Goat’s Milk Soap: To Gel or Not to Gel

That is the question! Whether tis nobler to insulate such soap and allow it to gel, or to take arms against the heat of saponification and use fans to prevent gelling – that is what I am trying to discover. (Pardon me for writing another post that will only make sense to other soapmakers.)

Do you ever find yourself wondering why you use certain methods when you make soap? I can remember learning early on from other seasoned goat’s milk soapmakers that you should prevent gel – either by putting the raw soap in the refrigerator or even the freezer right after pouring, or by using a fan. I’ve been forced to use a fan since my log molds are too long to fit in a refrigerator or freezer. The reasoning was two-fold: 1. The milk heats up the soap and can cause it to volcano out of the mold, and 2. Ungelled soaps are lighter in color. You can see my tutorial on making Oatmeal, Milk and Honey soap here.

Suddenly, after years and years of making my Creamy Castile soap, I find myself questioning this reasoning because sometimes it comes out crumbly around the bottom edge. It only happens with the castile soap – not with any of my other goat’s milk soaps.

I thought I found the solution to the problem after the last batch when I decided to wait on pouring the soap until it finally reached a medium trace. This took a LONG time! I had to blend, wait 15-30 minutes, blend again, wait 15-30 minutes. I don’t even remember how long it finally took! I used to pour as soon as it reached a light trace, thinking it would heat up and start to gel if I didn’t.

Last week I tried using the same method again – waiting until medium trace – and ended up with 50 bars of partially gelled and crumbly soap. It’s either going to have to be re-batched, or sent to Clean the World. I have a feeling it will be the latter.

Creamy Castile Soap - Crumbly and Partially Gelled

This made me think – could I possibly make Creamy Castile soap and actually allow it to gel? It went against everything I thought I knew!! Lo and behold – it worked. The soap I made yesterday turned out smooth throughout. There was no volcano, and the color is just slightly darker. Amazing!

Creamy Castile Soap - Fully Gelled and Perfect!

So now I’m wondering. Those of you who make goat’s milk soap: do you let your soaps gel, or not? Any other words of wisdom you care to share are much appreciated!

58 thoughts on “Goat’s Milk Soap: To Gel or Not to Gel

  1. I would love some help on this subject! I’ve always gelled my soap, but this is the first time I’m using full goats milk. My sole purpose in putting my loaves in the freezer is to prevent the uncolored natural part of the soap to stay as light as possible. But from looking at your pics above, the color difference isnt enough to bother me. I just dont want it to turn brown. I also do not want a partial gel. So… how long do i leave in the freezer? do i move to fridge? or just leave out in the open? They’ve been in the freezer for about 30mins, as of right now. Help!

  2. @Alli – There’s no right or wrong answer here. I would leave the soap in the freezer for at least few hours, then put it in the refrigerator overnight. It may take some trial & error to find the right times for your recipe. Depends on the size of the recipe, how cool the temps were when you mixed it, etc.

  3. I tend to soap in the evenings and I just stick them in the freezer and leave them there all night. Doesn’t seem to do them any harm.

  4. Hi, my very first batch of soap I made gelled in the middle. Would it be okay to use it to make powdered laundry detergent or should I rebatch? Thanks for the resource, very informative.

  5. @Heidi – Partial gel is a cosmetic issue, nothing that will affect the performance of your soap. It looks better if it’s one or the other (gelled or non-gelled) but it’s still perfectly usable! Congrats on your first batch! I’m sure it won’t be your last. :)

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