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saponification and soap temps.


vberkesch
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Hi again and back looking for your opinion.

After having soaped a bit now, but still consider myself a beginner - - I went back to my trusty old Soapmaker's Companion book to see what she said about my NOT GELLING my soaps.

She really states in her book that you need to insulate your soap whether you soap cool or soap warm temps. Well...I've been soaping cool (RT) and putting my soap directly into the frig. to prevent gelling. No insulation going on here!!

My soaps are turning out beautiful - I like the look of the non-gelled soap, they harden slower than gelled soap, but I can still cut them after 24 hours. Is the whole idea of not gelling a rather new idea?

I guess I'm just hoping my soaps are indeed completing their saponification.

What do you all think?

Thanks much, Vanessa

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Some of the instructions in that book aren't necessary. Insulating is one of them, as you have found out by still getting soap even after putting it in the fridge. Another one I remember is asking you to have the lye and oils at the same temperature which should be in the range of 90-110*F. In the end you just have to experiment to figure out what works best for you.

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I'm going to stick my neck out on this one...

Yet another handcrafting fad is to declare a basic principle of soapmaking irrelevant - namely the importance of temperature. It's not that you can't soap at room temperature, but people are getting the idea that it's always a good idea, no matter what the recipe, or that temperature hardly affects anything except how the soap looks.

Maybe one of the things contributing to this is the popularity of making soft soap. You may have heard about the 50/50 rule of thumb for hard and soft oils. By my reckoning, 50/50 recipes are pretty much on the soft side and often the oil mixture will stay crystal clear at room temperature. It's pretty easy to get away with lower temps for a recipe like that.

Temperature affects the speed of saponification tremendously. When your batch gels you can be confident that you got good saponification all through the batch and you might even be less likely to get ash. Your soap will be milder faster.

With harder recipes, one pitfall of RT soaping is that the oils can congeal in the mixing pot or mold so that the mixture isn't as well emulsified. This can result in a grainier appearance and other oddities. I've even seen recipes that get chalky and brittle on the outside when soaped too cold.

I'm not saying you shouldn't soap at room temperature. All I'm saying is, don't forget that temperature is relevant and does make a difference. Experiment with different ways of doing things and see what works best in your situation.

This board is mainly where I learned originally, so of course I dabbled in RT soaping and even recommended it to others. But these days I actually soap warm and thoroughly gel every batch and I think this gives me the very best results for my own product.

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Very well said, topofmurrayhill. :)

I, too, have learned that temperature is very relevant for certain oils/fats. I used to soap every one of my batches when everything was cooled down to room temp, but I began to notice that I always ended up having troublesome issues with certain oils/fats like PKO, cocoa butter, mango butter, illipe butter, and kokum butter. They either caused faster trace, or else curdling, or ricing, even before adding the F/O at times. It took me a little while to put 2 + 2 together, but the pesky issues totally went away for me when I started soaping those particular oils/fats at 120 degreesF. Also since doing that, the little 'stearic spots' that would show up in my finished soap went away as well.

Vanessa- whether you let your soaps gel or not, they still end up as great soap after a good cure.

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For my first 6 months of soaping I soaped warm like all the books discuss. Then I was all about having everything pre mixed and melted and cooled to room temp - cooler was better. But I have found that since I moved to this house that soaping with room temp oils and lye is iffy for some formulas and some FOs - I never get full gel without adding heat and then I often end up with overheating. For the most part I now soap at close to 100 F. I do NOT bother getting matching temps - in fact I'll soap with one part hotter and one colder if they average out to about 100.

With my most recent formulas it's a BIG issue since, as top says, they are mostly hard oils and at 70 degrees they are cloudy and a bit thick.

OTOH there are combos that are persnickity and require cool-cool-cool.

Soaping is a science and we need to remember that there are a lot of variables to balance.

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