How to Use Indigo to Color Cold Process Soap

If you’ve ever tried to use indigo to color your cold process soap and ended up with a nasty gray – or worse yet, no color at all – this post is for you! I’ve been there too, which is what drove me to figure out the best ways to get a beautiful color – from a light grayish blue to beautiful teal to dark navy blue. But what about color transfer and colored lather? Can you use too much? Definitely!

It should be noted that there are different types and intensities of indigo available from different suppliers and they are used in different ways. I will show you the benefits and disadvantages of each.

Let’s start with the different types. There are two different types of indigo: powdered and pre-reduced crystals. You can purchase the powdered form from several reputable soap supply vendors. (Thanks to the samples provided by Amanda Gail of Lovin Soap, I tested powders from Bramble Berry and From Nature With Love.) The only supplier of the crystals that I could find is Dharma Trading.

There are also different intensities of indigo powder. In addition to the powders from Bramble Berry and From Nature With Love, I tested a powder from Botanical Colors. They are not a soap supplier, but market their products to those who dye fabrics. It is an organic indigo powder that is much more saturated than the ones I tested from the soap suppliers.

I experimented with four different ways of incorporating indigo in cold process soap. 1. adding it to the hot lye solution, 2. creating strong oil infusions and adding after the soap was mixed, 3. dissolving the crystals in hot water, allowing it to cool and adding it after the soap was mixed, and 4. incorporating an oil infusion in addition to soap that already had indigo added to the lye solution. The powdered indigo can be added either to the lye solution OR in an oil infusion, but the pre-reduced crystals must be dissolved in hot water.

It’s important to use a soap recipe with light colored oils so that it doesn’t yellow and turn what could have been a lovely blue soap into an icky green or brown. I also made sure every batch went through gel stage to brighten/darken the colors. In a couple cases, the soap only reached a partial gel. This is the recipe I chose for all of my testing:

33% tallow
33% avocado
30% coconut
4% castor
5% superfat
30% lye concentration

Experiment #1: Testing saturation levels with the organic indigo from Botanical Colors using oil infusions.

Lightest layer: 1/16 tsp indigo in 1 tsp oil in just under 1 c soap; middle layer: 1/8 tsp indigo in 1 tsp oil in just under 1 c soap; darkest layer: 1/4 tsp indigo in 1 tsp oil in just under 1 c soap

The colors are grayish blue, just as they should be! I was worried that the darkest layer might bleed, so I did some testing on a cream-colored wash cloth:

Just the slightest bit of color transfer onto the wash cloth

I love that you can treat this indigo just like mica by pre-mixing it with a bit of oil and adding it to portions of soap. It makes it easy to do design work. However, the indigo takes a bit longer to incorporate than mica, so it requires you to plan ahead at least a few hours before you want to make the soap.

Experiment #2: Testing organic indigo and pre-reduced indigo crystals in the lye solution.

I used 1/2 tsp of indigo in both lye solutions for the same size batch (16 oz of oils). The powdered organic indigo is pictured on the left, and the pre-reduced crystals are on the right in the following photos:

Both types of indigo resisted being incorporated into the hot lye solution – the powdered even more than the crystals. The crystals turned green and also produced a rank odor when added to the lye.

By this time, the lye solution is starting to cool, but the indigo is still resisting in both solutions. I even considered that I might have to toss the one with the powdered organic indigo at this point.

This is how both solutions looked right before I added them to the oils. The organic powder finally incorporated – mostly. The crystals formed a skin on top and the solution remained a rather bright green.

This is the particulate that remained in the bottom of the measuring cup after I poured out the lye solutions.

The results of this test are rather stunning! The organic indigo remained a very dark blue – even darker than the darkest layer of the oil infused soap, while using almost half the amount.

Organic indigo from Botanical Colors in final soaps

This begs the question whether the lather of this super dark blue soap would stain the cream-colored washcloth:

This dark color definitely colored the washcloth, but fortunately it washed out! I probably still wouldn’t sell a soap colored this dark.

The soap colored with the crystals also came out beautifully – a very lovely dark greenish blue, with a lighter teal green around the outside. I think this may have happened because I put this soap in the oven to force gel stage and the heat pushed the green plant material to the outside. Just a theory though.

Soap colored with pre-reduced indigo crystals

And the color bleed test:

This one transferred just slightly more color than the darkest layer of the BC infusion soap, but not as much as the BC lye solution soap. The indigo washed out of the cloth, but I would still consider using a bit less.

