Soap Behaving Badly

I started my soaping adventures when I was young (ah, sweet 16), and have learned that not everything turns out perfectly the first time. Sometimes despite your best efforts during a soaping session, you’ll get batches that just don’t quite turn out right. It’s just an inherent (and disappointing!) part of soaping. I’m a firm believer in ‘practice makes perfect,’ and being persistent in mastering your technique will help you achieve what you want in your soap, consistently. While there are hundreds of soaping variables that can cause problems, one huge factor that can determine the success of your soaping session is the fragrance or essential oil you use.

All Bramble Berry Fragrance and Essential oils go through a thorough testing process to ensure they perform well in cold process soap.

Bramble Berry carries hundreds of fragrance and essential oils, all of which are rigorously tested multiple times in cold process soap by our product development team. We regularly receive hundreds of fragrances from top perfumers throughout the year and some of them don’t behave as well as we’d like. The following collages are great examples of the various ways fragrance oils can misbehave — and how you can still salvage the soap! Every soaping experience is a learning experience =)

Note about testing: We tested all of these (non-Bramble Berry) fragrances in 1 pound batches using our Lots of Lather Quick Mix. Each batch contained .7 oz. of fragrance oil.

Exhibit A: Acceleration

Acceleration occurs when a fragrance oil brings the batter to trace extremely quickly — sometimes too quickly to work with! In the case above, the fragrance oil thickened the batter to the consistency of pudding almost immediately after being mixed in with a spoon (notice the top right photo). Just to see how thick we could get it, we took a stick blender to it to see if it would seize, which is a more advanced form of acceleration. Seized soap is the more like the texture of Play-Doh or clay, and at that point it’s almost impossible to pour into a mold or work with at all. In this case, the fragrance got fairly thick, but we still managed to glop it into the mold. If you have a seizing or accelerating fragrance, just get that batch into the mold as quickly as you can. Be prepared for it to heat up quickly. Often there is a correlation between the acceleration/seizing and excessive, quick heat in your soap batch. On to the next one!

Note: Although we stick blended the batter for the purpose of experimentation, we generally do not recommend stick blending fragrances into your soap batter. It can cause even the most well-behaved fragrance oils to accelerate or seize up.

 A closer look at accelerated soap. Notice that thickness!

The work around: Although the fragrance did accelerate trace, the batter itself was not unworkable. While it wouldn’t be suited to a design with intricate swirls, a thick batter like this would be well suited to simple soap design, such as a straightforward layered soap or a solid-colored soap.

Exhibit B: Ricing, intense discoloration

This batch was an excellent example of ricing. Ricing occurs when an ingredient in the fragrance oil binds with some of the harder oil components in the recipe to form little hard rice-shaped lumps.

Up close & personal with ricing. This batch looks like tapioca pudding!

The work around: Often, ricing can be stick blended out. However, in utilizing the stick blender to smooth your soap out, you may end up with a much thicker trace than expected. Notice the photo in the bottom right-hand corner of the collage — the soap was as thick as pudding after we stick blended the rice granules out. We managed to spoon it into the mold and it retained a relatively smooth texture.

This soap is also a great example of the discoloration that can occur as a result of vanilla content in fragrance oil. It may look like a nice creamy white in the mold, but after hardening for a few days this soap turned chocolate-y brown. Scroll down for final photos.

Exhibit C: Separation, ricing and seizing

Out of all the fragrances we tested, this one was definitely the most misbehaved. It’s hard to tell from these small photos, but the batter showed separation almost immediately. Separation occurs when the fragrance oil can’t be mixed into the soap batter, and oil slicks can start to pool on top of the batter. It looks much like cream of wheat with butter on top! Separation can look a lot like ricing, and the two sometimes occur together. The main difference between them is you can see pools of oil on the soap with separation — it almost looks like it’s falling apart.

This is from a different batch of soap, but it shows a more intense example of separation. Notice the pockets of oil where the fragrance oil is pooling around the batter.

After we stick blended this batch, the batter started to seize. This is true seizing because the texture was beyond that of pudding like the other two; at this point it almost looked like gritty Play-Doh. Yuck!

Seizing at its finest!

 The work around: This batch had so many issue that it would be hard to salvage. If it’s not lye heavy, making it into rebatch is always an option (for more on rebatch, check out this tutorial or this Soap Queen TV episode). If you determine it’s lye heavy by doing a zap test or using a pH strip, consider making it into laundry detergent, which is easy to make and ensures no soap goes to waste. If the soap is fairly soft and fresh, Hot Process Hero is the way to go to salvage the batch. It’s a variation on the traditional hot process method that creates a rustic bar of soap.

The Final Soaps

So how did these three batches fare after being scooped into the mold and allowed to harden? Check it out below:

Immediately after being glopped into the molds. From left to right: Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C

After being allowed to harden for 2 days. From left to right: Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C

Notice that after it hardened, Exhibit A’s fragrance oil caused intense gelling in the middle of the soap. The fragrance also formed small brown spots throughout the soap. Exhibit B fared the best of the bunch, but notice how brown it turned! Finally, Exhibit C struggled the most. The texture was rough and almost crumbly.

