Guest post by Amber Beltran of A Squirrel & A Scholar Soap Co.
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SOAP MAKING CLEANUP - EVERYONE’S LEAST FAVORITE PART!
For this week’s soap project, I wanted to make a beer soap which would include a design that resembled bubbles floating to the top of a glass of beer (In an “artistic interpretation” sort of way, of course!). A mini drop-swirl design would be perfect for that, but to be fully honest, I actually dread the thought of making mini drop-swirls completely! Not that it’s a difficult technique by any means (A bit tedious perhaps, but not difficult.), it’s the cleanup that makes me shudder! Mini drop-swirls require squeeze bottles to get the most precise pour and crispest look, but cleaning goopy soap batter from the nooks and crannies of narrow squeeze bottles (Especially the tops!) is a royal pain in the booty! Some soap makers use a cleverer approach by lining the inside of their bottles with plastic baggies. Instead of having to clean out the impossibly unreachable crevices of squeeze bottles, cleanup consists of just removing the plastic baggie and tossing it out... Easy peasy! While this method comes with absolutely zero judgement from me in any way, I’ve personally avoided this clever “soaping hack” simply because it would mean having to unnecessarily throw away extra plastic. For a soap maker who literally washes everything, even items that are only meant to be “single-use” (Ha! I laugh in the face of “single-use’!), I try my best to avoid unnecessary waste whenever and wherever I possibly can... Heck, even the liners I use to cover my soap making workspace are 100% biodegradable. “Wash, re-use, recycle” is just an important lifestyle for me, so for quite a long time, I completely avoided this fun and beautiful soap making technique for one reason alone... The thought of tediously cleaning soap batter from squeeze bottles gave me a severe case of eye-twitch!
the soap making idea I had rolling around in my head looked way cooler in my mind’s eye with a mini drop-swirl design though, and so I decided I’d do just that... Only without the squeeze bottles and the laborious cleanup! Come along with me as we make a batch of “OMH” (Oatmeal, Milk & Honey) beer soap, complete with the scrubby goodness of ground walnut shell, and a “faux” mini drop-swirl design that will have you skipping the annoying cleanup and subsequent dishpan hands! If you don’t feel comfortable quite yet working with beer as an alternative liquid (Or would just prefer to omit it.), that’s no problem at all! The beer in this recipe is completely optional, and anything about this soap recipe and/or design, can be tailored to suit your personal preferences. The main point is to create a pretty mini drop-swirl design in your handmade soap in a way that’s both simple and beginner-friendly, as well as much easier to clean; especially since I don’t know of a single crafter who has ever said their favorite part of soap making was washing dishes afterwards!
MAKING EMBEDS AND PREPPING BEER!
As per my usual, this specific soap project does feature a piped top with decorative melt & pour embeds, but this is always an optional embellishment. If you’d rather not include the soap frosting and/or soap embeds, that’s absolutely okay! For me and my personal soapy goals for this project, I envisioned a fluffy, white top (To resemble the foamy head of a glass of beer.), as well as decorative beer bottles to boot. Since the design of the soap itself was to be an artistic interpretation of rising bubbles, I thought it would be fun if my melt & pour beer bottle embeds appeared to be rising up as well! Hence the inspiration for the embeds! Using Nurture Soap’s Low Sweat Clear Soap Base, I created tiny bottles of beer, as well as a pair of wings for each bottle! These molds (Or ones similar to them.) can easily and inexpensively be found online, but if you don’t have anything similar on-hand, I promise it’s not a deal breaker! Any decorative embed(s) you’d like to include in this project’s design is going to work just as well, and will look just as cute! Remember, there’s absolutely no right or wrong way to decorate your handmade soaps to make them uniquely yours!
To color my melt & pour beer bottles, the opulent “Maya Gold” mica was the perfect choice! To add a bit more golden-brown to “Maya Gold” mica and create a color that reminded me of an amber lager, a pinch of “Copper Penny” mica mixed in created that magic touch! For the wings, the upbeat, shimmering shade of “Love and Sunshine” mica was used, and after I’d completed making embeds, I used a soft-bristle paintbrush to dry-paint a little “Sierra Gold” mica onto each one. “Sierra Gold” mica was excellent for accentuating the little caps on each of my melt & pour beer bottles, as well as making the lively yellow shade of “Love & Sunshine” mica “POP” when brushed atop each set of wings. To help these embeds fit better on my soap, I did make a few adjustments to them... The wing embeds were cut in two to better fit onto each side of my soap loaf, and the beer bottle embeds were trimmed down by about a half inch so they wouldn’t stand too tall on the soap as well.
Whenever I make a soap design featuring soap frosting, creating the decorative embeds is always the first thing I get started on, but since this is also a beer soap, we’ll need some prepared beer too. I usually always have some type of soap making beer in my freezer, ready and waiting to be turned into soap, but if you’ve never made beer soap before, or just don’t have any on-hand at the moment, you’ll want to get that prepared prior to making your soap as well.
