Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Soap and Seizure

Five years ago, I took my first stab at making soap with lye. It went reasonably well. No lye volcanoes, no lye heavy soap, no seized batches... and then, for some reason, I took a two year hiatus. The first batch of soap I made recently was the shampoo bar I posted about a while back. That, thank goodness, turned out fine. The process moved more quickly than I was accustomed to going, but there wasn't an actual seizure of soap.
Seizure, from what I've been reading, takes place when the temperatures of the lye and oils are either too high or too low, or the fragrance oil isn't specifically designed for use in cold process soapmaking. There are a number of sites like Soapnuts where people puzzle over what to do to fix a seized batch, which can look like anything to a pot full of lumpy mashed potatoes to really thick icing. Soapnuts suggests waiting until the seized soap hits the gel phase, and then stirring it furiously to make sure everything is properly incorporated, but no one really seems to have any sure, set in stone answer on what to do to save seized soap.
So... are my first three years some strange form of beginner's luck? During those three years, I don't remember having any serious problems. This year, however, has been extremely frustrating.
Since we're going to our first craft show in quite a long time, I thought I'd get started early and make soap. Of the six batches I've made in the last two weeks, so far only three have turned out. Two failed completely and one... seized. As in lumpy mashed potato seized. Possible reasons could be that the temps for both the oils and lye solution were about 115 degrees, or that the fragrance oil I chose wasn't really for CP even though the label claimed it was, or that I added it at the wrong time (put it in the oil before adding the lye rather than adding it at trace).
It's in the mold now, and we'll see how it progresses, but I'm not very optimistic.

Addendum: After discussing my options with some of the experienced soapers on Ravelry, I dumped the seized soap back out of the mold and stirred it half to death. That stuff gets pretty bloody hot--go figure! It's back in the mold now, and hopefully that will be enough for it to be all right tomorrow. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and am slightly more optomistic than I was earlier this evening.

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