Sunday, March 9, 2014

Saponification Sunday, Making an Ash of Myself

 Well into my 4th year of soap making I am at the point of saying Ques Sera Sera, oh come on you know..".whatever will be will be", how young are you people anyway?  What I mean by that is I am no longer working so hard for the perfect looking handmade soap but instead have focused on its inner quality.

Rationalization at its best, I suppose.

In the early years I was all about the looks even though my bars maybe weren't as moisturizing as they could've been. But my recipes improved. Still I worried about how they appeared, getting upset if there were bubbles in my bars or the swirls weren't perfect or if the dreaded soda ash appeared.

Soda Ash in all its glory

But now I have learned to Embrace the Ash. In fact might make that statement my new personal motto.

Embrace the Ash

I see bumper stickers, magnets and T-shirts in my future. Soda ash you see, will form when the unsaponified lye reacts with the airs own carbon dioxide. It is harmless and can form anywhere on your bars but most often across the top. It does not hurt anything or anyone to use bar with soda ash on it but some folks do find it less than appealing, interfering with the swirls or other designs on your soap bars.

It can be avoided or lessened a couple of ways. You can spray the top of your soap just after pouring into the mold with (99% Isopropyl Alcohol   . Some folks spray right away some wait 10 or so minutes. Some soapers will cover their soap with plastic wrap. Or spray with alcohol and then cover with plastic wrap or cardboard unmolding after 3-4 days instead of the usual unmolding after 24 hrs.

I have also read that soaping at very cool temperatures will produce soda ash in the middle of your bar but this has never been my experience.  Probably because I am much too impatient to soap at cool temperatures, once I see the lye is dissolved I tend to mix with the oils. I think I like the excitement of moving and pouring FAST before my soap gets too thick.

Which then can lead to some air bubble problems unless you get very good at slamming your soap (hard) in its mold. But back to the ash...

It is a very fine powder, whitish grey that forms on the top of your soap if not covered and yeah sometimes pops up even when you do cover your soap.  Many soap makers find the ash ugly and use plastic wrap to lesson or avoid the ash. I was one of those. If I still had some ash develop I would take each bar and hold it over a steaming pot of boiling water, which will in essence melt away the ash...and burn your fingers if you are not careful.

The ash also disappears after you use the bar of soap, wash with it.

But last year I said forgettaboutdit. The ash is not harmful and after heaving a heart to heart with myself I believe it adds its own individual look to soap. And in fact since I stopped obsessing about it and just let it be I've noticed its very artistic nature. The way the ash clings to parts of the soap tops but not others, landing on different pasts of the soap swirls.

Like snow in the mountains...or soap scum at the bottom of your tub. Its your call.


  1. I love the color swirls, also the texture swirls. I can see why folks would be put off by the soda ash, however. So, great post about soda ash!

  2. See the ash, Be the ash! Love your humor, stories and your sharing of the good, bad and the ugly, that's how old I am!


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