Guest post by Amber Beltran of A Squirrel & A Scholar Soap Co.
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JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS
Hello crafty companions! For as long as the title of this week’s blog is, the answer to the question above can actually be summed up in a just a few, short sentences (Boom! I’m done... Shortest blog ever!). That wouldn’t make for a very informative blog though, especially since it was during the process of “filling in the blanks” to this answer when I discovered some pretty fascinating results! To sum up the answer to the question: “When can I use my soap?” in the most commonly known and widely familiar response: You’re free to use your cold process soaps in about 4 to 6 weeks; as soon as the bars have reached full cure. Yes, yes, I know we’ve all heard that one before, but what if I told you this answer wasn’t technically or entirely accurate? Would you think I had completely missed the mark somewhere, or would you agree? Some may agree, and some may think I’ve lost my marbles, as the answer in general has actually been the subject of many crafty discussions!
I’m more of an observer when it comes to various social media groups devoted to all things wonderfully sudsy, but the three most common answers I’ve seen to this age-old question include, #1: “You can use your soaps in 4 to 6 weeks.” (Which doesn’t offer an explanation as to why.); #2: “It’s not safe to use cold process soap before 4 weeks because you can really harm yourself or others!” (Which comes with the implication that the lye needed to make cold process soap will burn the skin if used prior to this date.); and #3: “Technically, you can use your soap as soon as saponification is complete, you just won’t get the best experience from it had you waited until it was fully cured.”. It may come as a surprise to some to know that answer #1 is correct, but answer #3 is even more so! Answer #2 is incorrect, and is most likely due to the misunderstanding that “cure” and “saponification” are interchangeably the same thing. The completion of cure requires weeks, and sometimes even longer, depending on the soap recipe used, while saponification is, in most cases, completed within 24 hours of making your soap.
You can absolutely use your handmade soap as soon as saponification is complete, you just won’t get the full, awesome benefits of what your soap potentially has to offer. Let’s throw myself into a pretend scenario here... Let’s pretend I made a batch of soap 2 days ago and now I want to lather up with one of the bars from that batch. While I can certainly do so, my experience with the soap is going to be rather lack luster. First, my soap isn’t going to lather as easily or as abundantly had I exercised patience and waited until it was fully cured. Secondly, it won’t be very mild on my skin, and may feel quite drying after use. Third, my soap is going to dissolve considerably faster, and will get pretty soft, pretty fast. It won’t be long at all before my soap has completely washed down the drain or turned into a glob of mush. This is where the beauty of cure comes in! With full cure comes a hard, long-lasting, mild and moisturizing bar of soap, which lathers to its fullest abundancy, and cleanses with its fullest skin-loving properties.
As mentioned, it’s a simple, and very common misunderstanding between what saponification is and what cure is that causes many new soap makers to believe that answer #2 from above is the correct one; that you’re going to chemically burn yourself, or others, if your handmade soaps are used before the 4-week mark. Thankfully, soap isn’t Cinderella’s alter-ego, going from pumpkin to horse-drawn carriage at the stroke of 4 weeks, but please don’t feel bad if answer #2 was the answer you would’ve gone with... This is precisely what learning and growing are all about! There is absolutely nothing wrong with leaning on the guidance of experienced soap makers to become a more knowledgeable, experienced and wiser soap maker yourself; we’ve all been there! In many ways, this blog is for you, and in many other ways, this blog is for all soap makers! It’s for anyone who has ever asked the question, “When can I use my soap?”; and for anyone who’s response has always been, “You can use your soap in 4 to 6 weeks.”, but would truly like to know why. It’s for soap makers who already know all the “whys”, but are curious to see it in action, as it unfolds!
Don’t worry at all if you’re still feeling just a little confused. For those who have inadvertently misunderstood the differences between saponification and cure, and how these two different processes apply to your own soap making adventures, I’ll provide an easy explanation of both at the conclusion of this blog. The “mix-up” between saponification and cure is actually a lot more common than you may think, so you’re definitely not alone in this easy-to-be-misunderstood misunderstanding! Never feel bad for what you don’t know; celebrate what you do, and just keep soaking up that knowledge like a sponge! Before you know it, you’ll be a soap making encyclopedia!
