Mindless maths and basic mistakes

I had it all sorted!  A quiet afternoon, all the ingredients, my personalised recipe for a standard soap mix formulated with the help of the Soap Calculator http://soapcalc.net/  (which has layers and layers of super helpful soap-making information, behind the scenes as it were, when it’s links are utilised), and an inviting Shed.

My plan was (1) to test how long to cook the Hot Process mix for (crock pot on hot) in order to reach the saponification point, (2) trial the sodium lactate, (3) fine tune the superfatting with the oils added after the cooking.

I thought the soap would cook in less than half an hour – somewhere around 15-20 minutes, because the last batch was climbing out of the pot in half an hour, and had completely reacted, according to the trusty pH strips.  I like pushing the boundaries – trying to get the best soap by the most efficient process.

So there I am, “in the zone”, measured the oils as usual – slightly different proportions in this new mix – olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, castor oil, and some avocado oil for superfatting.  The shea butter is fairly stubborn about melting but with the heat outside, didn’t take long.  All good with the water and the lye mixing, and the sodium lactate addition.  The mixes whizzed together, and a nice light trace was reached, and on it went to cook at hot.  After 15-20 minutes, the mix was not looking like my soap mixes usually look.  It had turned to a kind of curds and whey – lots of liquid still around.  Maybe the sodium lactate, I thought?  When I whisked in the avocado oil, the mix homogenised slightly, I added yoghurt and the soap mix transformed into a lovely buttery texture.

Of course, somewhere in the middle of all this, the phone rang, visitors arrived, and I acquired a little companion for the afternoon – my not-quite-2 year old grandson!   So it became a hasty addition of the essential oils / clay and a quick pour into the milk carton mould.  The glop was far more pourable than other mixes, and also didn’t come as far up the milk carton (volume-wise) as usual – alarm bells were trying to ring in my head, but on hold until the next day.

That soap came out of the mould best ever!!


Smooth as baby skin, and nice sharp corners – completely unlike my usual ugly, messy, soap edges, but when I frothed a test patch up, and tested with the pH strips – WAY too alkaline (basic)!!  Soap needs to have a pH less than 10 – this was clearly at least 10!!


I knew that I had added every oil and butter in the mix.  My little silicon measuring cup measures 200gm of oil (max), so quantities greater than this require some basic mental maths.  I had miscalculated the olive oil by 100gm – thus the shortfall of mix in the mould, and the oddness of consistency after cooking.  There was, as a result, more lye than oils to react with!

The good thing about soap chemistry is, it doesn’t care if you stuff up, it’s mostly fixable!

I chopped up the soap, put it back in the pot, added the extra oil and reheated until the “soap” had melted with the extra oil, and I could whisk – homogenise the mix.  This was around 140 degrees.  This mix went into the next milk carton mould – filling it to the usual level.  A retest showed that the lye was now satiated, and pH where it should be.


I suspect the fragrance may not have stuck around, but the soap should be OK – the next few days will tell!  And next time, I will remind myself to be mindful and present when measuring.

Soap making is very forgiving, but I have learned, thus far, that it demands patience and attention. Both not my strong points.

On a non-soap front, my hand is improving.  I found a locally made herbal “Eczema cream”, containing 60% pawpaw, with chickweed and chamomile.  http://mcarthurnaturalproducts.com/   It seems to be working a treat.  But it stinks!!!   The fact that I am still using it despite the smell is a testament to it’s effectiveness.

And now the weather is cold!!  48 hours ago, the temperature at 11pm was still 30 degrees (C), and humid.  Now, thanks to the cyclone in the north, it has rained, and the cold winds have dropped our temp to 12 degrees tonight.

And under the grey sodden sky, making the most of the sun that peeks through the cracks, the last few roses in our garden are shedding their petals which I will save for the soap.  But look how these rose petals hold the light!!  And their delicate fragrance holds my spirit equally light.


Until next time, when I write what I had intended to write today, good days to you,

Sarah : )


2 thoughts on “Mindless maths and basic mistakes

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