There are few things lye just doesn’t get along well with, and it just so happens that beer contains two of those things: Carbonation and alcohol! To get your beer ready for soap making, you’ll want to prepare it by removing both the alcohol and carbonation first. There’s two main ways of doing this... The fast way or the slow way. The slow way entails leaving your beer open, or uncovered, for several days so that the alcohol and carbonation evaporate out naturally. I’m an impatient soap maker, so I prefer to do this the fast way!
The fast way to remove alcohol and carbonation from your beer is by boiling it out. Make sure you begin with more beer than what your particular soap recipe calls for, since we’ll lose a bit of volume while boiling it. Pilsners, ales and lagers all make for excellent soap making, so the type of beer you use is entirely up to you! For this project, my “beer of choice” was whatever was left behind in my fridge from the last get-together we had, which in this case, was Yuengling Traditional Amber lager. Add your beer to a large pot on the stovetop, then turn the heat on to medium-high. Make sure to not leave your beer unattended to start, as the first thing to burn off will be the carbonation, which froths up rather quickly. As the carbonation froths up with the heat of your stove, you’ll need to constantly keep stirring it so that it doesn’t froth over.
Just as quickly as it froths up, the carbonation will eventually lose the battle and your beer will settle back down. This is when the alcohol will evaporate out. As soon as you see the carbonation settle back down and your beer reaches a steady, rolling boil, you can go ahead and set a timer for 20 minutes. Allow your beer to remain at an uninterrupted, rolling boil for the full 20 minutes, after which, you can remove the beer from the heat and let it cool to room temp before transferring it to the freezer or fridge. You’ll want to work with the beer when it’s very cold, so I like to transfer my prepared beer to a freezer bag and store it in my freezer. That way I can defrost the amount needed for a specific recipe, then store any remaining beer in the freezer for my next beer soap project.
SENSATIONALLY SCRUBBY & STINK-FREE!
Not only does this recipe include beer, it’s got some extra skin-loving goodness by way of fine-ground walnut shell powder too! Beer contains sugar, which makes for some pretty incredible lather in cold process soap. If you’ve ever lathered up with beer soap before, then you know firsthand just how wonderfully creamy, bubbly and conditioning it is! What’s a great beer soap without a bit of scrubbiness to go along with it though? Natural exfoliants are a wonderful way to add even more skin-loving properties to one’s handmade soaps, and walnut shell powder is just all around awesome! Larger exfoliants, such as coffee grounds, can be a bit harsh or irritating to some skin types, but walnut shell powder is so fine, it’s generally well tolerated by most skin types, especially when incorporated more sparingly in one’s recipes.
When it comes to exactly how much of a certain exfoliant to add to your soap recipes, it really just depends on the level of exfoliation that you prefer. I’m a “less is more” kind of soap maker myself, as any type of natural exfoliant tends to go a long way for my skin, but in terms of incorporating walnut shell powder to your soap recipes, anywhere between 1 teaspoon per pound of oils, up to 1 tablespoon per pound of oils is perfectly fine! For this specific recipe, we’ll incorporate finely ground walnut shell powder at 1 teaspoon per pound of oils, but feel free to adjust this amount to your own personal preference. If you don’t have any walnut shell powder readily available, pumice powder, used at the same rate, is a good replacement, since both impart a finer, grittier texture to soap. They’re perfect for gently scrubbing and buffing away dry, flaky skin!
The recipe for this project is excellent for making an amazing beer soap! Since beer contains natural sugar, it’s not unheard of for beer-soap recipes to heat up a bit and/or cause one’s soap batter to move along a little faster than normal. Because of this, we’ll use a beautifully forgiving recipe; one that will allow you plenty of time to “have your cake and eat it too” (As in, make a delightfully skin-loving batch of soap, which also features an eye-catching mini drop-swirl design!). If you’re the type of soap maker who loves things simplified, the recipe featured in this blog is the exact same recipe as Nurture Soap’s Soap Making Oil Blend! The full recipe is listed below, but feel free to pick up this amazing oil blend if you prefer to have your batch oils already pre-measured and ready to go!
When incorporating beer into cold process soap, the possibilities are as customizable as you’d like! You can choose to substitute all of the distilled water for beer, or only part of it. Because I’m a huge fan of “no-stink beer-soap making” (Check out my blog post titled “No-Stink Beer Soap! Make “Honey Barrel Beer Soap”- Without the Beer Soap Smell!”.), I like to substitute half of my distilled water for beer. I’ll add the lye to my distilled water only, and reserve the beer for later. Once my lye solution has cooled down to at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit, or cooler, that’s when I’ll go ahead and stir in the beer. I’ve found that by making my beer-based lye solutions this way, the sugar, yeast, hops and barley in the beer don’t get scorched, and as a result, no more unpleasant “beer stink”!
