Miller's Homemade Soap Pages:

Botched Batches! Is it soap yet?

*APOLOGY* ... to those of you who have emailed me and have never heard a peep out of me... I'm sorry. I don't have as much time for personal email responses as I once did and added to that have been occasional travel, garden catch-up, church responsibilities, soapmaking and orders and more visits from children and grandchildren who have moved nearby. I just can't keep up. If your email involved troubleshooting of a recipe or a lengthy response, it was probably put aside for when there was more time and then fell through the cracks because "more time" didn't happen. :-/ I don't see that changing in the near future. I hope you understand and know I would love to be able to acknowledge every email I get.

If you'd like to contribute your experiences and/or frustrations to this page, just send an email and I'll post it if I think it would be helpful to others or offers new information. As of August of 2000, I'm feeling that I have so much material already posted, that there will be much less in the way of new additions. If you like the look of a forum and want some instant feedback, I highly recommend The Latherings Forum... there are others out there as well and I have some listed on my links page. Some of the following entries will have responses posted from me in blue if appropriate. I have stopped listing people's email addresses if their comments are posted... there is just too much SPAM out there and addresses being harvested off of pages like this one. :-( To spare myself tedious one by one removal of old ones, they have been doctored as to be useless to spambots.

NOTICE: If you have AOL, please be sure that if you have any sort of filter turned on, that you enter my email address as one that will be accepted before you send me the question. I really want to help and don't want folks to think I'm ignoring them. My hands are tied when there's a block on your account. If you've recently emailed me with questions and never heard back ... this is probably why. They come back as undeliverable.

For more email contributions and FAQ's your can visit the following:

Is your soap giving you the blues? Here's something to cheer you up! :-)

Posted by: Anawyn from the Latherings Forum/Used with Permission (I just love this!)
Subject: I spilled it....


(when tragedy strikes, ya just gotta sing about it)





Purple soap spilled all over my floor,
Splashed on the cabinets, appliances, and more,
Don't wanna whine and cry and act like a bore,
But cleanin'up this mess is gonna be a real chore!

Made me a batch of soap, did it with ease,
Added some purple dye, pretty as you please,
Now my walls and cabinets look like they gotta disease,
Purple soap debacle done brought me to mah knees!


Ah got those purple soap blues, y'all!
Help me, help me! My mind's in a daze,

Purple soap splattered everywhere I gaze,
Nothin' but a mop is gonna cure my malaise!
...Jimi Hendrix would feel right at home in my purple haze...
Yeah! That's right...purple soap ..Sing it children!



My most fascinating "botched batch" (separation) to date!

[Separated Soap]

The fluorescent lighting makes this look pretty ghastly! It was an Oatmeal, Milk and Honey batch that looked fine, but left a puddle on the table when I cut the first rows apart. Clear oil seeped from these cavernous pockets. What was totally amazing, were the crystal "chains" that reached from top to bottom of the openings... like cave formations. This happens with too much heat from the overheating tendencies of milk and honey. Starting with lower temps and removing insulation really helps!

[Crystal Formations]

Robert (2nd son) got his camera and close-up lens, and snapped some photos of these things. Made me wish I were tiny and had a teeny hardhat. It was almost sad to me when I remelted it! I've had a few responses from folks who've had similar batches. They are posted somewhere below.

[Alien Brains Soap]

"Alien Brains" Soap!

Here's another bizarre example of a "botched" batch... although this one is not ruined, just weird! The bar was sent to me by Diane Puza. We think it was caused by too much insulation and heat while in the mold, plus the composition of the base recipe. Some soaps (recipes) are more prone to surface wrinkling than others. Her teenagers actually gravitated to this stuff and showed new interest in her soapmaking efforts!


Subject: Soy Crayons
Date: 11/14/03
From: Mary K.

Thank you for an informative web site. I am a new soapmaker who seemed to be doing okay until my last two batches. Thinking that you might help, I have a couple of questions.

A few years back Prang made a nontoxic soy crayon. Bearing in mind that some soap makers use wax crayons I broke off about 1/3 of an orange one and heated it with the oils using Rachel's tried and true. It melted nicely and turned the oils nice and orange. I mixed it with the lye at about 110 degrees for both and used a stick blender to stir. After about 20 minutes it seemed to trace and I poured. Wrapped, the soap hardened for 24 hours, then fell freely from the mold. However, when I cut it, I notice that there is a lighter-colored layer of light orange that seems opaque surrounding a centered, darker, gel looking section. Both sections seem to have the same hardness. The soap is now about a week old, with no bad odors and seems to be hardening nicely. Will it be usable after curing, or are the opaque sections something to be concerned about? Have you any experience with these crayons? I didn't account for any extra lye because I thought the amount of oil from the crayon to be negligible. It did make a nice color and I have a whole box of them if they're okay to use.

Second batch of soap (I'm sorry I don't have the recipe with me) contained almond oil along with others, I either got it from your website or MMS. I'm good with math and have been careful to check SAP values when making soap. After four days I have a firm, not cakey or crumbly, outer edge and soft, cheeselike inner section. I pried it out of the mold and cut it anyway and left it to cure. Will it eventually harden enough and be safe to use or will I have to rebatch it? I dislike having to throw things out.

Sorry to take up so much of your time, but another question if I may. I use the SAP tables from your website for my calculations. However, in other soapmaking books the numbers seem to be different. The one I'm thinking of is a book called Soapmaking for Fun and Profit. Her SAP on coconut oil is .199. Cavitch uses a different system. Is there something to be concerned with here? One final question: Would increasing the percentage of the oil have the same effect as taking a lye discount in terms of superfatting?

Thank you for taking so much of your time. I hope that this post wasn't difficult to follow. I do tend to ramble at times.

Mary K.

Hi! What you describe here is not caused by the crayons you used for coloring, but the fact that the soap was cooler around the edges where it touched the mold. This can happen with a white batch of soap that has no colorant added. In colder weather or working conditions, you can try pre-warming your mold (be careful if it is plastic... I'm thinking more of a wooden mold here) in an oven for about 10 to 15 minutes before pouring your soap. You don't want it hot... just WARM. :-) The soap around the edges that is more opaque did not go through gel like the soap in the center with the darker color.

> I pried it out of the mold
> and cut it anyway and left it to cure. Will it
> eventually harden enough and be safe to use or will I
> have to rebatch it? I dislike having to throw things out.

I can't say on that... you'll have to see how the soap is with a couple of weeks of curing under its belt. It may be fine and harden up nicely. If the consistency is smooth on the inside, it will probably be fine and was mixed well before pouring. If you don't like how it's shaping up after a couple more weeks of observation... then you can always toss it into a crockpot and remelt it.

I'm not sure what to tell you on the SAP chart differences. I've not seen a number for coconut that high... but I have read that sometimes the numbers will come out slightly different on SAP tests with different batches of oil. The numbers Cavitch posts are for potassium hydroxide and then she gives you a conversion process when using sodium hydroxide... so all her numbers on the original chart look high.

Increasing the oil or lowering the lye translates to the same thing... you want to end up with a little more oil in the soap than lye to saponify it to give you a cushion... but I don't like to have more than about 4 or 5% difference.

Good luck! :-) I hope this helps.

Subject: More Soap
Date: 11/9/03
From: Ghaythah

Last year I contacted you about the feasibility of making soap with Junior Girl Scouts. And, because I am busy and evil, I never did write back.

The first batch- I found the perfect pot. I noticed as we cooked it that it was losing the lining of the pot- Da*n, I chose aluminum! The soap, if made in an aluminum pot turns battleship grey, in case you had a burning desire to make battleship grey soap cheaply ;-). The next bit, well, I added the too hot lye to the too hot soap, so we had a very slow volcano! a bit later I spotted some more stuff around the bottom of the pot, so I sopped it up. Then I realized it was still coming. Well, we were short of trace, but not too far, really, so I had them grab their half-pint milk carton molds (I packed them together in a crate for insulation).

There is a hole in the bottom of the pot I can stick the tip of my finger thru. I kept the pot.

Some child gave this soap as a gift to someone. I wonder what they thought??

Batch two at at camp went fine until (dun dun dun!) the girls took the cartons - Can't remember why I didn't have the crate that time, but it was the first week of July, so drying temp was *not* a problem. I had the girls leave the soap all together on the screen porch.

The next day we found the raccoons had eaten *eaten* our soap. Silly me, I forgot the da*n critters could open the porch doors, and we had really aggressive raccoons that summer. I found out later that the glycerin is sweet. The raccoons didn't bother that porch again for a month (and I wonder how many died of lye poisoning/burns?).

So we skip ahead to last summer. I have been rather more active in the SCA, and decided that I needed to enter a large art and science contest. Knitting, obvious. I could write some music, no prob, and so for the third entry, I decided to make medieval household soap. Got the raw fat from the store, discovered that they had put pork in my tallow! I hate pork passionately! then came the joy (heh) of potash. I had bought two buckets, holed one and lined it with the lesser of my bandannas, filled it with ash, and percolated away a few times. So I made up my batch (after crockpotting the tallow/lard) at a campfire where dinner was cooking (had a lovely discussion with a camper over the finer points of soapmaking, I think she had been there for the Chemistry Lesson batch). Poured it and ignored it for a spell. It didn't turn out well at all, it wasn't quite soap, Wasn't quite fat, and reeked of pork (I can't eat pork, it upsets my stomach, the smell UGH!). I worked out that I had not cooked it enough. I decided that also I hadn't used good enough ashes.

Batch two. I made my own fire, fed it lots, and let it burn down, and boom, fresh ashes. Also made up all-cow tallow (!!!). I made up the fresh potash, which was inadvertently thickened due to evaporation, then made it up, molded it and went away. Somehow, despite the fact I though I had left it in a safe enough place, it got knocked over. Wonderful, had to clean the mess. Also, decided what was left was not soap-worthy, and the contest was the next day. I popped it into my good pot and heated away while I did my work that afternoon. Everything seemed to be going ok, until suddenly It Scorched! So I went to this contest with my pretty knitting, my lesser music and my two horrid failures at hot-process soap. The second batch went in a jar and had a firm jell texture.

SO now I know, having talked to some more experienced in the field, that 1)I needed to have heated my ashes until they were white. 2) I needed to have taken the water and boiled it down to concentrate the lye.

So now I have a box of ashes waiting for me to find someone wit a kiln to toast my ashes.

And in the meantime I have made my first true Castile in a HP. It was good, and I may never make cold process again.

Oh, and I have been hitting my books. Da*n if I remember why (I was really tired, and I have slept since then) but I hate the Coney book. The Cavitch is pretty good, though.

Catherine or Ghaythah or Songbook, depending on the day...

Thank you for such a fun read! My imagination filled in some missing letters but I think I followed you exactly through all of your colorful soapy adventures [I edited it for inclusion here so you probably didn't notice those]! Sorry I didn't respond sooner... been busy this past couple of days and just catching up. Sometime you should try making soap with lye crystals you can buy at the grocery store... making your own lye from ashes sounds like so much work! BUT... if it's authentic you want... that's it!

I'm not sure how safe soap filled with aluminum will be.. maybe they won't be brave enough to use it except to wash their hands. ;-)

Good luck on future batches and thanks for the follow-up... it was worth the wait! :-)

(I have a link on the links page for making soap from scratch with ashes, etc. Did you read through that? It's in the information and recipes section.)

Subject: Botched Batch
Date: 10/27/03
From: Holly B.

Hi there,

I just took up soap making to make gifts for Christmas. The batch I made on my own didn't turn out so good-- in fact-- it turned INTO BREAD !! I have NO IDEA how THAT happened!! LOL

I did a lot of research on soap making before attempting it. Then for my first batch-- I went over to a woman's studio who is a soap maker and watched her make it. That one seemed to turn out fine. We used olive, palm and coconut oils.