From left to right: Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C

Just for fun, we cut into each soap. Exhibit A went through gel phase in the center (notice that dark, oval circle) as well as discoloration from vanilla content in the fragrance oil. Exhibit B went through textbook vanilla discoloration, showing the dark brown on the outside and creamy white in the center. Exhibit C was so thick when it was poured that there were bubbles throughout — notice the small hole where an air bubble was trapped.

 Bonus bad soap behavior

Alien Brain: Not only do we get fragrances to test, we get various oils and butters too. This soap was made using pumpkin seed oil, and it caused a crazy phenomenon called Alien Brain. Alien brain happens when the soap overheats, which is clearly what happened here. Notice that the entire loaf is gelled throughout! The great thing about Alien Brain though is that it is a purely cosmetic issue, and does not affect the rest of the soap. With a little steaming to get rid of the soda ash, this soap would look great!

Soap Volcano: Natural sugars (including fruit purees) and alcohol in cold process soap can super heat the soap and cause what’s known as a soap volcano. This soap had pumpkin puree in it, and the mini soapy eruption was relatively mild. Once unmolded,we simply cut a few inches off the end and the soap was perfect.

In other instances though, the sugars can super-heat the batter so much that it causes the soap to overflow out of a mold into a soapy lava flow. That’s what happened to this coconut milk soap:

With gloves on, you can scoop the soap back in as it starts to deflate. Or, Hot Process Hero the soap out when it’s fully cooled.

 General tips for good soapy behavior

Although some fragrances will inevitably cause issues, there are a few things you can do to ensure you get well-behaved batter.

  • First, make sure you are soaping at lower temperatures. We like to soap when the lye water and oils are about 120 degrees F. When soaping at hotter temperatures, you run the risk of accelerating trace, creating a heat tunnel or causing a soap volcano.
  • Double check to be sure your recipe checks out with the lye calculator and that you are using the recommend amount of water. Water discounting can cause the batter to accelerate.
  • Take the fragrance oil for the batch and mix it with an equal amount of liquid oil (you can pull it out of the regular recipe or just add extra superfatting oils) and heat the mixture up for 20 seconds in the microwave to bring the temperature of the fragrance up so it’s not quite as cold when the product is added to the soap batter.
  • Whisk in fragrances and colorants after the batter reaches trace. Even the best recipes and fragrances will thicken up if you stick blend them too much.
  • Using recipes with lots of soft oils, such as Olive, Sunflower or Rice Bran, tend to maintain a thinner trace longer.

 Have you experienced any strange soapy phenomena? How did you handle it? I’d love more tips.

131 Responses to “Soap Behaving Badly”

  1. Rose says:

    I make goat milk soaps and have had a couple of weird overheating issues. I have found that I can’t make my recipe in a loaf mold because the soap gets too hot when it cures and creates a black sludge in the bottom of the mold. The sludge is black to brownish, clear and gelatinous. It’s probably a variation of the soap volcano situation. My work around is to wipe off the sludge and rebatch the soap if it is too damaged to make uniform bars. I now use a large pan mold and make each batch only 2″ thick to avoid the sludge factor.

    • Hi Rose,
      Have you tried freezing the soap immediately after pouring it into the mold? That will help to keep it from overheating and it will even help your soap from discoloring!

      For more tips, we’ve got a helpful e-book you might like to check out :)

      Making Milk Soap from Scratch:

    • Lidiia says:

      Try to move up the temperature of gel point in your soap by using less liquid and mixing cold lye-water-milk with cold oils. I got hot process milk soap without going thru gel phase. Yes it took me much longer to cook lower temperature (150-170F), but it has creamy look and all nutritions safe inside. You soap can not gel up to 185F (85C).

    • Laurie says:

      Rose, if you decide to try the loaf molds again, try freezing them first. When I use goat’s milk, I put my lined wooden molds in the freezer before I start measuring ingredients, then put the finished soap back in the freezer, as Kirsten suggested.

  2. Audra Weisenberger says:

    This is a GREAT post. The information with all the photos to ‘show’ exactly what you’re explaining is fantastic!

  3. Kris Sayers says:

    After not making soap for 10 years or so, I made a few batches of goat milk soap – plain and cinnamon – so I would have a reason to help a friend out at a craft fair. I used to make all my “spare” money selling this soap, so I was crushed when people said things like “Yuck” and “It doesn’t smell!” and others proceeded to give me tips on how to make my soap “better”. Well. Humph. So no one wants excellent but “plain” soap anymore??? I went online, ordered a bunch of B&B-like scents and went to work. (I know, long story)One of the FOs was a cucumber-melon which smelled wonderful! BUT! Not only did the soap rice, it seized into hard, dry balls! It looked like shredded HP soap! However, it still smelled great, so I rebatched it and added some french green clay. The result was a beautiful, silky-lathering, great smelling soap that sold immediately. It was such nice soap, I’d like to make more, but don’t care to go through all that again! Also, I like to chunk “failed” soaps (especially ones that get too dark to look nice solo) and add the chunks to a soap I know will stay light. HP soap that crumbles can be mixed into a M&P – I did a red grapefruit soap that way and it also sold out

