Melt & Pour Versus Cold Process Soap

Hi, Guys!

I’ve had a few people ask me, recently, about some of the soaps that I’ve been making and why some take so much longer to package.

Here is my answer, which I posted in one of my FaceBook groups, but I thought that this might shed some light on this for some of my newer followers:

I just wanted to take a few minutes to explain the different types of soaps that I make; melt & pour and cold process.
 
Melt & pour is to cold process what digital photography is to film photography; instant gratification! 🤣
 
I started out doing melt & pour because it’s fast. There. It’s out. I said it. If you look up the word, “impatience” in the dictionary, you’ll likely see my photo. It’s why I went from film photography to digital, and why I gravitated to melt & pour soaps before jumping into cold process with the big kids.
With melt & pour you select the type of base you want (glycerine, goat milk and shea butter are my go-to’s) and it comes in blocks. Two pound blocks are common, but I’ve cut up a 25 pound block, as well. The base is melted in a double boiler or microwave until no solids remain. Colorant and fragrance are added, mixed and the soap is then poured into molds. I use molds from 2 ounce shapes to 3 pound loaves. Small bars are ready to pop out of the molds and be wrapped within a few hours. A loaf mold can take as long as 8 hours to become solid enough to un-mold, slice and wrap. Melt & pour also makes it easy to weigh out extra to pour into my little sample molds.
The photos below illustrate fancy melt & pour, loaf slices and bars.
 
Cold process, on the other hand, is a whole different animal.
 
You select the types of oils and percentages of each you want to use, based on the characteristics of your desired bar outcome, then run your selected oils through a lye calculator. This requires knowing your yield. In my case, I use 3 pound loaf molds. This calculator then tells you the measurements of each oil, the amount of lye mixed into the correct amount of water, how much fragrance to use, etc. You have the option of tweaking your soap’s hardness, lather and pH. There are ideal ranges for all of these things.
 
Once your batter is mixed, you separate it to add different colorants for whichever look you’re going for, mix, then add fragrance. Then the batter is poured. The mold is then wrapped in towels to insulate to ensure the soap works its chemical magic. It then sits, insulated, for 24 hours. For harder soaps (soaps with larger percentages of harder oils like coconut or palm, shea butter or cocoa butter) you may be able to un-mold and slice after 24 hours. Recipes with more liquid oils (olive, sunflower, castor, grape seed, etc.) can sit in the molds, uninsulated for up to four days before you take them out to cut them. Small bar molds can be used, but the same rules apply.
 
Once sliced or popped out of smaller molds, cold process soaps need to cure anywhere from four weeks to a couple of months or more. Curing is the soap sitting in a cool, dry place while the water content evaporates from the bars or slices. The more water evaporated, the longer your bar will last in the shower, and let’s be honest. If I am paying for an artisan, hand crafted soap, I want it to last more than a week in the showe or tub, so I imagine you all feel the same.
 
Because the cold process recipes are calculated to the capacity of the molds used, it is much more difficult to get samples from them. If a loaf happens to come out with a wonky or irregular slice, I can (and will) cut samples at that time, but they will still need to have that cure time.
Below I’ve pictured a Mocha swirl and our Ocean Breeze “in the pot” swirl.
 
The current plan is to try to put out a cold process loaf once a week, while doing melt & pour in between so that we have the best selection of bars and slices to offer. After the cure of last week’s first cold process batch, we hope to be rolling out a new cured batch once a week within the next four weeks or so.
 
Let me know if y’all have any questions!
Be happy, be well, and at the very least, go make somebody smile, today!
Until next time…
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Getting Over My Fear of Lye…

Anyone who knows anything about soap knows that it can’t be made without lye (aka sodium hydroxide or caustic soda).

I’ve been doing melt & pour soaps for many, many moons because of my fear of lye. Okay, and also because I’ve read so very many horror stories of things that can go wrong while making cold process soap; acceleration (the batter thickening too quickly), ricing (little rice-like globules of soap in the batter) and the most terrifying of all; seizing (when the batter thickens so fast you can’t get it out of the pot).

I tried a new melt & pour swirling technique early last week that I was so anxious to try, because the video of said technique showed an absolutely lovely, defined swirl in the loaf slices. I was so excited to un-mold and slice that loaf. I mean, y’all have NO idea! That soap turned out okay. Under ordinary circumstances, I would have been raving about it, but it did not have the defined colors that I’d had in my mind’s eye:

Black Raspberry Vanilla Whipped

Black Raspberry Vanilla with goat milk with whipped topping loaf slices.

There is very little definition in this swirl. Yes, it’s pretty, but it wasn’t what I was going for, so I ended up spending the majority of the rest of my evening pouring over YouTube videos looking for a beginner-type cold process soap recipe. I found one, only it wasn’t exactly beginner level. It was called “in the pot swirl” and I decided to try it, because most of the beginner recipes were one color mold pours, and one color is something I can do all day with melt & pour.