The goal of this experiment was to, once and for all, answer the age-old question of, “When can I use my soap?”. As previously mentioned though, we’ve actually already covered the quick answer to that question, but it really goes a lot deeper than that! I guess we could actually change the question to, “When do I actually want to use my soap?”. You see, while it’s perfectly safe to use your handmade soaps upon the completion of saponification (A process which concludes long before one’s soaps fully cure.), your soaps will contain, and exhibit, many different qualities and properties along the way! I wanted to show you, my fellow crafters, an up-close and personal look at these magnificently changing properties, and to do that, I’d need to closely monitor the same batch of soap as it went through a typical curing cycle. I had my own questions too. Questions like, “Is my soap really that much better at 4 weeks than it is at say, 2 or 3 weeks?”. “Does it really make that big of a difference to wait the full 4 weeks, or more, in order to enjoy the very best properties my soaps have to offer?”. With curiosity and questions hanging in my mind, it was time to conduct my experiment!
End-pieces were cut from a batch of soap I made (A palm-free, vegan formulation), and of the end-pieces, smaller pieces of soap were cut. At 24 hours after pour, and upon unmolding the batch, every test-piece of soap was numbered, and then trimmed to weigh exactly 12 grams each. To do this as accurately as possible, I purchased a small precision scale; one that could accurately weigh objects all the way down to a tenth of a gram. I’m almost certain the only people who actually buy scales like this are chemists and your friendly, neighborhood pothead... He seems nice, but his hour-long “chit chat” about political conspiracy theories has taught you to avoid him at all costs whenever you go to retrieve the mail (Is that just me?)!
The recipe for the soap pieces used in this experiment consisted of 40% olive oil, 30% coconut oil, 20% shea butter and 10% castor oil. It was superfatted at 5% with a 30% lye concentration, which is a ratio of 2.3 parts distilled water to 1-part lye, approximately. Each soap piece was numbered according to the day it would be tested on. Soap piece #1 was tested on day #1, or 24 hours after pour. The next soap piece (piece #5) was tested on the 5th day of cure. The third soap piece (piece #10) was tested on the 10th day of cure, and the 4th soap piece (piece #15) was tested on the 15th day of cure. Seven soap pieces in total were numbered in increments of 5, then tested every 5 days until the 7th soap piece was reached. This piece was marked as number “30” to represent the 30th day of testing, which was the final day of the experiment.
Certain observations were made about each piece of soap on their correspondingly numbered day. These observations included the weight of the soap, the hardness of the soap, the soap’s lather after 30 seconds of use, and the mildness of the soap post-use. Prior to using the soap, each piece was weighed in grams to determine how much water weight had been lost (or had “cured out”) on its respective test day in comparison to the previous soap piece. This would help to determine the rate at which each piece of soap was decreasing in excess water weight as time passed. Cure is extremely susceptible to weather conditions and geographical location, so keep in mind that I live in hot, ridiculously humid Florida, where the rate of water loss, or cure, may be faster or slower than where you live.
For the “Hardness Test” portion of this experiment, I wanted to gauge how the hardness of each bar was increasing as time went on. This was tested by applying pressure with my fingers to each soap piece on its respective testing day, then documenting how much effort or pressure was needed to cause the soap to smoosh or dent. Next came the “Lather Test”. This included observing how difficult or easy it was to build up any type of substantial lather during use. After 30 seconds of use (timed with my cell phone), other observations included what the quality and consistency of the lather was like. Notes were taken on how abundant the lather was, and what type of bubbles were produced (i.e.: low-lying, dense, airy, fluffy, foam-like, copious, etc.). At the end of 30 seconds, notes on how well the soap rinsed off the skin were taken, which included observing if any noticeable residue was left behind after rinsing. After using each test soap, final observations were written down, specifically in regards to the soap’s mildness on my skin. I wanted to know if the soap was harsh and drying after use, or if it was soft, moisturizing and/or hydrating. Final observations, and my overall experience with each soap piece were recorded.