The advantage to using this method is the ability to use much less colorant to get a strong color. The disadvantage is that you can’t do any design work. Your soap will be all one color – all one very lovely color though! I would also advise mixing the lye solution in a stainless steel container instead of plastic, as the indigo has now permanently stained the plastic measuring cups.

Experiment #3: Testing indigo powders from Bramble Berry and From Nature With Love using oil infusions.

I could tell just by looking at the color of the powders from these two different suppliers that the results from this experiment would be different.

Indigo powders

For this batch, I made 4 cups of soap (24 oz. of oils). Each oil infusion was made with 1 teaspoon of avocado oil mixed with the following amounts of indigo powder:

The intensity of the color is quite different between these two different suppliers! You can also observe the color difference between the gelled and ungelled portions of the soap.

Experiment #4: Testing pre-reduced indigo crystals dissolved in water added at trace.

For this experiment, I boiled 1/8 cup of water in the microwave, then added 1/8 tsp. of pre-reduced indigo crystals and stirred to dissolve. This method still puts off an odor, by the way! This time I made a batch of soap with 16 oz. of oils and poured off 1/2 cup of soap to add 1/4 tsp. of white kaolin clay dispersed in water for some drop swirls (just to add a design element). I took photos of the remaining soap batter after adding increments of 2.5 ml of the indigo solution:

The soap wasn’t poured off after each addition, I simply took a photo each time I mixed in more of the solution.

Once I had 10 ml of indigo solution added, I was happy with the color and poured the soap into the mold, adding the white drop swirls. Instead of putting the soap in the oven, I put it on a heating pad and covered it with towels. This produced a partial gel phase, and you can see the difference in color between the soap that didn’t gel and the soap that did:

No gel on the left, gel on the right

Isn’t it the most beautiful Tiffany blue? I just love how it turned out! I also observed that there is some shadowing around the white drop swirls – possibly due to the migration of the water that dispersed the clay or indigo, I’m not sure which. The other observation is the white outline around the outside of this soap, similar to the outline around the soap made with the crystals in the lye solution. Now I’m starting to think it’s because both of these soaps were made in a mold lined with silicone instead of freezer paper.

I thought I was finished now, but after seeing the results of Experiment #4, I knew I had to try one more batch using the indigo powder from Bramble Berry in the lye solution to see if I could get a nice blue color.

Experiment #5: Testing indigo powder from Bramble Berry in the lye solution.

Instead of adding the powder straight into the hot lye solution, I heated up the distilled water and mixed the powder into the hot water first. I had to cool it down in a cold water bath in my sink before adding the lye. It took an extra step to cool the water down twice, but the powder seemed to incorporate better this way. As soon as the lye was mixed in, the indigo turned a bit green, but you can see that after pouring the solution into the oils, there wasn’t as much residue left:

Lye solution is a dark olive green

Again, this batch size was 16 oz. of oils and I wanted to try one more thing to boost the blue color – layering more colorant into a portion of the soap by adding an oil infusion. I poured off 1 cup of soap and added an oil infusion of 1/2 tsp of indigo mixed with some avocado oil. Here you can see the difference in the color of the raw soap batter:

Oil infused batter is much darker!

And the final soap:

Beautiful gray-green from the lye solution infusion, and dark gray-navy from the added oil infusion.

I can see how layering different amounts of oil infusion on top of a soap that is already colored with indigo in the lye solution could produce some beautiful designs!

In case you are wondering if that dark soap will bleed:

Just noticeable amount of color bleed

Here’s one final comparison photo of the soaps made with 1/2 tsp of powder or crystals in the lye solution of a soap batch size with 16 ounces of oils:

This shows not only the difference in the intensity, but also the shades of greenish-blue to true dark navy.

This has been quite learning experience! I’ve discovered that not all indigo colorants are the same, and that you can achieve different colors and shades using different methods of incorporating the indigo into the soap. I have much more confidence in my ability to color soap naturally with indigo, and I hope you will too!

Secret Feather Swirl soap by Amy Warden

How to Ship Packages from USPS.com

I offered to do this tutorial for another soapmaker, but I think it’s for anyone who wants to send packages out for the holidays without standing in long lines at the post office. Benefits include: free boxes from USPS, discounted online postage rates, and free mail carrier pick-up. The best part is, once you set up your account, you can continue to use it! The only piece of “equipment” you need is a scale to weigh your packages. Soapmakers all have scales, but not everyone does. You can buy a regular postal scale, or just a kitchen scale if you don’t have one already. (The bathroom scale probably isn’t quite accurate enough!) I have a MyWeigh KD7000 which is readily available on Amazon or Walmart.com.