Then when I went home-- eager to make soap on my own-- I got the bright idea to make a fancier recipe. The recipe listed it as "simple". I got it on the web under blender soap recipes and it was titled "simple coffee soap". Being in the NW, I thought it an appropriate soap to make! This recipe used a little different oils with the addition of soybean oil, olive and coconut. It called for the lye to be dissolved in 7 oz of strong coffee. I did that. It was strong coffee- very black. Maybe I over did it here?

At trace you are to add 1 TB of coffee grounds. I did that. My first attempt at electric blender soap-- (the first time w/ the soap maker we used a stick blender)-- I think my trace was a little THICK. More thick than I would have liked (it wasn't tracing at first so I got overzealous and gave it a good mix).

Another source that I see possible error was that I used a kitchen scale that was not digital. It had lines for ounces-- but they were not exact (I needed 2.3 oz and I could only line it up around 2-3 oz).

The next day I went to cut the soap-- and the sides fell off. The weird part was-- it wasn't really "brittle"-- it was crumbling but soft at the same time.

The exact consistency of pie dough when you "cut" in the butter into the flour and you get crumbly but soft dough with flakes. I thought-- too much lye? Not exact measurements? But the soap was not "hard" or exactly brittle. It was crumbly and soft like pie dough.

Of coarse I wanted to save the batch!! throw away the $ I spent on soybean oil specifically for this recipe? No way!! :) So I tried to rebatch it I wasn't exactly sure though first hand WHAT was wrong with it. I added a tiny bit of olive oil and used the microwave method outlined on other soap web sites.

I opened the microwave-- and it had turned INTO BREAD!!!!! Exactly the consistency of bread. It had risen up into a big puff pastry like thing-- and tore apart just like bread.

I am fascinated but stumped!

How in the world did THIS happen????

LOL :)

I only tried 1/2 of the soap just to see what would happen. I still have 1/2 left of the botched batch of soap. I am figuring I should throw it out-- because this was crazy bread soap!

Any ideas? :)

I'm not sure if I have answer for you... but I'll take a stab at it. :-)

When using a stick blender or regular blender... it really doesn't take all that long to hit trace... so overdoing it is not necessary.

> Another source that I see possible error was that I used a kitchen scale
> that was not digital. It had lines for ounces-- but they were not exact (I
> needed 2.3 oz and I could only line it up around 2-3 oz).

This could be quite serious if it's a very small batch. On a larger one... you could probably weigh close enough to have less margin of error... percentage-wise.

Until this cures for a bit it will be hard to say whether it has too much or too little lye... that will be more apparent after it ages a couple of weeks. What it sounds like is that the temperature dropped too much during the mixing and you didn't get a very homogenized mix or saponification. What can happen is that oil or fat globules can form and the end texture can be the way you describe. If the lye ratio was good... it can still harden up with time and be okay.. but cutting it is a royal pain! If you were too light on lye... the soap will never get hard enough and be kind of on the greasy side.

> I opened the microwave-- and it had turned INTO BREAD!!!!!
> Exactly the consistency of bread. It had risen up into a big puff pastry
> like thing-- and tore apart just like bread.

This would not be unusual for a remelt where there was adequate saponification that when heated the soap would form suds. This can happen in the pot sometimes when you heat a batch higher than about 160 degrees... a regular lava flow! It's quite the thing to see!

Instead of reheating in the microwave... try a crockpot or something where it heats up more slowly on lower temp. Hopefully the foaming factor will not set in. Good luck! :-)

Subject: Soap Curdles
Date: 10/21/03
From: Lisa

My name's Lisa...and I'm a compulsive soaper. I want to preface this with the fact that I am a novice. I've made about 20 batches of soap, ALL of them have traced well and turned out beautifully...until last week's mess.

Let me also note that during this little fiasco, I burned out both my blender AND my stick blender. At 11 PM, no place in town was open...if it had been earlier, I'd have raced over to replace my stick blender!

Here's the recipe I used:

16 oz wt Canola Oil
16 oz wt Coconut Oil
16 oz wt Olive Oil
16 oz wt Hydrogenated Soybean Oil (Crisco)
24 fl oz strong coffee
9 oz wt Lye (sodium hydroxide)
1/4 oz cinnamon essential oil and 2 T of coffee grounds at light trace.
Temps fat/lye 100/100.

I combined the lye and fats, stirring with my stick blender, and then the stick blender breathed its last breath. I was already at a very light trace, so I figured I could just use my blender. Nope. Burned out from too many pulverized oatmeal treatments. I had to stir it all by hand, something I've never tried.

After an hour of frustrated stirring and pausing, watching the clock tick away on a work night, I decided to add a little heat and speed things up. I turned the burner its lowest setting and after about 10 minutes, it was as if I'd put it over a roaring fire. It darkened and then curdled. I frantically stirred, hoping for something to happen, but all that happened was the curdles got bigger.

I poured it into the mold anyway and it never hardened all the way. It was stuck in the gel stage with a gooey bottom. After 4 days in the mold, I popped it out and all of this nasty, partially congealed oil poured out. Because of the coffee grounds that sank to the bottom, I didn't want to rebatch this...but my question is could I have? How?

Can you tell me what went wrong? I have a couple of every failed chemist...but I'd appreciate your input.



Hi! :-) I'm not sure what happened... but what a nightmare! ;-) I was thinking at first you burned out your blenders because of the coffee grounds (which would be hard on a blender) but it sounds like your troubles began before that point. I'm feeling lucky my blenders have not kicked the bucket yet! My stick blender was a good brand but it has a lot of batches under its belt... so one of these days I'm going to have your experience.

I've had separated milk batches be weird like this... disgusting gelatinous goo that separates out... blah! They were saved though with remelt and made perfectly okay soap. Defies logic, but it worked. You may have lost too much temperature during the mixing process and gotten a separation that way... and it's possible that the cinnamon EO contributed as well. Spicy Eos can be a problem sometimes... but more often that's true with clove. Did you toss this out? If not you should remelt it in a crock pot or something... it appeared your base recipe should have been fine.

Good luck! :-)


Thanks so much for responding! I know you must get a TON of emails. I found your site thanks to the link listed within the Cole Brothers web site. Between your information and theirs, I've become completely addicted. I don't have a kitchen...I have a test laboratory!!!!

Yes, I tossed this nasty batch of soap out. I thought about rebatching it, but it was so grainy, I didn't see how any of it could be saved and still look appealing to use. Between the coffee grounds, the curdles and the gelatinous goo, I was completely disgusted. I think you're right about the temperature part. There was no temperature listing on the recipe, so I time, I'll try 110-115...

I finally broke down and bought a Cuisinart stick blender rather than an off-brand. What a world of difference! I have a quick question for you about cleaning them, however. I found this huge mass of solid grease wedged up within the cylinder. wonder it burned out! How can I avoid this in the future? I usually cleaned it using a hot, soapy dish cloth and then ran it for about 15 seconds while the tip was immersed in hot, sudsy water.

Thanks again!


Hi! As awful as that looked... I suspect it could have been saved into a reasonably respectable bar by rebatching... it's amazing. ;-)

After I read this I went up to peer into the shaft of my Moulinex. As near as I could tell... no soap or fat buildup inside. That sounds like a faulty design issue. Hopefully with this better blender, you'll not have that problem. I usually wipe mine as clean as I can with paper towels (after unplugging it) and then do as you by running it for a few seconds in some soapy water... then rinsing it off. I can't submerge mine... just clean the end that was used.

Hope you get a lot of use out of this new blender..must have cost a bit more, but it should be worth it.

Subject: Majorly Botched Batch
Date: 10/17/03
From: Megan G.


First of all, thanks for such a great website. It was yours that inspired me to take the plunge into the world of soaping. Well, I've been trying for three days, with one batch a day, and have only gotten one to work. Day one was HP in the crockpot - a complete flop! Not only did the soap not turn out, but it stripped the finish off of the inside of my wonderful enamel crockpot, which I am now afraid of ever cooking with again. Day two, a beautiful milk-honey-oatmeal CP, which is now curing and looks fantastic. Today, the latest debacle. I was attempting a coffee Castile soap, with the following ingredients:

16 oz. coffee (cold)
48 oz. olive oil
6 oz. lye
3 tbsp. coffee grounds (to add at trace)

I mixed the coffee and lye without a problem, and heated the olive oil on the stove in my big stockpot while I cooled the lye mixture. I added a little bit of the lye mixture to the oil, and it immediately foamed up almost to the top of the pot - it looked just like head on a beer! I stopped adding the lye and stirred like crazy with my hand blender. Once it died down a little, I added the rest of the lye, and it didn't foam anymore. I alternated blending and stirring with the blender, and it reached a nice consistency - although a nasty looking foam was still on the surface. I skimmed it off with a spoon. At this point, I realized that I had completely forgotten to prepare my mold, so I left the mixture on the stove (no heat) for a minute while I lined the mold with wax paper. I came back, stirred/blended for another minute, and reached a nice trace. I added the coffee grounds, but had to stir and stir to get them evenly blended. Unfortunately, I stirred/blended for too long, and went past trace to separation. My denial was strong, so I tried pouring it into my mold anyways... AARGH! A gloppy, separated, oily mess splattered me and my kitchen! At that point, I just broke into tears. Not knowing what else to do, I poured/slopped it all back into the stockpot and put it in the oven (cold) just to put it somewhere. Is there anything I can do now? It is a grainy, oily mess, and a much darker color than it was at trace. (See attached picture... if you dare!) I'd happily rebatch it, but I don't know if it'll ever even get to a solid state where I can chunk it up to melt it down!

Why did it foam up like that? How do I get additives to blend in evenly without having to stir too much? Can anything be done to salvage this batch?

Thank you so much! I would really appreciate your input.

Megan G.

Hi! That's quite a picture! Anyone who has had a botched batch and survived will smile at that. If I use your letter when I update the site, can I put the picture in also? (no email address or last name for you)

I'm kind of stumped as to why this all foamed up when you first stirred it together but the one thing I wonder about is how hot your oils were when you added the lye solution. Did you check the temperatures before adding them together? It almost sounds like it was too warm to start with and when you added it together, it overheated more and started foaming (soapy type foam). I've never used coffee in soap so I don't know if it causes the mixture to heat up at all... but even with just lye solution alone, if the soap goes beyond a certain temp in the pot it can foam up if the saponification is progressed enough.

Did you use a stick blender? That is a different critter than a hand mixer (beater type) and does a wonderful job of mixing everything together. You just have to do some reading about technique so you don't burn out your motor or over mix the soap.

As to fixing this... assuming all the measurements were accurate, you can likely reclaim it by reheating the batch in a crock pot or in a covered pot in a slow oven (250 to 300 degrees or a low setting in the crockpot)... mashing it around every so often until it all blends. The soap in the end will have a different texture but be soap you can cut and use. You might want to add a tiny bit more water, but it's not likely that you'll need it on such a fresh batch.

Good luck! Don't throw it out... it can definitely be saved! :-)

[Majorly Botched?]


Subject: Removing Soap from Molds
Date: 9/21/03
From: Stella

I have just recently made a few soap recipes. My main concern is how to get the soap out of the molds.  I bought some plastic drawer organizers and oiled them slightly and even put them in the freezer for about an hour, but I still cannot get the soap out without making a mess of it. What am I doing wrong? Stella

Hi! I think in the future you'd have less trouble if you use a piece of freezer paper to line your mold at least in one direction... a piece of paper that will cover the bottom and two sides and hang over on those two sides so you can lift the piece of soap up by them as handles. Freezer paper is for sale at the grocery store and it has a plastic coating on one side... butcher paper the other. Put the plastic side up toward the soap. On the ends without the paper... you would wait until the soap starts to shrink away from the sides slightly and then if it's kind of stick, you can always run a knife along those two sides to loose the soap.. the rest will have paper lining.

