Learning to Make Soap: Part 13

May 20, 2021

To gel or not to gel?

If you remember from last week, I had some mixed results when it came to testing my natural colourants, including an inability to get the soaps to go through gel phase and soap that was way too soft.  

To address my inability to get the soaps to go through gel phase this week I decided to make a kilogram loaf of soap. The reason for this is a larger body of soap should help it retain the heat and give it a better chance of going through gel phase. But to give it a helping hand I also decided to CPOP the soap too. CPOP is Cold Process Oven Process soap and basically what you do is preheat the oven to it's lowest temp whilst you make the soap, and then once the soap batter is in the mould, turn the oven off, cover the soap and pop it in the warm oven. The main reason for using this method is my kitchen is absurdly cold, which definitely wasn't helping with encouraging the soaps through gel phase!  

So what about the colours? This time I decided to use the colourants infused in olive oil again (you can read how to use infused oils when soaping here) but this time I was using them to create a layered soap. The natural colourant oil infusions I used included alkanet (grey/purple), annatto (yellow), madder root (dusky pink/peach) and spirulina (light green).

And what about the absurdly soft soap? As I mentioned last week I am fairly sure the soft soap came about due to a combination of using the cupcake moulds, the cold kitchen and the strange humid/hailing weather!! So I am using the same recipe as before and I am hoping that this time it will behave better!

So have I managed to resolve these issues?

Well the short answer, thankfully is yes! But as seems to be the case at the moment, not everything quite went to plan!!

Firstly my layers are not really layers, especially for the green layer which I poured when the soap batter was still very fluid (at a thin trace) on top of the yellow layer which itself hadn't quite set up! This resulted in most of the green layer ending up at one end of the loaf mould and was displacing the yellow layer below! I knew it wasn't a good idea as I did it but carried on none the less. All I needed to do was to wait a little longer to allow the yellow layer to set up and stick blend the green layer to make it thicker. But I did neither of these things - in part because time had gotten away from me and we had a lot to do that day - including the very important job of getting our first COVID-19 vaccinations! All this led to me not really taking the time I needed and rushing it.

And the other thing I did was I thought I should cover the soap before I put it in my oven. I was reusing the plastic bag the mould had come in to cover the top - as I did it I had a feeling it might fall into the soap and ruin my pretty patterned soap top - but just like the layers I did it anyway and yes- you guessed it- it dragged through the top of the soap and ruined my top!! Honestly I have no idea what was wrong with me - I kept doing things I knew were not a good idea, but did them anyway. I did manage to slightly salvage the top and in the end I put a piece of card over the mould (much better idea) and popped the soap in the oven!

As it turned out I only left the soap in the oven until the evening (we inconveniently needed it for cooking!!) but actually I think this worked in my favour as when I removed the soap from the oven it was still warm but by this point my oven was cold. So I popped the soap in a cardboard box and insulated it with a couple of towels - just in case it hadn't quite gone fully through gel phase. I think if it had stayed in the cold oven uninsulated overnight I would have ended up with a partially gelled soap.

So did it work?

Thankfully the soap seems a lot firmer than last time! I left it the full 24 hours just to be on the safe side, before I unmoulded it and cut it. To be fair it is still a little soft, but it did come out of the silicon liner in one piece and actually felt quite hard when cutting. So that is a relief - I think last time was just a weird anomaly not helped by the peculiar humid/cold/hailing weather we had on that day!  

And what about the colours? Well here is how the soap turned out - what do you think?

I am so pleased with them- even the muck up with the layers has resulted in a really interesting soap, with each bar quite different to the other. And the colours - well, I am pretty sure it went through gel phase as the colours seem to have more depth - the alkanet is definitely purple rather than grey purple and the madder root looks a little more red. The yellow is darker and the spirulina is still quite pale, but I really like it. I really can't wait to see how they look once they have cured- theoretically they should stay brighter than the colourants that didn't go through gel! So we might have to wait before we can definitively decide whether to gel or not to gel!

Well until next week when I will be back with more things soap

Take care

Kelly xx


I am Kelly Townsend and this is the Small Kindness Blog. I am a scientist, a bee lover, a rewilding obsessive, and I want to spread Small Kindnesses through the medium of soap. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for your daily dose of kindness (as well as to see how the soap making is going!)