Anyone who’s ever tried to make their own soap is familiar with the capriciousness of soap. We might call it a science (and there’s plenty that’s scientific about saponification), but sometimes the soap has a mind of its own. You can do everything right and still end up with a weird batch. Perhaps it’s a new brand of some ingredient or perhaps it’s just a different temperature in your house … you can’t control everything.
Well, I made a batch of Rose Garden soap awhile back and it was UGLY. Crumbly and moist and just plain horrible. The smell was wonderful, but the texture was all off. Now I’m all for letting natural soaps be natural, but these were gross:
Really Ugly Soap
I’d never really had great luck “saving” soap before. It’s called rebatching, and while some people use it as their primary method of making soap with fancy ingredients, most of us dread having to do it because it means something went horribly wrong. I’ve tried several techniques that promised to take the guesswork out of it (boil in a bag, crockpot, etc.) and, of course, none of them ever worked.
This was a big enough batch of ruined soap that I figured it would be worth the extra effort to try rebatching it the traditional way. How? By chopping it into tiny pieces (not hard because it was already crumbling):
Small Soap Chunks
And even more soap chunks …
The goal is to expose as much of the surface of the soap as possible so that it will melt evenly. Some people use a grater, but I think that is excessively messy. I just chopped and diced like I was cutting herbs.
Next, I placed the chunks in my makeshift double boiler (a mixing bowl on top of a pot):
Since my soap was so new and fresh, it was still pretty moist. That meant I didn’t need to add much to help it re-liquify. I added about 1 T of soybean oil and, since I didn’t like the original color, 1 T of madder root powder to make it red. Some people swear by adding milk to the mix, others use just water or oil. I stuck with oil this time.
As you can see, it started to melt after the first 15 minutes:
Partially melted …
And then after another 10 minutes of stirring, it really got melty:
Almost completely melted back to a pourable state!
Since I was already experimenting, and since my mixing bowl could only hold about a third of the soap crumbles at a time, I decided to try playing around with color layers. The first batch got 1 T of madder root powder. The second batch got 1/2 T of matter root powder. The final batch didn’t get any madder root powder. I poured each newly melted batch on top of the previous one.
I don’t know how easy it is to distinguish the top two layers in this pictures, but here’s an idea of the finished product:
Layered Soap with Chunks
As you can see, I left some of the crumbles whole in the melted second and third batches for even more variety. I think, in part, this was all inspired by my recent trip to the Grand Canyon. To me, the layers in the soap make me think of the different layers of rocks and geological time that you can see along the canyon walls … they’re even the same colors!
All in all, a very successful rebatch! The soaps always smelled great and now they look great too! I’m definitely going to try this layering technique again … oooooh the possibilities!