Room Temperature Soaping

In our experience using essential oils and other fragrance oils in our soaps, we have almost always run into fragrances that cause our soap to accelerate early.  Sometimes even completely seizing the batch on contact.  Naturally, as we focus on having a large inventory of choices for our customers, we have looked for any solution possible to reduce the impacts some fragrance oils have on accelerating the soap.

As we continue to strive towards having a consistent recipe for our different soaps, we don’t really want to treat different fragrances with different recipes.  We have found that decrease the number of hard oils in the batch will reduce acceleration, but we really like the large bubbles and long lasting soap generated from using more hard oils and butters in the batch.  So this became not an option for us.

What we did find that worked was soaping at a very low temperature.  Heat clearly acts as a catalyst for the saponification process.  However, there are a few pointers we found when soaping at a low temperature you should be prepared to experience.

  • The Lye / Water mixture when first prepared will reach temperatures over 200F. If you are doing a large batch, this will take hours to reach room temperature.  So if you are planning on being very efficient with your time you may need to pre-make the batch.
  • If you decide to make the lye water batch ahead of time, you will find that the top of the lye water batch may crystallize. These crystals may be large and you should strain them out to reduce the likelihood that your soap batch has lye heavy areas.  Also, you should have a secure area to keep lye water.  Spilling lye water can change your day, and not for the better.  We use a locking refrigerator set at 60F, and in 24 hours the lye water will reach about 67F.
  • If you use hard oils like we do, (Coconut oil, Palm Oil, Shea Butter), these oils need to be melted to mix together for the batch. The higher the temperature the better the mixture.  We pre-heat our hard oils so they stay melted, and use a low melt point shea butter.  Then add the softer oils at room temperature.  This creates a batch around 85F, that we can use immediately.
  • So we soap at about 67F for the lye/water and about 85F for the oils. We have read many blogs suggesting that these two temperatures should be within 10F of each other, but we have seen no ill effects from this difference.
  • Be prepared to experience some false trace. We typically see the batch start to look grainy as we begin to mix the lye into the oils.  Although this initially made us nervous, continuing to work the batch by mixing will add enough heat to eliminate this grainy behavior and you will see it start to thin out and the grainy texture to disappear.  Here is when you are fully emulsified and can stop working the batch.

Even with soaping at low temperatures, some fragrances are susceptible to quick acceleration.  We always have everything ready to go prior to soaping.  Our colors / fragrances are all pre-measured and ready to add.  The soap mold is already prepared, etc.  Work fast.

Good luck and give soaping at room temperature a try!