Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Force Curing/Hardening After The Fact (help!)

I know I write this soap blog, I make soap, I review soap and I especially admire soap. Yesssss, I almost drool. One of the things I am not, however, is a person with a vast sea of knowledge regarding soap tricks and short cuts. I have been asked a lot of advice in recent weeks from people around the world. My first words are, "Wow, I am honored you are asking, but you should really ask Anne-Marie at Teach Soap or Brambleberry. If they don't know....they'll find out for you. (Maybe too much pressure for the Brambleberrians :P, but they know soap! What can I say?)

I got an email recently:

I made a soap with butters and olive oil a few weeks ago. I have a market fair upcoming and want much to sell my wares there, but the soap is still I think a little soft like hard cheese. I know it's safe, but is there ways to speed up the hardening part? Perhaps a soap vacation in the oven to dry them out? I don't want to ruin them. They are so beautiful, but I don't think I can sell them as they are.

It would be awesome if anyone with experience speeding up the "curing" process or hardening up bars could leave their tricks for her in the comments section. If we get a lot of comments and solutions, I'll have to post them as a seperate topic! I bet there are a lot of people who might benefit from solutions if there are any...

25 comments:

The Dirty Business Bath Co. said...

I'm in the same boat. I tried a new recipe, and while the bars are safe and lather well, they are soft.

Alana said...

This might help - Morgan Street Soap just did a post about accidentally twice baking her soap - which seemed to speed the curing time.
http://morganstreetsoap.blogspot.com/2009/01/you-did-what.html

Good luck!!!!

Molly said...

I don't have any suggestions for a quick remedy, but maybe try playing around with a water discount in the future for a harder bar in less time?

Thanks for the scrub you sent, I am loving it, and had to convince DH that it really wouldn't taste as good as it smelled. ;)

Carrie @ Under the Willow said...

Time may be on her side~ if it's not for another week or more...

This is a tough one---could include labels including~ ready for use______.

When I have purchased soap from a log that is cut on the spot--it almost always says on the tag--cure for two more weeks, etc...

I hope this helps.

Jennifer said...

It sounds like it has a high percentage of olive oil, which will produce a softer bar and can take up to 5 weeks to fully cure. The longer it cures the harder it will get. She says a "few" weeks, which means two to me. Standard cure time is a minimum of three weeks before you should even consider selling it, at least the way that I was taught. Even though the bar is considered "safe" there are other things to take into consideration.

I don't know of any way to force cure it. How are they cut? Are they in a nice airy environment. I like to cure mine on wire racks with at least an inch between the bars to ensure proper air flow.

Also, she could play with the water discount as mentioned above, but only if she's really experienced.

Morgan Street said...

If it's humid where you live, get a dehumidifier. The drier the air, the faster they'll cure. If the soap bars are already cut I don't think there's much else that can be done at this point.
Going forward a bit of sodium lactate and CPOP'ing your soap will produce a pretty firm bar in about 1/2 the usual time.
Good luck!!

Joanna said...

Ah, so no one would recommend putting the bars (cut already) in the oven at a low temp? That's the advice I would have guessed....

Enchanted said...

I have never tried it but I would agree with Joanna but I would test it with one bar just in case.

Wouldn't want to get it hot enough to melt it either. Or maybe have a fan blowing on them will help.

Body Natural Soap said...

So I have used the hot Process to have a log cure faster. I recently did a experiment with using a fan. I weighed the bars before hand and put the half with a fan blowing and half normal. The ones with a fan blowing lost approximately 5% to 10% (that would be water loss) more weight than the others at the end of 3 weeks.

Anne-Marie said...

I am totally going to be the grinch that stole the short cure time but this phrase, "I made a soap with butters and olive oil a few weeks ago." is the heart of the problem.

There is a reason that cold process soap requires a 4 to 6 week cure time.

1. It allows all the excess water to leave the bar. The water is primarily there as a vehicle to help move the lye around. Once the soap is made, this extra water evaporates out, over time, leaving a harder bar.

2. The last 3% of pH lowering time takes place in the last few weeks of cure time. If memory serves me correct, Kevin Dunn of Soap Guild Speaker fame gave a talk 5-6 years ago at the Guild. I think this is an accurate recollection of his talk. If it's not, someone please correct me for the good of the whole group. =) He has done extensive testing that proves that most all of the saponification reaction takes place in the first 30-60 minutes, during the initial trace phase. However, that last 3% to really get the soap to a great pH that is skin loving (as opposed to skin drying) does take that extra 4 to 6 weeks which is why to get the best, most mild soap, we wait 4 to 6 weeks.

You could probably put the soap in a drying chamber (silica beads in a airtight container) to try and get the soap to dry out faster but that won't lower the pH and make the bars exceptionally mild.

I hope this helps. I'm traveling today and tomorrow but will check this blog to see feedback and response to this issue. I'm really interested to see what everyone has to say about it. It's a great question that affects many soapers. =)

Body Natural Soap said...

