Friday, October 8, 2010

Holiday Crunch Time For Soaping! Rescue CP/OP Tutorial By Dreaming Tree

Some of you are busy with life or other work and the holidays are creeping up on you. Cold process soap making takes 4-6 weeks to cure. It's panic time! Jennifer and Meghan of Dreaming Tree Soapworks offered to create a tutorial for the soaping panic monkeys out there who need to save a little time and stress in their lives. This is their wonderful tutorial. Thank you Jen and Meghan for your generosity of your time and wealth of knowledge!

xo Joanna


CP/OP is the common soaper abbreviation for Cold Process/then Oven Processing the batch. It's actually a very simple procedure, but whats more important is understanding the Pros, Con's, and precautions of this method. How CP/OP works is that unlike regular Cold Processing where the soap is left to fully saponify over a long period of time, putting it in the oven with a low heat applied with the extra insulation of the oven itself, speeds the s
aponification process a long, rendering the lye null much faster.

The obvious and main pro is that unlike traditional cold process soap, it does not require a 6 week cure time. The soap is technically safe to use once it has completed it's full time in the oven, we still recommend at least a two week cure time to ensure harder, longer lasting bars, and to always PH/zap test before distributing! This makes CP/OP soap particularly appealing if you are on a deadline, running out of stock faster than you anticipated, or do a lot of craft shows and like to manufacture fresh to order.

There are however a few considerations. First, I don't recommend this process for new recipes, new fragrance oils, new essential oils, essentially anything you haven't worked with before. It's important to know how the particular recipe/blends behave; as some ingredients tend to super heat, such as honey, spice based fragrance oils or essential oils, white florals, and several others. It could result in a soap volcano going off in your oven, or worse (we know from experience, trust me).

Another consideration important to the success of the CP/OP batch is the flash point of your fragrance oil/essential oils. Since the soap will be exposed to high temperature longer (between 175-200 degrees for several hours) fragrance and essential oils with flash points lower than this tend to "burn off" resulting in soap that either doesn't smell at all or is very faint, or morphs into something unpleasant (burnt tire anyone?).

Lastly, consider your color scheme, if you use a bunch of lab colors, and even some oxides, with a complex design that is your signature or you're married to; this process may not be for that soap. The extended exposure to heat can cause colors to morph (we've had a few blues go florescent pink), fade, or bleed, and anything with vanilla, amber, or certain other resins will go dark, dark brown and bleed into everything else. Don't get too discouraged, if there is one thing I've learned in my eleven years of soaping is there are always exceptions and happy accidents!

Example of appearance of CP soap vs CP/OP : Renaissance (the lighter colored soap is regular cp the dark one is cp/op)

A few more things to go over before hopping to it:

1. If you have an older oven make sure you get an auxiliary oven thermometer so you have an accurate oven temperature, for this process you want to make sure it's between 175 and 200 degrees, lower the process won't complete, higher you'll either have a soap explosion or soap puffs.

2. You want to make sure your mold is heat safe for these temperatures. If you are using a wooden mold you want to be sure it's made with untreated lumber.

3. Always remember to wear safety gear when handling lye! No, we're not showing you a picture of our mad scientist goggles & apron! Ha!

On to soaping!

Measure out your oils & butters and set them aside in a pot; ready to be turned on later; midway through the lye & water mixture's cooling process (we're a little kooky, we've got it down to a timed science)

After you measure your water content & lye - slowly pour the lye into the water - never pour liquids into the lye, as this could cause an explosive reaction, which is clearly unsafe. Remember, always add lye TO the liquid!

Stir the lye/water mixture until you notice the color becomes clear.

At this point it's a good idea to set a timer to remind you to turn on the heat for your oils & butters.

Once the lye & water mixture has cooled off between 100 and 120 degrees, depending on your fragrance(s), and your oil & butter mixture has completely melted and cooled to approximately the same temperature, you're ready to start mixing your soap!

* Note - an important tip to keep in mind, the higher the flash point of your fragrance(s), the less likely they are to "lose the scent" during & after the curing process.

After the pot is set into the sink, we pour the lye & water mixture into the pot, slowly hand-stirring with our mixer. We then use the hand-held mixer to get the mixture to a light trace, almost like a very soupy pudding.

Next, we add our fragrance, hand-stirring as it is poured into the pot, to help avoid fussy behavior, then use the mixer to thicken the mixture to a thick pudding consistency.

Once you've reached this point, you are ready to pour your soap into the mold! (Remember to line your molds! Freezer paper works wonders)

If you choose, you can create "fluffy top" effects, whether it is swirls, lattice style, or any other design you can think of (we have no method for this, we just play with it until we yell at each other to leave it alone).

Now it's time to set the temperature & timer on the oven! You'll want to set the temperature between 175 and 200 degrees (which ever is the lowest your oven can handle), and let it 'cook' for 2 hours. After the 2 hour mark, turn off the oven, and let your soap stay inside for another 12 hours.

After all is said & done, carefully remove your soap from the oven; then remove it from your mold & it's ready to be cut into bars of soapy awesomeness! Once again, we recommend giving the bars a two week cure, and a Ph/zap test before distributing.

There you have it! Dreaming Tree's CPOP Tutorial!

Thank you, Jennifer Denault and Meghan Runyon
of Dreaming Tree Soapworks!

Go visit their shop here :)


jennie w. said...

I have always had super bad problems with ash when I make soap and CP/OP seems to make it even worse. I finally found a great solution: use a silpat over the soap in the oven. You'll need to weigh it down with something to keep it airtight. My wood mold has a lid that goes over the Silpat, but I imagine a cookie sheet sitting on the top would work fine too.

O Bella Naturals said...

Thanks for the great tutorial! This is great for the holiday/market crunch (I know I'm feeling it!) I currently use the HP method to enjoy the short cure time but would love to try this in the future.

Teresa said...

Great post!
Thank you!

Patrice-The Soap Seduction said...

I've been exclusively CPOP'ing for a year now, and I LOVES it! I agree that you must cover the soap to avoid the ash monster. When all else fails sprinkle some soap glitter or botanicals on top for a unique and whimsical look:D

Dreaming Tree Soapworks said...

I've found that with the exception of certain colorants and fo's soda ash is mainly a humidity issue, so it's true that the CP/OP batches tend to ash more which I forgot to mention :) Jennie's solution works great!

FuturePrimitive said...

I have trouble with this as my oven (both top and bottom) are fan assisted...and each time I tried it my soap turned to fuzzy foam on the top.

Amy Warden said...

Great tutorial!! I haven't tried this method yet because my log molds won't fit in my oven. :( Must. plan. ahead. (or buy new molds!)

Anonymous said...


blackdahliadesigns said...

I always use this method and haven't had trouble with ashing and only one explosion (well, more like a slow lava flow). I put a silpat on the bottom of the oven and put a tray on top, then put a tray on each of the 2 racks. If I use smaller silicone molds, I can turn the whole oven into a 12 scent soap machine. AMY: you can try putting your log molds in at an angle..thats what I have to do for my 5lb log molds.

My oven goes down to 170 so luckally I haven't had too many discolorations, though a soap I made for guys turned blue to Its my favorite process since I am so impatient