  4. Lisa Christiansen says:

    I had this experience with a small batch of soap that I was making over the holidays for Valentine’s Day gifts. It seized immediately when I added my Rose Essential Oil. But I quickly mashed it into the mold (my milk carton) and once it set up I cut it, hoping for the best. After it aged I had to trim off quite a bit of the crumbly-looking edges (which I kept for myself to use in my mesh “soap saver”) it WAS great soap. Smelled fabulous and no texture issues, maybe because I had lots of soothing oils in it. I soap just as a hobby but am learning a lot from your site. Thanks so much for this great information.

  5. Michael G says:

    I recently had a batch with extreme ricing then separation. It was pretty gross and wasn’t salvageable. So, no words of wisdom or any solutions, but it was a learning experience. I was pretty bummed though that I lost a whole batch of soap igredients and 4 ounces of fragrance.

  6. Liz says:

    Excellent article. I am always trying new fragrances from places, some work great, some turn out like the above photos. Thanks for the in-depth explanation!

  7. Heather says:

    I add all my fragrance oils to the oil before I add the lye, and I always use room temperature lye. That way they are already fully incorporated, and I can hand stir the ones that I know are troublemakers (florals) or just use the stick blender in very short bursts.

    But the most important thing I remember is that the customer doesn’t know what I wanted the soap to look like – so unless it’s really damaged in some way or lye-heavy, onto the shelf it goes!

  8. I have had really good results with fragrance oils that I know will rice by adding a little of the warmed oil to the fragrance oil prior to adding it to the soap pot. I will also make sure not to discount my water and also soap at low temps (100 degrees f or lower). Awesome post by the way Anne Marie!

  9. KatydidSoaps says:

    I’ve heard you can rescue “soap on a stick” or soap that has seized in the pot by letting it go into gel and then spooning it into the mold, since it gets more fluid during the gel phase. I haven’t gotten a chance to try it yet though.

  10. Amy says:

    I am very new to cp soaping and I read a post on the teach soap forum last that said not to use glass when mixing lye and water and also mixing the soap. I noticed that was what Anne Marie used on her basics of cp soap series on soapqueen tv, so I am confused. Also I have used glass measuring cups to do 2 batches of cp soap. If I dont use them anymore for cp soap can I wash them up and use for baking and cooking now?
    Also another question, someone mentioned not using loaf molds for goats milk soap. What about using a 4″ loaf mold, will that still get too hot?

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Amy!

      We have found glass to work fine when mixing lye water and when mixing soap. We make sure to use high quality, strong glass products to avoid any breaking. While some soapers prefer to soap with alternative materials, we feel comfortable soaping in heat resistant glass containers. Anne-Marie has confirmed multiple times over the years, with both KitchenAid (Whirlpool Corp) and Pyrex, that adding lye (sodium or potassium hydroxide) to water and using it with their products is within their safety and testing zones.

      As to using the same utensils for baking and making soap, we do not recommend it. We prefer to keep these tools separate, just on the off chance that any lye remains. This is purely a personal choice, but we recommend keeping these items separate. We offer a wide variety of quality measuring utensils that have been tested specifically for soaping :)

      Soaping Tools:

      I hope this helps, Happy Soaping!

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  11. ML says:

    Great article, I did not know about warming up the FO’s before mixing into the batter either. Is it the same for essential oils?

  12. Cathey says:

    I recently made an ITP swirl batch that riced just as I was doing the swirling, I poured it into the mold really fast, then discovered that when the soap went through gel-phase the ricing just melted or smoothed out and the look was really unique! I would agree with another poster…as long as the soap is not lye-heavy or damaged, sometimes the “weird stuff” can look interesting!

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Cathey!

      You’re so right, sometimes soap misbehaving can lead to some really interesting (and even great) results! It’s not always a bad thing :)

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  13. Natalya says:

    I had a strange problem that appeared couple months after the batches were made. I am committed to use only natural ingredients in my soaps. I used to add grapefruit seed extract to my formulas. After reading that preserving properties of GSE were largely due to presence of added benzethonium chloride, I switched to using vitamin E (tocopherol). Strangely, couple months after the batches were made, plain unscented soaps and soaps scented with peppermint EO developed purple spots, and eventually turned from white grayish-purple. Peppermint soaps lost their smell. The same thing happened when I made batches without any preservatives. Interestingly, my other soaps (including white ones scented with lemon EO) did not have this issues – only plain and peppermint soaps were affected. I believe the problem was caused by oxidation of superfatting oils. After lots of reading and experimenting, I think I found a solution – I replaced the vitamin E with rosemary extract. This took care of the issue: the batches are 3 months old now, with no signs of purple discoloration. An unscented powdered rosemary extract appeared to work better than regular dark-colored liquid form.

  14. Amy says:

    Thank you for this! I am a visual person. It is nice to see what some of the reactions actually look like.