One caveat: You can only purchase Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express postage at USPS.com.

USPS has become the most economical way to ship small to medium to large size packages quickly with their flat rate and regional rate services. Anything that is too large to fit in a flat rate or regional rate box is probably better off going UPS or FedEx. You can get flat rate or regional rate boxes for FREE when you order them on the USPS website. They get delivered straight to your door. Postage for flat rate boxes can be purchased from the post office, but postage for regional rate boxes MUST be purchased from USPS.com. Flat rate boxes cost the same amount no matter where you send them. Regional rate boxes are a discounted rate, but their charges vary depending on the destination. You can check which one is more economical by using the online postage calculator.

I used to print my labels on regular white paper and tape them on with mailing tape, but now I purchase mailing labels from OnlineLabels.com HERE.

Once you have all your supplies, package your boxes and weigh them. Now you are ready to print your labels! First, you’ll need to go to USPS.com and register for your account. (You can click on the screenshots to see a larger image):

Step 1: Register for an account

Step 1: Register for an account

Once you have signed into your account, move on to Step 2:

Step 2: In the drop down menu under Ship a Package, select Print a Label with Postage

Step 2: In the drop down menu under Ship a Package, select Print a Label with Postage

On the next page, it should show your return address info at the top. You will need to fill in the destination address, etc for Step 3:

Step 3: Enter the destination address

Step 3: Enter the destination address

Scroll down to enter the package info:

Step 4: Fill in the rest of the information about your package.

Step 4: Fill in the rest of the information about your package.

1. Enter a shipping date. It defaults to the current date.
2. Enter package details. You will need to enter the weight of your package if you are using a regional rate box.
3. Enter the package value. This is only necessary if you are insuring your package or shipping overseas.
4. Select a service type. It defaults to Priority Mail, which is what you need for regional rate shipping.
5. View available rates and services – Final step!

Once you click “view available rates and services”, you will be able to see a list of shipping options with their prices:

Shipping Options, Pt 1

Step 5: Shipping Options, Pt 1

This photo doesn’t show all of the options. You’ll need to scroll down (using the blue scroll bar) to find the regional rate box options:

Shipping Options, Pt 2

Step 6: Shipping Options, Pt 2

Once you choose the method you are shipping, you can click on the “Add to Cart” button. This will take you to payment info. Choose “Add New Card” to pay with a debit or credit card OR you can pay with paypal:

Step 6: Payment info.

Step 7: Payment info.

Next is printing your labels. For the first step, I always choose “Print labels without receipt” so I can get 2 labels on one sheet. You will still get a copy of the receipt via email. Even if I don’t have more than one to print at that moment, I can re-use the label sheet the next time. After clicking on the blue “Print Labels” link, your printer interface should pop up. If you are printing on label sheets, be sure to select “labels” at that time so your printer knows what material you are using. If you are using regular paper, just print like usual. You can also schedule a carrier pick-up on this page. Another perk of printing your labels online! (Unless you live in a rural area that doesn’t support it, or you don’t have a place to leave your package for your mail carrier.)

Step 8: Printing Your Labels

Step 8: Printing Your Labels

That should do it! If you can’t schedule a carrier pick-up, just drop your package at the post office and you’re done!

Updated: November 2, 2015

Guest Post: Even Layering Soap Tutorial

I am so excited to share this tutorial with you from Erin of Inner Earth Soaps, a super talented soapmaker from Sydney, Australia! If you’re anything like me, making even layers in cold-processed soap is a struggle! I’d much rather just make them messy and call it “textured”. Read on to find out how Erin gets hers to turn out so smooth!

Inner Earth Even Layering Soap Tutorial

Finished-Bars

This is one of the advanced design techniques in my e-book, Soapmaking Made Easy: A Comprehensive Guide to Making Cold Process Soap. This technique will give you beautiful even layers in your soap. I’ll be showing you three layers here, but you can of course do more! I’ve layered up to five colours using this technique.

Instructions:

1. Follow cold process soapmaking instructions up to the point where your caustic solution and melted oils have been mixed together.