On this batch... give it more time and it may come out after a few more days. With really stubborn batches... sometimes it's necessary to cut out one piece of soap and then in that working space, put a spatula underneath and loosen the sticky spots. With a plastic tray like this, you might be able to flex the mold slightly while holding it upside down and get the soap to pop out... but probably will need to give it a few more days to tighten up first.

Good luck!

Subject: First Batch Fiasco
Date: 9/3/03
From: Deana

After reading your site for several months and taking a weekend soap making class, I got brave and tried my first batch and boy was it a goof! I think I probably did everything possible wrong. LOL OK, here's the story.

I went to Majestic Mountain and used their calculator for a small batch (mistake number 1). 16 oz Lard, 16 oz Soy Oil, 16 Oz. Olive Oil, 1T cinnamon for color and 3T Sweet Cakes Indian Summer FO. The calculator spit that I needed 18 oz of water and about 6.1 oz of lye. No problem, right?

Got my lard measured out and in my pan to melt and when I went to zero out my little scale (just a cheap diet scale, nothing fancy yet), it broke!!! OK, so now what the heck was I to do? Well, I decided to give it a whirl anyway with volume measure (mistake number 2). I realized that the conversion of weight and volume isn't a direct equivalency, but since I didn't have exact measures, I just went ahead and did 16 oz across the board figuring it would just be superfatted. Now for lye--this I had no clue on. I measured out somewhere between 6 and 7 oz since I couldn't tell exactly. I mixed the lye solution and oils together and used a hand mixer (no stick mixer yet) and stirred and stirred for about half an hour and wasn't anywhere near trace. I added a little more lye water to the mix and stirred some more. Then I heated it back up a little and stirred some more. Still no trace. Well, my pan was getting pretty full and I was worried about adding more water, so I added lye DIRECTLY to the mix (mistake number 3) and kept stirring. Still nothing. Exasperated at this point, I added a bit more lye water--as much as I dared without having the pot slosh over and stirred some more.  I thought it might be getting a little thicker but I wasn't sure--still no trace. Well I read that some FOs can cause trace to happen quicker so I added my cinnamon/FO mix to the batch and blended it in.  I noticed that it started to bubble a bit at that point (the heat wasn't on anymore though) but it DID finally get a very light trace. I poured it into my molds and prayed.

It has now hardened in just a few hours and I never did see it go through the gel stage and I can see bits of white grains in it which I am worried is the lye I didn't dissolve in water first. It also seems a bit difficult to wash off the residue from touching it so I'm wondering if that's the oil or just the difference of texture with homemade soap.

OK, so what all did I do wrong and how can I fix it in a rebatch??? :-)


P.S. How's the NW these days?  I am originally from Oregon, but lived in the Seattle area (Bremerton, Burien, etc) a few times.

It's DRY, DRY here right now! I just heard we might get rain on Sunday... but I'm not counting on it yet! Sure could use a good soak.

Well... you had quite the adventure, but I'm not sure the soap is bad yet. Having it leave a slimy lye feeling when it's that fresh is fairly normal until it goes through the curing period. I'd cut it and let it cure for a bit and if it's still harsh after the curing time [4 to 6 weeks]... you could either grate it to use in the laundry or remelt it and add a bit of oil back in.

Next time... I'd have a reliable scale... especially if you're going to do a smaller batch. Don't despair... I had a lot of bad batches before I had it turn out right and so far you are way ahead of me! Yours hardened up the first time.  ;-)

Good luck!

Subject: Too Much Liquid
Date: 8/29/03
From: Lara

Kathy! You're site is the best, I visit it all the time and I successfully learned how to make soap from it! I've looked and I can't find the answer to my problem...

I just made oatmeal, milk and honey soap.  I put way too much water in it not compensating for the evaporated goats milk that I added at light trace (about 12 ounces too much water), so my question is, is my soap ruined? It definitely took longer to trace and was a much lighter trace than when I usually pour. Do you know if it will still be useable soap in the end?  

Thank you so much for your time!!!


Barring any complications like separation issues... your soap should be fine but will take longer to dry out. You might want it to sit a bit longer before you cut it.. maybe a couple more days and then make the bars slightly larger than you want them to be in the end since there will be a bit more shrinkage.

Should be okay though.  :-)

Subject: Another Question
Date: 8/9/03
From: Niki DeZ.

Your website has been the foundation for my mother in law and I making soap together - and I'm sure all of our other relatives appreciate it very much!   (I've given lots of soap away to my 'guinea pigs' great delight!  I am wondering if a soap can be rebatched twice? I've had several lovely batches - lost count - up until now. But this time - from reading botched batches - I'm sure that at least my temperatures cooled and I didn't get a real trace. On top of that I think I used too many  'soft' oils AND I didn't have a stick blender. We stirred for an hour or so, reheated twice, and then poured. Later that same day - separation!  I ended up pouring off oil twice ( I now realize that was the wrong thing to do!) Anyway, the resulting soap, under all that oil eventually did harden to extremely hard, brittle bars. (no shock there - lye heavy!)  I rebatched and probably added too much water, which I tried to evaporate while keeping the soap in a double boiler.  I added cocoa butter and flaxseed oil, as well as some vitamin e and chlorophyl. It is a disgusting pea green now on top of it's other issues. :)  I must say I think this is actually funny - after working at it so long - must be beyond slap happy. Now it is smashed into a mold and brownish OIL is seeping into the space between the mold and the soap. The mold is a very fancy(!) cardboard box and it is absorbing this liquid.  I PROMISE that I won't throw this out before I hear back - but I must come clean and let you know that I am hiding it away and starting new with a fresh batch from one of your recipes tomorrow! This soap is for the ladies who are attending a church retreat this September and is meant as a 'you are special' gift.  >ggg<  I volunteered to do guest soaps and single-serving bath salts for each lady coming and am now officially one 'rebatch' into my first botched batch! Should I scrap it, or rebatch it?  (several women came over to 'learn' how NOT to make soap >vbg<)

Thanks so much for generously sharing all of your soapy wisdom with us commoners!

Niki DeZ.

Reading your disaster brought back memories of some of mine... you just have to keep your sense of humor about it! I lost track of how much lye and oils you had in that batch... but in answer to whether you can remelt it more than once... I see no reason why not. It might get a bit browner with more heat... but you want soap you can at least use in the end.  :-) Maybe you can add something else to spiff up the color if you melt it again. Just be sure to guess whether you need to add anything back in to make it balanced... more lye or oil? Try not to mix it too vigorously but mash it around with a slotted spoon... that way it won't get a bunch of air into it before you *pour* (mash is more like it) into a mold.

Good luck! I really recommend the cold process where you scent and color before pour and don't plan to remelt... makes a nice smooth and firm bar. BUT... to each his own.  ;-)

I demonstrated soapmaking at church once and used a purple crayon for color and had soap that was an insipid pea soup green... so I can relate!  :-)

Good luck! Thanks again for your nice email... I'm glad you have enjoyed the site.

Subject: Question
Date: 8/7/03
From: Pat C.

I have been rereading your website and have a question (if you are kind enough to respond!). I made a batch of soap yesterday afternoon. It is about my 7th batch. Anyway, I poured it in the mold, covered and wrapped it and left it for the night. I leave it in a cold oven due to space confines. My concern is that is was still translucent/gel-looking this morning. I unwrapped it and set it out on the counter. My soaps prior to this have always been set up in the morning. Did I ruin this batch? I assume I should have unwrapped it and let off some of the heat last night. (I used a new recipe, so I guess I am on a learning curve.) Any help or thoughts would be appreciated.

Thanks, Pat

Hi! If the soap was still warm when you pulled it out and saw that it was translucent, then I'm going to assume that it took it longer than usual to reach gel stage. I've occasionally had batches like that... maybe my mixing temps got lower than normal or for some reason the soap was cooler when poured. As the saponification process continues (the reaction), heat is produced and it may have taken that batch a few hours to heat up enough to gel. That's just my guess. If that's the case and it hardens like normal after it cools off.. the soap should be just fine.  :-)

Good luck!

Subject: Homesteader's Batch
Date: 7/26/03
From: Patricia P-Y

I made my first batch of Homesteaders Soap, I had beef tallow  I had rendered & froze. I was so careful & calculated my oz's & all the things, waiting until temp. was right for both. I slowly stirred in lye to lard & stirred with wooden very spoon slowly. I saw it tracing & added a few drops coconut oil for scent as the rendered lard(tallow) stunk!! It was setting up very fast, so I poured into my large plastic Tupperware container & things seemed to be going good but now I have gooey like mass of brown mush (mashed potatoes).....bottom seems very solid, but looks like a mud pit, top has a half inch of oil or lard on it. What do I do next????????? I don't give up easy, so I am ready to do whatever I need, to correct this mess! Sincerely, Patricia

Congratulations on saving the soap! Sorry to take so long to respond... been busy today. That weird batch with the crevices and oil pockets was one of mine! One of my earlier attempts at milk soap. Your soap will smell better now since it's more saponified from the heat you applied to remelt it. I think your biggest mistake in the whole ordeal was being TOO careful!   ;-) That's probably how I messed up my first 9 batches... stirring oh, so carefully, etc. Now I zap that stuff with the stick blender and in a few minutes it's usually ready to pour! You should treat yourself to trying the stick blender at some point... it makes a really nice texture. Be sure to read the instructions for using one before you try it... but I have a feeling I don't need to tell you that... judging by your resourcefulness in researching how to save your first batch.

Happy soaping! :-)


Wanted to let you know, I immediately cut up the mess of hard molded soap that looked like that person on your site's oatmeal bars with the crevices in it [those were mine! KM].Weird, but after I put it back in enamel roast pan with lid & 1 cup water & sprinkled about 3/4 cut powdered milk in it & let it heat to melt about 30 min., then stirred, then let it bake another 10 min. stirred & dissolved the milk & it set up for me to pour in molds & put most in the big plastic container again. The color is more caramel now instead of a putrid brown like cow pies(sorry). So that made me feel better for my first encounter & that it can be recovered. I won't give up!!  Thanks for your time, hope others will try that method also. Happier in Wisc., Patricia.

Subject: Failure?
Date: 4/24/03
From: Kurt in Australia

After emailing you I went over procedures again. I visualized myself going over every step in an effort to find where I went wrong. After a few tries the light bulb switched on. I have a very cheap scale from dollar dazzlers. The MMS Lye Calculator suggested 520 gr caustic soda. One tin was 500 gr so I only needed another 20 gr measured out. Well the scale had pounds and kilos , so I measured 0.02 kg caustic and added it to the water to make the lye.

.02 of a kilo is 200 grams. No wonder the original batch was crumbly and corrosive. I rebatched, adding another KG oil and ended up with a soap soft like good cheddar cheese, smells great , looks great, lathers well.
I have some good advice for other newbies, do not fear making mistakes, welcome them, embrace them, love them for it is through the stuff ups you learn and profit.

Congratulations on saving your batch.  :-) It's always nice when you can reconstruct what was missing and get the balance you need.

Happy soaping!  :-)

Subject: Botched Batch
Date: 3/27/03
From: Billie Z.

I have a botched batch story about color changes.  I was making a batch of your Mint Swirl soap.  I was using liquid soap color from a local craft store. Anyways, I poured off the white and started to add the green.  I was stirring this with a spoon so as not to accelerate trace any more and decided the green was not dark enough so I added more color. It wasn't mixing really well and in frustration I grabbed the stick blender.  I shouldn't have as i was using a fairly shallow pan with only about an inch and a half of soap left. After giving it a quick zip with the stick it turned from green to brown. Figured it was messed up the family could use it and poured it in the mold.  I know that because it was thicker now it wouldn't swirl as well and I was prepared for that.  I was not prepared for when I looked at it after gel stage and to my surprise my first was green, then turned brown soap, was now purple. What a shock.  I double checked twice to make sure I grabbed the proper color as they all look the same in the little bottles.  I used the right one and now I have some lovely smelling purple, almost swirled mint soap.  

