What Is Gelled Soap?
Most of us learn about gelling the first time we experience a partial gel. A partial gel happens when the inside of your soap heats up enough to become gelatinous and translucent while the outside retains a cooler temperature. The resulting soap has a circle throughout it where the inside circle is brighter and the outside edges are muted. The problem
is purely aesthetic. Generally, soap makers try to avoid partial gel by either gelling their soap completely or preventing the soap from gelling at all. In this column, we will discuss three ways you can force gel phase.
Soap at Higher Temperatures
Soaping at a temperature of 110ºF - 140ºF can help ensure that your soap fully gels. Be sure to consider your soap recipe, certain additives can increase the likelihood of overheating problems. Some ingredients are already prone to overheating, and we do not recommend soaping at higher temperatures or insulating these recipes. Milk soap, honey soap, beer soap, wine soap and fruit purée soap all are prone to overheating and will likely gel even if you place them in the refrigerator. If you overheat these specialty soaps, the natural sugars will scorch which can create a very unpleasant smell and color.
Cover and Wrap
Swaddling our molded soap is our preferred way to gel soap. First cover the soap, we usually cover with another mold turned upside down, and then insulate around the mold. Use a towel or blanket to wrap around the mold to keep it warm and keep it covered and wrapped for 24 hours. We also love the idea of up-cycling an old Styrofoam cooler to keep your soap toasty warm. Styrofoam, which is polystyrene foam, is an excellent insulator. Place your molded soap into the cooler and cover with the top. Keep in mind that it is possible to keep the soap too warm. Soap that overheats can cause a soap volcano, which will result in a large mess of soap bursting out of the mold! Less spectacular effects of overheating include cracking, heat tunnels where your resulting soap has holes in it or alien brains where the top of the loaf changes to a sci-fi looking textured top. Check your soap after an hour to ensure it is comfortably warm and not on the verge of a volcanic eruption.
Our last suggestion for gelling soap is to place your molded and insulated soap onto a heating pad set to low or medium. The heating pad should only be left on for about 20-30 minutes. The soap naturally heats from the center but the added heat from the pad will also warm the outside, creating a fully gelled soap. Remember to account for the temperature of the room; if your soap studio is hot you may not need to do anything special to heat or insulate it.