When Soap Gremlins Attack!

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I have been making soap for two and a half years now. That’s quite a long time. I wrote a post about the first batch of soap I made way back in March 2013. You can check it out here.

Since then I have made about 800 bars of soap. I’ve got my NICNAS registration and started selling to family, friends, workmates and at the very occasional public event. In a couple of weeks I’ll be at the school Christmas market, which is quite exciting.

In that time my soap has gone from looking like the ones in the link above to single colour swirls and basic natural scents to complex themed essential oil and colour combinations.

Original Fairy Garden

Original Fairy Garden

Fairy Garden Mk2

Fairy Garden Mk2

And until last week I hadn’t lost a single batch.

Soapers talk of a phenomena known as ‘soap gremlins’. It’s when soap develops a mind of its own and things go awry. Seized (super fast thickening), discoloured or overheated batches, dropped mixing bowls, missed fragrances, anything that stops your masterpiece from manifesting as you had intended. And they tend to come in a series of two or more disasters.

I’ve been stocking up on a lot of old favourites with Christmas, the school market and next year’s Rural Lifestyle Expo in mind. Two popular natural varieties, Holy Guacamole and Bee’s Knees, should have gone off without a hitch. But I made a couple of bad decisions.

Holy Guacamole features avocado oil and the flesh of a whole avocado in the mix. It turns out a kind of booger green. It is probably the ugliest soap I make, but it is super moisturising and leaves that dewy feeling on your skin without being greasy. I usually let it heat up naturally to gel phase to speed up the cure, but this time it didn’t heat up on its own. So I gave it a bit of help by putting it in the oven.

When I unmoulded it the next day I found that I had burned the edges. It had a thin layer of nasty brown goo around the top. The rest of the soap was fine, but it looked bloody awful. The best option was to slice off the top layer, leaving a smaller bar. To compensate for this, I cut the batch into 12 bars instead of 16 to make up for the lost weight. So the bars are nice and fat, with flat tops. And they should still work perfectly well.

Holy Guacamole, not a beauty even when successful, but feels great to use.

Holy Guacamole, not a beauty even when successful, but feels great to use.

My next mistake was on the honey soap. The batch stayed beautifully cool and kept the creamy look. I had the bright idea of putting it in my cute new 12-bar mould with the goat kid on it. The soft, sticky soap stayed in the detail parts of the mould when I popped it out, and left sad blurry goat kids on the top of each bar.

I had never done a rebatch before, but a newly made, otherwise perfectly good batch of milk and honey soap seemed like a good place to start if I wanted to save all the ingredients and have a saleable batch of a popular variety. I did some research and decided to go with the stove top method.

I grated up the soap, put it into oven bags and put the oven bags in a big pot of boiling water. Once it had all melted down I snipped a corner off the bags and squeezed all the molten soap into the moulds. Then it was fingers crossed and don’t look at it for at least 12 hours.

It turned out okay, some people have even said it looks better than the original (thanks guys). I’ll test it in a day or two and see how it goes.

Rebatched honey soap

Rebatched honey soap

Then on Saturday I woke with an idea. I pictured a creamy, mostly white soap, with a light brown and lilac swirl. I had been trying to figure out a way to lighten-up a combination of frankincense and patchouli essential oils, and I had the idea of adding lime. I decided to risk a hanger swirl with two colours. The essential oil combo turned out better than I expected, it smells amazing, and applying the colours turned out to be a bit of a learning experience. But in the end I am happy with how it turned out.

New, still unnamed variety with frankincense, patchouli and lime.

New, still unnamed variety with frankincense, patchouli and lime.

Here are a couple of my recent creations that I am a bit proud of. I’ve never really been much of a crafty person, but I enjoy making things that are useful, good for you, enjoyable to use and also look good sitting on your sink or in your shower. I’ve been able to help a few people with skin problems along the way.

Tie Dye - four colour in-the-pot swirl with clary sage, patchouli and lavender.

Tie Dye – four colour in-the-pot swirl with clary sage, patchouli and lavender.

Plain four-ingredient goat milk soap, dressed up just a little with this cute goat kid mould.

Plain four-ingredient goat milk soap, dressed up just a little with this cute goat kid mould.

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