All notes and observations listed above were carefully documented for each soap piece, on its specific testing day, to determine how, and in what ways, the properties and qualities of cold process soap change over time with cure. At the end of the 30-day test period, all recorded notes were compiled and compared in an effort to answer questions I had asked myself, and written down, prior to beginning the experiment. I tried choosing questions which I hoped the reader would also have as well, or at the very least, be interested in knowing the answer to. I’ll answer these questions after sharing the results of the experiment, so for now, and without further ado, let’s get into the nitty gritty of it and see those results!
EXPERIMENT RESULTS FOR: WHEN CAN I USE MY SOAP?
TEST BAR #1 (24 HOURS AFTER POUR) HARDNESS TEST:
WEIGHT OF SOAP: 12 GRAMS
This batch of soap gelled, which produces a firmer/harder bar of soap from the get-go. Despite this, and because it is only 24 hours after pour, the bar squishes easily between my fingers with minimal effort.
TEST BAR #1 (24 HOURS AFTER POUR)
LATHER TEST AFTER 30 SECONDS:
Took quite a bit of effort to work up any kind of substantial lather. The best lather achieved after 30 seconds was low-lying, with small, compact bubbles. Despite this, the lather is surprisingly more abundant than I thought it would be. Lather rinsed away easily with no noticeable residue. POST USE: This soap piece was moderately drying to the skin, with hands feeling dry and tight. This bar is not moisturizing at all.
TEST BAR #2 (5 DAYS INTO CURE) HARDNESS TEST:
WEIGHT OF SOAP: 11.3 GRAMS
I was surprised at what a difference 5 days made; this piece is hard! Was only able to feel very little “give”, and could only create a tiny indent with moderate pressure applied.
TEST BAR #2 (5 DAYS INTO CURE)
LATHER TEST AFTER 30 SECONDS:
Again, the lather takes some effort to work up, but once it does, it’s easy to see that the lather of this bar is noticeably more abundant than the previous bar. Fluffier lather is noted, although still pretty low-lying and compact. Still small in size, this bar has slightly bigger, fluffier bubbles sporadically present. Rinsed off easily with no residue. POST USE: Soap is mildly drying to the skin and does not feel moisturizing at all. Although this piece is less drying than the previous bar, I still have to apply hand lotion after use.
TEST BAR #3 (10 DAYS INTO CURE) HARDNESS TEST:
WEIGHT OF SOAP: 11.7 GRAMS
This test soap actually gained weight (0.4 grams)! This soap piece exhibits the environmental challenges of soap making perfectly! Geographically, where you make soap greatly affects how your soaps cure. Three straight days of rain and excessive humidity has really affected this soap piece. Not just in regards to the soap’s weight, the weather has had quite an impact on the hardness of the bar too. I still have to exert moderate pressure, but this piece succumbs to the pressure of my fingers a lot easier and much more noticeably. In areas where excessive humidity is a year-round factor, it may take considerably longer for soaps to fully cure. Floridian soap makers know that winter is prime soap making season for this precise reason! I have dehumidifier programmed to turn on for 10 minutes, 4 times a day in my curing room during the summer, but I firmly believe that if you can successfully make soap in a tropical climate, you can make soap anywhere! Oh, how I miss Arizona soap making!
TEST BAR #3 (10 DAYS INTO CURE)
LATHER TEST AFTER 30 SECONDS:
Despite hardness setbacks, the lather of this soap piece is easy to work up. In the first few seconds of working up the lather, the bubbles are large, airy and copious. At around the 10-second mark the lather is noticeably more abundant, I accidentally drop some of it in the sink. As I continue to work up the lather, it changes and becomes more compact and denser, with a foamy/fluffy consistency. Lather is comprised of mainly small, tight bubbles with the presence of bigger bubbles sporadically throughout. Lather rinses away easily, with no remining residue. POST USE: This bar is not noticeably conditioning/moisturizing to the skin; however, it’s not drying to my skin either. It is neither moisturizing or drying, and my skin feels normal.
