Saturday, January 25, 2020


One of the things I love about making soap is the anticipation of making that first cut into a fresh loaf of soap. You never know for sure if the soap turned out the way you'd envisioned it. In the case of the Salt & Pepper soap, it turned out exactly as I'd hoped it would, glycerin rivers and all.

Salt & Pepper Soap, January 2020
See the crackled appearance in the white part of the bar? That is what's known as glycerin rivers. I'm by no means an expert but here's one explanation from soapmaker extraordinaire, Auntie Clara, explaining glycerin rivers: "...when soap goes through gel phase, particles of colour pigment added to the soap seem to gravitate and stick to the greasy, water-repellent tails of the soap molecules while leaving the water-soluble heads of the molecules without pigment. This happens sometimes when soap coloured with titanium dioxide and other colour pigments goes through gel phase." 

Titanium dioxide is what I used in the white part to make it more white. I know that when I make this particular soap, I get glycerin rivers and I love the look in this case.

The Charcoal & Lavender Castile was, shall we say, educational. With the first cut, I realized it had gone through partial gel. The gel phase of soap making is the heating stage of saponification. Once you pour your soap into its mold it will start to heat up. Gel phase starts with the soap turning translucent in the middle and then spreads out to the edges. ... The biggest difference between gelled and un-gelled soap is the color of it. (From

You can recognize partial gel instantly. There will be a ring spreading from the center but not to the outer edges of the soap. That's what happened with this one; there was a pale grey ring in the bars. I didn't take a picture of it because I was, if I'm honest, a little disappointed. John, however, thought it was pretty cool and was disappointed when I planed each of the bars, which helped to diminish the very obvious ring.

Partial gel in no way affects the quality of the soap; like glycerin rivers, it's purely cosmetic. Both of these soaps will be amazing once they've cured, in about 4-6 weeks. Next time, however, I may force gel in the charcoal soap, for cosmetic reasons only.

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