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