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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...

13 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.