2. Bring the raw soap to a very light trace with the stickblender. It should be lightly opaque but still quite runny.

3. Separate the raw soap equally into three separate containers. For this technique, it’s important to colour, fragrance, and trace each layer separately.

Colourants Prepped and Ready

Colourants Prepped and Ready

Separating Raw Soap

Separating Raw Soap

4. Take the soap that will be the bottom layer. Add colour and fragrance, and stickblend to a medium trace.

Mixing Colour for First Layer

Mixing Colour for First Layer

5. Pour the soap into the mould, slowly and steadily.

Pouring First Layer

Pouring First Layer

6. Use a spoon to push the soap around so that it’s evenly spread over the mould. Bang the mould gently on the bench to settle the soap and get rid of any air bubbles.

7. Put the lid or cover over the mould while you prepare the next layer – this will help the soap to set up a little so it’s firm enough to have the next layer spooned on top without mixing.

8. Colour, fragrance and trace your next layer.

9. Using a long-handled spoon, gently spoon the next layer on. Spoon evenly over the surface, spreading with the back of the spoon to smooth it out, and again banging the mould gently to get rid of any trapped air bubbles.

Adding Second Layer

Adding Second Layer

10. Repeat steps 8, 9 and 10 for the final layer.

Adding Final Layer

Adding Final Layer

11. Add some pretty swirls to the top with a spoon end (or any tool you like).

Texturizing the Top

Texturizing the Top

12. Cover and insulate for 12-24 hours before cutting.

13. Your finished soap should look like this:

Finished Bars

Finished Bars

I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing Erin’s e-book, and it contains a wealth of information for someone who might be new to soapmaking, complete with sources for ingredients, recipes, and troubleshooting as well as some advanced techniques laid out with plenty of photos like the ones above. Erin puts her personal touch on the book by telling her love story with soap and showing some fun before and after photos of soap designs that she has changed and perfected over the years.

You may purchase your copy HERE.

You can also follow the Inner Earth blog and Facebook page.

Coloring Your Cold Process Soap

4-soap-banner
If you’ve made the time to experiment and measure out how much color you use each time you make soap, you may know how much color you’ll need to achieve the results you’re looking for. But if you’re somewhat new to the soapmaking world and haven’t made dozens of batches yet, there isn’t a whole lot of information from suppliers about usage rates. I’ve seen things like “add desired amount” or “if your soap lather is colored, you’ve added too much”. Well, that’s not so helpful since you can’t really judge that until after the soap is set up and you’ve already ruined it! Sometimes the supplier will tell you how much color to use per pound of oils. Rarely do I color an entire batch of soap the same color anymore. It’s usually pulling out a cup of soap, or splitting the batch into smaller parts to do a design.

I’ve come up with my own basic usage guidelines for the various types of micas and pigments like oxides and ultramarines. I’ve also experimented with neons which will give a very nice range of color. These are the guidelines I use PER CUP of soap:

Micas – I use 1 tsp. per cup of soap for the most brilliant color
Oxides and ultramarines – Use 1/4 tsp. per cup of soap
Titanium dioxide – use up to 1 tsp. per cup of soap. (Less is better!)
Neons – Use 1/2 tsp. per cup of soap for the most brilliant color, 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. per cup for pastels or lighter colors.

(These are my own guidelines. It’s always a good idea to do your own testing!)

Pre-mixing your colorants: You’ve probably seen soapmakers using glycerin, oil or water. How do you know which one to use? Glycerin is a safe bet because it will mix with both water and oil soluble colorants. That’s why you can buy colorants pre-mixed with glycerin from soap supply vendors. It’s also easy to clean up! The only issue with using glycerin is that you absolutely have to stick-blend the colorant into the soap to get it fully incorporated. This works most of the time – it’s just when you need your soap batter as fluid as possible for an intricate design that you wouldn’t want to stick-blend the color in. It’s also more difficult to tell how much colorant you are using when you purchase it pre-mixed, so you’ll just have to eyeball it.

I prefer to mix my colors with water whenever possible – even micas that don’t seem to incorporate very well. That way any extra liquid I’m adding to the soap will just cure out. You can test oxides and ultramarines to see if they mix better with oil or water. Titanium dioxide will be labeled with its solubility, and I like to get the water soluble variety. Most ultramarines and all neons have to be mixed with oil, however. You can use some of the oil from your recipe if you remember to do it that way, or just add a tiny bit extra to the colorants.

Example of ultramarine violet that didn't mix into the soap.

Example of ultramarine violet that didn’t mix into the soap.

