A Tutorial of Soap Swirling Techniques
How to Swirl Soap in a Loaf Mold or Slab Mold
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Once you have mastered the basics of home soap making, learning soap swirling techniques can be a fun challenge. It is also a great way to increase the appeal of your handmade soaps. Whether learning how to swirl soap in a loaf mold or slab mold, the techniques are often very much the same. However, there are some techniques such as the Taiwan Swirl that will work better with one type of mold than another. There are many different types of soap swirling techniques – the Butterfly Swirl, Drop Swirl, In The Pot Swirl, and Spiral Swirl are just a few. Perhaps you can create your very own soap swirling techniques.
When you are planning to swirl soap, you will usually want to bring the soap batter to the lightest possible trace – barely beyond emulsification. This will give you plenty of time to mix various colors and to accomplish your preferred pour technique. Your soap ingredients are another factor to consider. Does your soap recipe thicken quickly, as it will with high amounts of coconut and palm? Or do the oils used move slowly, as when using olive oil? Consider your oil proportions and their qualities when deciding on a recipe for your soap swirling techniques. What temperature will you work with? It’s important not to soap too hot or cold to prevent problems.
Many soap designs require rather precise pour patterns, such as the Funnel Swirl, which requires repeated pours of circles within circles. The Wood Grain Swirl, on the other hand, requires a repeating series of very thin lines of soap batter. The container you use for your pour technique can make a lot of difference in your results. Consider purchasing a funnel pouring pitcher or restaurant-style refillable condiment bottles for precise pouring. Turkey basters can be useful in the Drop Swirl technique. Of course, just about any container can be used with enough practice – it all depends on what works for you.
In the accompanying video to this article, I have demonstrated the Spiral Swirl technique in both a loaf mold and a slab mold. (If you lack either a loaf or slab mold, try some of these DIY soap mold ideas.) For this recipe. I used a slow-moving recipe rich in olive oil, as well as a fragrance oil known to me to be well-behaved. It’s best to save new fragrance oils for simpler recipes, but if you are trying a new fragrance, be sure to research customer feedback on the behavior of the fragrance before using it for soap swirling techniques. You will want to avoid a fragrance that accelerates or rices, and if your fragrance contains vanilla, you will want to plan ahead with your colors.
Another important thing to consider when preparing for soap swirling techniques is temperature. In order to keep your soap batter from thickening too rapidly, it is best to keep your recipe at a low temperature. However, temperatures that are too low can cause a false trace, leading to separation in the mold. A temperature range of between 100F and 110F is best – warm enough to keep your hard oils liquid, but cool enough to slow down the linking of fatty acid chains in the soap.
Finally, be sure not to overuse your stick blender when bringing your soap batter to trace. For most slow-moving recipes containing lots of soft oils, no more than 20-30 seconds of immersion blending is sufficient. This will fully emulsify the soap batter so that it does not separate without giving the soap enough agitation to get thick just yet. You may need to blend longer if your recipe has a high percentage of soft oils. Practice will be the final factor in determining how much to blend, but when in doubt, less is more.
The swirls in the attached video were achieved using soap-safe colored mica powder mixed into a small portion of olive oil. The soap batter was then divided among the cups of mica/oil slurry. The technique is the same for most powdered colorants, except for titanium dioxide, which is dissolved in a small amount of water, and liquid colorants, which do not require premixing. Herbal powders, clays, oxides and ultramarines all blend well with a bit of oil, preventing clumps and specks from forming in your finished soap. The best way to make sure your color is mixed well is a short zap with the stick blender.
One last word about planning: going through the steps of your process in an organized manner will increase your chances of success the most. Gathering all supplies beforehand and proceeding in an orderly way will help you to get consistent results. It is not a bad idea to write out a checklist before you begin. Even professional soap makers can benefit from a ticker list of steps to prevent common issues such as forgetting the fragrance. Finally, planning and preparation alleviates stress during the process instead of adding to the stress of your day.
For the best possible results in you soap swirling techniques, a number of factors should be considered. Things like the shape of the mold, the temperature of the soap, and the fragrance being used can have dramatic effects on your soap batter. The more carefully you plan out each step of the process, the smoother your soap making adventure will go.