Shall we Gel?

Shall we gel?

This is a question that each soap maker has a choice over. So what is the gel phase when making soap you ask and why do we get so excited or exercised by it?

Each batch of soap made with the same set of ingredients will have a slight difference in the appearance depending on the gel phase

Gel Phasing

I make cold processed soap and the gel phase is the reference to the saponification process when the soap gets to a certain temperature and becomes gelatinous, this can occur up to 170 degrees ( not a good idea to put your fingers in the soap at this stage to see if it really is hot!).

Gelling is a common occurrence when making soap. If I have gelled my soap then in the first few weeks of pouring the batch it will become quite hard as it evaporates the water. If I did not gel the soap it will take a little longer to harden and will also develop a slight translucent appearance.

In this age of appearance it is down to personal choice as to gel or not as it does not have any effect on the quality of the fully cured bar of soap.

How Do I Gel?

So if I want to gel my soap I insulate it soon after pouring, this entails placing it in a cardboard box and then covering it in some old towels and left in a warm draught free area for 24hrs. Now what do you class as a warm room I hear you ask? This is personal to you and the environment you live in – however too hot and the soap can ‘volcano’ or tunnel or just explode ( only happened once with some Honey & Oat soap) so watch your temperatures.

If I don’t want to gel my soap then I soap at colder temperature and then place the soap in the freezer or cold area immediately after pouring, I also leave it uncovered except for a top cover to prevent soda ash ( story for another day).

When to gel?

Up to a few months ago I have always preferred to gel with 2 exceptions.

If I am making Honey & Oat soap I do not gel – the sugars in the honey already add heat and I like the paler colour when it is not gelled.

I have also just started to make goats milk soap: gel phase and milk soap are not friends. Any type of milk soaps are best soaped cold (very cold), or else you run the risk of scorching the milk proteins and sugars. From  first hand experience this  results in a brownish soap that doesn’t smell great!

Also from personal experience I can confirm that it can result in a huge soapy fudge like mess as milk soaps are already prone to getting too hot. I was still able to use the goats milk soap it was just a darker colour thank I had aimed for.

So the question to gel or not is a bit like the marmite question – do you love it or hate it?

To gel or not to gel – that is the question.



Dry January

Dry January

Traditionally the month of January is devoted to detoxing – how many people have had a dry month in some format?. A few more days until the end of January to reflect to think about what did not work last year, what did go right – either as a result of meticulous  planning or sheer accident and what can we do differently for a more successful, happy and healthy year ahead.

I have been directing these questions to my soapy journey now that I have moved on from the honeymoon period. At the beginning I scoured the internet for information, attended courses, read soapy magazines and washed a lot in 2017, all in the name of research.

Pinterest has been a great companion in the early hours of the morning when I could not sleep, admiring  the many colour and texture combinations of soap makers large and small around the world.

Self Development

So I know what I need to do this year – this means trying some different techniques. I have perfected my trace and have only had 1 seized batch in 18 months, I panicked and threw the soap away in a temper, now I would have the confidence to rebatch it.  I have always lusted after some simple swirls and experimenting with colours, so as a little self development exercise and to achieve this goal I will book myself on another soap course – there is always something new to learn and a good way to network with people with a similar interests.

Faith In Nature

Looking ahead I also want to experiment  and have faith in using natural colours, maybe some nettle and paprika, I will have to raid the kitchen cupboards for inspiration.

Chemical Chain Reaction

The process of soap making and the chemical chain reaction has taught me a lot about myself  – planning, getting the right ingredients in the right order at the right time, dealing with the occasional slip up and making the best of a situation when things go wrong – all can be applied to every day life.

I am at my happiest when I cut the soap and lay it out to cure as I can admire it for a further 6 weeks before it is packed up to be sold. When somebody buys a bar of my soap and I get compliments I still do a little happy jig inside so when I have a bad day over the next 11 months I will reflect on my Dry January and think positive thoughts.




The Clean Ending

The Last Batch

I have just made my last batch of handmade luxury soap so I have a clean ending to 2017. Good old fashioned water(tap, bottled, stream etc.) and a little resist in the form of a flannel, loofah, or a leaf will  get you clean but we are a nation of people that like to add a little luxury & fragrance to our daily rituals with the use of soap.

Over the years we have not always been so keen on washing and liked to wallow in our natural odour.  Elizabeth 1 had a bath once a year “whether she needed to or no” and I am sure there are still folk today who agree with that sentiment.

Over the festive period many people will have received numerous hygiene related products, soaps, bath bombs, massage bars, bubble baths, shower gels etc., in a variety of fragrances and textures but not always natural.

“Hygiene” derives from the Greek goddess of health – Hygeia. The Greeks  understood hygiene as a form of  “longevity knowledge” which we can all incorporate in to our everyday lives and add to the process with some handmade soap.

Beautifully Fragrant

So tonight I  shall be seeing in the new year with an evening of luxury and I shall have a bath especially for the occasion. The only stressful part will be deciding which bar of beautifully fragrant soap to have as my companion.

All of the essential oils used in our soap range have therapeutic benefits but the winner this evening will be ….Neroli & Orange. The fragrance of this exotic sweet smelling, uplifting citrus delight will produce a rich white lather and leave the skin feeling soft and clean heading to the new year.