When Good Soaps Go Bad: Common Cold Process Soap Making Issues - Wholesale Supplies Plus
Shop Our Soaper Staples Sale! - Shop Now
Wholesale Supplies Plus

When Good Soaps Go Bad: Common Cold Process Soap Making Issues

Whether you're a veteran or a rookie when it comes to soap making, you are not immune to mishaps. It happens to everyone, but knowing how to diagnose the problem will better enable you to learn how to fix it.
Soap making problems happen to beginners and seasoned professionals alike. No cold process soap maker is immune to mishaps. The key to overcoming the situation is learning and understanding. We've mapped out the most common pitfalls in soap making along with our best tips and tricks to avoid and fix each one. . Have they happened to you? Take careful note and next time you will have the troubleshooting upper hand.

Dry and crumbly

If your soap crumbles when cutting or appears dry and powdery, it is likely that the soap is too lye-heavy. An abundance of lye in your recipe will be left without an oil to saponify with, thus showing up as free radical particles. Chances are you miscalculated or mismeasured and included too much lye or too little oil.
Check out our Lye Calculator

Soft and squishy

Just the opposite of lye-heavy is soft soap. Characteristics to watch out for include spongy, gelatinous, and malleable to the touch. If this occurs, double check your calculations. Be sure you did not add too much oil or left out a portion of the lye.

Soap won't set up

If after 24 hours your soap hasn’t firmed up your problem could be due to either improper measurements or inadequate mixing. Retrace your steps to be certain that you correctly calculated your lye solution. If your measurements were 100% correct, the diagnosis could be that you did not bring your soap batter to a proper trace.
In order for saponification to occur, the oils must be completely combined with the lye. False trace is a phenomenon that can occur when the reaction temperature drops and the fats solidify before they are properly incorporated. To avoid this, keep your oil and lye solution temperatures consistent with each other.

Oozing oils

If you cut into your soap and discover that you have pockets of weeping oil, chances are the culprit is either your fragrance oil or a superfat. Unblended oils often appear in finished soap as droplets or small pouches of unsaponified oil. Given time, the oil may be reabsorbed but if not, it may be best to rebatch the loaf.

Dreaded Orange Spots (DOS)

Dreaded Orange Spots, or DOS, are the nemesis of nearly all soap makers at one time or another. Sometimes they show up right away while other times they take weeks to appear. There are many factors that cause DOS but the most probable cause is using oils that have passed their expiration dates and have become rancid. Always store your soap making oils according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and be certain to double check the expiration date prior to using.

Gel Ring

Another common aesthetic nuisance plaguing soap makers is a gel ring. During the saponification process, your soap heats up and goes through a gel phase. The gelling begins in the middle and works its way out to the edges. As the soap completes the gel phase, the process is reversed with the edges cooling and solidifying first working back into the center. If at any time during this process the temperature changes or the natural process is halted, a gel ring can occur. The finished soap is absolutely okay to use but aesthetically it can alter the design of your soap.
To avoid a gel ring you can (1) bypass gel altogether by placing your newly poured loaf into the refrigerator/freezer or (2) create an environment where your saponifying soap will remain at a constant warm temperature.

Split tops

If your soap batch gets too hot while gelling, it can begin to crack. Similar to bread baking in the oven, an exit for the trapped heat forms. This often happens with soaps that contain milk or sugar ingredients. Quite often the crack will come back together as the soap cools and be almost unnoticeable in the final design. If you find your tops splitting more often than not, try elevating your loaf to allow for airflow around the mold. Or switch to a mold that is not quite so insulated. Cracked tops still produce viable soaps but they can be aesthetically unpleasant.
The old adage of measure twice and cut once certainly applies to soap making. Don’t rush your process. Take the proper time to accurately measure and re-measure your ingredients. Keeping a record of your steps will not only provide a history for re-creation. But it also offers a record to scrutinize when things go wrong. Learn from reflecting on the experience and trying again.

Stearic Spots (White Spots)

White spots (also called stearic spots) may not be quite as bad as orange ones, but they can still make your soap appear unattractive. This problem stems from temperatures that are too low for your lye and base oil. Ingredients that contain any amount of stearic acid require a higher melt point in order to dissolve that acid. Otherwise, they  remain solid and appear as white spots in your final soap product.
Avoid stearic spots altogether by increasing your soaping temperature to 100 to 120 degrees. Another tip is to start your soap making process by melting solid oils, then adding liquid oils to the mixture. This ensures a uniform consistency without worrying about your temperature dropping before the stearic acid melts. 

Soap Won’t Reach Trace

There are a few reasons why your soap isn't thickening properly (also called reaching trace). The first potential cause for this soap making problem is improper stirring. Although it's cheaper, stirring by hand is much less effective than using an immersion blender. Not only will you notice a better consistency, you'll also spend a lot less time in this stage of the soap making process.
If you're already using an immersion blender and still have trouble getting your soap to reach trace, check your ingredients. Old, expired lye can cause consistency issues; and living in a humid environment can cause it to weaken even faster. Also check your water content. You may be using too much liquid if your soap isn't thickening. 

We hope these solutions help all of your soap making problems disappear so you can focus on creating high quality products that your customers will love!

Questions & Answers (0)
No items listed at this time, please check back often as we are adding kits/items everyday.