The next night, Johnny and I went to our local home improvement store on our “meth run” to get the protective gear we’d need to do this soap. And the lye. Had to get the lye, because without lye, there is just oil, am I right? I grabbed what I needed and Johnny asked, “You’re getting drain cleaner to put in something people are going to put on their skin???” Well…yeah. I could pay more, plus shipping, to wait for something in prettier packaging online that contained less of the same thing, or I could grab what was right there in front of me. Total no-brainer.

I could get into the science now, but I won’t. I just told him to trust me, and we went home with our purchases (plus herb plants to soften our meth-maker-look, lol). I now have rosemary and an additional lavender planted in the herb garden, and we’ll sink the mint sometime this week.

Fast forward to Friday, when I was going to make the first batch. I got an order that I needed to deliver at 6pm that evening, and it was also the day my LLC came through, so I decided to wait until Saturday to make that batch, because chillaxing and celebrating were on the list, plus I was beat after a long week on the day job. I wanted to be fresh, mentally, when dealing with something that could eat my skin off. Can ya blame me?

So, on Saturday afternoon, after having spent my sleep-time the night before plagued with nightmares about lye solution exploding in my kitchen and covering our new flooring and making my dogs sick, I went about getting my stuff together. Johnny had to make a grocery run for Mother’s Day dinner, so I assembled everything I needed for the entire process, except for the lye. Having never worked with it before, I wanted to make sure I had someone in the house in case of … well, the worst case scenario. After all, somebody needed to be left to explain what happened.

So, Johnny got home, we got the groceries put up around the ingredient fiasco I had covered the counters and stove top with.

I donned my Breaking Bad goggles (that fit beautifully over my own spectacles, I might add), put on the rubber gloves, turned on the exhaust fan over the stove and opened the lye. It was granules. Simple, easy to pour, easy to measure granules. I don’t know if I expected hellfire to come shooting out of the bottle, or what, but nothing of the sort happened. I slowly added it to the pre-measured water. The more I poured and stirred to the room temperature water, the hotter it got, which I could feel through the gloves. I could also see the vapor coming out of the cup, as well. The fan took that right up. Once dissolved, I took a temp reading. 195 degrees!

So here was the first patience test; waiting for that lye water to cool to about 125 degrees. That was the longest part of the entire “making” process. It took about an hour.

Once it reached temp, I added it, slowly, to the coconut and almond oil that I’d melted and mixed. Johnny was a safe twenty feet across the room, LOL! “How’s it going over there?” he asked. So far, so good! I used my stick blender (not my good one that I use for food, but one Johnny had gotten for me for soaping-never use your soaping tools for food prep) to stir, then mix the batter.

Nothing got burned, nothing blew up, nothing happened, at all. It took a few minutes to get to trace, and I’d read so many stories about batter never reaching trace that I started to worry, but that was for nothing. The further along I got, the closer Johnny got to see what was going on. I picked up my five quart bucket to start pouring the batter into two smaller one-quart buckets to create colors. He was a little freaked out by that, but at the right consistency? Soap batter pours beautifully without splashing.

I got my colors mixed and commenced to pouring high at first, then pouring low to ensure the colors went to the bottom and stayed at the top and took my spatula to do the “in the pot swirl.”

I then poured into my first three pound mold, and filled it up. I still had more batter, so grabbed another mold and poured the remaining batter into it. By this time, the batter was thickening up, so I was able to make a nice swirl on the top of the full mold:

fresh pour 1

Full loaf swirl.

By the time I was done swirling the top of the full mold, the second mold was good and thick, so I could take a spoon to make a texture on the top:

fresh pour 2

It looked like waves!

This is where patience comes into play. You can un-mold a melt & pour 3 pound loaf within about 8 hours. Cold process? Not so much. At least 24-48 hours need to go by to allow everything to go through gel-phase and hardening.

Just shy of the 48 hour mark, I un-molded that half-loaf, thinking it would be the most firm out of the two. Not so much. Go figure. I still haven’t researched why that is. I had a good little bit of soap stick to the mold. The full mold came out much better, with no residual batter stuck to the mold. I inverted both, to let the undersides get some air and harden a little bit for a couple of hours, then I sliced.

To say that I was pleased with the swirl (especially being my first time) is an understatement. I was beyond thrilled! See why below:

ocean breeze cps

Full loaf tall, thin slices.

half loaf

The half-mold bars are definitely chunkier, but still really pretty!

So…I am really impressed with my first go at cold process. Now, I just have to flex my patience muscle for the next 4-6 weeks so these beauties can finish curing.

One of the girls at my day job told me that she will be really interested in getting some of these once I can show her that I can wash with one and not have exposed bone. I’m pretty sure she’s going to love a bar or two.

