After the soap turns opaque, the reaction continues. I didn't take chemistry in college and I barely lived through it in high school, but in essence, the acids (the oils) and the base (the lye) use the water to combine and make little polymer chains. It's those little polymer chains that do the cleaning when you lather up in the shower: they attract and cling to particles of dirt and drag them around and down the drain. Something like that. The continuing reaction changes the appearance of the soap a second time during what's called the gel phase. No, it doesn't mean the soap is wobbling around like a jello mold; I have no idea why it's called the gel phase, but during this part of the process, the soap goes from opaque to transluscent as shown below. If you touch the outside of the mold during this phase you'll notice that the temperature is quite a bit warmer than it was when you originally poured the raw soap. This is why it's called "cold process": there's no external heat supplied to drive the chemical reaction, so all the heat produced is by the reaction itself. Nifty, huh? Anyway.. gel phase:The next twenty hours or so will allow the soap to continue reacting and end up with a nice, firm block of soap. After 24 or 36 hours (or even 48, if you think you can wait that long... I never can!), you can turn the soap out of the mold, cut it into bars, and put it on a paper-lined tray or table to cure. Four weeks is a long time to wait... must be patient... must be patient... must be patient....
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Here they is. I made one small change and used beer with honey in it instead of using soap and beer separately; I strongly suggest doing the latter because it gives you more control over how quickly the soap reaches full trace. Because I used Blue Moon Honey Moon ale the soap reached trace after about five minutes; I'll be keeping an eye on it for the rest of the evening to see whether I get the honey-ooze problem. The lye solution went into the oils when the oil was 125 degrees; the lye solution was about 100 degrees after I left it outside to cool. I'm not sure whether this had any bearing on how quickly the soap hit full trace. Mmph.. I need to consult the experts and see if they have any ideas. This will be cut into bars tomorrow and left to cure for four weeks before it gets used; I always have trouble waiting... must be patient.. must be patient... must be patient.The mold's lid, for reasons unknown, refused to fit properly; after I finally got it stuffed into the top of the box, I wrapped an old bath towel around it as added insulation. Yes, I peeked. I always do when I'm making soap... how else would I know if it's going the way it's supposed to? :P The next phase after pouring shows the soap becoming opaque as the chemical reaction creates heat.