaking processes and ingredients to save time typing. Here are some commonly used shortcuts:

CP = Cold Process
CPHP = CrockPot Hot Process
HP = Hot Process
DBHP = Double Boiler Hot Process
CPOP or ITMHP = Cold Process Oven Process or In The Mold Hot Process
FO or EO = Fragrance Oil or Essential Oil (scents for soap)

QUESTION: What is the difference between French or Hand-milling soap and rebatch?
ANSWER: It is the same thing. It involves melting down soap that has already been made, sometimes adding other colorants, fragrances, or additives to it, then glopping it into a mold. The final result is normally not as smooth as what you will get with CP or CPHP.

QUESTION: I can't find lye or freezer paper in my area. HELP!
ANSWER: Lye is sometimes difficult to locate in some sections of the country. You will need to find sodium hydroxide either in a small plastic container (Red Devil Lye - located around the kitchen supplies in grocery stores), or in bulk from a chemical supply company. There are some companies online who will sell smaller quantities, but the price can be prohibitive. Please note that Drain-O WILL NOT work for soapmaking - it contains metal shavings.

We use Reynolds brand freezer paper - readily available at most Wal-Mart stores (near the ziploc bags and foil). Most grocery stores also carry it.

QUESTION: Does it matter which side of the freezer paper I use in my mold?
ANSWER: No - it doesn't. :o) I prefer the shiny side down myself, but I know many soapers who prefer the shiny side to be against their soap. This is completely a personal preference and will not adversely affect the soap either way.

PROBLEM: Soap not going through gel stage.
SOLUTION: Soap may have gone cold (i.e. caught a chill :o) ). Oils may not have been warm enough to get the process going. You can kick start it in one of two ways - dump the soap back into your pot and heat to about 130 degrees, stirring well, then pour into fresh mold (or cleaned old one). Re-insulate and it should get going again. Another method that I have just learned about is to take a large plastic container filled with hot water, put the lid on, set inside an ice chest/cooler and place the mold on TOP of this. I personally have never tried it, but I know someone it did work for.

PROBLEM: Pockets of liquid in soap after unmolding.
SOLUTION: Could be lye OR fragrance oil. Either way - if you are sure your calculations and weights were correct when you made the soap, grate the soap up (Salad Shooter - need I say more?), throw it in the crockpot and melt it down. Stir every now and then - GENTLY. When it reaches a vaseline-like consistency, it's ready to glop into a mold. (Hence the name: Glop and Plop) This is called "rebatching" soap. If the pockets were fragrance oil, this should distribute it evenly. If the soap was lye heavy to begin with - then you've got yourself a fine batch of laundry soap. :o) If it wasn't, then rebatching and then allowing the soap to cure should solve the problem. Test it before you use it.

PROBLEM: Color changed after going through gel stage.
SOLUTION: Actually, there isn't a great solution for this one. :o( Soap will usually be a bit darker after going through gel. Sometimes the color will change completely. This does not affect the quality of the soap - it is simply "cosmetically challenged". :o) I use oil-based FDA approved dyes which are available on our website (see
DYES). I had them specifically formulated by a chemist to work in lye-based soap. They hold up extremely well in CP, CPHP, or HP. With some dyes/oxides, the colorant will be affected by the lye, and turn a different shade and sometimes a completely different color. I do not advocate using water-based dyes in soap (food coloring will NOT work) simply because I haven't found any yet that will hold up. They tend to bleed, stain washcloths, and fade. We have all made soap from time to time that turned a color we hadn't intended. You *can* try to rebatch the soap - i.e. melt it down in the crockpot and add more colorant to it. I would reserve this method for the very worst case scenario though - I am not a fan of rebatch. :oP

PROBLEM: No scent left in soap after saponification.
SOLUTION: One of two things happened - either the fragrance did not hold up to the lye, or not enough FO (fragrance oil) was used when making the soap. General rule of thumb for CP is 1 oz of FO per pound of base oils/butters (see example calculation below). For CPHP, you use much less because the fragrance is never in contact with the lye - you add it after the soap has "cooked" and there is no lye remaining to interact with it. 1/2 oz per pound of oils is usually plenty for hot processed soap. This will vary depending on the strength of the fragrance itself and whether or not is has been diluted. The solution to this is to grate the soap up, rebatch it and add more FO.

EXAMPLE: 64oz base oils and butters divided by 16oz = 4oz fragrance oil needed for CP soap. For any type of hot process, you would use HALF this amount, or 2oz total.

PROBLEM: Soap won't come out of mold.
SOLUTION: Generally, this is not the mold's fault - most of the time if you have trouble getting soap out of a mold, it's because raw soap oozed around the edges of the freezer paper. Take a butter knife and run it between the freezer paper and the mold, being careful not to gouge either the fresh soap or your wooden mold. Pay special attention to the corners, because this is generally the problem area. You can head this off in the future by making sure the corners of your freezer paper are well-mitered (or even cut small additional pieces of freezer paper, crease them to fit into the corners, and place underneath main lining). Do NOT rip the freezer paper off of the sides before you get the soap out, or you will have a very hard time removing it. Last resort to removing stubborn soap from the mold is to stick it into the freezer for a couple of hours or overnight. This will harden the soap and make it easier to get out.

PROBLEM: Air pockets/bubbles in soap after rebatching or CPHP.
SOLUTION: This is caused by not banging your mold enough as you glop the soap into the mold. Next time, glop a layer of soap, bang your mold HARD on counter or floor, glop another layer, etc. Think of it as therapy. :o)

TIPS:

**Wipe the container you use to weigh your lye with a dryer sheet (Bounce, etc.) before you measure the lye. This will keep the tiny lye flakes from sticking to the inside of the container.

**When cleaning your soap pot, spray with vinegar and wipe excess soap with paper towel. Add dishwashing liquid and wash thoroughly.

**The easiest way I have found to clean the stick blender is this: Fill soap pot with soapy water. Use your stick blender and "mix" the water as you would your soap. This will clean the underside of your blender safely and easily. Unplug blender and wash the outside with soapy water. Dry thoroughly and put away - do not use with food.


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