Thanks again for your wealth of knowledge.  I don't think I could have done it without you.  I haven't had any other problems so far. Just hard to find some ingredients where I live. Thank goodness for the Internet!  


Billie Z.

How interesting!  I just love soapy surprises... don't you?  ;-) My guess is that the colors you used were not stable for use in cold process soap where they are exposed to the lye before it's taken up in the saponification process. Those kinds of colorants can usually successfully be used in melt and pour or remelted fully cured soap... but not the cold process from scratch type. I've had a purple soap turn pea green before... but not the other way around... at least you ended up with a nice color... albeit inappropriate for mint!  :-)

Thanks for writing and good luck!  :-)

Subject: Castile Soap: My First Soap Making Experience
Date: 2/19/03
From: Dale R.

Kathy.  I decided to try a simple Castile soap recipe. So I used the basic one here using 18 oz lye, 5 cups of water, 20 cups of olive oil. But I didn't buy enough olive oil to reach 160 oz (20 cups). I had only a large can (101 fluid oz) and 26 oz bottle which equal 126.5 oz. We were in the midst of the 2003 Blizzard here in Philadelphia and could not obtain more.  So.....I had Canola oil; enough to add to the MMS recommendation of 140 oz vegetable fat.  I used 53 oz of distilled water.

The reason for my note and detail is that it took almost 12 hours to come to trace or what I think is trace for Castile. The mixture finally thickened and became an off-white color. When I dripped liquid from the spoon, it puddle on top. At that point I poured it into the mold.

Am I right that the temperature of around 95 F - 100 F should be maintained throughout the stirring process? If this is correct, that should be noted in the recipes.  I only came to that conclusion about 9 hours of stirring for five minutes, resting for 15 minutes in room ambient of 68 F. At that point, I would move the liquid pot to the stove top and warm it a minute, while stirring, and then turn off the heat. Every so often.

If possible, I would love to hear your thoughts about all of this. Thanks.

Dale R.

PS - It has been about 12 hours since the pour and I'm not certain what to expect when I take a peek in a few more hours. If the soap is solid then, should I remove from mold then or wait another 24 hours?

Hi! Sorry to take so long to reply! Your experience of waiting a long time for a trace (with Castile) is not so unusual. Your idea if applying a bit of heat to keep the temperature up during that process is probably a good one if you're going to be hand stirring, but if you use a stick blender, it should not take this long to get a trace... even with a Castile recipe. You should be able to get the soap poured in less than a half an hour and my experience is more like in under ten minutes.

So how is your soap now? If it sets ups and starts to shrink away slightly at the edges of the mold... it's ready to turn out and cut. I hope it worked out well for you.  :-)

Subject: HELP!
Date: 2/10/03
From: Polly

Oh Kathy, I am hoping you could give me some advice.

I started making the sudsy all veggie with palm kernel and adding a little shea last November. I made 12# batches. I purchased all of my oils from Columbus Foods. This is the recipe I used:

44 oz coconut
35.1 palm
35.2 canola
17.6 palm kernel
48.4 olive
4.4 shea butter
lye-26 oz (7% range according to MMS)
water - lower rate of 52.86 oz
I used mostly FO only one batch using EO

Anyway - orange spots starting on almost every batch (a couple are newer batches which I did first part of January-they don't show any spots yet).

What can you suggest I try next time to try and eliminate spots? I store the bars upright for curing on a open rack (plastic that has holes in it for ventilation)on my front porch (heated in winter). There is quite a bit of light there, but not any "direct" sunlight.

I would appreciate any help that you can provide.


Hi! I don't have time right now to double check this, but recently MMS changed their SAP number for PK oil. For curiosity's sake, you might go back and see how this mix comes out now as to superfatting/lye discount. I like to keep my discount a little bit lower... more like 4 to 5 %. Did you figure in the shea butter when you calculated the recipe or add on after? I'm assuming you calculated it in.

Some people have trouble with this combination (Sudsy All Veg) and occasionally I'd have a batch do this and not know why it was different from the others. I've so far not had a problem with the recipe I use more often now and that's basically the Soap Classic one... no canola oil. I like to use Soap Classic but substitute a couple of ounces of cocoa butter for 2 oz. of olive oil... but it's good without the cocoa butter too. The cocoa butter makes the bars have an extra hardness. I've also used a bit of shea in that recipe and back off a little bit on olive again... when I add some shea... probably no more than 2 oz. of that. A little shea goes a long way in a recipe.

Anyway... I'd try a different recipe if this keeps giving you trouble and see how it goes. If you have palm kernel oil and want to use that... you can take my Soap Classic Recipe to the MMS site and doctor it a bit. Substitute some PK for part of the coconut... functionally, they are similar in the kind of lather they impart... but the PK uses less lye to saponify. Just be sure your final recipe is not overly superfatted and I think this will take care of your problem.

Good luck! :-)

Subject: What is ash on soap?
Date: 01/23/03
From: Brandi

Is ash a thin white layer on the soap?? If so, what are your suggestions to cure this? It seems I only get the white film if I use distilled water, but if I use goats milk no problem.

Thanks for your help,


What you describe sounds like ash, but I don't think the goat's milk in and of itself is what got rid of it... but more likely the fact that milk causes soap to heat up more and the higher temp speeds up saponification. Soap that has temperature issues and does not saponify as well in the first little while after pouring seems more prone to ash formation than soap that goes through a gel stage. That's been my experience, at least. That's not to say that you want your soap getting REALLY hot! That can cause other problems, but your non-milk soaps might benefit from a little bit of warming during mixing (just for a minute or two over a low burner) or raise your mixing temps by about 10 degrees and see if that helps. You want to encourage gel phase, but once it gels to the edges of the mold, you can let it cool down or partially uncover it.

Good luck! :-)

Subject: white mold on soap, HELP!
Date: 01/29 10:53 AM
From: CSB

I recently got into soap making, and bought several books on the subject. Then of course, like everyone else, I decided to experiment on my own. I used a basic bar, (with no fragrance), and milled it. Then added the appropriate amounts of water, and almond oil, instead of coconut oil, and some fragrance (wild berry, with a tiny bit of red dye, RIT, as was recommended in the books. The first 5 batches (of other fragrance) turned out great, (so far), but about a week of curing gave me this white mold-like woolly substance in different parts of the soap. Been searching all over the Internet for similar problems and can't find anything. Can you tell me what it is?, or what I did wrong. The other batches are just fine. Could I have added too much water when I mixed the dye in, and it didn't absorb all the way? It appears just to be on the outside. Is there any way to salvage the soap, or should I just discard it?

Thanks, Cindy

Hi! I'm kind of stumped... usually you'll get mold when there's some kind of organic material added to a moist recipe... things like mashed up strawberries, cucumber, herbs, spices, etc. You didn't add anything like that to my knowledge. At first I thought this might just be a rampant case of ash, but from what I can make out in the picture, it does look more like some kind of mold.

I don't recommend RIT dye for soap since it might stain your washcloths, but I do use the "politically incorrect" (kind of kidding, but some folks are pretty harsh on them) wax candle dyes and have had no problems with those... I'm not totally picky about colorants... but the fabric dye is not the best. It's up to you if you're using it for yourself.

Bottom line is whether you can use the soap and what to do... I don't know exactly what is molding in there. I think I'd just wipe the surface of the bars gently with some rubbing alcohol as the soap cures out and that should kill the growth of the mold on the surface without adding more moisture to the bar. Rubbing alcohol is great for polishing up cured bars also... it shouldn't hurt anything. Wish I knew exactly what was causing the trouble in the first place. :-/

I hope this helps... you don't necessarily need to throw this away unless it grows this stuff on the inside to the point that it repulses you to use it later. :-P

[P.S. - From what was said in another email, I think an excessive amount of water may have contributed to this and maybe some kind of introduced bacteria on the surface?]

Subject: Please help
Date: 01/25 1:25 PM
From: Raewyn

I'm making a Castile soap which is made of only olive oil, lye and water. I seem to have no problem with it setting in the main mould but it is when I come to hand mill it that I have problems. The problem I'm having is that the soap is getting enormous craters in the centre of them and they are so deep that to use a potato peeler to make them smooth would leave me with very thin bars and a lot of scraps.

This is only my second batch of soap. The aloe vera does it the worse. Was wondering if it has something to do with the weather as it is very humid here at the moment so I have been trying to dry it outside in the shade. But it still does not seem to be drying very quickly. Made a batch of aloe vera and tea tree oil on the 12th & 13th January and they are both still very soft is this normal? [This is summertime there.] First batch took over a month to dry but they are really strange looking things. This lot is a lot better apart from sinking in the middle.

Thank you


I'm not sure what is happening here, but it probably has to do with how much water you are adding to your rebatched soap and the amount of heat, rate of cool down. It sounds a lot like what candles do when they cool... the sides tend to cool first and cling to the side of the mold... the center drops and ends up being lower in the middle than the sides. Is that like what is happening? I'm not sure what to suggest, except to maybe use less water in the remelt and possibly heap up the soap a bit in the middle when filling the mold to allow extra there for when it shrinks down.

My best solution would be to give up on remelting and scent your cold process soap the first time around. I think that makes a superior end product over the remelted stuff... but that's just my preference. Maybe you really love remelting.

Subject: Re: Botchy Batchy
Date: 11/15/2001 10:44 PM
To: Noah Johnston


>Dear Soapmakers,

> I have made soap maybe about five times so far and have had mixed
>results. The very first batch that I made was just one third of each: coconut
>oil, olive oil, Crisco. That first batch turned out so great that it made
>me fall in love with homemade soap. (I even got to see it gel and all
>which at the
>time made me think I did something wrong). I have made two batches
>recently though that turned out a little weird. The first one was the same
>as the original one that I made, but the only mold I could find was
>really big for my size of batch and so it ended up really thin. That batch
>got so frosty that it was ugly and all of the Tea tree oil smell faded away
>fairly quickly during the curing process. The second was a marbled batch
>with cocoa as my colorant for the swirls; when I mixed in the cocoa it started to
>stink bad.(like fish or rancid some'm rather (or like I said at the time
>"it smells as if the protein is being decomposed")). It d

This is where your message cut off. This is just me, Kathy Miller. Eventually, I'll post this for other soapers to read... but that will take awhile since it's such a busy season for soap selling. If you want to resend this but maybe put the text inside of the email instead of just as the attached HTML file, maybe I'll get the whole thing.

Thanks! That smell in the last batch will probably go away during cure... don't despair yet. :-) The "frosty" batch probably lost too much heat so didn't saponify as well and got ashy. A smaller but deeper mold will encourage gel to happen and save you from this sort of problem.

Subject: My first botched batch
Date: 11/13/2001 9:21 PM
From: April Chan


I've just had my first botched batch. I added the fragrance while stirring, and stopped to turn around and put my bottle down. When I started to stir again, it was like jello in a mold. What do I do now!?

Well... it's probably too late for the first approach. I've had this happen (and it's SO frustrating!)... if you let the soap sit there for another minute or two, it will usually overheat and gel right there in the pot. At that point, it's soft enough you can mush it into a mold... much like you would remelted stuff. The texture will be like remelt, but without the added time of doing that after the fact.

Since you probably missed that opportunity... you can remelt it using instructions on the remelting page (check out the Cat Dreams site). You might not need to add any water... or just a little bit since the soap is so new. In the future, if you use that fragrance again... I'd increase the water content of the soap by 4 to 8 ounces to buy you more time.