I agree with Anne-Marie on the PH issue regarding PH levels. I guess I took from the letter that the person was concerned that the bar had not hardened enough, which would be attributed to water content. Time is the best thing for PH levels but I found that with my dry air (New Mexico High Desert) and with the fan blowing I get a nice hard bar pretty quickly 2 to 3 weeks (I have heard that humidifiers work). But I still wait for the full 4 to 6 wks for the PH to go down. I use PH papers but find that they can be inacurate do to the soap. I believe to get a true reading you need a PH meter. Something I hope to obtain one day. I don't like discounting water to much since as Anne-Marie States it is the mechanisim for distibuting the lye throughout the oil.

Kelly Bloom - Southern Soapers said...

I agree with Anne-Marie and Body Natural Soap. No amount of water discount is going to make the pH phase of the cure hasten. Even soap made with a water discount benefits from the 2 - 4 week 'cure' time. Water discount is not for the faint of heart of for someone that is not already very very well learned in CP soapmaking and the various behaviors their oils and oils formula have when mixed with lye solutions. Soap formulas high in butters tend to have particular sets of reactions when soaped with steep water discounts in order to hasten 'to market' deadlines. I just have to recommend that water weight in relation to lye weight required by the formula stay in the 2.2 x lye weight to no deeper a water discount than 1.8 x lye weight. The 1.8x lye weight would be best in soap oils formulas that are not high in shea/cocoa/butters due to their high stearic content.

Joanna said...

Hey, thank you for all your comments. I'm sure your wisdom has helped a lot of people. The woman went dark. Hmmph.

vincent escher said...

Anyone ever try a vacuum chamber?

Rebecca Hoffman said...

As far as my expertise goes I always do test batches of every bar I want to sell. Doing research right now out of boredom about melt and pour soap and how/ if it hardens faster in the freezer and what effect it will have on the structure or the soap. The more you know, the more you grow. :) In my reading I agree it takes between 3-8 weeks for a heavily oiled soap to cure. Best of luck.

Benedicta gifty said...

What about drying it in the sun?
I need your advice guys

Joanna Schmidt said...

Benedicta, I would think that wouldn't be a great idea unless it was in a climate/humidity controlled area. Dehumidifier, a fan and time. Wish I could have helped more.....

Amy said...

You must take care of the humidity in the house. First of all, you must take your time.

Kimmie Fitzgerald said...

Yes I agree with Anne Marie and at this point, time is your friend. BUT what if I were to tell you of a new hot process method developed by Sharon Johnson that is full proof and the soap is done and cured immediately after the cook?? No waiting a week for HP and no waiting 4-6 weeks for CP BUT still get the loose fluid batter to do the same designs as you would CP but with HP??? I have bought this ebook and learned this new method and it has revolutionized my business as I can have my soaps ready immediately. If you would like to learn what I have buy her ebook, you won't regret it. There are you tubes out there of part of her process but it doesn't have everything needed so you will have to buy the ebook. Trust me I tried so I wouldn't have to pay lol BUT I quickly learned that it was worth it! Watch videos and read the ebook too! It will really change your business as to having soap available immediately with a hard bar of soap! Here is her ebook.
http://the-rose-of-sharon-store.myshopify.com/products/ebook-set-includes-sjhp-sbhp-tutorial-and-hot-process-recipes

CHAXXX M.D. said...

I'm having problems here in the Philippines curing soap since every time a typhoon enters our country my cured soap softens again. help

Anonymous said...

Want a quicker cure time. It is called Dehumidifier cuts it in half.

Gayle Rutherford said...

I made soap for the first time a few weeks ago and it turned out very soft and very oily. I've put mine in the airing cupboard and it seems to be drying out nicely. Also, I spoke to a chap selling his own soap on a stall last week and his tip was to put a little rock salt in the mix when making soap and this will make the soap harder. Hope this helps.

Jeremy said...

Hot process: 44oz Olive oil,4oz caster oil,6oz coconut oil. Oils must be at 125ยบ.mix 11oz lye to 30oz water.mix all together Stir till a pudding like paste. cook in cookpot for 3hrs.touch very small drop to your tongue if shocked cook longer 30 mins so levels go down, then test again. Pour in molds let cure 1 day then cut and let bars sit 2 or 3 days. Then it's ready for use... If saleing let sit 1 week so levels are down.. I need it harder less water...

Mel said...

I know this is an old post, but I'm hoping this will help someone who reads it ......

I absolutely bake my bars to harden them! I use the lowest setting (150F in my case), put them narrow edge down on a cookie sheet, and turn them to another narrow edge every few hours (when I think about it). I've actually mistakenly left them unturned for 3 full days!

No melting or weird warping, but sometimes a bit of inward bowing on the broad sides of the bar if it was REALLY too wet. :). I soap for personal use and gifting, so the slight bowing is not an issue.

note: I use hard and soft oils, but no colorants, frragrance/essential oils or additives other than goats milk. YMMV depending upon your ingredients.

Alice Chen said...

Do you bake your bars after you unmold it or still in the silicon mold? Can I use wooden mold in the oven too?
Thx