Welp, it was bound to happen eventually. I had my first major soap FAIL! I got a wonderful fragrance in from Wholesale Supplies Plus called Fresh Cut Grass. I know it sounds weird, but the smell is divine. It smells just like a sunny, spring morning — that wonderful, sweet scent of a freshly mowed lawn. I’ve been hanging onto this fragrance for a while because I had a pretty particular design in mind, and I needed one minor piece of equipment to achieve it: a wire hanger.
Hangers are a common tool for creating intricate designs in soap. From what I can tell, the technique was “invented” by the soapmaker behind Handmade in Florida. She’s got a popular YouTube channel that demonstrates several varieties of soap designs using a hanger tool, the most renowned being the “butterfly swirl.” I’ve never seen the hanger tool used quite the way I had in mind so I decided to experiment a little with this batch.
My design idea was pretty simple. I would cover the base of my 10″ silicone loaf mold with a layer of green soap, maybe about a 1/4 of the way up, then cover that with a layer of white soap. I’d use a thin piece of wire to drag the green soap up into the white creating, hopefully, little wisps of green that looked like, well… grass. Too on the nose? Maybe. Anyway, I set out to work.
Brambleberry sells a really nice hanger tool that is really just a long, coated piece of some sort of wire that can be bent to many different shapes and lengths to fit whatever size mold you are working with. I didn’t order it because 1) I wanted a thinner piece of wire and 2) Brambleberry takes forever to ship. I probably will pick up this tool next time I place an order there, but I wanted something much sooner. Nurture Soap also carries hanger tools, but they are a fixed size. You have to order a separate hanger tool to fit each mold you have. That’s not ideal. So I did the next best thing. I ordered a 10-pack of coated stainless steel hangers from Amazon. I have a Prime account, so I received them in two days.
It was easier than I expected the bend the hanger to fit my mold. I didn’t even need any tools. I was able to bend it by hand. I mixed up my standard recipe for cold process soap (the one I use for soaps that I plan to swirl), and poured my green. But as I started to pour my white, I knew almost immediately that… well, just see for yourself.
I’m 100% positive that my design failed because I didn’t mix my soap to a thick enough trace. I should’ve mixed the green to about a medium trace before trying to pour my thinner white batter on top of it. That would’ve prevented my white from sinking down into the green. I do think I should’ve mixed my white a little thicker as well. I only mixed it to emulsification, but I should’ve mixed to a true light trace.
As for the strange film that developed on top, I had little luck finding information on the web, so I consulted one of the several soaping forums I’m a member of. A kind soaping expert verified for me that it was, in fact, the alcohol. Alcohol is used to form a barrier between the soap and the air to help prevent soda ash. She explained that I should not spray the soap with alcohol until I’m completely finished with it. I normally set my soaps in my craft room and forget them until they’re set, but because I was so concerned with this one setting up properly, I was poking it much more than normal. All of my soaps likely developed this film, but I just never noticed it.
I am happy to report, though, that the soap did set up perfectly fine, and while the design turned out nothing like delicate wisps of green grass, it smells divine and will be lovely to use! Stay tuned for a remake of this one, though. Now that I know what I did wrong, I’ll definitely be trying it again!
Slow-Moving CP Soap Recipe
40% Olive Oil
33% Coconut Oil
15% Rice Bran Oil
6% Avocado Oil
6% Shea Butter