TEST BAR #4
(15 DAYS INTO CURE/HALFWAY POINT) HARDNESS TEST:
WEIGHT OF SOAP: 10.6 GRAMS
What a difference dryer weather makes! This piece is super hard! The difference between test bar #3, just 5 days prior is night and day! I exert as much pressure as my fingers possibly can (and in different areas of the bar), and the bar doesn’t budge. No indents.
TEST BAR #4
(15 DAYS INTO CURE/HALFWAY POINT)
LATHER TEST AFTER 30 SECONDS:
Lather builds up easily and quickly. Lather begins with large, airy, copious bubbles, but as it continues to build in abundance, the bubbles become denser and more compact, with fluffy, foam-like bubbles forming around the 8-second mark. The increase of bigger bubbles sporadically present throughout are more noticeable as well. Lather rinses away easily, with no residue left behind. POST USE: Bar is mild on the skin. Not at all drying, and mildly moisturizing... No hand lotion needed after this soap piece!
TEST BAR #5 (20 DAYS INTO CURE) HARDNESS TEST:
WEIGHT OF SOAP: 10.2 GRAMS
Water loss/evaporation appears to be slowing down. As with the previous test bar, this piece is as hard as a rock, and does not budge under maximum pressure exerted with my fingers.
TEST BAR #5
(20 DAYS INTO CURE)
LATHER TEST AFTER 30 SECONDS:
Again, the lather builds up easily and quickly, as it did with the previous bar. Lather appears abundant, with bigger bubbles present. Lather is more copious and fluffier, with less foam-like, compact bubbles this time. Overall, lather is fluffy, soft and airy, with more bigger bubbles present than the previous test bar. Lather rinses away with ease, with a moisturizing residue or “feel” remaining on the skin. POST USE: What a difference! This test piece is wonderfully moisturizing and very mild on my skin. Not at all drying, my skin feels soft, moisturized and hydrated after use!
TEST BAR #6 (25 DAYS INTO CURE) HARDNESS TEST:
WEIGHT OF SOAP: 9.9 GRAMS
Same as the previous test bar, this test piece is extremely hard and not at all affected by maximum exerted pressure from my fingers.
TEST BAR #6
(25 DAYS INTO CURE)
LATHER TEST AFTER 30 SECONDS:
Once again, the lather builds easily and quickly. At the beginning of lather build-up, bubbles are large and airy. At the 6-second mark however, lather becomes compact, fluffy and foam-like, mixed with larger, copious bubbles throughout. Lather is abundant, and I had a hard time keeping it all in my hands without inadvertently dropping some of it in the sink. In terms of abundance, lather seems about the same as the previous test bar. Lather rinses away easily with no noticeable residue. POST USE: Bar is very mild on the skin and wonderfully moisturizing! I can’t feel any noticeable increase in moisturizing/conditioning properties in comparison to the previous test bar, but the soap continues to be conditioning and skin-loving; not at all drying.
TEST BAR #7 (30 DAYS CURED) HARDNESS TEST:
WEIGHT OF SOAP: 9.9 GRAMS
The weight of this test soap remains the same as the previous one; no loss or gain in water weight. In terms of hardness, again, there is no noticeable change between this test piece and the one previous to it. Soap remains super hard and won’t budge under maximum exerted pressure from my fingers.
TEST BAR #7
(30 DAYS CURED)
LATHER TEST AFTER 30 SECONDS:
As before, lather is very easy to work up in abundance. Prior to this moment I didn’t notice any significant differences between this soap piece and test bar #6, but then suddenly, something turned up the bubbles on this bar big-time! The most abundant lather noted of any previous test bar, the lather of this soap piece began with large, airy, copious bubbles. Around the 5-second mark though, the lather became foam-like and super fluffy, containing a majority of small, dense, compact bubbles, with big, airy bubbles present throughout. Lather is so abundant; I can’t contain it all in my hands and accidentally drop a good amount of it in the sink. Lather rinses away easily, with no residue left behind on my skin. POST USE: Just as the previous test bar, this soap piece is gorgeously mild and moisturizing/conditioning! My skin feels soft & hydrated, as once again, the soap is not drying to my skin at all.
