Why I “Polish” Almost All My Soaps And Other Soapy Musings

This past week, I was doing some research on a cosmetic issue I was having with my Citrus Flame soaps.  The edges were crumbly, but the soaps were not lye heavy (the usual problem with crumbly soaps).  I tried a salt water solution and sodium lactate, but both made the problem worse…ugg!

I finally stumbled across the answer.   I do what’s called room temperature cold process soap making since working at lower temps gives me more time to complete the complicated patterns/swirls in the soaps, but with the Citrus Flame soaps, I have also been preventing a process called gel phase.  I do this since citrus essential oils are more volatile (ie, heat sensitive) than many other essential oils, and they can disappear in the high heat situation of soap gelling.  Since I’m not gelling my soaps (making them initially softer), I found I will need to let the soap sit in the mold longer and then wait an additional 48 hours after unmolding to cut the soaps.  I tried this on my latest batch, and no more crumbly edges…YAH!

While doing this research, I saw another American soaper’s blog and really, really wanted to give her some advice on cleaning up her soap, but I wasn’t sure how it would be received.  She had worked really hard to create beautiful swirls on her bars, but during the curing process, they developed a thick layer of soda ash that was hiding her beautiful swirls.  She was a pretty new soaper (according to her blog, she’s been making soap for a year), and I don’t think she knew she could wash the ash off (I didn’t for the 1st few years of making soap).

Here’s a picture of one of my Citrus Flame soaps before I washed it.  Sorry for the low quality of this picture. My hubby is my normal photographer, but he had surgery last week and is recovering plus I took the pic with my phone instead of his fancy, smancy camera.

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And here is the after.  Much better don’t you think?

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Soda ash is completely harmless, but it’s an unsightly cosmetic issue that is easily resolved.  I don’t have a steamer, but I have found the easiest way to deal with it, is to give your soaps a scrub with a tooth brush (one that is dedicated to just this purpose, of course) about 2-3 weeks after unmolding and cutting.  Before two weeks, it seems to make the soap softer, and increase the time needed to cure and harden.  Also, use cold water (tap is fine) to decrease the amount of bubbles on the bars.  Lastly, don’t forget to wear your gloves so you don’t leave finger prints.  I had to rewash almost 80 bars to get rid of my finger prints the first time I washed my soaps.

Now I’ve tried every method suggested to prevent soda ash-spraying with alcohol and adding beeswax, but I’ve not had any luck since I work at very low temps and emulsion instead of trace.  So for now, my bars will continue to get a “bath” before they get to you, but it does “polish” the soaps making them pretty and shiny.

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7 thoughts on “Why I “Polish” Almost All My Soaps And Other Soapy Musings

  1. That’s really interesting – I’ve never thought to try cleaning up with cold water! I also soap at room temp and almost always get ash, so I usually steam over a pan of boiling water – with the occasional dip into the water for particularly heavy ash. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve almost scalded myself :-S Guess who’ll be trying the toothbrush method in future – thank you!!

    • Vicki, You’re welcome! I wish I had know that trick years ago. I used to get really frustrated when some of my swirled/patterned soaps would turn white (didn’t know about soda ash) and ruin all my work. I like the kid size spin brushes since they are soft enough not to hurt the soap, but the bristles can get down in any grooves on the soap. The spinning head ones seem to work a little faster than a regular brush. They do some of the scrubbing for you which is good after you’ve scrub about 50 bars. 🙂

  2. I thought I have tried all methods, but I have not tried using a toothbrush. Does it not leave marks? Thanks for the tip, Heather! And your Citrus Flame looks great! 🙂

    • Sylvia, thank you! I think of my Citrus Flame as my “signature soap”. 🙂 I took at look at the soap I washed last night and some I did about a month ago, and there are some really tiny brush marks if you hold them under a really bright light, but I’ve never noticed them before, and I’ve never had a customer mentioned them either so I think as long as you use a child’s/baby’s type tooth brush (should be labeled soft or extra soft), you should be fine. I also looked at some of the past pics my hubby took with a high res. digital camera, and I really couldn’t see any marks even when I blew the pics up to a large size. The tooth brush works soooo much better than when I used a cloth to scrub off the ash.

  3. Pingback: Can a Non-Artistic Person Become an Artist? | Your Pal Carey

  4. Thank you for this interesting post. I am a beginner and i tried washing soaps with cold water. But I may have soaked them too much. I got marks at the bottom, on the edged that touched the table where I placed them to dry. Where do ou set them once they’re wet? Thanks!

    • Bonjour, Madame! I place the soaps on their sides after I wash them so they can dry off a little while I am washing the rest of the soaps. I like to use old baby receiving blankets to place them on to dry. In the US, receiving blankets are made from the same material as flannel sheets (ie, a cotton material with very little texture & is pretty smooth). This way there will be very little marks left on the bars. Once I have washed all my bars, I transfer them back to the curing rack to finish curing. If I do notice any marks from the the cloth they were drying on (sometimes from a wrinkle on the cloth), I use a gloved finger to lightly smooth the marks away. I also go and turn them once about an hour after I place them on the curing rack so they don’t get any marks on them. I find it’s best to wash them about a week before they are done curing. Feel free to contact me if you have any further trouble & happy soaping! 🙂

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