  15. Anna-Rose says:

    thanks for the info. Luckily I haven’t had to deal with any of these problems (except acceleration) and this so helpful for identifying problems, so we can fix them! and also Ann Marie you are such a roll-model to all young soapers out there! as a 15yr it is nice to know I’m not the only one who started young!!

  16. Corina says:

    I have had an issue twice out of 14 batches. The issue is the essential oils seem to be precipitating out of the soap leaving it very moist and soft. This means that I have to wait more than 48 hours to cut. Am I not incorporating properly? I add at trace. I usually soap at 110 – 125 degrees. This issue has happened with 2 different recipes. The first one was with a Cedarwood and Orange Oil EO Blend, and the second one was a combination of sage, eucalyptus, rosemary, tea tree, and lavender blend. These were not BB Eos.

    • Hi Corina,
      Oh no, I’m very sorry to hear that! Unfortunately, since those weren’t our essential oils, I can’t speak to their quality or purity. How much EO did you add?

      • Corina says:

        I used a total of 15ml. Thanks for the tutorial, btw. The pics were very helpful! !

      • Corina says:

        One last thing I totally forgot about. After the soap had set up a bit, I added sea salt to the tops and then covered with plastic wrap and a towel (I have had problems with too much ash). About an hour later, I went to check on it and the plastic wrap was wet as if the water in the soap had condensed. I took off the wrap and looked at it again several hours later, and it looked fine, so I decided to put a clean piece of plastic wrap on it and covered the whole thing in a towel. Went to check on it, and same thing occurred again, so I ditched the plastic wrap and just kept a towel around the base of the mold. This issue happened to me previously in a wooden mold; this time it was a silicone mold.

        Any ideas would be helpful. I think the soap will be fine, as the last one came out fine. I intend to let it cure for 6 full weeks and then test.

        • Kristi says:

          I just had this same experience w/shampoo bars. It was a recipe I made once before, I just doubled the size. I put plastic wrap over the top and had the same experience, so I ran my recipe through a calculator and everything was fine. I was worried my scale miss-weighed some oils (it does that sometimes), but I’m now wondering if it had to do w/putting plastic wrap on the top (I had never done this before). Did your batches reabsorb the oils, were they still usable?

          • Kelsey says:

            Hi Kristi and Corina!

            It sounds like that plastic wrap may be causing some condensation on your soaps and making them a little soft.

            To force our soaps through gel phase, we put a piece of cardboard on top and wrap it in a towel. Another way is to set it on a heating pad on a medium setting. That may help prevent that precipitation! :)

            -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  17. Jen says:

    This is a great tutorial and I’ve emailed the link to my soaping friends. Keep up the good work! Appreciate all you do to instruct and help us.

  18. Elizabeth says:

    I love this tutorial, but I wish you had also included photos of what would have happened if you hadn’t stick blended out the ricing – does it cure with lumps? Is it worth dealing with the super-thick batter once you blend it out?

    If you’re pouring into a mold that might not get completely filled with a thicker batter, would it be better to take a chance that the rice will disappear rather than deal with a “holey” (partially filled with air pockets) design?

    I’ve only had one experience with ricing (BB’s super-yummy Sea Moss FO), and I blended out the “rice”, but I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t put in all that extra effort. It was just a sample run in a Dixie cup, so I didn’t have to worry about pouring.

    Thanks for all the info – you guys have helped me so much so far!

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Elizabeth!

      I am so glad you found this post helpful. Your guess is correct, if you were to not stick blend out the ricing, your soap would cure with clumps. Whenever we have experienced ricing, we have found it’s worth it to stick blend the clumps out in order to end up with a smoother soap.

      I hope this helps Elizabeth :)

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  19. Kenzie says:

    I just have to say, I’ve bought fo’s from several different companies. 9/10 times I’ve had problems with them in cold process like ricing, acceleration, etc. I’ve never had one fragrance oil from BB that caused any problems. It definitely pays off to go through a high quality company that thoroughly tests out their scents. Thanks for the fantastic quality!

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Kenzie!

      I’m so happy to hear this! We test all our fragrances extensively, it’s really important to us that the fragrance not only smells great, but behaves well in your soap! Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for being a customer! :)

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  20. […] LOOKING for an answer right now for some other type of soaping problem Go and check out this Anne-Marie is a wealth of […]

  21. Susan Foti says:

    Very timely post for me. I’ve dealt with ricing, acceleration and seizing, but just the other day has some soap separate for the first time. Unfortunately I had poured it on top of the majority of soap which was fine. I didn’t notice the weird separation consistency until after poured and swirled a bit. I’ve made this soap recipe and EO blend before so I know I just did not SB enough to emulsify. Your photos confirmed my suspicions that it was separation.

    I’m wondering about your ricing statement “Ricing occurs when an ingredient in the fragrance oil binds with some of the harder oil components in the recipe to form little hard rice-shaped lumps.” Do you think using more soft oils and less hard oils will also help this problem? I do use a lot of hard oils and butters in my recipe and I have one FO that always rices, but I really like it so just deal with it. But I’m thinking of tweaking my recipe now.

