education · luck · science · soap as art

RE: Has Anyone Seen Cobra Bubbles?

“Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug…”

You know, Mary Chapin Carpenter couldn’t have sung a truer statement.  Saturday, I spent the day soaping and replenishing stock.  And I sure felt like the bug.

Things had DEFINITELY gone WRONG!

Every batch of soap had issues of the artistic sense.  I mean, it’s all soap and it cleans, so that was a success.  But, nothing was working the way I envisioned it.  Batter that thickened way too quickly, overheated, gelled in the pot, swirls that didn’t behave as they should, colors that morphed into something other than what was intended…

Maybe an analogy you’ll all understand is like when you’re cooking a nice dinner, and things just don’t go well.  Your rolls don’t rise, the baked potatoes explode in the oven, the butter lands upside down on the floor, and you overcook the steak.  That’s disappointing, isn’t it?  We’ve all been there.  Well, I hope not with exploding baked potato.  That’s quite the mess.

And what is it that you do when you’ve ruined dinner?  Make the best of it.  Eat the bits that are somewhat acceptable, analyze where you went wrong, and vow to do better next time.  It’s the same with soapmaking.  Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you burn the steak.  Or watch the soap gel in your pot, in my case.  And I glopped it into the mold, making the best of it.

The first offender heated up really fast.  When soap heats up too much, it can volcano, spilling over the edges of the mold like lava boiling up and out.  Or, something we can “heat tunnels” can happen, where you end up with tunnels and weird crystalline textures within your soap.  It’s still soap, it cleans, but it’s not so pretty to look at.

Another thing that can happen is that colors can morph in the high pH environment of saponification- the chemical process fats and a base go through to create soap.  Sometimes those lovely micas I use can change color due to the pH of the environment they’re in, and hopefully they’ll turn back to their intended color.  For instance, I routinely use a soft yellow mica that turns as bright orange as the Duke’s General Lee.  In the case of Soap Gremlins on Saturday, my fragrance turned tan, then pink, and back to and ivory shade.  Not exactly what I was going for, but we’ll make it work.

Sometimes, your soap batter can move super fast and seize or even gel straight in the pot.  “Gel” is exactly what it sounds like.  Soap goes from an opaque liquid to a gel-like, translucence with a mashed potatoes consistency.  This can be achieved on purpose, such as by using a heating pad or an oven on very low temps AFTER the soap has been poured into the mold.  Sometimes, soapmakers do this on purpose, because the process usually helps brighten colors.  But, we don’t do this on purpose in the pot.  At least not with my type of soapmaking.  My loaf that gelled in the pot was very thick and I had to glop it into the mold.  I’d done my best to smooth out the lumps and air bubbles.  But, thick glop is difficult glop.  My beautiful colors were morphing into an ugly grey-green I dubbed “Goblinoid”.


And let’s not talk about the muddying of colors and massive spills I endured with a loaf.

I went to bed Saturday night disappointed in what I’d created.  Sunday morning though, was a different story.  I’m pretty sure Cobra Bubble’s Ops Team snuck in during the night and fixed my issues.

“Sometimes it all comes together, Baby…”

My over-heating loaf did not volcano or make heat tunnels.

Caramel Coffee

My color morphing soap had turned back to a gorgeous white.

Diamonds Are Forever

The Goblinoid had turned back to it’s blues and greens.  Even though rough, the air pockets gave character.

The Goblinoid

These turned out well after all.  As for the one I spilled and that muddied?

“Sometimes you’re just a fool in love…”

Quincy’s Rose