Now that summer has officially begun, temperatures are on the rise and in some area of the country, are way way up (Shout out and cooling thoughts to Arizona, Arkansas and Eastern Washington). If you are a summer person like me and live in a more moderate climate, this is great news! I absolutely love spending time in the warm weather and outdoors hiking, biking and swimming. However, the heat does affect how certain soapy ingredients need to be handled. Butters, oils and other ingredients change consistency when exposed to higher temperatures. This is especially true when ingredients and products are being shipped and sit in a hot delivery truck for long periods of time.
If you have ordered from Bramble Berry recently, you may have received liquid oils or butters when you were expecting a firm texture. All solid oils and butters have a melting point where they melt from a solid into a liquid. Once the butters cool down again, they will resolidify. The quality of butters and oils does not decrease by melting and solidifying several times. But remember to always fully melt your entire container of palm oil to ensure your soap receives the proper ratio of all the fatty acids.
Average Melting Point of Common Hard Soapmaking Oils and Butters
Avocado Butter about 90° F
Cocoa Butter about 100° F
Coffee Butter about 104° F
Mango Butter about 86° F
Shea Butter about 90° F
Coconut Oil 76° F
Palm Kernel Flakes about 102° F
Palm Oil 95-97° F
Beeswax 144-147° F
Because butters and oils need to be melted before they can be made into cold process soap, let nature do some of the work for you! But, if you are not using them for soap and prefer oils and butters to remain solid, you may want to keep them in your fridge or cool place in your home to prevent melting. Below is coconut oil inside Bramble Berry’s retail store, Otion: The Soap Bar, which experienced a hot day of 81° F. As you can see, the coconut oil has started to melt due to the hot temperatures inside the store.
Heat can cause some butters such as shea, mango and cocoa to become grainy. Graininess is not an indication of poor quality, but is simply a reaction of temperature fluctuation. Butters include various fatty acids, and each acid has different melting and solidifying temperatures. Once the butter begins to cool down from a melted state, the fatty acids will begin to solidify at different temperatures. If the butter cools down slowly, the fatty acids may clump together. These clumps are the graininess that you feel on your skin. To avoid this, melted butters should be cooled quickly to help all the fatty acids solidify at the same time, which prevents them from forming clumps. If your butters arrive liquid or semi-liquid, stir or shake them up to get the fatty acids mixed back up evenly and, pop them in the freezer right away to help them cool quickly and evenly.
You can also temper your butters. Tempering butters is a technique that helps prevent graininess, and keeps butters smooth. Tempering involves heating butters and maintaining a high heat for a prolonged amount of time, about one hour. This causes the fatty acids to melt completely. The product is then rapidly cooled, which results in a smoother butter. For harder butters such as mango and cocoa, slowly heat the butters to about 100° F and hold this temperature for 45-60 minutes. Shea butter should be heated to about 180° F and held for 45-60 minutes. Be careful to not overheat your butters during this process. Keeping a constant and even temperature may require you to turn the heat source on and off. A crock pot is also a popular way to temper butters. Once your butter has been tempered, pour it into an airtight container and place into the fridge to cool rapidly. Graininess in butters tends to be a more common problem during the hot summer months, because the butters may melt slightly during shipping. If you receive a butter that has melted in shipping, either toss it straight in the freezer or temper and fridge/freeze it to get rid of graininess.
If you own a small business, high temperatures can make shipping many bath and beauty products difficult. This is especially true for body butters that, when melted, change textures dramatically. Unfortunately, you can’t tell your customers to temper their already made products! There are several things you can do to help your customers receive their products in mint condition during hot summer months. The key is to communicate to your customer that the item is temperature sensitive. That way, the customer can help themselves to receive it in the best condition possible. Below are a few tips to keep your package in tip-top shape during shipping.
- Pack extremely heat sensitive products such as butters with ice packs and thermo cases to help keep products cool. Keep in mind that ice packs usually don’t last longer than three days in transit. You may choose to include the ice packs into your shipping costs. The good news is that most ice packs are reusable, and the customer can use them for other things once they receive their package.
- Shipping your package along with dry ice is another option, but keep in mind that dry ice is considered a dangerous good and requires special handling.
- Ask your customers to arrange delivery to a time and place where they can receive the package immediately. This way, their package won’t be sitting in the hot sun for hours. This might mean that they should have the packaged delivered to their office or workplace. Or, they may want to ask their neighbors, family or friends to bring the package into their home once delivered.
- If delivering a package to a hot climate (or if you live in a hot climate), encourage your customers to choose expedited, 2-day, or overnight shipping. To help limit the time the package is in transit, do not ship the items on a Friday. Instead, ship the items Monday-Wednesday to ensure the items reach the customer in time.
- Perform a “ship test.” Ship a temperature sensitive product to a friend or family member with ice packs/thermo cases and quick shipping times to see how it arrives to them. If your product is still being affected by the heat, you know it’s time to up the heat protection! If you can’t get your products to customers in the summer without them melting, you may wish to not ship some of your products in the hot summer simply to ensure the efficacy of your products.
In addition to butters and oils, your soap can be affected by the heat as well. For cold process soap, a warm room temperature can help promote gel phase. ‘Gelling’ and ‘gel phasing’ in cold process soap refers to a part of the saponification (soapmaking) process where the soap gets warm and gelatinous – up to 180 degrees. If you’d like to learn more about gel phase, check out this blog post. Gel phase helps colors appear brighter in soap, and gives it a slightly translucent and shiny look.
The number one way to promote gel phase in your soap is to insulate it to promote hotter temperatures, but this may not be necessary in the summer! Insulating cold process soap in a hot room could cause the soap to overheat, which results in an effect called alien brains. Overheating your soap does not effect the quality, and is purely aesthetic. If your area gets extremely hot during the summer, you may consider placing your soap in the fridge for the first hour after pouring. Check out the When to Insulate Handmade Soap blog post to learn more.
For melt and pour, higher temperatures can bring humidity, which causes glycerin dew. Melt and pour soap contains extra glycerin, which is a natural humectant. This glycerin allows the soap to be melted and attracts moisture from the air. This moisture accumulates on the top of the soap, and looks like sweat or dew drops on the soap. The best way to avoid glycerin dew is to wrap your melt and pour immediately after it is completely hard and cooled. This stops the soap from attracting moisture. Click here to read more about preventing glycerin dew.
It’s best to store all handmade beauty products in a cool, dark place. This can be tricky when temperatures rise. Some products can benefit by being stored in the fridge, like butters and lotions. Melt and pour and cold process soap should not be stored in the fridge, as cold process soap needs good air circulation, and the fridge can promote glycerin dew in melt and pour. Click here to learn more about how to store your handmade products.
Soaping in the summer heat can be tricky. But with the proper precautions, it’s easy to keep your products consistent throughout the year. During the summer, the Soap Lab gets extremely hot. It always has multiple fans blowing to keep temperatures as low as possible, and help the cold process soap to get good air circulation. The key is knowing your product! It can sometimes take a few seasons to really learn how it reacts to the summer heat. How do you protect your products from the rise in temperature?