    Great post with suggestions to solve these problems. Thanks!

    • Hi Susan,
      Great question! Unfortunately the makeup of the soap recipe doesn’t matter so much. It’s all about the fragrance oil. You could have a 100% olive oil soap and still have ricing if the fragrance oil is not perfected for cold process!

      That is very frustrating, especially if you like the fragrance! You could always start doing rebatch with that particular fragrance so then it wouldn’t matter! :) Happy soaping!

      • Susan says:

        Thanks for letting me know the recipe does not have much affect. I won’t spend time trying to change it but will try the other suggestion to see if it helps.

  22. Leslet says:

    Great post, thank you! I have had batches get super thick and some over heat but never ricing or separation thank goodness! I am very cautious about the FOs that I purchase. Bramble Berry’s detailed information about each FO is wonderful. I don’t purchase from many companies due to lack of information. Come right back to BB.

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Leslet!

      I’m so glad that you enjoy our fragrance oils, and I’m also really happy to hear that they have behaved well for you! We test our fragrances thoroughly to make sure they behave themselves :) Thanks for the kind words and your business Leslet!

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  23. Melissa says:

    Great article and perfect timing!!! Wondering how I can submit a picture of two soaps that I think have had ‘problem b’ so BB experts can confirm what has happened. One was made with Spellbound Woods (made 12/14/13) and the 2nd was made with Oatmeal Milk & Honey (made 12/17/13). Both FO’s are from BB and both were made with fresh/frozen goat milk.

    • Melissa says:

      Just a note – I did not have any ricing but just the discoloration issue inside both of them!

      • Amanda says:

        Hi Melissa,

        If you would like to send me your pictures, I would be happy to take a look at them. You can email me at sma(at)brambleberry(dot)com. If you can include any information regarding your techniques/colorants/ingredients that would be really helpful :)

        -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  24. Jenny says:

    This post provides some great visuals for common soaping problems! It’s difficult sometimes to explain ricing, seizing, volcanoes, or alien brains. Having pictures helps so much. I haven’t experienced alien brains or a soap volcano (yet – I’m sure my day is coming), but I have experienced acceleration, ricing, and seizing. Big time seizing – like cement in my bowl in seconds! All I could do was mash it up with my whisk and glop it into my mold. It wasn’t pretty, but it was usable. :)

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Jenny!

      I’m so glad you found this post helpful! I’m a visual learner myself, so having examples like this helps me as well :) I’m sorry to hear you’ve experienced seizing, that’s always frustrating! But with soaping practice makes perfect, and then you know what you don’t wanna do in the future! :)

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  25. Femmy says:

    Hi AM,

    I finally tried your ‘Lost of Lather’ CP recipe and… failed :’(

    First batch: I unmolded it after 24 hours and tried to cut it. You did cutting very smoothly, so I was thinking, ‘cutting is gonna be easy’. So I cut with a knife, but instead cutting it smoothly, my soap just broke apart! It turned into crumbles and didn’t make smooth edges :( I was really sad.

    Second batch: after pouring into mold, my CP soap just did not get harder. It was like pudding and after 1 week, still soft and had a creamy texture :(

    What is wrong with those soaps? I used Sunflower oil instead of olive oil for both batch (run out of olive oil) and use labcolor for the second batch. Is it why it failed?

    Thanks AM, you’re the best!

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Femmy!

      I’m sorry to hear that your soap didn’t turn out quit right, but soaping takes practice so don’t be too hard on yourself :).

      It sounds like for each batch, the balance of lye may have been off. When you switched your oils, did you rerun your recipe through the lye calculator? The colorant would not be the reason.

      If you could give me a little bit more information regarding your recipe and methods, I would love to help you troubleshoot further! :)

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  26. Linda says:

    Such a helpful post! Thank you for this. Somehow I missed it until now. Glad I stumbled onto it. :-)

  27. As you know, for many of us, making soap is as much about the swirling techniques as it is about making a useable product. Do you have a list of BB fragrances that are typically good for no acceleration and no discoloration?

  28. […] is that once you put a name on it, you can find a solution.  A little research and I found this helpful post on SoapQueen. And that nasty business with the bubbles and bumps turned in to this […]

  29. Newbie says:

    First time making soap today. Everything went great until I added fragrance and stick blended it, boom…. It turned into ‘what looks like’ pellets and it’s thicken up. I molded it and I could see some oil draining out from the “soap?” The texture is not smooth at all. Can this be called separation? What can I do with “this” later?

  30. Tara says:

    So this is my 3rd time making soap, and conveniently the first two times worked out perfectly, no problems! Yet this time, I found it took a long time for my soap to harden. I like to make designs/chunky top of the soap, and I had to wait a while before the soap would even allow me to do so. I believe I was at a thin trace before I added my fragrance and then before I poured into my mold. When I went to peak at the loaf (which I wrapped in saran wrap and a towel) it seems that the center has gone dark, and the sides seem to have some soda ash. It still feels a little warm to the touch of the wooden mold as well. Do I need to just let this cool longer before losing hope? I used more fragrance than my past times, I wonder if that can account for it? Or I needed to wait for a thicker trace?
    Also, what can I do if the dark center does not go away? What is the process for re batching soap?

