Troubleshooting Your Soap Making Process

Making homemade soap is a challenging yet rewarding hobby. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Slam Szapucki.

Producing your own homemade soaps is a fantastic hobby with a great range of healthy benefits.

As with anything however, the process is vulnerable to a number of difficulties, which can affect the outcome of the final product. Recently, a reader contacted us on Facebook with an issue on how to stop white bubbles appearing in her soap. Following on from this, we thought it would be a good idea to cover off on some other issues that you might be facing.

Below is a list with some of the most common difficulties that you might encounter while producing your soap, as well as a cause and solution for each.

Mixture sets too slowly

Ingredients: Too much unsaturated fat, not enough lye, or too much water.
Process: Not stirred enough or has been stirred too slowly.
Solution: Check water, oil and lye measurements and ensure your scales are accurate. If possible use a stick blender.

Mixture sets too quickly Fat and/or lye is too hot

Ingredients: Too much saturated fat, or the fats/oils react to synthetic fragrance or other additive.
Solution: Check temperature and adjust ratio of saturated and unsaturated fats. Remove any synthetic additives. Mixture can still be used: pour into molds as quickly as possible.

Mixture curdles while stirring

Ingredients: Fat and/or lye is too hot, and either not stirred enough or stirred too slowly. Synthetic fragrances may have been used.
Solution: Check temperature. If possible use a stick blender. Use only natural fragrances such as essential oils, instead of synthetic ones.

Mixture is grainy

Ingredients: Fat and/or lye is too hot, or too cold.
Process: You need to be very careful with the temperature. Batter not stirred enough or stirred too slowly.
Solution: Check temperature and if possible use a stick blender. Mixture can still be used: should only affect the look of the soap.

Mixture is lumpy

Ingredients: Oils or lye were too hot when mixed.
Process: Not stirred enough or stirred too slowly.
Solution: Check temperatures. If possible, use a stick blender. Soap most likely will be unusable: check after removing from mold.

Soap won’t trace

Ingredients: Not enough lye, or too much water.
Process: Wrong temperature. Not stirred enough or stirred too slowly. Too high percentage of unsaturated fats in base oil
Solution: Check water, oil and lye measurements. Check temperature. If possible use a stick blender. Adjust ratio of unsaturated and saturated fats.

Layer of oil forms on soap as it cools

Ingredients: Too much fat or not enough lye
Solution: Check fat and lye measurements. Soap may still be usable: if it is caustic, or doesn’t lather well, discard it.

Soap separates in mold

Ingredients: Not enough lye.
Process: Not boiled long enough. Not stirred enough or stirred too slowly.
Solution: Check lye measurements; if possible, use a stick blender.

Soap leaks clear liquid when cut, or pockets of powdered lye are present

Ingredients: Too much lye.
Process: Not stirred enough or stirred too slowly.
Solution: Check lye measurements. If possible use a stick blender. Soap may still be usable after washing away excess lye, but it is safer to discard the bars.

Soap is soft or spongy

Ingredients: Not enough lye, too much water, or too much unsaturated fat.
Solution: Check lye and water measurements. Adjust ratio of unsaturated and saturated fats. Soap may be usable after an additional 2-3 weeks of curing; if it is still soft, discard it.

Soap is hard or brittle

Ingredients: Too much lye or too many dry ingredients.
Process: Traced too long
Solution: Discard. Check lye measurements for next batch and ensure proper tracing time. If possible, use a stick blender.

Soap smells rancid

Ingredients: Poor quality fat, too much fat, or not enough lye.
Solution: Check lye and fat measurements.

Air bubbles in soap

Process: Stirred too long
Solution: Stir by hand, instead of using a stick blender. See this article for more in depth solution of this problem. Soap is still usable.

Mottled/spotted soap

Process: Not stirred enough, stirred too slowly, or there were temperature fluctuations during molding.
Solution: If possible, use a stick blender. Always stabilise temperature during the molding phase. See this article for more in depth solution of this problem. Soap is still usable.

White powder on cured soap

Ingredients: Hard water, or lye not dissolved properly, or has had a reaction with the air.
Solution: Use distilled or bottled water, heat water to proper temperature before dissolving lye. Be sure to properly seal molding containers. If there is a large quantity of powder, soap is unusable, and must be discarded.

Warped soap

Process: Drying conditions not consistent.
Solution: Dry on a rack, and do not disturb. Soap is still usable; if desired, whittle the soap down, or cut it up for rebatching.

If there are any questions you would like to have answered here on the blog, simply contact us and we will help out wherever we can.

Take the next step

Download our FREE ebook, ‘How To Make Soap At Home’, by clicking here.

We also have a special offer on our Soap Making Ebooks range, with exclusive web bonuses and a risk free 60 day money back guarantee! Also available on Amazon Kindle, iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

One Reply to “Troubleshooting Your Soap Making Process”

  1. This was great! I purchased some wood molds some time ago and there were not itnsrucniots on how to prepare them before pouring your soap mixture. Now I can use them my molds. Thanks.

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