FINAL OBSERVATIONS Q&A
(PLUS, CURE & SAPONIFICATION EXPLAINED!):
Q: Was there any significant differences noticed between the first piece of soap tested (Bar #1, 24hrs) and the last piece of soap tested (Bar #7, 30 days)? Does cure produce a significant difference in a soap’s properties, qualities and performance?
A: Absolutely! The differences between these two test bars was night and day! My soap went from being very drying to my skin, with scant, low-lying lather, to being wonderfully hydrating and conditioning, with gorgeously abundant, big, fluffy lather! Cure most definitely produces a significant difference in the properties, performance and overall quality of cold process soap.
Q: Was there any point or stage during testing when a particular soap piece showed a drastic difference in quality, performance and/or properties from the piece previous to it? If so, when was this? Explain the difference(s).
A: In terms of hardness, there was a drastic difference between soap piece #1 (24hrs) and piece #2 (5 days). The soap hardened up very quickly during this 5-day period. Alternatively, test bat #3 (10 days) showed quite a difference in decreased hardness from the previous test bar due to rainy and excessively humid weather conditions. Although much of the soap’s properties were virtually the same between test bars #5 (20 days), #6 (25 days) and #7 (30 days), the lather with test bar #7 was significantly more abundant. As for conditioning/mildness, there was a very noticeable change and increase in these properties between test bar #4 (15 days) and test bar #5. Afterward, the mildness/conditioning properties showed no noticeable changes between test bars #5, #6 and #7.
Q: Was there any point when the soap reached its very best in terms of quality, performance and properties? If so, when?
A: I’m going to have to go with test bar #7 (30 days) on this one! Even though weight, hardness and overall moisturizing properties of this bar weren’t significantly different from test bars #5 (20 days) and #6 (25 days), the lather was outrageous! Both test bars #5 and #6 were excellent bars of soap, but the abundancy in lather kicked it up a notch with test bar #7.
Q: Was there any point in the experiment when no noticeable differences in a soap’s overall properties were noted between one test bar and another? If so, when was that?
A: In terms of overall performance and properties, I really didn’t notice any considerable differences between test bars #5 (20 days) and #6 (25 days). Both soaps exhibited nearly identical bar hardness, ease of lather build-up, abundant lather, and great moisturizing properties.
Q: How would you compare the performance and properties of the very first bar tested to the performance and properties of test bar #4 (15 days), which was the halfway point of the experiment?
A: There was quite a significant difference between the very first test bar and the halfway-point test bar. By mid-cure, the soap was already very hard, quite more abundant in lather and mildly moisturizing post-use. The very first test bar lacked all of these qualities.
Q: How would you compare the performance and properties of test bar #4 (15 days- halfway point) to the performance and properties of test bar #7, the very last bar tested?
A: I think the differences between the halfway-point test bar and the very last test bar are just as varied as the differences between the very first test bar and the halfway-point test bar. Again, there’s really no comparison. Both bars had excellent hardness properties, but that’s pretty much the only similarity they shared. The last test bar had far more abundant lather than test bar #4, and was much milder and moisturizing as well.
Q: For strictly personal use, do you feel it’s worth it to wait at least a 4-week cure period before using your soaps? Why or why not?
A: Yes, I do feel it’s worth it, but I also feel I could get a great idea of a soap’s performance and qualities sooner too. For example, if I formulate a new recipe and want to test that recipe on myself first, before offering it to others, I feel I can get a very good idea of the properties of that recipe anywhere from the 20th day of cure onward. This could very well be recipe-dependent, but I also think this experiment really proved that the absolute best results one can experience with their handmade soaps comes with waiting until the bars are fully cured. Even if I were to lather up with a bar that had only cured for 20 or 25 days though, I feel I would still benefit from the soap’s qualities, as well as get an excellent idea of the soap’s overall performance and skin-loving properties.
Q: For selling purposes, do you feel it’s worth it to wait at least a 4-week cure period before offering your soaps to others? Why or why not?