Good luck! It happens to the best of soapers. :-)

Subject: botched batch
Date: 11/5/2001 6:56 AM
From: Monica Gibson

One day my husband made me go with him to Michael's (craft store) to buy some stuff that he wanted. While he shopped, I drifted over to the melt-and-pour soap area. I've found decent soap molds there on occasion, so i thought I'd give it a look-see. I found this little jar of powder that is supposed to give soap a creamy look to it so I figured that I'd try it out. I decided to use it on a gentle lavender soap, one of the first recipes I made on my own, and it looked beautiful when I poured it into the molds. However, when I popped the soaps out of the molds, there was this odd fuzz all over it that kind of looked like mold. Later I figured out that the powder I put in just didn't take hold in the soap and was kind of "rejected" by the soap. So, beware to the soaper who thinks that the melt-and-pour supplies that look so cool and smell so nice work with anything but melt-and-pour stuff.

That's interesting... I wonder what it was. There are lots of things that look great in melt and pour that are kind of wasted in cold process... micas are one of them. You can't really see through the soap to pick up much of their sparkle. It might look kind of interesting... but not nearly as stunning as in M & P.

(b.t.w.--i met a lady who saw my isn't always the prettiest...and bragged about how beautiful her soap turns out...much better than mine in her openly voiced i asked her if i could get some pointers from her on where to find oils in the area. she looked at me like i had a second head and said "oils"? after she said that i just smiled at her and wished her luck in her hobby and walked away...note that i did smile smugly after i turned my back...)

Aha! Melt and Pour Base, eh? There are a lot of soapers that use that... I don't think the end product is nearly as great for the skin, but it does look pretty. I'll cast my vote for functional. :-)

Thanks for your email and happy soaping!

Subject: What happened????
Date: 11/2/2001 11:27 PM
From: Liz Cornell

I used a recipe of yours that flopped--sort of. Perhaps you can tell me what went wrong. I used the all vegetable blend recipe. 26 oz of soy & 20 oz each of olive, coconut & canola. I needed a 3 lb batch & so I refigured the amt of oils & ran it through the lye calculator at the Ye Old Soap Shop.

After an hour of stirring & using the stick blender off & on it had still not traced. After 3 days it was still quite soft & could not be removed from the mold. It appeared to be grainy too. I rolled some of it into an awful looking ball & put it aside. Two weeks later, the ball was firmer & I used it to wash my hands. I have never seen thick suds like this, Wow!

What might have caused the trace time to be so long & the lack of firmness? Why does this bar have such thick lather?

I do need a vegetable recipe without Palm or Palm Kernel (not available in my area) How can I get these suds in a 3 lb batch with a recipe that is a much firmer and perhaps more reliable?

Thanks, Liz

Hi! Sorry you are having problems. Three pounds is a comparatively small batch and that can pose two problems. The first is that you have to have *extremely* accurate measurements or the soap will get thrown off... there is a much smaller margin for error. This means a really good scale is a must. Secondly, you lose temperature really quickly in a smaller batch and this can cause its own problems. You might want to raise your mixing temperatures a bit higher so you start out with more heat, since you will lose a lot during the mixing time. I would only raise it about 10 degrees F., but that would depend on how low they are to start. The fact that your soap seemed to lather well and firm up later on, makes me think this was more of a temperature issue. The soap could have thickened more from cooling off than because of saponification. Warming it gently during the mixing process (only for a little on low and then turn the burner OFF) will help to keep the soap nice and warm and help the saponification process along.

You might want to increase the lye ever so slightly next time also if you think that was part of the softness problem. I don't know how fine the measurement on your scale is. This might not have been the major factor in the mushy problem.

I hope this helps... good luck on the next batch! :-)

Subject: I give up on this hobby!
Date: 10/17/2001 6:03 PM
From: Diana Nickels

Hate to say it... but I give up. I too bought Norma Coney's book as my first attempt at soap making. At first attempt I tried the Olive Oil Castile Soap, since I didn't have the Palm & Cocoanut oils and didn't want to mess with the tallow right away. The first batch was wonderful!! Then came the rest.

Every batch after it has been failure. I tried the Nineteenth Century Soap and it separated into a fluffy, fatty smelling stuff on top and what appeared to be a nice, hard soap on the bottom. I tried to remelt it in my stock pot, but it was a mashed-potato mess.

I was about to give up until a fellow soap maker pointed me in the direction of your website. So I printed out almost every page and sat down to read. I dusted off my stick blender and tried three recipes on Saturday: The olive oil (one last time), the Nineteenth Century (one last time) and the Nutcracker Sweet off your site just for the heck of it. The Nutcracker Sweet came out great, much to my surprise. Last time I'll make it though since I seem to only have beginners luck (like my dad). I was so hopeful with the other two that I ordered palm, cocoanut and castor oils and 2 new molds! They were even, smooth and looked great. I didn't even have to stir the Olive Oil Soap every 12 hours like the recipe says!

Then tonight I tried to mill down the Nineteenth Century Soap. Again I ended up with something like Vaseline! I tried melting, double boiling, baking... nothing will touch this soap. eBay here I come. Anyone need any molds?


Congratulations! You just made three successful batches of cold process soap... I like it THE BEST!

>Then tonight I tried to mill down the Nineteenth Century Soap. Again I ended
>up with something the Vaseline! I tried melting, double boiling, baking
>nothing will touch this soap. eBay here I come. Anyone need any molds?

Wait... hold on! :-) Your soap turned out great. I see the problem as being the "remelt" method which is way overrated! LOTS of people have the same trouble doing it as what you experienced. Next time... scent your cold process batch before you pour it and YOU ARE DONE after cutting and curing. You'll have hard, smooth lovely soap... none of this bumpy and warped stuff. You can pour your scented cold process directly into your smaller molds also... when they are ready to pop out... they are done and beautiful. No grating and remelting... blah!

I hope you don't despair. I had NINE separated batches before I got one to trace and set up properly! =:o

Subject: Help, my soap has orange spots
Date: 9/19/2001 8:56 PM
From: Sherri McNish

Several of my soaps have developed orange spots. I have searched all over the web and have found that the oils in my soap are going rancid. I love your page and my recipes are very similar to the ones you have posted. I would like your advice.

Have 3 different batches of soap that have come down with this.

Lard soap
olive/canola soap
and a Crisco soap.

The only thing these 3 soaps have in common is the coconut oil and the castor oil that I use as a carrier for the scents. I make soaps with a 7% excess oil. All three of these soaps have been curing for less than a month.

I so don't want my coconut oil to be bad. I bought 50 lbs 5 months ago and still have 1/2 of it left. I just went and smelled my oils both the castor and coconut have a "heavy" scent but don't smell bad.

So the questions I'm asking are:

How can I prevent DOS?
How do I tell if an oil is over the hill?


I wish I knew how to prevent DOS. I'm not certain, but from what you've said, you might want to drop your superfatting down a bit so you don't have as much excess oil in the soap. If you add your castor and coconut (with the scent) on top of 7% lye discount, that could bump it up into a questionable zone... especially if your measurements or scale are not totally accurate.

Maybe try next time to make soap in the 3 to 4% range of lye discount and see if that makes a difference? If you are careful and age the soap, it should still be plenty mild. If your oils don't smell bad or have a strange appearance... they are probably fine. I'm not sure what "heavy" means... but I don't usually smell much at all when I measure out my coconut. Castor does have a smell all its own and I can usually pick that up even when it's in the soap.

I'm starting to make my soap a little less superfatted as well... I've had a few batches go south on me for some unknown reason while others were fine. Maybe the combination of FO with the recipe I used made some kind of difference? I didn't get DOS, just an off smell and the soap gets darker on the outside as it goes.

Subject: Tiny holes
Date: 8/15/2001 5:38 AM
From: Pam

LOVE your site!!! I've been wanting to try CP soap making for about two years. Have looked up suppliers, instructions, message boards etc etc etc. But it was your site that finally gave me the courage to actually do it. I've made two batches in the past week. The first one turned out great but the second one has tiny holes in it. I've read your site and the message board and come up with three possible problems. FO pockets, air pocket or lye pockets so how do you tell which it is???

By the way it was your Sudsy all-Vegetable recipe and I added about 2 oz of Raspberry FO from SC. It was thick pudding consistency before I got it poured into the mold. I want to make another batch but am reluctant until I can figure out what happened and how to correct it.

Thanks in advance for your help. Peggy

Hi! I'm not sure what your holes are, but if they are tiny, the problem should be fine after the full curing period. My first guess is air bubbles if you stick blended and pulled air from the top of the soap pot. When you cut the soap did you notice any fluid coming from the small pockets? If you see fluid, it could be oil or FO or lye solution. I usually rub some on my fingers to see if it's irritating. Oil feels oily and lye solution feels kind of irritating and slippery when you try to rinse it off.

If your soap was pretty thick when you added the FO, you might have gotten some small oil pockets. Without seeing the soap when you cut it... I'm just guessing. At any rate... I suspect it will be okay after curing. If it's oil pockets from fragrance, I sometimes notice that some batches that do that have a shorter shelf life ... but I haven't come to firm conclusions on it.

Subject: "Weeping" Soap

Date: 8/12/2001 1:17 PM
From: Saltbushs

I am very fond of your website, and have read through sections often. But, I had something happen with a batch of soap I had not seen before. I made a batch of soap, containing shortening (with animal fats), lard, olive oil, and soybean oil. Since it was a chocolate soap, it also contained cocoa and chocolate FO. Everything went as usual, except that after about 16 hrs in the mold, pinpricks of a dark brown oily (?) looking substance appeared, reminding me of weeping meringue. Scratching my head, I left it alone...and over the next 8 hrs, the weeping substance was reabsorbed. I have never noticed this happening before, and its basically the same recipe I have used often for other scents, so possibly it was the FO or the cocoa that caused it or at least made it easily visible. So far, the soap appears normal (its a week old) but that was peculiar. Any ideas what it was or why it happened?


Georgia Scott

I'm not sure exactly what that is, but I've had batches do that. Sometimes the oil doesn't completely disappear back in and I have to blot the top later. It could be condensation from the soap putting off heat while being covered... could be a bit of oil or even glycerin. As long as it's not heavy and an actual separation... I just blot it and proceed as usual if it's still oily on top at cutting time. Sorry I don't have a scientific answer for you! :-)

Glad you have enjoyed the pages so much... happy soaping! :-)

Subject: Soap Question
Date: 8/2/2001 5:57 PM
From: Linda

Your garden is lovely!!!! I hope I'm sending this to the correct e-mail address. I've read through your FAQ of soap problems, but can't find the one that I am encountering. I'm hoping you might have a suggestion.

I use a lot of single molds (like animals, roses, round bars, etc.). I do C.P. Sometimes (not always) when I un-mold them, there are white marks on the soap. I don't think it's the powdery stuff that one gets from the reaction to air (I use saran wrap to cover after I pour). However, there are white marks on the face of the soap as well (the part that gets poured into the mold first). Not all over, just here and there. The soap doesn't look good, so I'm having to remelt. These are the steps I've tried, to eliminate the marks; using less lye; not making the oils as hot when I melt them, insulating very well, not insulating as much, mixing extremely well, pouring at light trace, pouring at heavy trace. I just can't seem to figure out what is causing this. It's not only one recipe either (but not every time)! I make about 2-1/2 to 3 pound batches. I'm getting discouraged... Any advice would be greatly appreciated.



You don't say how you are stirring your soap. I would suggest using the stick blender to get a really well blended and traced soap before pouring. Also... added warmth is sometimes necessary on molded soaps to ensure that they gel (those are less likely to form ash or light places like this). You might try placing them on a sheet in a prewarmed oven (hang a SIGN on the front and have the oven OFF when you put them in... you don't want anyone to unwittingly preheat the oven and warp your molds!). You don't want the oven hot... only comfortably toasty warm. Make sure the soap is well blended and honeylike looking at pour (like translucent pudding... not too thick but pourable)... that's usually a good sign of trace. If using the stick blender, be sure to turn it off frequently and stir without the blade moving for a bit to make sure you don't pour the soap too soon ("false trace"). I've noticed also that soaps that are unmolded too early can sometimes form some of these light markings if they were not traced as well as they should have been at pour and the saponification process is still too incomplete when they are taken out of the molds. You can leave them in for a few days before popping them out... wait for them to shrink away at the sides and loosen themselves up.

I'm not sure exactly what the problem is here... but I think if you try these ideas, you might find that the problem takes care of itself. Having a base recipe with a smooth finish is nice for molded soaps. A bit of palm kernel oil in a recipe makes it nice and hard and smooth for unmolding.

Subject: soap question
Date: 8/1/2001 2:02 PM
From: Cherie Norquay

Hi Kathy!

I hope you are enjoying your summer. It sure is HOT here lately (Wisconsin). I have emailed you before, but I have another question for you. My local soaper friends are clueless about this problem and I thought maybe you have encountered it before. I have been making a stress relief soap using your combination of spearmint, peppermint, and eucalyptus essential oils. I make it in 9 pound molds. A few times the soap block has turned out with a brown edge around the bottom and sides. Other times the soap has turned out perfectly. Do you know what may cause this? This is my best selling soap so far and it is a lot of work to trim up so many bars of soap ( I also don't think they look as nice). [recipe deleted in case it's a secret ;-)] I mix my oil and lye solution between 100 and 110.

Thanks for any help you can provide.

Also, the Eucalyptus oil is much cheaper than the peppermint and spearmint. If I up that a little bit would that have any effect on this problem?


Cherie Norquay
Divine Creation Handcrafted Soap

Hi! I've had this happen on an occasional stress relief batch. I think that if you prewarm your soap mold, you might be able to avoid this problem (assuming it's wood or something heavy). It was mainly on the edges and bottom where the soap had been cooler that I noticed this discoloration. During the summer this might not be necessary if your house is warm/hot, but if you have air conditioning on, your molds could be on the cool side when your soap hits them. Just putting them into a WARM oven for about ten minutes beforehand helps to ensure that the soap gels all the way to the edges and bottom. Once gel hits the sides all the way, I take the insulation (an inverted box in my case) off the soap, or prop the box on one edge of the top of the mold to allow the escape of some heat and let it cool quickly. I think this helps to keep it from losing too much of the scent and avoiding weirdness on top (alien brains!). All veg batches seem more susceptible to that problem.

This might not be it... but I've not had a batch of stress relief with this problem for ages. It only happened at the beginning. [Note: In January of 2002 I had another batch of stress relief develop this tan edging... I'd been interrupted during the batch and the oils were cooler than I normally have them... with the mold not being preheated... I think temperature was the main factor and stand by what I speculated above.]

>Also, the Eucalyptus oil is much cheaper than the peppermint and
>spearmint. If I up that a little bit would that have any effect on this

I don't know if it will affect this problem or not... you'll have to see if you like the scent better that way.

P.S. - The recent batch of Stress Relief I just did in Jan. 2002 used mostly Corn Mint in place of the peppermint (I only added a touch of regular peppermint to the blend)... I really like this even better! It is more mellow. Corn mint is also cheaper as essential oils go. :-)

DOS!!!... "Dreaded Orange Spots" ... notice these messages came in on the same day and look at the time of year! Might be a clue there. ;-)


Date: 7/27/2001 9:06 PM
From: Ong Mei Yen

well,i've finally made a basic test batch of soap and it's turned out quite nicely-i think. it's been curing for a week now but there's a small problem......i noticed yesterday that there are bright yellow blotches on some parts of the soap. what is this and what could have caused it? more importantly, how do i fix it? you're the soap queen so you should know.....



Date: 8/27/2001 8:36 PM
From: Adrian Garcia

Love your site, it does make me feel like I'm not alone with my soap making problems.

I have been making soap for a year now and thought I came up with a great recipe. The recipe is as follows 16oz coconut oil, 16oz soybean oil, 32oz palm oil, 16oz palm kernel oil, 30.5oz of water, and 12.25oz of Lye. I add about 2oz of fragrance oil from batch to batch. I don't Superfat my soap. I use a stick blender. I keep my oils and water/lye temp at about 110 to 120 degrees. I pour the soap into a cardboard box lined with plastic and cover the box with a blanket for the first few hours. It goes through the gel stage and gets hard. After 24 hours I cut the soap into bars.

The soap is great. After about 1 month to 1 1/2 months later the soap starts getting these dots/spots under the surface of the soap. These circles are about 1/16th of an inch round and they look kind of yellow-brown. I have these happen to my soap that contains no extra additives just a plain batch and I also have this happen to soap that contains FO or EO. I can't figure out what to do to make my soap last longer. I have read that this could be the first signs of the soap turning rancid but I thought this only would happen to soaps that were superfatted or stored in a humid environment.

Please help me. It's a bummer to be a sad soaper.

Here is a composite answer...

I'm forwarding another email response to you in answer to your question about the spots on your soap. Sorry I don't know exactly what causes this, but thought you might find some possible answers here.

I just looked at your recipe. On the calculator I have on the computer, it actually comes out slightly lye heavy. I'd consider dropping the lye down to somewhere between 11.75 to 12 oz. That still is very little lye discounting. Not sure what to say... you have a lot of palm oil in there. The only time I used a high percentage of palm, I did notice the soap seemed a bit more oily to the touch on the outside. I haven't made recipes high in palm enough to notice if this is always the case. You might consider dropping the palm down a bit (you already have a lot of coconut and palm kernel which will make the soap nice and hard) and adding either more soybean oil or olive oil to the recipe and see if the change in oil composition helps the problem somehow. Be sure to run any changes through a calculator first to tweak the recipe if you decide to try this. You could even drop the palm oil by a pound and add a pound of olive (with slight tweaking in the SAP calculator if necessary) and see how that goes.

Thanks for your nice comments about the website... I'm glad you've enjoyed soapmaking. It really is great! :-)

Kathy Miller


>well,i've finally made a basic test batch of soap and it's turned out quite nicely-i think. it's been curing for a week now but there's a small problem......i noticed yesterday that there are bright yellow blotches on some parts of the soap. what is this and what could have caused it?more importantly, how do i fix it?

Hi! You have what is called "Dreaded Orange Spots" or more often expressed as "DOS". I don't know if anyone is sure what causes that, but there are lots of theories out there. I always thought it was from too much superfatting in a recipe or possibly high storage temperatures and/or humidity. One person attributed this problem to using unfiltered water in her soapmaking, but I use artesian well water from our own well and have never had problems. Maybe this would be more noticeable in a hard water area... ours is quite soft. Other possible contributors could be using oil that is beginning to go rancid, or pouring the soap when it's a false trace and truly saponified (this can happen if you are inexperienced in using a stick blender and mistake emulsification for saponification... the latter cannot be "stirred down"). I LOVE my stick blender, but you need to be careful to take breaks while blending and make sure you don't pour the soap too soon thinking it's saponified when it's only whipped up and emulsified. That's no problem... just stop every so often and stir it down with the blender off and then stick blend a bit longer, etc.

Once it's cured... you can use the soap. I think when you develop those orange patches, it's usually a sign of it going rancid... or on its way. I'd try to use it up quickly while it's still pretty decent on the inside. It will be better on the inside than the outside.

Good luck! I'm sorry I don't have a definitive answer for you... as you can see, there are several theories out there and maybe all of them have some validity to them.

Kathy Miller

Thank you very much for looking into this for me. I have heard several different thoughts about what could cause the DOS and the last one I heard was to stir my palm oil. I had never heard this before but it makes complete sense. I will try a different recipe from your suggestion using less palm and adding olive oil. Hopefully I will figure this out in the end. In fact, I know I will with all the help you have just given me.

Thanks again


I hadn't thought about the stirring of the palm oil... that's a very good point. I generally try to get the solids and liquid portions together when I take it out of the bucket (if it has separated, which it will do over time).


Subject: Re: yellow spots

Date: 9/4/2001 9:52 AM
To: Tammy Clark


Thank you for the great information. I have been using your soap recipes for about a year now, and the castile soaps after about 3-5 months are starting to get dark yellow spots all over them, do you have any experience with this??? I wonder if one of my oils went bad or something??? Thanks for your help.

Tammy Clark

The "Dreaded Orange Spots" or DOS? I had another gal email me about that. I haven't had a lot of trouble, but store my soaps with some moderate air circulation. Are you superfatting more than the recipe calls for? You might cut back a bit on the oils and drop the lye discount a little bit. Weather conditions can be a variable.. old oils? They aren't really sure. I'll paste in some info you can wade through. [repeat of above info]

Good luck! :-)

Subject: Not sure what happened...
Date: 7/23/2001 9:41 PM
From: Linda Fitzpatrick

I just made my 8th batch of soap (all others worked great) some of them being all vegetable and others, like this containing lard. This recipe had been used for 2 other batches and the only difference in this current botched batch was the addition of chamomile powder and the fact that I doubled the batch. What happened after unmolding is that the soap crumbled while cutting it into bars. What could have caused this? There wasn't one spot that didn't crumble. I used goats milk and honey along with the chamomile but I've used those ingredients before. I figure that I'll try to re-batch it according to your instructions. But I would love to know what I did wrong so I won't repeat it. Any help would be really appreciated. By the way, your web site is one of the best that I have been across - very helpful!

Thanks for your time. Linda Fitzpatrick

Glad you've enjoyed the site. I'd be guessing on what happened... but the first assumption with really crumbly soap is that it is probably too heavy on lye. What method did you use for measuring your ingredients? If you had problems with your scale, or measured by volume instead of weight... that could make the difference. Did you hand stir or use a stick blender? Did the soap go through a gel stage? If the temps were cool and the soap never gelled... it can end up on the more brittle side than if it goes through gel and has a good mix at pour (like with the stick blender). The first thing I'd suspect is too much lye and the temperature and saponification issues would be second. The lye ratio could be okay, but if the soap was poured before a good trace was reached and never gelled... it could still be crumbly just because of poor texture. Lye heavy soap is kind of powdery and crumbly after cure... more on the dry side in appearance.

If it is too much lye, you'll want to add a bit more oil in at time of rebatch... how much I'm not sure. After rethinking what could have happened, you would need to make an educated guess.

Subject: Brittle Soap
Date: 6/16/2001 6:30 PM
From: delsie

I really appreciated your help with the lard. You answered so quickly and really helped me. I am having a ball making soap, or trying to learn to make soap. I am having trouble with my soap getting hard faster than the recipes say it should. It usually traces more rapidly and is ready to take out of the mold within 12 hours. I am afraid I may be using too much lye. My scales are cheap diet scales. Do you know where I can get a good set of scales reasonable. I found some for around $400. Too rich for my blood. Or is it possible to measure the lye instead of weighing it? My soaps also seem brittle as soon as I take them out of the mold.

I found that a old coffee pot (the glass kind used for drip coffee makers) is perfect for mixing the lye and water. The mouth is large enough to pour in the lye easily, the glass is tempered so the heat doesn't bother it, and then you have a neat "pour spout."

I am using molds made from 3in pvc pipe. Cut 1 in thick it gives me a good 4 oz. bar. I close the bottom with plastic wrap and tape, then I stand the section of pipe in a vase for stability. I insulate the filled molds with several towels, could any of this cause may soap to be brittle? Thank you for your help. Bessie Abercrombie

Your brittle soap could be caused by a little too much lye, but maybe it's the base recipe you're using also. Could you tell me what it is? I just use a mechanical kitchen scale for my fats and a digital postal scale (cost $25 at Costco) for weighing the lye crystals. I thought diet scales were pretty good, but you could check into the digital postal scale for lye and spend less. Measuring lye by volume is very iffy... I don't recommend that.