Clumping is another issue you might be having even with pre-mixing – especially with oil-soluble titanium dioxide, oxides and ultramarines. Using a mini frother will help remove all the clumps in a hurry. If you don’t have one, I suggest pre-mixing before you start the rest of your soap preparations and give it a stir every once in awhile as you walk by.

Offsetting yellow tones or discoloring fragrances with titanium dioxide: Titanium dioxide is a strong whitening agent in cold process soap. You can use it to off-set the natural yellow or beige tone of your soap to create a white soap, or use a small amount with your colors to make them lighter or more pastel, and especially if you are using a fragrance oil that discolors to a light to medium tan it will help retain the color of your soap. Using whiter oils in your soap base will also help! If you have a fragrance that is mostly vanilla, or you know it will turn dark brown, it’s an exercise of futility to try to work against it. Titanium dioxide will not offset it, and vanilla stabilizers tend to break down over time. You can either add fragrance to a portion of your soap so that only that part will turn dark brown, or just go with it and have a soap that is completely dark.

Super crackled Lily of the Valley Soap

Super crackled Lily of the Valley Soap


What about the crackle effect from titanium dioxide? Sometimes you will get a crackled soap from using titanium dioxide with a soap recipe that overheated. There are certain fragrances that will overheat your soap, such as many of the florals, as well as certain oils in your soap recipe that can cause problems. For example, after I removed rice bran oil from my recipe, the amount of crackling from titanium dioxide was drastically reduced. Since it’s just a cosmetic issue, you don’t have to worry about it affecting the performance of your soap, and sometimes it just looks really cool! Use the least amount of TD you can. Using too much can cause your soap to become brittle, so no more than 1 tsp. per cup of soap. Seasonal changes can affect your soap, so remember it’s not necessary to over-insulate your soap in the warmer summer months!

How do you get a true red? This used to be a more elusive problem, but I’m seeing more suppliers who carry the true red, non-bleeding colorant. Most of them are pre-mixed, however, so if you want to get more bang for your buck, you can order the powdered form from TKB Trading – red lake #30 – and mix it yourself with either oil or glycerin.

Morphing colors: low ph dyes will morph in a high ph environment. Sometimes you can make the color changes work for you, such as a blue that turns purple. Sometimes a blue will just turn a nasty gray though. If you want a true blue, stick to ultramarine blue or a mica that you know is stable. I have several that I can recommend, and Wholesale Supplies Plus has information about the ph of their colorants listed on their website which comes in handy! Here is a list of micas from The Conservatorie that have been tested by several soapmakers and deemed stable.

Bleeding colors:
Most FD&C and D&C dyes will bleed and/or fade in sunlight. I usually avoid these for soapmaking. If you buy soap colorants from the hobby stores, they are made for melt & pour bases and they are usually FD&C or D&C dye that are highly diluted and will bleed and fade in cold process soap. Be sure to purchase high quality micas, oxides or ultramarines from a reputable soap supply vendor or get the Lab Colors that are specifically for cold process soap from Brambleberry.

If you are more of a visual learner, please watch this video I created for more information:

More resources from Anne-Marie Faiola of Brambleberry:

Soap Coloring Options


http://www.soapqueen.com/bath-and-body-tutorials/tips-and-tricks/talk-it-out-tuesday-colorants/

More information on using titanium dioxide to off-set dark oils from Majestic Mountain Sage:

Neem Oil and Titanium Dioxide in Cold Process Soap

Get hands-on learning with a personalized Mica Class with Kenna of Amathia Soapworks:

http://www.amathiasoapworks.com/product/group-soap-session-using-micas-in-cold-process-soap/

There is so much information around using colors in cold-process soap. I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg, so if you have more questions, please ask in the comment section below!

Hair Chalk Recipe and Tips

If you subscribe to the Brambleberry newsletter, you should have received a recipe for making hair chalk about three days ago. My nine-year-old daughter has been asking for a blue streak in her hair for quite some time, but I never wanted to do it permanently, so we decided to try this out with some ultramarine blue! Brambleberry states that the chalk should wash out in the first wash – or two, if your hair is very light. Be warned: this can be a very messy thing to make if children are involved!

