Interesting Soap Adventure

I have been spending the past month or two getting ready for Christmas gifting, so not much soaping has been going on in my kitchen.  Now that the holidays are behind us and I still have a few days of vacation left, I am getting back into the swing and making some soap today.

An interesting thing happened with my first soap batch today, however, I choose to look at it as an opportunity rather than a total failure.   I mean, it is going to make a great blog entry if nothing else!  (All soap maker / bloggers know that when things start going really wrong — grab the camera!)

I made the following soap recipe using soapcalc.

Apricot Soap


  • Palm Oil – 3.6 oz.
  • Canola (High Oleic) Oil – 2.9 oz.
  • Coconut Oil – 2.9 oz.
  • Castor oil – 1.7 oz.
  • Cocoa Butter (Deodorized) – 1.7 oz.
  • Safflower (High Oleic) Oil  – 1.6 oz.

Lye Solution:

  • Distilled Water – 5.1 oz.
  • Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) – 2.0 oz.
  • Sodium Lactate – 1 tsp.


  • Natures Garden Apricot Fragrance – 0.9 oz.
  • Coral Mica – 1/4 tsp
  • Yellow Mica – 1/4 tsp gives the following values for this soap, which has every indication that it would be a wonderful soap (and it is — I have used it before — just not with this fragrance oil).

  • Superfat: 5%
  • Hardness: 38
  • Cleansing: 14
  • Conditioning: 59
  • Bubbly: 24
  • Creamy: 35
  • INS: 147
  • Sat:Unsat ratio: 39:61

I made up the lye solution and oils, and pre-diluted my colorants into two separate peach colors.  My vision was to have an “in-the-mold” swirl that was mostly white with a little swirl of light peach and darker red/peach colors.  It would have been lovely.


I brought the batter to trace and poured 1/3 cup into each of the pre-diluted colorant cups.

Then I poured the mold 1/2 full of white, followed by a swirl of each peach color, then more white, and finally the rest of the peach colored batters.


It was already starting to fail by that point.  You can see in the below picture that the white soap batter has curdled and is separating. (Note that the white batter was uncolored – just natural soap batter).


If you look at it from the side, you can see the pools of oil on the top where it separated (as seen in the magnified circle).


So I poured it all back into the mixing cup and it was a big glob of gook.


I stick blended until it came to a thick trace.   No more swirls for this soap, but it’s still a pretty orange color, right?  I poured it back into the mold (which I had already cleaned out).

Ok, so maybe it won’t win any design awards, but it should be great soap and it smells pretty.

But then an hour later I came back to look at it and found this:


So now it’s sweating and definitely going through partial gel, even though I did not cover and insulate it and even though there are no milks or sugars in this recipe.  Hmmm….

Well, I guess the only award it might win is “Most failures in a single batch of soap”, but if it finishes saponifying, despite how ugly it will be, I might just use it for myself and see how it goes.   It does smell lovely, but I would not recommend the Apricot fragrance oil for cold processed soap, at least not with this recipe.

I think several things happened and created a perfect storm:

#1 – Cocoa Butter – I have had this happened once before and that time I was also using cocoa butter and an unfamiliar fragrance.  I think that I got a false trace condition when the batter started cooling and the cocoa butter started to thicken before it was emulsified.

#2 – Fragrance acceleration – even though I added the fragrance after I “thought” the batter was at trace, I think it compounded the false trace problem.

#3 – Ricing – I think based on the globs of gook that poured into my measuring cup, that we had some fragrance ricing going on as well.

#4 – Overheating – the combination of oils I used and this fragrance definitely heated up (thus the partial gel).

#5 – Oil separation (probably caused by the false trace).

All that said, the apricot fragrance did make other lovely bath products such as bath bombs, so I will definitely keep buying it, just not for soap.  I might try it with a different soap recipe just to be sure, but since I have used this recipe before with no problems, I am pretty sure it was the fragrance.  Too bad though, I was looking forward to it.

This is why I always make small batches (1 pound) of soap unless it is a recipe & fragrance combination that I have tested before.    It can turn a potentially costly disaster into a fun learning experience because not too much is wasted in a small batch.


5 thoughts on “Interesting Soap Adventure

    1. Thanks. I think it would have been pretty, but I had more fun with this failing batch of soap than I might have had otherwise. I am not upset at all, but rather glad I got to get all these pictures of all the things that went wrong. In fact, I can’t wait to cut it open and see what surprises the inside holds. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I read on modern soapmaking that cocoa butter and shea butter can cause your soaps to overheat. It seems unlikely that’s the only culprit since you said you’ve used that recipe before so maybe it’s the cocoa butter and the fragrance oil? Good luck! Sorry it failed on you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks scseery. I seem to only have this problem when using cocoa butter and certain fragrances, so you are right on spot. If I make a very similar recipe using shea butter or mango butter, it hasn’t given me fits. But cocoa butter and certain fragrances just don’t get along very well. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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