In case you are wondering how you can see all of the neat things I’m having such a blast creating, you can check out my Facebook page. I’m going to hold off sharing my web site until it goes completely live. It’s bare bones right now, given that the store needs a commercial PayPal account to get it configured, and since I am waiting on the PayPal folks to finish the process, I’m going to wait to share that with you when it’s fully functional.

So that’s all I’ve got for you guys this evening. I hope you enjoyed reading this, and also, if you are thinking about making cold process soap, but are freaked out by that whole lye-thing, that I’ve dispelled some of your fears.

Be well, be blessed, and go out there and spread some love!

Until next time…

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Are Y’all Still Out There????

Y’all!

I know.

August was my last post and I am kind of ashamed of that, but there’s this thing called LIFE and oftentimes it gets in the way of the things that bring us joy.

Less than a month after my last post, Hurricane Florence was kind enough to make a 2-3 day visit to our neck of the woods.

We lost some shingles, had some water damage to our ceilings, and lost almost a good third of our privacy fence (which is a necessity with seven dogs, so being out in the wind and rain tacking up chicken wire to keep them all in was a first priority) and had a LOT of water in both our front and back yards. My bonus-daughter got a case of tonsillitis  during this time, and I took her to an urgent care clinic as soon as it was safe to do so, which was the Sunday after the worst of it. My son and his wife bunked in with us for several days, as well, so that weekend was kind of hectic, to say the least.

A few weeks after the storm (and after Michael, which came hot on Florence’s heels, dumping even more rain) much of the standing water had finally drained from our yard, and we discovered a plethora of issues under our house, which resulted in 2/3 of our sub-floor having to be replaced, as well as many of the floor joists. This wasn’t just because of this particular storm, but a result of a really wet couple of years, and Florence just accelerated the process, which we are thankful for finding. We also had a crap-ton of termites, which wasn’t helping matters at all! These issues ate up a huge chunk of our time between late October and late December. In fact, we had our Thanksgiving dinner of grilled salmon out in the pool house with propane heaters running, because only our bedroom and master bath were habitable during this time.

 

We had more contractors in our home during this time than was humanly acceptable, in my humble opinion. Our laminate floors were pulled in early November, and we were finally ready to have new laminate installed at the end of November, so we were pretty much displaced to our outdoor space during this time.

 

That was a rough holiday season, to be sure!

Finally, after a bunch of ridiculous SNAFUs through our flooring contractor (who will remain nameless, because it took until LATE MARCH to finally get everything finished, but they DID finish it, so I won’t name them here) we were able to get our home almost habitable by Christmas, but we didn’t know it was going to take several more months to get the rest finished (i.e our dishwasher, contractor-related water leaks, etc.).

 

Our homeowner’s insurance didn’t cover but a portion of the issues we experienced during the storm, so my mind immediately went to, “what can I do to bring in some extra money on the side?

Because I’d been making essential oil and epsom salt based bath salts (when your master bath is one of your safe spaces during the upheaval of your home; baths are a welcomed escape), I started thinking about maybe giving out samples to see if I could generate some interest. There was a gentle rumble.

I also was in the process of un-assing items we no longer needed during an ongoing downsize and found a bunch of soy wax, wicks, containers and fragrance oils, that I’d used previously, so I pulled those out, knowing that new candles would absolutely make our house smell like home again. I poured any and all excess wax into wee heart molds and set them aside for later use.

I went to work, telling people that I was pouring candles again, and the interest was pretty much phenomenal! Everyone wanted to know what they smelled like, so I brought those little heart-shaped extras in and *BOOM*, a business was born.

I also started making melt & pour soaps and bath bombs (those bombs are another story for another time, as I almost went nuts trying to find the best combination of ingredients to make them work), but science works on everyone’s side! (I am really wanting a white lab coat with my name embroidered in lavender for Christmas, this year, LOL!)

 

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I’ve had my hands full, initially trying to come up with really quality products, and now, trying to keep said products on hand!

Today my LLC (Limited Liability Company) became official, and I’ve taken a night off to celebrate!

Tomorrow, though, we are going to be creating our first ever batch of cold process soap, which has intimidated us over the last few months, but we’re going to climb that mountain of uncertainty, don the meth cooking goggles, respirators and gloves and play with lye.

Screen Shot 2019-05-10 at 11.30.46 PM

Our cashier was cool, though.

 

Screen Shot 2019-05-10 at 11.32.47 PM

What can I say? I have a warped sense of humor!

So, tomorrow we turn a new page in the life of our newborn business, because it’s going to be raining. We still have a fence to repair and the remainder of the downsizing in the house to do, but in this house? We make hay while the sun shines!

Until Next Time…

Posted in Creativity, DIY, Family, Life Changes, Life’s Little Victories, Local disasters, Of Interest, Personal, Random Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments