We all make mistakes – they’re part of the creative process. You can see a few of ours in this coconut milk volcano post, La Croix soap tutorial, and lilac soap post. Rather than focusing on the mistakes, we encourage people to focus on what they can improve for the next batch. You may even find the soap turned out better than you planned.
We asked members of the soapmaking community to share some of their memorable mistakes and how to fix them. Find their answers below.
Karen, Mooka Made This
I’ve always had a problem with overmixing and working with fluid soap batter. I finally thought I poured a perfect Zebra Swirl and was doing a happy dance when I dropped my spoon right in the middle of my freshly-poured soap! I was so heartbroken I almost dumped out the whole thing. I’m happy I decided to wait it out and was quite surprised when I cut it – the best part was where I dropped the spoon into the batter.
Sometimes soap magic happens in spite of those little mishaps, and it pays to be patient.
It was such a nice soap I recently tried to recreate the same mishap!
The soap on the left is the original spoon design, the soap on the right is Karen’s recreation.
Mo and Jules, Lather & Co.
Soaping disasters?! There are near misses every day! We actually had one at our studio this week. Let’s talk about CASTOR OIL!!! It’s thick, viscous and slow to pour from the 35 lb. cube’s spigot. Impatiently waiting for my bucket to fill, I got sidetracked and… walked away. I came back to my station to find our floors gleaming with thick syrupy oil. It was EVERYWHERE!! It must have been at least 20 minutes of slow overspill.
At first I wanted to cry, but then I remembered my grandmother’s trick – baking soda!!! Luckily, we have plenty on hand, so I dumped it on the spill and using towels, rubbed it into the oil. The baking soda worked like a charm!! It absorbed the oil to the point that I was actually able to sweep it up! It was amazing. Moving forward, I will be setting a timer!!
Beautiful Kumquat Soap by Lather & Co.
Danielle, Borden Acres
One time, in the beginning of my soaping days, I was in a hurry and completely forgot to add my lye mixture!!! I was standing there with my stick blender forever, completely perplexed as to why I couldn’t reach a medium trace! It was a recipe I’ve made before, so I just couldn’t figure it out. And kept stick blending away with steam practically coming out of my ears.
That’s when I saw the lye mixture sitting on the top shelf. Hahaha! I had originally put it away in a safe place to cool. Out of sight, out of mind I guess.
Thankfully, this was a simple mistake with a simple fix. But it taught me to slow down and make sure I’m checking everything off my list. Because I was in a hurry, it ended up taking me more time in the long run. “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast,” right?
A collection of lovely goat milk soap by Borden Acres.
Kim, Freshwater Studio
There’s a lot of trial and error that goes into learning to make soap. It’s fun to test different ingredients and additives, change batch sizes and experiment with designs. And no matter the planning you do before you start to soap, sometimes you can’t account for a bit of forgetfulness or good-old human error. Thankfully I have yet to forget any really crucial ingredients for a batch (though I’m sure that will happen some day…), but I did recently finish up a lovely batch of soap only to realize my fragrance oil was still sitting on the countertop. It never made it into the soap! And by that time it was too late to do anything about it. I was so, so frustrated with myself – that fragrance was so good!
After beating myself up for a while and thinking I’d wasted my time, I realized the best way to fix this particular mistake was just to change my mindset about it. There was no way to change what had happened, and I still had a perfectly good, albeit unscented, soap. And unscented soaps are actually great! In fact, some people prefer their soaps unscented for numerous reasons.
So, instead of being hard on myself for not making the perfect soap I had envisioned, I learned to pat myself on the back for making a soap that still turned out beautifully and that I could now offer to a broader range of customers, some of whom might not have bought my other (scented) soaps otherwise. Plus, it turned out to be just another opportunity for me to practice and perfect this particular soap recipe. And given the countless creative possibilities of cold process soapmaking, any opportunity to practice is a good one – whether or not you end up with the exact soap you had originally planned.
Freshwater Studio’s gorgeous unscented Indigo soap.