A FABULOUS FRAGRANCE & CAPTIVATING COLORS!
Our batch oils have been weighed out, melted and combined (Or you’ve taken advantage of Nurture Soap’s Soap Making Oil Blend and have just poured out the amount you need!); our non-stinky beer-based lye solution has been made, and our lovely walnut shell powder has been measured out, waiting to bring some awesome scrubby-action to our soap... So, what’s next? Only the best part of all... Colors and fragrance! I decided to go with an absolute classic fragrance oil for this project, since in every universe, this particular fragrance oil just goes so incredibly well with a beer base! I’m talking about Nurture Soap’s “Oatmeal, Milk & Honey”!
I really owe this fragrance an apology, as the very first time I made soap with it, I loved it, but wished it were stronger. As months and months have now passed however, and I still have a bar of soap saved from that very first batch, I feel like I should be eating someone’s hat right about now! Despite my initial impression of this fragrance oil not being as strong as I would’ve liked it to be, that one bar of “Oatmeal, Milk & Honey” soap I have left still smells as lasting and true as the day I made it! The full scope of this delicious aroma hasn’t gone anywhere, which is what makes this fragrance oil positively perfect for this project!
For the colors, I decided to go full-on autumnal! “Oatmeal, Milk & Honey” fragrance oil barely discolors to a light tan in cold process soap, but I’m kind of betting on that with the colors I chose! I’m hoping some of that natural tan discoloration will bring a bit of golden depth to the orange and yellow shades I picked for this project. For the main portion of the soap (The portion with all that scrubby, walnut shell goodness!), I wanted an orange-creamsicle type shade, and was able to achieve that beautifully by blending 2-parts “Winter White” mica with 1-part “Atomic Orange” mica. For the accent colors (The “faux” mini drop-swirls!) I chose the ever-stunning, always classic, “must-haves”: “Maya Gold”, “Firefly” and “Mocha Brown” micas. For a burst of intense, eye-catching yellow, “Full Throttle” mica was sure to deliver (This is the yellow that never quits!), and for a vivaciously bright orange, I chose one of my all-time favorites, “Orange Marmalade” mica.
With beer included in this recipe, I suspected things might get a little warm during saponification, and I know orange micas, in particular, tend to fade a bit in hotter temperatures. To keep “Orange Marmalade” mica as bold and bright as possible, I mixed a pinch of “Eye of The Tiger” mica with it. Both “Full Throttle” and “Eye of The Tiger” micas are colors exclusive to Nurture Soap, and are a part of the “Epic Color Collection”. Not only are these the most intensely pigmented colors I’ve ever beheld in soap, they’re like the “Tabasco Sauce” of micas too! Mix a pinch of one into any mica within the same “color family” and it will add a POP of vibrant “pizazz” to that color! A pinch of “Eye of The Tiger” mica is all “Orange Marmalade” mica would need to remain super bold and vibrant, regardless of how hot the batch would become during saponification. For the optional soap frosting portion of this project, “Velvet Pearl” mica was chosen for its perfect shade of softer white.
POURING MINI DROP-SWIRLS!
When creating mini drop-swirls in cold process soap, you’ll want your soap batter to remain nice and fluid. To give myself plenty of time to work at a comfortable pace, I blended my soap batter to emulsion only, then poured off my five accent portions that would be my mini drop-swirls. Normally, this is when you’d want to color your soap batter, stir in the fragrance, then add each portion to its own squeeze bottle in order to create perfectly executed miniature drop-swirls. I’m much too allergic to cleaning out squeeze bottles though, so this is where my little beaker-cups come in handy! Along with squeezing your soap batter though a squeeze bottle, you can also create the look of mini drop-swirls simply by pouring your soap batter thinly from up high- from a cup! Preferably, you’ll want to use a beaker or cup with a pouring lip; or some other type of cup that can be pinched or squeezed together to create one. “Pinch bowls” would also work great for this! You’re always going to get a crisper, “cleaner” mini drop-swirl design from a squeeze bottle, but if you pour your batter from a beaker or pinchable cup instead, keeping a steady hand while thinly drizzling your soap batter from up high as you pour, you’ll be able to create beautiful mini drop-swirls too!
To the remaining soap batter, I went ahead and added in the walnut shell powder, first stirring it in by hand, then pulsing the batter with my stick blender to break up any larger clumps. After coloring my soap portions and dividing up the delicious “Oatmeal, Milk & Honey” fragrance oil between them, it was time to start pouring.
The first step to creating “faux” mini drop-swirls is to pour your main portion of soap batter, in its entirety, into the mold. While your soap batter is nice and thin, begin pouring the accent colors in from up high, moving back-and-forth, horizontally, as you pour.