A: Absolutely, 100% YES!!! In every way I want individuals who use my handmade soaps to have the best experience possible with them! This experiment confirmed to me that the best experience comes with a fully cured bar of soap. Although it’s not going to cause any physical harm to others to use a bar of soap that hasn’t quite fully cured yet, they’re just not going to get as awesome of an experience with it. If you want to stand out in people’s minds as a great soap maker, only offer others the best, and only when it’s at its best potential!
Q: In terms of cure, water weight and water loss (evaporation), how do the soaps compare from one test bar to the next? Take a look at your soap weights and share the results.
A: From test bar #1 (24hrs) and test bar #2 (5 days), the total weight of liquid lost in this 5-day period was 0.7 grams. The weight of water lost between test bar #2 and test bar #3 (10 days) was actually a gain of 0.4 grams, due to excessive humidity and rain. The amount of water weight lost from test bar #3 to test bar #4 (15 days) was 1.1 grams. Between test bar #4 and test bar #5 (20 days), the difference was a loss of 0.4 grams. From test bar #5 to test bar #6 (25 days), the amount of water weight lost was 0.3 grams. The difference of water evaporation between test bar #6 and test bar #7 (30 days) was actually no loss at all. These last two test bars turned out weighing exactly the same, weighing in at 9.9 grams each.
The largest difference in water weight loss took place between test bar #3 (10 days) and test bar #4 (15 days), when the difference in weight between these two test bars yielded a loss of 1.1 grams. The least difference in lost weight (With the exception of test bars #6 and #7, which remained the same) took place between test bars #5 (20 days) and #6 (25 days), when the bars only lost a difference of 0.3 grams. The overall difference in water weight lost between the first test bar (#1) and the last test bar (#7) was a total of 2.1 grams. Had I allowed every 12-gram piece of soap to fully cure, rather than test the bars on their assigned days, the test soaps would have cured to weigh approximately 9.9 grams each, losing approximately 2.1 grams of total water weight per bar.
Q: What was the goal of this experiment? Share your final thoughts and/or observations, as well as what you would like others to take away from this experiment. Share overall results, as well as any personal thoughts or feelings you may have on the subject.
A: The goal, or aim, of this experiment was to show myself, as well as share with other soap makers, exactly how the properties and qualities of soap batches change with cure. In regards to the results of the experiment, I was able to see firsthand proof of just how much one’s geographical location affects cure. For example, a soap maker living in the dry, desert climate of Hermosillo Mexico may have a considerably shorter cure period than a soap maker living in Havana Cuba, where the climate is humid and tropical. Location matters!
Not only did I want to share how soap batches may change with cure, I also wanted to help clear up a common misconception I’ve frequently noticed regarding cure and saponification. It’s not uncommon for newer soap makers to confuse these terms, believing that saponification and cure are interchangeably the same process. In reality, these two magnificent processes are two completely different things. Confusing the two as being one in the same would be metaphorically similar to believing that peanut butter is the exact same thing as jelly (And I’m not talking Goober Grape here... Although it is a time-saver having your “PB&J” conveniently bottled in the same jar!).
Throughout the years, I’ve seen some soap makers share the belief that if you use a bar of cold process soap prior to a standard 4 to 6-week cure, the soap will burn your skin due to the presence of lye (Sodium Hydroxide). This is a false belief, and its misunderstanding only helps to create false fear and the spread of misinformation to others. This common misunderstanding is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of though, and can be easily cleared up by understanding what saponification is, and how this process plays a role in soap making; and what cure is, while also understanding the role that it plays. As seen in the picture where I perform the lather test on test bar #1 (As well as all other test bars prior to the very last test bar.), this piece of soap did not chemically burn my skin, despite the fact that this specific piece of soap was cut from a batch poured just 24 hours prior. This is where your superfat plays a big role! To superfat a recipe at the standard 5% means that 5% of your recipe’s fats/oils remain “free-floating” within the finished bars of soap, providing a “buffer” which ensures the batch is not “lye heavy”. Granted, this first test bar wasn’t the most skin-loving bar of soap I’ve ever used, since it hadn’t yet completed a proper curing period, but what it had completed was saponification!