If your soap is low on water addition, you can up the water a bit so the soap is a bit softer when it's unmolded. If you're making soap with animal fats like lard and tallow and using the really low water rate... that would make the soap hard faster. Maybe you should be using something closer to 32 oz. of water for 12 oz. of lye. How much did you use? Also... some soaps get hard faster and it's okay to take them out and cut sooner than the 24 hour period if that's the case. With experience, you'll know when it's time, regardless of the clock.

I hope this helps a little. Thanks for sharing your tips.

Subject: Individual molds
Date: 06/13 7:54 PM
From: Marlene

Hi Kathy!

Hope you still remember me. It's been almost a year ago since the last time I e-mailed you...

I'm still making soap once in a while. I need your help again. I made CP soap using those individual molds from Bramble Berry and the soaps came out with white streaks all over them. I insulate the molds in a box and covered them with towels and I'm sure they went into gel stage.

This is my recipe:

coconut 8 oz
palm 7
olive 8
palm k 3
canola 4
water 10
lye 4.34
pink grapefruit fo .6 oz
citrus splash fo .6 oz

Do you think I insulate too much?



Hi! I did recognize your email address. Nice to hear from you! :-)

I didn't double check your numbers, but I don't think that's the issue as much as temperature and humidity. When pouring soap into smaller molds, it's probably a good idea to raise your mixing temps by at least 10 degrees so the soap is warmer to begin with. Another thing I think makes a difference in getting ash streaking is how well the soap was mixed/saponified before it was poured. If using the stick blender, be sure to stir with it off sporadically so that you are sure you really have trace and not just an emulsified thickened mixture that can be stirred down with a spoon. You don't want it to "stir down" but stay in that thickened, satiny looking phase before pouring.

Humidity seems to be another factor in ash streaking. You might try putting the poured soaps into a previously "warmed" oven (but not hot and turned off before doing this) with a container of water sitting inside with the molds. If you do this be sure to hang a BIG sign on the oven so no one comes along and preheats it for something! I don't usually do molded soaps much and haven't done this myself, but some folks swear by it.

Lastly... you could try a small addition of beeswax to your soap to minimize ash, but I'm afraid that might make it set up so quickly that it could be hard to pour into small molds before it sets up. I'd try the other things first.

I doubt that overinsulating was your problem. Soap is such a mystery! One last thing... don't take your soaps out of the molds too soon and don't freeze them when they are cold process (a technique often used with melt and pour but a bad idea for fresh cold process soap... no matter what some books recommend). If it takes as long as 5 days... leave them in the molds until they shrink away at the sides and pop out easily. This will help keep the ash streaking from happening also (on the top decorative side).

Good luck!

Subject: Question. . .
Date: 05/27 2:20 PM
From: Jenifer Roberts

Hi Kathy!

I have been a die-hard "Miller's Homemade Soap" page fan since March 2000, recommending it to countless people who have asked how I learned to make soap - keep up the nice work!! I appreciate having the online resource you provide.

Now I have a question. . .

I have made two batches of your Oatmeal, Milk & Honey soap only to have them develop what I can only assume is a lye pocket about one inch from the top of the soap (from the outside they look OK, then I cut them and a clearish liquid oozes out). The first batch I insulated, the second I didn't. I have been using a stick blender, and these are the only kinds of soap that this has happened to. My husband seems to think that I need to divide the recipe into two molds so that it is not as thick (it is approx 2 1/2" thick as it is now). What would you suggest???


Jenifer Roberts

Hi! Thanks for the nice comments about the site... I'm glad you've enjoyed it so much. :-)

That oozing liquid you mentioned is probably more oily .... but not sure. I've had this same problem and it's because this kind of soap has a tendency to overheat (milk and honey both do that). You need to start out with lower temperatures... maybe around 90 to not over 100 degrees (cooler in summer heat) and then don't insulate the soap unless it actually needs a little bit in order to gel. After that... do what you can to cool it off. I actually set this kind of soap on a rack so that it doesn't retain as much heat underneath.. or I'll keep moving the mold around once it gels so that the table top pulls more heat out of the mold from the bottom... and no insulation on the top once it gels. This will keep this kind of separation from happening because it seems to be related to the overheating problem.

I hope this helps you with your next batch... good luck! I'm finally starting to get this soap to consistently turn out!

Kathy Miller

What your husband suggested will tend to keep the soap cooler... it holds in more heat the deeper it is... but you might do fine with the lower temps and ventilation after gel.

Subject: Castile Soap Base Botched!
Date: 05/02 3:24 PM
From: Dale & Sandy Hempel

Hi Kathy! I sure hope you can help me with this one! I made this beautiful soap (it's a buttery yellow) and I messed up on the olive oil. I put in 28 oz. instead of 44. That is 1# short! Then, my beeswax was mismarked. It said 2 oz. and weighed 3 oz. I found this out when I was weighing the last pack to split it up! So, I ended up putting 6 oz. in instead of 5 & 1/4 oz. Needless to say, it traced in about 2-3 minutes. I used 8 3/4 oz. palm oil, 8 3/4 oz. coconut oil, suppose to be 2# & 12 oz. olive oil, 9 1/2 oz. lye, & 32 3/4 oz. water. That was last Saturday when I made it (April 28th). Now, what I need to know is can this soap be saved? I planned to rebatch anyway to add my essential oil (lavender) and need to know if I can add some or all of the olive oil then? PLEASE help me! Thank you so much if you can find the time to answer me! Sandy

I didn't double check the base recipe, but YES... you can add (all) the missing oil back in at time of rebatch. I wouldn't sweat the extra beeswax so much... the SAP value on that is really low anyway. If you want to figure that in you can, but it's not so critical.

Good luck on the rebatch... it will be soap in the end. :-)

Date: 04/10 3:03 PM
From: Joe


4.25 LYE
























Hi! Sorry it took me so long... I've gotten behind on email. I don't know exactly what went wrong with your soap, but will toss out a few things that occurred to me while reading your email

I'm not sure if the weather was a factor or not. First of all... this is a fairly small recipe, so it can lose its temperature during the mixing process. Small batches that lose temp might be more prone to separate or set up too quickly because the oils are starting to harden back up. You might raise your mixing temps by about 10 degrees for small batches, or double the recipe and go from there. Oh... this recipe is pretty superfatted... I would probably add a teeny bit more lye... nearly 4.5 oz. instead of 4.25. It will keep longer in storage that way. It's up to you... you are still in the ballpark of what some soapers want... but your soap should be used up within a year or it might go rancid or develop yellow spotting.

Maybe if it was humid and raining, it was also cooler than normal when you made the soap?

Also... read about how to use a stick blender on my Modern Procedures page. 5 minutes of steady blending is a lot. I would only blend for a minute or so, turn it off and stir with the blender in the off position (I use the wand like a spoon) until you "stir it down"... then on again for about 30 seconds or so, off, on... etc. until you have a "true" trace that won't stir down. Don't wait for trace to be too thick before adding your scent... I like the pudding stage (or gravy works!).

Another thing that I prefer to do that might be helpful is to melt all your base type oils at the beginning... don't try to add them at the end. It's more likely you'll have problems with the oils not blending in properly that way. The cocoa butter especially would be better melted with the lard, coconut and olive oils (the olive actually could be poured into the previously melted hard fats in order to hasten their cooling). If you want to drizzle in the castor and vit. E. during the stirring time, that's fine, but I'd add those other fats at the front end.

Your drying method sounds interesting... I guess it will be as good as the air is dry that you are blowing across the bars. If the air is particularly humid, then I'm not sure how fast the process will go, but I guess moving the moisture out of the drum from the drying bars has value. You'll have to see how much difference it makes compared to soap cured in the open without the added circulation.

Good luck to you! :-) I hope something I've shared here helps.

Subject: Botched Batch (Fractionated Coconut?)
Date: 03/30 6:57 AM
From: Tonya Wisley

Hello, my name is Tonya. I am sorry to bother you but I made a batch of soap with one of your recipes. My husband suggested that I make a small batch first seeing how I am new at this. However I did as he requested and everything turned out fine but the soap smells funny. I used apple jack and peel from sweetcakes I used 1oz for the recipes. I used 20oz of canola, 18oz of olive oil, 6oz of fractionated coconut oil, 12oz water, and 6oz of lye. The soap smell reminds me of chemicals. I have made a batch before and it turned out fine but I did not cut the receipe in half. The original receipe I used called for 40oz of canola, 36oz of olive oil, 12oz of coconut oil, 24oz water, and 12oz lye. Could you please tell if this batch I made would be safe to use. I really do not like the smell of it. It does not smell like apple jack and peel. Could you please give some of your expertise advice. I really would appreciate it. God bless and thank you.

Tonya Wisley

Hi! Sorry you're having problems... that fragrance oil should smell WONDERFUL! :-)

Cutting recipes in half can be a problem if you don't have a really accurate and fine enough scale.... at least to tenths for that recipe, or hundredths of an ounce would be even nicer if you had it (I don't). The thing I'm noticing and wonder about is the "fractionated" coconut oil. This is not what I use in my recipes... I just use the regular coconut. It is hard and white at room temperature. I think fractionated coconut oil is a liquid, is it not? I believe it is only part of the coconut oil... only certain of the fatty acids which comprise coconut. The ones that would make it solid at room temp are probably not there. It's even possible, it could have a different SAP value from regular coconut. If that is the case... your soap might slightly lye heavy, which could account for a chemical smell. Regular coconut oil has the highest SAP value of any oils on the chart... and I'm not sure if fractionated would be as high... I really don't know the SAP value for it and don't use it for soap.

If it turns out that your soap is brittle and crumbly at cutting time, it's probably a bit lye heavy. You could remelt it and add a little more oil to it to even it out... but I'm not sure how much would be needed... maybe just one ounce of olive oil added at rebatch would be enough? Don't decide this just yet... wait a few days and see how the soap is.

Good luck! I hope this helps and that I'm on the right track.

Subject: "layered" batches
Date: 03/03/01 10:34 AM

I'm relatively new to cold-process soapmaking and have had some great successes and some failures, but a have an occasional puzzling outcome that I can't seem to find in any of the books I have - Most recently this occurred while making a batch of Cocoa Creme Soap from Norma Coney's Complete Soapmaker. (One variation I have always done, however, is to add the lye to the water which is the reverse of what Norma Coney says - the way I have always done it is from Melinda Coss's Homemade Soap Book. I find it puzzling that one says to never add the water to the lye and the other says to never add the lye to the water!) Anyhow, getting back to my problem, I seem to reach trace OK, although after I started to see the first tracings the batch did not thicken any further even with an additional 20 - 30 minutes of stirring. It had become thick enough to easily see the path my spoon had taken as I stirred and the color lightened and become opaque.This has been pretty common in my batches so I proceeded to pour into individual molds which were stacked and wrapped in towels as I usually do. After 24 hours I took a peek and saw no liquid floating on top, so I put the wrapping back in place and left it alone for two more days. When I started to unmold, a couple of the bars were fine, although a bit soft on top, but the majority looked layered. The bottom two thirds is white and the top third is very much softer to the touch, easily dampens a paper towel, and has a more translucent look to it. I just can't figure out if this is a separation, is it fixable or am I obsessing about nothing? I'd appreciate any advice or comments. Thanks.

Mary Adams

On the lye thing... I think that was an error in the Coney book... she said it backwards... you should always add the lye to the water... the other way around could be potentially dangerous.

I'm guessing that your soap lost too much heat during the stirring and what looked like trace was partly the fat globules in the mixture setting up. Was it kind of grainy and thick instead of smooth and satiny... like honey? In the future, you can warm it gently from the bottom (only for a minute or two) while you stir if it starts getting a grainy appearance... you want it to smooth out.

