As a soap maker, one of the biggest problems making a batch of cold process soap can be soda ash!
There’s a lot of advice out there on ways to remove soda ash, but very few helpful instructions on preventing soda ash on cold process soap. Preventing soda ash on cold process soap is very simple, once you know the secret!
You have probably heard that soda ash gives your soap a nice rustic look, or is easy to remove with water or steam. That’s great if you love that rustic look or have lots of extra time to nit-pick your soap to death. It sure doesn’t work very well if you want your vibrant soap colors and designs to pop! Or maybe you don’t want to be stuck making old fashioned looking soap for the rest of your soapy life. Besides that, anyone who values their time and money can’t spend hours cleaning up a mess that can be prevented in the first place. As a business owner there is no way this is a profitable option! Preventing soda ash is much easier and only takes a minute.
First of all, there are a number of things that can cause soda ash on top of cold process soap or even throughout the bar of soap.
Certain fragrance oils can be culprits and some additives can increase the odds of your soap batch developing soda ash. Be sure to read the reviews on the products you are using ahead of time! Additionally, soaping temperature and rate of saponification can affect the amount of white powdery topping on your bars. After all, making soap is part chemistry and part artistic expression.
With so many things that can cause soda ash on cold process soap, it can be hard to nail down what is actually causing it!
For me, most of my soap batches had soda ash. It was driving me crazy! I was covering, insulating, spraying the heck out of it with 99% isopropyl alcohol repeatedly and it was STILL showing up. Nothing I did helped!
After tons of research, and piecing tidbits of information together form other soap makers, I finally figured out what I could do in advance! It took me less than a minute, and has worked with every single batch of soap. One of THE most helpful blog posts, thanks to Clara is here.
The secret is in the water.
Sounds like a line out of a movie, but it’s true! The amount of water used when making cold process soap dramatically increases or decreases your chances of getting soda ash on top of your soap. That means the best way you will be preventing soda ash on cold process soap is to pay attention to the water!
For cold process soap, the more water you use, the more likely you are to get soda ash. I have found that a 30% or more water discount generally means I won’t see soda ash on my soap. The higher the water discount, the less likely the problem. I prefer to do anywhere from 35% to 45%. You never want to discount more than 50% of the water. Read more about using a water discount here.
Now, keep in mind that less water means that trace will happen faster. If you are using a recipe with a lot of hard oils it will reach trace faster. When you use a fragrance or essential oil that speeds up trace, like clove essential oil, it will reach trace faster. If you soap at higher temperatures, your soap will reach trace faster. So however your soap recipe behaves without a water discount, just keep in mind that water discounting will decrease trace time!
Ways to slow down trace time when using a water discount:
- Soap with your lye water solution and oils at room temperature
- Increase the percentage of oils in your recipe that slow down trace (avocado oil, olive oil, etc.)
- Stay away from essential oils and fragrances that accelerate the time it takes to reach trace
- Stick blend less
Another thing to remember is that the humidity where you are can also affect your soap. If you have high humidity (over 30%) on soap making day, consider a slightly higher water discount.
An additional point worth noting is, the more water you have in your batter plus the longer that water is exposed to air, the more likely it is that you will find soda ash on cold process soap. It seems that batches poured at a thinner trace (more watery consistency) take longer to go through the saponification process. A medium to thick trace helps speed things up a bit.
Just in case you’re using tap water for your soap, know that it’s been reported to be another cause of soda ash on soap. Find out more problems associated with using tap water in your soap here.
Once you adjust your recipe with this little tweak, you will be preventing soda ash on your cold process soap. You will be making colorful, intricate soap designs in no time without the help of the unwanted powder fairy. If this was helpful, please share! If you have questions, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!