    Thank you!!!

  31. Tara says:

    Thanks Kevin! My soap did set up, and have used and seems fine! Though I am curious of one more thing, there is a noticeable dark line that goes through the center of my soap where the top half is a lot lighter and the bottom half is a lot darker, what could have caused this? Will the bottom half fade? Is this safe to use?

  32. Cutter says:

    What about crumbly soaps? I recently did a coconut-banana soap – with real banana and coconut milk – and the result is a *very* soft soap that’s easy to crumble apart. Too much liquid? Too much lye?

    • Amanda says:

      Hi there!

      If you have found that your soap is crumbly, it could be caused by a few things. It could be that not enough liquid was used, or too much dry ingredients were added (things like oatmeal, or clay). If you’d like to tell me a little bit more about your recipe and methods, I would be happy to help you troubleshoot :)

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  33. Thakasato says:

    Just made some cold process soap that turned out greasy and very oil. What could have caused this, and is there anything else I can do to salvage the soap besides rebatching?

  34. Thakasato says:

    Just made some cold process soap that turned out greasy and very oil. What could have caused this, and is there anything else I can do to salvage the soap besides rebatching?

  35. Ish says:

    I made a batch of soap with brambleberry strawberry fragrance it is too soft. I thought the weather was to blame so I waited two days to unfold but I also put it in he freezer. I unmolded it and a day later it’s soft again what do I do rebatch it? And if I do rebatch should I just melt it? Help me save my soap :( this the first time this ever happened

  36. Christine says:

    I’ve tried making a few batches of soap with a 5% superfat and they all seize right away. Like moments after I mix before adding any essential oils. On top of that, all the soap bars are very soft. I even tried changing the recipe with softer oils like 70% olive and sunflower oil, but it still seized. And is still very soft days later. Is there anything I can do? In case it matters, it is very hot and humid here.

    • Christine says:

      Forgot to mention that I also wait until the lye cools down too.

      • Amanda says:

        Hi Christine!

        I’d be happy to help troubleshoot why your soap is seizing. Sometimes fragrances can be the culprit, so you want to make sure you are using a fragrance that has been tested for soap making. It sounds like you are using essential oils, so that may not be the issue. If you could tell me a little bit more about your recipe, and methods, I’d be happy to help!

        It could be that you are reaching too thick of a trace. Do you use a stick blender, and for how long? Once your soap has emulsified, I recommend using a whisk to blend in any colorants or fragrances. This helps with seizing :)

        I’d be happy to help you troubleshoot further!

        -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  37. […] to mix in your fragrance completely and pour into your mold as well. You can check out this SoapQueen blog for a more in depth look at acceleration and soap behaving […]

  38. Christine says:

    Thanks Amanda,

    I do use the stick blender for amybe a minute. I also blend the oils before mixing with lye. Is that a bad thing?

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Christine!

      Some soapers add their fragrance/essential oils to their soaping oils, while others add it at trace. Personally, I like adding the fragrance at trace with a whisk, because I feel it gives me more control over possible acceleration. I would recommend trying that method, and seeing if that helps! :)

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  39. Wendy says:

    I Peeked at one of my loaf soaps to see if it was gelling and it was completely liquid. It had been covered very well for about 9 hrs at the time. I took the towels off. Now I’m hoping it will be OK in the morning. I don’t understand why this happened. I don’t think it was suppose to turn completely liquid.

    • Kelsey says:

      Hi Wendy!

      Depending on how hot your soap is, the entire loaf can go through gel phase. This will give the loaf a liquidy appearance.

      However, it should be solid in a day or so. If not, let me know and I’ll help you troubleshoot. :)

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  40. Kellyn Nunez says:

    I had a particular experience with salt soaps. The one with lemongrass did not gelled like the others and when I cut it it, the consistency was like compacted baby powder. So weird. I tried to rebatch it, but I didn’t work either. The lye did did not bond with the rework and my soap turned out extremely alkaline. There was excess fluid in my soap, I believe it was lye. I still don’t know what to do with the alkaline salt bars. I added 7% salt to my whole batch.

    I have something particular to ask you. How do you prevent goat’s milk soaps from overheating? Which procedure will be better to allow a complete gel stage or to prevent it from happening? Is this something that it will apply to sugar soaps as well?

    Thanks Soap Queen :)

    • Kelsey says:

      Hi Kellyn!

      What did you use in your salt bar recipe?

      Also, the best way to prevent goat milk soaps from overheating is to freeze your goat milk. Then, add the lye one spoonful at a time.

      After it’s in the mold, pop your soap in the refrigerator right away. Gel phase can overheat the soap, so you don’t want it to happen. :)

      You can see that technique in this Goat Milk Soap Tutorial:

      Also, we haven’t done a lot of testing with sugar soap, but I imagine you’d want to pop that in the refrigerator too because sugar can overheat soaps.

