Ask Our Expert Soapmakers

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Ask Our Expert Soapmakers

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Is it possible to add methyl salicylate to before the saponification process to make salicylic acid? What I really want to know is, is there a way to make soap so that the end product has some salicylic acid? – Joshua

The simple answer is this: You can add salicylic acid to soap, and it may lower the pH of the soap to a gentler level for the skin, but the chemical reaction between salicylic acid and sodium hydroxide will produce sodium salicylate, a Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory drug that is not absorbed by the skin. Salicylic acid in big enough quantities to remain unchanged in the finished soap would yield a rubbery soap with no lather. The best applications for getting salicylic acid into your skin is by way of a lotion, peel or toner. – Melanie

Hi. I am Kaneez Fathima. I tried the tomato leaf soap. I followed every step from the recipe given. It’s three days and my soap looks good and hard from the top. But is still not set at the bottom of the mold. How long does it take to harden so I can remove it from the mold?

The soap looks lovely, nice swirl pattern on top! It looks like, from the level of fullness in the mold, that you didn’t accidentally double any ingredients or anything obvious like that. Sometimes soaps just take a little longer to set up. Is the bottom of the soap soft or completely liquid underneath? If the soap is simply soft, I recommend placing it in the freezer until solid, then turning it out onto waxed paper to air out for a few days. That should solidify things well. This particular batch of soap may end up being a little slow to harden up, but by six weeks of curing it should be similar to others. 

However, if the soap underneath is truly liquid and not set at all, that would indicate separation of the contents. That might be caused by not coming to a full enough trace. It can also possibly be caused by the particular fragrance oil you have used. Whenever buying a fragrance oil for the first time, I definitely recommend reading the comments from other users to see if anyone has had problems with a fragrance oil in cold process soap. 

But if the soap is indeed separated in the mold, never fear – hot process can fix the mess and turn it into usable soap. Simply turn out the contents of the mold into a crockpot set on Low and process, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is fully incorporated and thick like oatmeal or mashed potatoes. Test it to make sure the lye is finished working, either with a pH testing strip or with the tongue-touch “zap” test. If the lye is done, pour into the mold and allow to set. It should be very firm within 24 hours and easy to turn out and slice. – Melanie

Hi for making shampoo bars, what can be the alternative to beer how much is to be used? – Keneez

You can use water, ounce for ounce, as a replacement for the beer. Many other liquids could also be used the same way, but you have to consider the amounts of sugar, sodium, and carbonation present in your chosen liquids. Therefore, if there is a specific liquid you wish to use besides plain water, we will have to consider it individually. – Melanie

Does the recipe for foaming bath butter also require curing time and how long is its expected shelf life? Thank you. – Ja

No, it does not require curing time. The soap is fully saponified, and because it is not being used in bar form on the skin, there is no need to wait for the soap to become milder and for the water to dry out. The foaming bath butter has extra oil added to make it milder and more gentle to the skin immediately. – Melanie

Is mixing black soap and egg good for black skin? – Idowu Ridwan

While I have not been able to find any examples of this particular combination – congratulations, you’ve invented a new soap! Both African Black soap and egg soap are lovely for all skin tones. The rich shea butter in African Black soap is well-known for it’s emollient and soothing properties. The toning effects of egg whites in egg soap, and the rich proteins provided by the egg yolks would certainly yield a soap with a unique set of virtues. If you decide to try mixing the two, please let me know how it goes! 

Does this work? I said it’s good for all skin TONES, not all skin TYPES – because some people find shea butter clogs pores or are irritated by the natural latex content. -Melanie

I would like to know the use of fresh fruits in soaps hot process. – Nisa

“Using fruit puree in hot process soap is as easy as working with a water discount. Simply use one ounce of fruit per pound of base oils as your maximum usage rate, and subtract that amount of water from your recommended water amount. For example, if your recipe is two pounds of base oils, 10 ounces of water and 4.5 ounces of lye, you would use two full ounces of fruit puree, and subtract that 2 ounces from the 10 ounces of water used to hydrate the lye. Add your fruit puree after the cook and during the cool-down period before pouring into the mold. Although the soap is no longer caustic once cooked by hot process, it is still a high enough ph level to preserve the fruit puree in the form of finished soap. One last tip – be sure that your fruit puree is totally blended, without chunks or small bits which can go rancid in finished soap. Use a sieve if necessary to achieve a smooth puree.” – Melanie Teegarden

Is mustard oil safe to use in soapmaking? It is from India and I bought it in Hong Kong. Thanks. – Raja

There are two products that are referred to as mustard oil. The first is a cold-pressed oil that is extracted from the seeds. The second is an essential oil derived from distilling the crushed seeds with water. Only the cold-pressed oil can be used in soap making, and only with an abundance of caution: mustard oil can be a strong skin irritant. These soaps should never be used on the face or any part of the body with mucous membranes because it can be too harsh. As a hand and foot wash, soap enriched with up to one-half ounce of mustard oil per pound of base oils can be used. Mustard essential oil should never be used in any quantity because it contains natural cyanide products that are a powerful poison. Avoid mustard essential oil completely. – Thanks, Melanie Teegarden

4 thoughts on “Ask Our Expert Soapmakers”
  1. I’ve seen recipes for homemade Castille soap, but retail Castille soap also comes in liquid form. Is it possible to homemake liquid Castille used in many DIY recipes? What do you do differently? (Not to make bars and grate them into water)

    1. Hi Cindy, I know which soap you are talking about, and if you read the label, you will learn that “Castile soap” can have a very broad definition and is starting to lose its actual identity as a pure olive-oil soap from Spain. One huge difference between liquid and solid soaps is that the liquid version usually uses potassium hydroxide while the solid version uses sodium hydroxide. I know many soapmakers who go through the extra labor to make a liquid soap such as this, especially one that’s clear, but they tend to be few and far between.

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