Hair Chalk Recipe from Brambleberry

2 Tablespoons Colorant (We found that oxides and Bramble Berry neon pigments worked best and micas didn’t really work at all; they just crumble apart.)
1/2 Teaspoon Kaolin Clay
1 Tablespoon Witch Hazel
1/2 teaspoon Arrowroot Powder
1/2 teaspoon Water

Equipment Needed:
Gloves * Apron * Spray Bottle with water * Comb * Blow-Dryer * Hairspray

To Make Hair Chalk

ONE: Mix dry colorant and kaolin together in a bowl big enough to stick both hands in.

TWO: Place arrowroot and water in a separate small container and microwave for 5 seconds. You do not want it gummy, just slightly thickened. If it’s not thick after 5 seconds, try again on three second bursts. (Amy’s notes: when they say thickened, it means just starting to gel or coagulate. If you do not reach this stage, the chalk will NOT form.)

THREE: Add the witch hazel to the dry powders, and hand mix together (while wearing gloves!). Once well mixed, add arrowroot powder and water slurry. Really squish the mixture together. You don’t want it crumbly or wet, or to have bits of undispersed clay. It should have texture just like kid’s modeling clay. If it is too dry, spritz witch hazel one spritz at a time until correct consistency is reached.

FOUR: Roll mixture on a piece of parchment paper until you get the shape you like. Allow to air dry overnight.

To Apply Hair Chalk

ONE: Put an old sheet or towel over the shoulders of the person you’re applying the color to. Wet designated area of hair desired to be chalked. We used a spray bottle of water. (Amy’s notes: I would put the person in a bathtub as well. We ended up with some crumbled bits of hair chalk on the floor.)

TWO: Wearing gloves, apply the chalk to the wet area by dragging it along the strands. Use your fingers to rub the chalk into the hair really well.

THREE: Once you’ve reached the desired amount of coverage, comb through the hair to evenly distribute the chalk. (Amy’s note: your comb will turn color, but you should be able to wash it off.)

FOUR: Heat-set the chalk using either a blow-dryer, curling iron, or straightener. A curling iron or straightener may not be the best idea for those with damaged hair. You can also straighten or curl the hair after you blow-dry it. (Amy’s notes: I applied a LOT of chalk to her hair. After drying it with a blow-dryer, the hair got really stiff and we had to comb through it again. This was another somewhat messy step, as you could see the dry chalk flying.)

FIVE: Spray chalked hair with hair spray so that it doesn’t brush off onto clothing.

My daughter with blue hair chalk!

Amy’s Insights:

The good news is that the blue hair chalk washed out completely after the first shampoo! We attempted to make more hair chalk this morning because her sister wanted to try it, and we thought we might make some for Christmas presents. Her sister wanted a lime green, so we combined regular green oxide with yellow oxide with a 2:1 ratio. It seemed to work fine – except that I forgot to add the witch hazel to the colorant and kaolin clay and instead put it with the arrowroot powder and water. The consistency was a little off, so she ended up smearing more of it on her gloves and the waxed paper and didn’t end up with as much chalk as her sister did. Oops!!

We also attempted another hair chalk with the electric bubblegum colorant and I made the same mistake! Only this time the slurry hadn’t really gelled at all, so I ended up really ruining it. After combining the slurry with the colorant and kaolin clay, the chalk wouldn’t form at all! I tried to put the whole thing in the microwave for a few seconds to help it set up, but we ended up with hard chunks along with watery parts and had to throw everything out. The electric bubblegum colorant really stains the skin, so I’m not sure I would recommend using it for hair chalk unless you were being really careful and NOT applying it around the hairline. Lesson learned: FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS!!

UPDATE:
I just made 5 more batches. I tried following the recipe and made another batch with the bubblegum pink – another failed batch!! First of all, when you only combine the arrowroot powder with the water, after 5 seconds in the microwave, you have a solid ball of goo. I really think adding the witch hazel with the arrowroot and water is the way to go, and I’m sure this is how we must have made the first blue batch which turned out so well. I never could get the pink batch to solidify. Tried adding more arrowroot slurry, more kaolin clay…nothing worked. I ended up with a big glob of pink goo!!

Next batch worked out perfectly! I used hydrated chromium green oxide this time and only combined the oxide with the kaolin clay. I made the slurry out of the witch hazel, arrowroot and water. The key for me was to make sure the liquids only filled the measuring spoon until it was level (no extra rounded top!). With my microwave, I figured out that six seconds was good for the first burst (take it out and swirl it around in the cup), then two more four-second bursts (swirling it around after the first one, and stirring with a spoon after the second one). It was just starting to gel at that point and I could stir it up until it was just thickened.