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  41. Rose says:

    Hi! I’ve been making soaps for almost 2 years now, and sometimes I get holes that run through an entire loaf of soap, and “leak” oils. I make goat’s milk soaps with only essential oils. The only things I did differently this time, was I added hemp oil, vitamin E, and I put the loaf in the freezer for awhile so the goat’s milk wouldn’t burn. What on earth did I do wrong?

  42. Luzvi says:

    I am a beginner and my shampoo and my luxury soap it’s very good but my third batch is ok and hard but a little bit oily when it touch. I can still use this soap or I needed to re-batch. Thanks Luzvi

  43. Liz says:

    I have found recently that my soaps are ricing and/or separating. I use olive oil pomace (40%), coconut oil (30%), castor oil (8%), sweet almond oil (8%), grapeseed oil (8%), and shea butter (6%). The oils and lye water are about 125 degrees F when I mix them. It doesn’t seem to matter which fragrance or essential oils I use. What am I doing wrong?

    • Kelsey says:

      Hi Liz!

      What temperature is your lye water? When lye is cooler, it can start solidifying the shea butter in your recipe as you’re making soap.

      If your oils are around 125F, it may help to have your lye water around the same temperature. That will ensure the shea butter stays melted. :)

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  44. Jenn says:

    Your recipe sounds somewhat similar to mine (with the exception that I use cocoa butter and palm oil and no grapeseed oil) and I have only ever had one fragrance oil rice on me and never had separation (and I have made a ton of soap…lol. Yes I’ve been bitten by the soaping bug). I do however always soap around 80 degrees I find anything higher makes my soap want to behave very badly (acceleration) and this is a medium. For example, if my oils are 90 degrees and my lye is 70 I find I have no problems whatsoever with the batch.

  45. Jenn says:

    One other thing, and maybe it’s out there, however I can’t seem to find anything on humidity affecting acceleration. It seems my soap accelerates much faster when the AC is on but moves super slow once it is off for awhile. This only seems to happen in the summer months.

    • Kelsey says:

      Hi Jenn!

      Hmm, that’s interesting. I’m not exactly sure if humidity affects acceleration!

      Typically, fragrance oils, temperature, or a long time stick blending cause acceleration.

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  46. Jessica M. says:

    I am doing melt and pour and I keep getting these little white bubbles on top. I spray with rubbing alcohol but it still happens. Once the soap hardens I can cut it off but is the soap safe to use? And why is this happening?

    • Kelsey says:

      Hi Jessica!

      It sounds like there may be air bubbles on your soap. What base are you using, and what are you adding to it? Also, what percent of isopropyl alcohol are you using?

      Let me know and we’ll figure this out. :)

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  47. Cherie Anderson says:

    Help! I am a novice soap maker, cp process. I have been mixing this same batch of soap for 2 1/2 hours. I followed the directions carefully, even triple checking the lye calculator. I cannot reach trace. While mixing, it looks like silky thin pudding. If I leave it to sit a minute, it separates. I rechecked temperature after an hour or so, and found it had cooled too much, so I warmed it to 95 and began stirring again. Still pretty, but no trace. I ended up warming it a second time…but not sure what to do. My recipe is 4oz avacado oil, 12 olive, 12 coconut, 12 vegetable shortning, 5.54 lye, 13 oz water. It looks so pretty when its stirring, but ugh! No trace! What can I do? Its supposed to be a yummy peppermint eucalyptus green and white swirl bar. lol. :(

  48. Cherie says:

    My husband bought me a used bowl and accessories to go with my bosch. I kept it on “1″ for the first hour, then turned it up to “2″ then back to “1″. I ended up rewarming it 3 times, then there was finally a hint of trace after 3 hours. I just checked it, so far it looks good…but still soft. I will probably wait 48 hours to take it out of the mold. Are bosches not good for soap making?

  49. Marty Salas says:

    We have been trying to figure out what to use on our BB bottles for easing pouring so we don’t lose or waste any. Where did you find the spouts pictured on your BB bottles?
    Thank you,

    • Kelsey says:

      Hi Marty!

      We found these spouts at a local kitchen supply store, but they’re also available online. :)

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  50. Felicia says:

    I used 2.5 oz of lye in my soap instead of 2.4 oz. Can I still use the soap? Will the soap be dangerous for my skin? Thanks for the anticipated response.

  51. Maria says:

    Hi: I’ve been trying to find a real answer about my problem. My soap sweats!!! can someone tel me why and to fix it? I have a great A/C! I leave it to dry and next day, there it is: freaking sweat!

  52. Candy says:

    Just completed a batch of goat milk and lard soap. When unmolding, some of the soaps (used individual molds) were perfect looking and others had an oozy brown mess on them. It seems like it was the last 5 or six molds that developed this ooze. What did I do wrong?

    • Kelsey says:

      Hi Candy!

      I’d love to help you troubleshoot! Do you mind telling me your recipe? Also, what temperature did you soap at, and how did you store your soap when it was in the mold?