It sounds like it's separated just enough that you'll want to remelt it. The Cat Dreams page has is a good method, but with soap this fresh, you might not really need to let it sit overnight or even add much water... you can always add some as you go. The finished soap will have a different texture than regular cold process, but it will be well blended and safe to use right away after remelt. The main thing is that the bars need time to dry out and get good and hard.

Good luck! The rebatching page is at:


They've switched the location of my pages (and all the web pages on that server) so now it's "users" instead of "www"... but the old "www" address still gets a person there.

Subject: "alien brain" and the saturn rings effect
Date: 02/27/01 5:12 AM
From: lostpond
I've been trying to do a quick search to find out how to avoid several problems I've been having lately, before I pour today's batches. After enough of a successful start to jump into a "business" (we're selling soap as fast as we can make it simply by word of mouth), we now find ourselves having some problems that we can't seem to remedy. What is alien brain? Is it that batch I poured that rose up or heaved in the middle looking like hardened lava and when I turned it out of the mold the bottom showed white concentric rings. It was a basic recipe of olive,coconut and palm colored with paprika and scented w/eo. We pour into wooden flat molds made by my husband. We use a stick blender alternately with handstirring. The molds are insulated under old army blankets for about 24 hrs. We've made so many really beautiful, hard, translucent batches that are virtually flawless, and now all of a sudden we seem to be coming up with one batch after another that is weird in some way. How about white and crumbly around the edges and clear and gummy in the center? Or opaque white on top (not the powder stuff but a layer) that fades to translucent white on bottom? I don't think there is anything wrong that effects the mildness of these bars but after selling so much really nice stuff we don't want to compromise the integrity of what we do. We've invested so much of ourselves in this, we love making soap and get sad and frustrated when we don't have a good day. The "we" here is two long time friends who have wanted to do this for a long time, who have spent the past 15+ years raising children, tending hearth and home (that isn't something we're quitting), gardening, canning etc. and never saw ourselves leaving our homes for employment. We really believe this is what we're meant to do and that success is what ever we want it to be.
Sorry about going on here with my soapy wanderings but for the past 9 mos I have had bubbles on the brain. I spend so much time doing soapy things I don't have the time to give the Internet a really thorough search for the answers to these questions. I just keep coming back to you hoping to hit on the exact description of these weird reactions. We've used the same recipe, methods and the results have suddenly gone haywire. Help? Thanks for a great place for info and inspiration, Cindy Korch and Susan Knapp
I show a picture of "alien brains" on the botched batches page... the top gets all bumpy and weird. It's usually from over insulating and too much heat being trapped at the top of the soap. Some recipes are more inclined to this than others... I rarely have gotten it with tallow soaps, but with all-veg, it's quite common.
I'm guessing that the problems you have experienced have to do with temperature and time of pour. The soap that is white and opaque on the edges and more translucent and gummier in the center has been poured into a mold that took some of the heat out of the soap... thus the edges stay cooler than the center, which probably gelled. The soap is okay, but the cooler non-gelled soap is more opaque and more brittle when cut. You can help with this by warming up your molds in colder weather before pouring the soap into them. I pop my wooden molds into a warm oven for about 10 minutes before pouring into them during the wintertime... summer is not a problem.
The soap that is white on top and clearer and different on the bottom has probably suffered a slight separation so that the top might be more lye heavy than the bottom. I'm guessing it was poured a bit too early. Be sure it has definitely hit trace and is just thick enough that it sets up fairly quickly after being poured into the mold. You don't have to wait for stiffness!... but too soupy might get you into trouble. I like a kind of instant pudding texture... or gravy... not too thin.
I hope this helps. Good luck with future batches! I still have soap batches that surprise me and do weird things when I think I should be beyond that point... don't despair. :-)

Subject: Soft Soap

Date: 12/23/2000 8:33 AM
From: Judi

I am a new soap maker, and not very successful I might add. I had 4 complete failures before this last batch. The recipe I used was 11 oz olive oil, 10 oz. vegetable oil, 15 oz. coconut oil, 14 oz. shortening, 5 oz. castor oil, 7 oz lye and 18 oz. water. I mixed it at a slightly higher temperature than usual and used a stick blender for the first time. What to my wondering eyes, the stuff showed tracing, for the first time! I was so excited! I put it my primary mold, wrapped it in towels and left it for about 30 hours. I have to confess I peeked once and it had gelled. It came out of the mold just fine. The problem is it has been two weeks and it has not even started to dry. It lathers nicely but is definitely soft soap. What did I do wrong?

I really want a bar I can take into the shower, not a tub-o-soap.


Hi! I'm glad you've experienced trace and gel and know what to look for now... that makes the soap so much nicer. You did all the right things for a batch that small... they lose heat quicker so starting a bit warmer is a good idea.

I don't have time to check your recipe in the lye calculator... if you didn't already, you can go to the Majestic Mountain Sage Online Lye Calculator and put in your numbers. You can use soybean or avocado oil fields for the shortening. Right off hand, I'd say you have a high percentage of oils in your recipe that will make the soap on the soft side. That is a fair amount of castor for such a small recipe and having tried it in the past, I found that it made the soap kind of springy and soft for quite awhile (flexible!). Your soap will probably firm up over time... but it could take another month or six weeks before it's hard enough that you want to use it. You'll probably want to try a bar sooner than that since it's the first successful batch... but I'd hang onto to the others until they are nice and firm... let them have open air until you like how they're feeling.

Also... on a small batch, measurements are really critical. How fine was your scale? Did it go to hundredths of an ounce? For this size batch, that would be good. A little bit too much fat will make your soap soft and not as inclined to get good and hard. Way too much fat will make soap that is a tiny bit on the greasy side, but there are many grades in between greasy and just a little too soft.

Okay... I'm going to calculate that myself just to see if the recipe was okay to start with...

Well... according to the calculator I have on the computer, your recipe was short on lye... you could have used at least .5 to .8 more ounces. That doesn't sound like much, but for a small recipe, it makes a big difference. (I strive for about a 5% superfat/lye discount.)

This may firm up enough that you can use it as it, but if it's that superfatted, it won't keep forever so better use it maybe in the next six months. You could also rebatch it and add in the missing lye that has been dissolved in a small amount of water. Then re-"pour" it. The texture will be a bit different, but if your soap is already too soft, it would be an improvement. You be the judge.

Good luck! Sounds like you're getting there... don't be discouraged. :-)

Subject: botched soap
Date: 11/28/2000 9:32 PM
From: Shawneefrms


I've been making soap for over a year now. I love your recipe pages, and have used several of your recipes with much success.

However last spring I bought some goat milk for an orphaned lamb. This was my first attempt at milk soap. I froze the milk into a slush to prevent scorching it with the lye. That didn't really work well, and it not only scorched, but curdled into milk chunks, and thin watery liquid. I used it anyway, though not wanting to waste the milk and lye, and figuring it would just come out colored dark. Well it did not color dark, but it did get really, really hot while it was insulated. It gelled in the middle, which most of my soaps do, but this one didn't seem to 'un-gel' after cooling.

When I finally cut it, was 'spongy', with strange pockets of clear gel oozing from the sponge holes. I thought,"Where have I seen something like this before?" I didn't remember until I saw it again on your botched batch page today. The soap also smelled funny, faintly like spoiled milk. I have not tried to make a milk soap since then. I'm thinking though after reading your other botched batch letters, that they all have one ingredient in common...milk! Not all have honey ( mine didn't) or oatmeal, but all had milk in the recipe. What do you think? I love to hear your opinion.

Thanks for your time... Janet.

Yes... I should post that if I didn't mention it somewhere already. The milk soaps heat up much more in the mold. If your mold is deep at all... this can be a problem. The best thing is to lower your mixing temps a lot for milk soap... maybe even 15 to 20 degrees lower (around 85-95 degrees or so?). Also... DON'T insulate if in doubt. It usually produces quite a lot of its own heat. If it overheats, that's when the separation and cave effect seem to set in.

Thanks for your feedback! Good luck if you try this again. Rebatching works pretty well with these milk soaps... I hope you didn't toss it all out.

Subject: Botched Batch (Australia)
Date: 10/31/2000 7:57 PM
From: ReeBee

Hi Kathy,

I just had to write and let you know about the "doozy of a botched batch" I have just had. First of all I decided that one of my batches of Sudsy All Veg. wasn't right, it had yellow blotches in after the 1 month curing period and not much fragrance left (lavender E.O.) So I went through your botched batches page and read reams and reams of letters, some of which are hilarious, and decided to try the Microwave method. I started off by grating, then got the blender out because I had 3 kg of soap to grate, anyhow after about 1 1/2 hours I had it all in little tiny specks, all 3 large containers of it. Put some in the micro ( I only have a small micro) and decided I needed something to keep it all warm, so out came the Crock Pot and the cooked stuff went into that on low - that wasn't really satisfactory, so when it was all finally in the crock pot I put the heat up to high - it started to melt a bit then, but then the electricity decided to go out for 5 hours. I just left it in the crock pot, needless to say it all went rock hard again, so I turned it on low and left it at 9 pm it was still a globby mass of yuk, so I left it on and went to bed. Six am next morning it didn't look much different, it still hadn't melted properly so I turned it onto high for about an hour - still the same - By this time I was really sick of it and put into my new mould that Darling Hubby made for me, and it worked a treat, the mould that is - the soap was lumpy, glumpy, unattractive and quite brownish in places. However when it cooled it didn't look tooooooo bad, so I have decided that I will either keep it and make family use it, or else I will put in a botched batch box at the market for $1.50 and see if I can entice anyone to buy it. Rebatching in the pits - and I swear I will never EVER do it again. If you aren't mad before you start making soap you soon will be.

Hope you enjoy...


P.S. I made a new batch of lavender today, same recipe and everything same colour - guess what turned out GREEN. Green lavender, makes a change don't you think (ROFLOL)

Years ago I used a purple crayon for coloring and got "pea soup" green! I suspect your colorant has some of the blue dyes that are mutated by cold process soap. You might want to try a different source for your purple color.

I'll bet it smells good though

Subject: botched batches
Date: 10/14/2000 1:08 AM
From: DearMeSuds

I find if you get a batch that turns out lye heavy (happens to the best of us) that shea butter in the rebatch seems to tame the lye right down. For people who have trouble rebatching, try putting soap shreds in a crock pot on low, add a small amount of water, a little shea and voila... good soap!


Subject: botched batch success
Date: 10/2/2000 10:50 PM
From: Jody Nathan

Here is what I have done with a very botched batch. I grated it, added water, (this is a Castile soap) and put it in bottles as liquid soap. Came out great -- left it in the sun for a few days to help absorb the water. Will send you some if you like. Let me know. Folks at work love it, and don't even think it was a mistake. I think I have just made another batch that will need to be liquefied -- purple candle color made it turn the worst color green. . . ugh! Jody

Must have used the same color as what they use in purple crayons... I've had that happen before... instead of lilac or purple, pea soup! :-P

Thanks for your generous offer... but giving me soap is kind of like offering oil to the Arabs! I do appreciate your generosity however. :-)

Good luck with future batches... making soap is so much fun. Each batch is a new experience.


I want to read more... click here for Botched Batches, page 2 ...

This page last updated 24 July 2014.
If you still have questions, please read through the information on the Troubleshooting Help page, MOST Frequently Asked Questions and Modern Procedures. More can also be learned through the Botched Batches and Soapy Success pages. Many common problems have already been addressed on the site and it's difficult for me to keep up with emails these days and get anything else done. If your question involves my looking up information that you can also research, or going over numbers and recipe calculations, I might not respond if in the middle of a project around our home and garden. I apologize for this, since I've enjoyed my correspondence with people and don't like to ignore emails of any kind. Thanks! :-)