When Amy of Great Cakes Soapworks announced her Elemental Swirl Soap Challenge, we couldn’t wait to jump on board. This particular soap utilizes several soaping skills, including two in-the-pot-swirls, a mica vein and a psychedelic top swirl. All of these techniques combine to create a textured-looking soap with one-of-a-kind ruptured, uneven layers.
33 oz. Swirl Quick Mix
4.5 oz. Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)
11 oz. Distilled Water
.5 oz Lime Fragrance Oil
.5 oz. Kumquat Fragrance Oil
Click here to add everything you need for this project to your Bramble Berry shopping cart!
Don’t want to buy the Swirl Mix or want to make a recipe up from scratch? I’d recommend at least 60% liquid oils and no more than 40% (total) of solid oils and butters to give yourself a long time to work with this intricate design.
If you have never made cold process soap before, I highly recommend you get a couple of basic recipes under your belt. Check out this (free!) 4-part series on cold process soap making, especially the episode on lye safety. Bramble Berry carries quite a few books on the topic as well, including this downloadable book on making cold process soap.
COLOR PREP: Disperse 1 teaspoon of each pigment into 1 tablespoon of Sunflower Seed Oil. Prepping your colors in the beginning will allow you to work quickly and give you more time to work with your soap. Use the mini mixer to get all those clumps worked out smoothly.
FRAGRANCE OIL BLEND: In a glass container, measure 1 oz. of Pink Grapefruit Fragrance oil. This will fragrance the bottom orange and green swirl layer. In a second glass container, blend .5 oz. Lime Fragrance Oil and .5 oz. Kumquat Fragrance oil. This will fragrance the top purple and pink swirl layer.
SAFETY FIRST: Suit up for safe handling practices! That means goggles, gloves and long sleeves. Make sure kids, pets, and other distractions and tripping hazards are out of the house or don’t have access to your soaping space. Always soap in a well-ventilated area.
ONE: Slowly and carefully add the lye to the water, and stir until clear. Set aside to cool. If you’d like a harder bar of soap that lasts longer in the shower, you can add Sodium Lactate to the cooled lye water. Use 1 teaspoon of Sodium Lactate per pound of oils in the recipe.
TWO: Melt the entire bag of Swirl Quick Mix and portion out 33 oz. in a large glass container. Once the lye water and the oils have cooled to 130 degrees or below (and are ideally within 10 degrees of each other), add the lye water to the oils and stick blend until thin trace. You can use any standard recipe with this design if you don’t have the Swirl Mix on hand but keep in mind that you need a lot of working time with multiple techniques.
TWO: Split the soap into 4 separate containers, pouring about 1.5 cups into each container.
THREE: Color each of the split batches. In one container, add 3 teaspoons of dispersed Tangerine Wow! and 1/2 teaspoon dispersed Burgundy Oxide. In another container, add 1 teaspoon of dispersed Ultramarine Pink. In the third container, add 1 teaspoon of dispersed Ultramarine Violet. In the fourth container, add 1/2 teaspoon of dispersed Green Oxide and 3/4 teaspoon of dispersed Fizzy Lemonade pigment. Using a whisk or spatula, blend the mixtures until the colorants have been fully dispersed. Mixing the colorants in starting with the lightest color and going to the darkest will allow you to use the same whisk for all four portions, resulting in less dishes to clean!
FOUR: Add half of the Pink Grapefruit Fragrance oil to the orange soap and half to the green soap and mix using a whisk or a spatula. Avoid using a stick blender as it could accelerate trace.
FIVE: For the first in-the-pot swirl, start by pouring the lime green colored soap into the orange colored soap in 4 places: 12:00 o’clock, 4:00 o’clock, 8:00 o’clock, and center. Pour from a high point so that the soap penetrates the entire depth of the soap in the pot, which will create a swirl throughout the mixture. Using a spatula, chopstick or dowel, swirl the soap by running the tool through each of the entry points once. It is important to swirl only once because you do not want the colors to completely blend together.
SIX: Pour the freshly swirled soap into the silicone mold. Tamp the mold on the table after you are finished pouring to ensure even coverage and disperse bubbles, but be careful to not overmix the swirl.
SEVEN: To create the mica vein, use a powder duster to sprinkle a thin layer of Cappuccino Mica over the freshly poured orange and lime swirl soap. Sprinkling too much mica can cause your layers to separate so take extra care to achieve just a light dusting of mica. Then, still wearing your goggles, close your eyes and gently blow on the mica to lightly press it into the soap. Because mica is so fine, this part can get messy. Be sure to have paper towels and isopropyl alcohol on hand to clean up any mica that sticks to the mold or your work surface.
EIGHT: Add half of the Lime and Kumquat fragrance oil blend to the purple soap and half to the pink soap, mixing in thoroughly with a whisk. When the fragrance oils have been fully incorporated into the batter, create your second In-The-Pot-Swirl using the same technique as before.
Pour the Ultramarine Purple colored soap into the Ultramarine Pink colored soap in 4 places: 12:00 o’clock, 4:00 o’clock, 8:00 o’clock, and center. Pour from a high point so that the soap penetrates the entire depth of the soap in the pot, which will create a swirl throughout the mixture. Using a spatula, chopstick or dowel, swirl the soap by running the tool through each of the entry points once. It is important to swirl only once because you do not want the colors to completely blend together.
NINE: From a high point, pour the purple and pink soap into the center of the silicone mold. Pouring from high up will create the ruptured and uneven layers you see in the final soap.
TEN: Drizzle any remaining soap in a zig-zag pattern across the top to enhance the final design.
ELEVEN: Drag a chopstick or dowel inserted into the top 1/4″ of the soap down the length of the mold, making a series of short s-curves that are perpendicular to the lines created by the poured soap. Once you’ve gone from one end of the soap to the other, make small loops back down the length of the mold. When you reach the end of the mold, create one big loop that carries you into the next row, and do a reverse loop back across the mold again. Continue this pattern until all of the soap is swirled.
TWELVE: Spray the entire top with 91% Isopropyl Alcohol to reduce soda ash. Cover and insulate for 24 hours and unmold after 3-4 days. Allow to cure for 4-6 weeks and enjoy!
Want to hold this soap in your hands? If you’re a tactile and visual learner, we have another way for you to learn. Click here to grab one of these soaps for your very own, complete with a full color instruction sheet, from the Soap Queen Lab Etsy shop.