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

      • Candy says:

        This is the recipe that I received when I attended a soapmaking class….

        5 cups frozen goat milk
        1 1/4 cup lye (12 oz.)
        12 cups lard (96 oz.)
        2 tbsp. soap scent

        The lard was slowly melted to 90°F. Lye was added to the frozen milk slowly and stirred until incorporated. When temperature reached 90°, the fat was slowly added to the lye mixture. Stir for 30 minutes with non-reactive spatula. Pour into molds sprayed with cooking spray so the soap will easily come out of the molds. The molds set in a cool basement (60-65°) for 48 hours before unmolding. Place on rack and let sit for 6 weeks to cure.

        Being a total and complete NOVICE, I am clueless why the ooze appeared. Any input would be really appreciated!!


  53. Candy says:

    what does it mean when you say “lye heavy”? What is the cure for this in the future?

    The soap is at a friend’s house…so I will have her test it and let you know!

    Thanks! Candy

    • Kelsey says:

      Hi Candy!

      During the saponification process, the lye reacts with the oils to create soap. If a soap is lye heavy, it means there is lye that hasn’t turned into soap. It can be irritating to skin.

      To avoid this, I would recommend measuring your ingredients by weight. It gives you more accurate measurements. :)

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  54. Candy says:

    Ok. The soap doesn’t “zap” or “sizzle” when touched with the tongue. :) We will weigh our next batch, and hopefully this will take care of it. Thank you for your help!

  55. Kim says:

    When making goat milk soap with straight milk ice cubed what do you want you Temps to be . I keep having fast acceleration before I can add fragrance or color. Thanks

    • Kelsey says:

      Hi Kim!

      You want your temperatures to be lower than 100F. That way the milk won’t scald!

      Several factors, such as fragrance or additives, can cause acceleration. Do you mind if I ask what’s in your recipe, and what temperature you soaped at? That way I can help you troubleshoot. :)

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  56. Erin says:

    I just made a batch of milk and honey oatmeal soap. I thought I followed a recipe fairly close but I added some extra castor oil for more lather. When I cut my soap into bars it was extremely oily. ( oil everywhere) It even had a small pocket of oil on the top of one of my long loaf molds but not my rectangle mold. My question is… it salvageable? Do you think it will dry out and will I be able to use it or should I just trash it and start over????

    Thanks for your time,

    • Kelsey says:

      Hi Erin!

      Oh no! I’d be more than happy to help you troubleshoot. Do you mind telling me your recipe? Also, how much castor oil did you add?

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  57. tammy smith says:

    Hello! I am new to soap making. I have been making CP soap with goats milk. No matter what I do, my soap traces really fast (although the finished product is fine) I have made about 7 batches using different fragrances, etc, and the only thing that seemed to make a little difference was increasing the amount of goats milk in the recipe (although it still traced too fast to be able to do any colors in the future).

    I have always soaped with the lye/ milk and oil mixtures each reached 85 degrees. I use an immersion blender to mix.

    Yesterday, I tried soaping with the oils at 100 degrees and the goat milk / lye at room temp-ish. Same result.

    I have to figure out how to get it to trace slower!! Oh, and I work with frozen goat milk (I store up the milk from my little herd and freeze it for future use)

    Here is what I used in my last recipe:

    16.2 oz olive oil
    14.2 oz palm oil
    14 oz coconut oil
    1.4 oz castor oil
    2.2 oz sweet almond oil

    19 oz frozen goat milk
    6.7 oz NaOh

    fragrance: 2.15 oz frankincense, .5 oz lemongrass mint, 1.0 oz lemon eucalyptus, .8 oz lavender sage, 3.0 oz lavender (not usually so complicated- I was using up some small bottles :) )

    I would be so grateful for ANY help– nothing I do seems to really change the trace time too much.

    Thank you!!!!
    Tammy Smith

    • Kelsey says:

      Hi Tammy!

      Thanks so much for giving me your recipe, that really helps! I checked it on our Lye Calculator and the milk and lye amounts check out just fine.

      I have some guesses, but I’d like to get more information! How long are you stick blending it for? Are you using olive oil pure or pomace?

      Also, when we make goat milk soap, we usually have our goat milk and lye mixture around 50-60 degrees. This helps prevent the goat milk from scalding, but it may also help slow down that trace time. I’ll include a link on goat milk soap below. :)

      Let me know and we’ll get this figured out!

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

      Goat Milk Soap:

Leave a Comment

(Your email address will not be published)

Where to Start?

Find Tutorials perfect for the BeginnerFind Tutorials perfect for the Intermediate CrafterFind Tutorials perfect for the Advanced Crafter

Daily blog posts sent to your email

Enter your email address

Ad Space

Learn to make Cold Process soap from Anne-Marie Faiola, the Soap Queen

Make your own Nail Polish!

Learn to Make Soap

Learn to Make Mineral Makeup

Soap Queen TV

Soap Queen Apron

iPhone App


Lip Balm

Otion the Soap Bar

Teach Soap Forum