After that I made a batch with ultramarine purple and just a bit of ultramarine blue. It came out too sticky because I added too much liquid up front (make sure it’s LEVEL in the measuring spoon!). Even after adding more kaolin clay, I lost half of it because it was stuck to the sides of the bowl.

Next I made another ultramarine blue batch that turned out perfectly. (See I’m learning!)

Finally I made a batch with brick red oxide that half worked. It turned out extra dry, and I’m afraid it’s going to crumble when it’s applied. I tried adding more witch hazel…no luck. Then I tried adding more water…again no luck! It just didn’t want to stick together like the hydrated chromium green and ultramarine blue did. Photos of the final products:

Left to right: ultramarine blue, hydrated chromium green, ultramarine purple (with a bit of blue), brick red oxide

Hoping to gift these to my nieces tomorrow!

Magma Soap, Sponsored by Brambleberry!

Ever since Brambleberry sent me one of their 5-lb wooden log molds with a silicone liner after the Soap Challenges, I’ve been looking for a reason to use it! It’s not my usual size mold, but I’ve been so intrigued with the idea of a silicone liner…so when they contacted me about sending me one of their soap kits and doing a post on my blog, I immediately picked the Magma soap kit. Not only did it use the 5-lb mold, but it combined two different kinds of soaps that I had never combined before!

It also gave me a reason to make another video – something I hadn’t done in quite some time. Check it out:

Yes, I’m leaving you hanging for now…tomorrow you can see how the soap turned out, plus I will reveal a coupon code from Brambleberry as well as a Soap Challenge for my soapmaking friends to enter a drawing for a significant prize!

Soap Beveling 101

If you are not a soapmaker, you may disregard this post. I had a request for information on how I bevel my soaps. The video is short and sweet, and I’ve already received some excellent feedback from my youtube subscribers.

I have been sending my soap scraps to Clean the World for several years now. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 2 million persons die each year from diarrheal illness. These deaths occur almost exclusively among children younger than 5 years living in low income countries. Many of these deaths are preventable through proper hygiene practices. Clean the World is a very reputable organization, and I understand they have a hub in Canada now as well (although it has been brought to my attention that the Canadian hub only accepts monetary donations and volunteers). They accept all manner of soaps, including melt-and-pour! Use this link to find their mailing address, and don’t forget to request a tax receipt and include your own mailing address.

Are you a soap beveler? Why or why not?

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Goat’s Milk Soap Tutorial Updated

This is just a quick post to let you know that I updated my tutorial on How to Make Goat’s Milk Soap yesterday. I’ve changed my method slightly, plus the photos were all skewed in the original post so I fixed that too! I added links to other pertinent posts as well. I use fresh, raw goat’s milk from Screamin Oaks Farm in Tonganoxie, Kansas in my goat’s milk soaps, but you can use the canned version with the same method. You may have to re-constitute it first. I hope you find it helpful!

How to Line a Wooden Soap Mold

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard other soapmakers say they just hate to line their soap mold! I find it pretty relaxing, and thanks to the lesson from my soapmaking friend April McCart, there’s a method I use that is leak-proof and turns out beautiful soaps every time. I use wooden log molds of several different lengths, but the widths are all the same. The shortest one is about 7″ long and is the most difficult to line with this method, but it still works. I buy 15″ wide freezer paper by the roll from Uline, then cut about 4″ off one side before folding it for the mold.

I had a friend come over to help shoot some video, so here’s a quick tutorial:

If you have any questions, please let me know! I’m planning to make more videos this year, so if you are interested, I would be thrilled if you subscribed to my YouTube channel, and I will do the same.

How To Make Hot Process Soap in the Microwave

Making soap in the microwave is a great way to make a small batch of hot-process soap. It’s probably not any more dangerous than making hot processed soap with any other method. However, I must make some necessary warnings and cautions before we begin. This method is an advanced soapmaking technique, and should not be attempted by anyone who is not familiar with cold-process soapmaking, or anyone who is not prepared to watch the microwave continuously while the soap is cooking inside! I made my entire one-pound batch of soap in about an hour. Watching the microwave took about 10-15 minutes. Please read through the entire tutorial and familiarize yourself with the process and photos before you begin.

Formulating a recipe: I use my regular soap recipe, and calculate a one-pound batch using Soapcalc.com. This is a great size because it is small enough to fit inside the microwave (must have room for expanding soap), and large enough that I can still submerge my stick blender. I use the water amount recommended by Soapcalc, which is 38% of oils.

