Thursday, October 2, 2014

Scent and Seizure

One of my favorite things about making soap is the amazing fragrance.  Unfortunately, I've found that this is the stickiest part of the soap making process for me.  I'm probably not alone in that regard. Before I ever attempted the cold process method of soap making, I did my homework (once a nerd, always a nerd).  When the time came to incorporate my lye water into the measured fats, everything went according to plan.  I held my breath...and added a small amount of lavender fragrance oil that I'd picked up from my local craft store.  My lovely, runny soap mixture immediately turned into what resembled school cafeteria mashed potatoes.  It was my first seize.

You know these things can happen, but you never think they'll happen to you (sniff)...  Okay, I'm being melodramatic, but I was a little bummed.  I quickly spooned the gunk into my mold, tamped it down with the back of a spoon as well as I could, and proceeded as planned.  The next day I cut the soap loaf into individual bars and surveyed the damage.

Rebatch city, here I come!
It had kind of separated, and was a little oily.  I could barely smell the lavender that had wrecked havoc on my project.  But I decided to cure it anyway, so that I can try my hand at rebatching later.

Fast forward to a week or so later, and I'd had a couple of soap successes (soapcesses?  No?) with my Cranberry Fig and my Oatmeal Honey soaps.  I decided to try again with the fragrance oils, thinking that maybe a recipe glitch had been to blame for the lavender debacle.  Using a combination of coconut and pink grapefruit (that smelled way better as a combo than it sounds), I planned my execution.  This time I would keep my lye water and fats at a very low temperature, almost room temperature.  I combined the fragrance oils with olive oil to help eeeeeeeeease it into the soap batter. I barely had the lye water incorporated into the fats when I put the stick blender down (stop mixing, just walk away!).  I added the fragrance oil mixture to my soap and gently, gently stirred...until it seized.  Not as quickly or thickly this time, but enough so that I didn't have time to add any swirls or other designs.  I got the soap into the mold, and at least got to add texture to the top.

The texture on the top turned out pretty cool, even if it is reminiscent of Thanksgiving dinner.
I ended up with some soap that wasn't great to look at, but smelled okay.  Since the soap had been so thick when it went into the mold, the colors didn't incorporate nearly as well as I had planned.

When good soap goes bad.

The silver lining in this process is that I narrowed down the problem; That dastardly fragrance oil from the local craft store.  Even though the package said it was safe for soap, this is clearly not the case for anything other than melt and pour soaps.  Basically, I had spent $50 of unusable, overpriced, low quality fragrance oils, and that is the real crime.  Thank goodness I had by then purchased some fragrance and essential oils on order from a reputable soap supply vendor!