WHAT IS SAPONIFICATION?
Saponification is an absolutely fascinating process wherein a total change takes place on a molecular level! It only seems like magic, but it’s really all about the magic of science! Lye, or Sodium Hydroxide, loves fats! It loves them so much; it’ll bond with a fat molecule at the first opportunity it gets! When you reach that step during soap making where you pour your lye solution into your batch oils, a bonding party gets underway! Lye is completely undiscerning, and its molecules will bond with the very first fat molecule it comes across. Something truly compelling takes place when a Sodium Hydroxide molecule bonds with a fat molecule though! Once bonded, a complete molecular change happens! To break this down, let’s allow some imagination to get involved here! Let’s say our lye molecule (we’ll call him or her “Causto”) meets up with a coconut oil molecule (which we’ll call “Coco”). Causto meets Coco within your bowl of soap batter, and since Causto is really diggin’ Coco’s vibe, and everyone else seems to be pairing up anyway, they decide to bond with each other too! But something wonderful happens when they do! Through the process of saponification, together, Causto and Coco begin to transform into something else entirely! At the completion of saponification, Causto is no longer Causto, and Coco is no longer Coco. Together, they’ve undergone a complete molecular change, ceasing to exist as the separate molecules they once were! In their place, something entirely different now exists. This entirely different thing is a product we all know and love, and it goes by the name: SOAP! This is the extraordinary process of saponification! Through the science of saponification, the caustic chemical that is lye (Which would normally burn and/or irritate your skin.), and a fat/oil/butter (Which would normally make your skin feel slippery, greasy or even sticky.) undergo a total molecular change and become soap; a thing which ultimately cleanses your skin, is gently mild and wonderfully skin-loving! Equally as fascinating is the fact that this molecular change is normally complete within 24 hours of making your batch of soap! Those mild, skin-loving qualities I was just talking about? Well, those come later, and are enhanced even more with the process of cure.
WHAT IS CURE?
Cure is quite simple really, and to break it down as simply as possible, “cure” is actually just a nicer, easier way of saying “evaporation”, since that’s precisely what it is! All that liquid or distilled water in your recipe that you made your lye solution with... Well, that’s all gotta come back out, and the way to do that is through evaporation. The longer your soaps cure, the more excess liquid within the bars evaporate out. This is one of the reasons why many seasoned soap makers are fans of liquid discounting (The less liquid added to a recipe, the less liquid that must cure, or evaporate, back out.), as well as “curing racks”. Placing your soaps on a wire-coated curing rack exposes the soap bars to air on all sides (Coated, so as to not place soaps directly on metal. After time, some metals may cause little orange spots, or lines, to form where the soap touched the metal. Although this is more of an “ions and oxidation” type situation, those annoying orange spots are what are commonly referred to as “DOS” - UGH!). While it’s perfectly safe to use your soaps before all the excess liquid has evaporated out, it’s the process of cure, or evaporation, which inevitably makes for bars of soap which are rock-hard, long-lasting, mild, moisturizing, skin-loving and abundant in lather!
FINAL THOUGHTS AND A SIDE-BY-SIDE LOOK AT LATHER!
If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for taking the time to read such a lengthy blog! This little experiment was my 30-day “creative baby”, since I’d never done anything like this before, but was always curious to give it a try! While I’m the type of soap maker who will explain to others why it’s perfectly safe to use a bar of soap as soon as saponification is complete, and then discuss the pros and cons of doing so, I never actually saw, with my own eyes, what those pros and cons really looked like... Until now! I truly hope that wherever you’re at in your soap making journey, be it novice or advanced, that you were able to find some value and insight in the results of this experiment. The results that I got could be quite different for someone conducting this same experiment in say, Las Vegas, but one thing should always remain the same... With cure, the properties, performance and qualities of your handmade soaps will only get better and better, resulting in a batch of soap which feels amazing on the skin, and shows off your incredible soap making abilities at their very best potential! Go forth and cure, my soapy friends!