Equipment needed:
The same equipment you normally use for making soap is what you will need to make soap in the microwave. Since you’ve made soap before, you know what this is, right? The only thing that is different for me is that I use a 64-ounce pyrex batter bowl to melt the oils, and mix and cook the soap. You must have a bowl that is clear so you can see the soap climbing inside.

Let’s begin!

The first thing you must be acquainted with on your microwave is how to set the power level to 5, or half power. I NEVER use full power to melt the oils, or cook the soap. On my microwave, I have to push “time cook”, then the time, for example: “2” “0” “0” for two minutes, then “power level” then “5” and “start”. Yours might be different.

The buttons on my microwave


Step 1: Measure and melt the solid oils and butters. Using half power, I melt my oils a minute at a time, stirring after each minute until they are mostly melted. Then I stir until the rest melts, and add the remaining liquid oils.

Solid oils & butters are mostly melted

Step 2: Measure and mix your lye solution. Mine is a simple water and lye mixture. Be sure to start with cold liquid!

Lye solution in a plastic pitcher

Step 3: This is the best part about making hot processed soap – you can add the lye solution directly to the oils as soon as it is properly mixed without paying any attention to the temperatures.

Lye solution has been stirred into the oils with a spoon.

Step 4: Stick blend the soap until it’s too thick to blend any longer. Now it’s ready to cook!

Soap is at heavy trace

Step 5: Cooking soap in the microwave involves a repetitive process of cooking, watching, and stirring. With a one-pound batch, I start cooking the soap in the microwave for two minutes at half power. Since different microwaves cook differently, you will have to watch your soap carefully the first time you make it in the microwave. This is what my soap looks like after cooking two minutes at half power, and stirred down:

Soap after cooking for two minutes in the microwave.

Then I cook it another two minutes at half power. The soap was still actively bubbling when I took this photo:

Soap is bubbling up after the second two minutes of cooking

Step 6: Continue cooking, watching, and stirring. I set the time for about five minutes at half power – BUT I DON’T LET IT GO THE ENTIRE TIME. Watch. When the soap looks like the photo below, OPEN THE DOOR OF THE MICROWAVE IMMEDIATELY AND STIR. (You don’t have to let the soap get this high to open the door and stir it down. This was getting precariously close to volcano stage!)

View through the microwave door of the soap bubbling up.

Stir down the soap each time it bubbles up. This photo shows the “applesauce” stage, where there is a bit of separation. You can see some liquid, and the solid parts are little balls of soap:

Stirred down soap

Continue to cook, watch, and stir.

Time saving tip: If you just open the door of the microwave and don’t hit “stop/clear/off” each time, then you can just put the soap back in the microwave and hit “start”. You won’t have to re-set the time and power level each time. If the time is running out, I hit the “add 30 seconds” button a couple times to keep it going.

When the soap is mostly translucent after stirring it down, it’s done! The soap will hold together and the consistency is like mashed potatoes. (This process varies each time I make soap in the microwave. This time it took about 2-3 times of cooking and stirring down before it was done. Sometimes it takes a lot more. If you find that the soap is bubbling up after just a few seconds in the microwave, it probably has plenty of heat and just needs to be stirred longer.)

Mostly translucent soap

Close-up of mostly translucent soap

Step 7: Add color and fragrance. I didn’t add fragrance to this particular batch. You will want to test the temperature of the soap and know the flash point of your fragrance before adding it, so it doesn’t burn off. As a general rule, you will use less fragrance for hot processed soap than for cold processed soap. If you normally scent your CP soap at 0.8 oz per pound of soap, you can back that off to about 0.5 oz. per pound. I add colorants at the same rate as cold processed soap.

This is going to be plain RED soap:

Red colorant added

After red colorant is stirred in

After the fragrance and color is mixed in, you can mash the soap into your mold and let it sit overnight. You may be able to cut it the next day, but if it’s still soft, you might have to wait a little longer. When I make soap balls, I let the soap cool in the bowl, then scoop it out with a spoon and form balls with my hands. I can get consistent sizes by weighing soap pieces on my scale before I form them.

Technically, hot processed soap is ready to use right away. You may want to let it cure out some of the excess liquid if it’s still a bit soft. However, if you’re planning to make soap balls to put in another batch of soap – it’s ready as soon as the balls are rolled!

Any questions?