Creating mini drop-swirls is a simple process of just repeating this horizontal, back-and-forth motion of pour until you’ve filled your mold to the top. Have fun with the process! While you’re pouring, you can pour some lines thinner than others, or try pouring from different heights. Pour some of your drop-swirls directly over top the previous one, following the same line, while on other passes, pour the lines a little bit off to the left or right side of the previous one. There’s no right or wrong way to pour a mini drop-swirl design, and the more you experiment, the more you’ll end up with some pretty neat results in your soap!
Guaranteed, the one thing you’ll love about this method of pouring mini drop-swirls is just how easy cleanup is! No more endlessly soaking squeeze bottles, or using random objects from around the kitchen to try to pick soap gunk out of the nozzle with. No more plastic baggies tossed in the trash! Instead, simply use a small spatula to collect any remaining soap batter, scoop it into a pretty cavity mold (if there’s enough batter left over), and make yourself a cute guest-size soap bar or two! After that, you can just toss your cups into a sink filled with hot, soapy water and give them a quick and easy wash! Sure, it’s still dishes that need to be done (Dishes and laundry are a never-ending part of life, unfortunately!), but with cups, at least there’s no random or special instruments needed to dig out stubborn soap batter from unreachable places... A dish sponge can easily do the job!
MINI OUTCOMES AND HAPPY RESULTS!
Of course, adding soap frosting and decorative embeds is always optional, but if you’d like to do so, please feel free to use my favorite soap frosting recipe (included below) if you’d like! To create a fluffy-looking, foamy-beer type of top, I used a Wilton #6B piping tip, which makes for big, round dollops. To create an effervescent-like sheen, I applied a generous (And exquisite!) dusting of “Gold Enigma” mica, then put the whole look together by placing my melt & pour embeds on top. After I was all finished up, it was time to put these flying beer bottles to bed!
Because beer soap can get a little toasty during saponification, I decided to leave this batch uninsulated overnight, but it decided to gel anyway. I’m so perfectly okay with that though, since I positively love gelled soaps! Despite how warm the batch got, every single color (Even those heat-hating oranges!) came out lovely and true, and the scent of the soap itself is cozy and delicious! With scrubby walnut shell powder, and the aroma of sweet almonds, wholesome oats, creamy vanilla and golden honey, the fact that this is also a beer soap is just the cherry on top! While this batch of soap might not have the world’s most perfect-looking mini drop-swirls, the design still turned out unique and beautiful, which is just perfect to me!
I hope you’ll give this recipe, and simplified mini drop-swirl technique, a try in your own soap making adventures at home; or feel inspired to put your own amazing, one-of-a-kind spin on this design if you’d like! Soap making is as vastly customizable as you are unique, and the possibilities for tailoring any soapy project to match your awesome creative style is truly limitless! Have fun with the process, try new things, and explore avenues that help make crafting even more enjoyable for you! After all, the end-goal is always the same, no matter how you got there... To create wonderful works of soapy art that you love, and love sharing with others! Express your talent, skill, creativity, and inspiration, then pass it along... Sort of like a virus, only way healthier, happier, and contagious!
- This recipe features the exact same base oils and percentages as Nurture Soap’s Soap Making Oil Blend!)
- Lye @ 5% Superfat
- Distilled Water @ 33% Lye Concentration (2:1/Water: Lye) *½ Total Water Amount Substituted for Beer; Alcohol & Carbonation Removed.
- 40% Olive Oil
- 25% Coconut Oil
- 25% RSPO Palm Oil
- 5% Sweet Almond Oil
- 5% Castor Oil
- 6% “Oatmeal, Milk & Honey” Fragrance Oil
- 3% Sodium Lactate (Optional. Added to Cooled Lye Solution)
- 1/2TBS - 1TBS White Kaolin Clay (Optional. Mixed into Fragrance Oil
- 1/2tsp/PPO Fine-Ground Walnut Shell Powder
- 1tsp/PPO Mica Colorants: “Winter White” + “Atomic Orange” (2:1), “Maya Gold”, “Firefly”, “Mocha Brown”, “Full Throttle”, “Orange Marmalade” + 1/8tsp “Eye of The Tiger”
- Lye @ 5% Superfat
- Distilled Water @ 33% Lye Concentration (2:1/Water: Lye)
- 35% Olive Oil
- 28% RSPO Palm Shortening (AKA: “No-Stir Palm”)
- 27% Coconut Oil
- 10% Castor Oil
- 2tsp/PPO “Velvet Pearl” Mica
- Beer Bottle Melt & Pour Embeds in “Maya Gold” + 1/8tsp “Copper Penny” Micas (Optional)
- Wings Melt & Pour Embeds in “Love & Sunshine” Mica (Optional)
- “Sierra Gold” Mica (Optional. Dry-Painted onto Embeds)
- “Gold Enigma” Mica (Optional. Dusted on Top)