If you are familiar with the soap making process, you know that there are three fundamental ways one can go about making a bar of soap: cold process, hot process, and melt & pour. Each process has its own unique benefits and drawbacks, and most soapmakers have a pretty distinct preference about which one they like!
The Hot Process method of soapmaking uses an outside heat source to cook the ingredients through the saponification process.Hot process soapmaking lends the benefit of a quick curing time; often, the soap will be ready to use within a week, providing a very quick turnaround. This makes replenishing stock a quick process! However, one of the chief drawbacks of hot process soapmaking is the limited design abilities one may have; meaning, intricate swirls and patterns are not quite as easily achieved in this more “rustic” looking soap.
Like every creative mind, you know that nothing is impossible-so today, we’re going to talk about ways you can keep your hot process soap fluid and get beautiful swirls!
What is fluid HP?
First, let’s talk about what we mean when we say fluid HP. For those unfamiliar with hot process soapmaking, the soap batter consistency is quite a bit different then what you’ll find with cold process. Where cold process batter is smooth and creamy, hot process batter is thick and for lack of a better word, gloppy. Hot process goes through a few different phases as it cooks; the end result is a Vaseline-like batter that has a strangely lovely iridescence and isn’t exactly swirl friendly.
The mysterious fluid HP is quite different. By adding yogurt, for example, one can achieve a hot process consistency that is more like runny pudding (delicious, we know!). Having a more fluid batter is great for swirling, but can make a bit of a mess when you try to mold it!
When molding a non-fluid HP batter, one sort of plops the batter into the mold; it’s thick and relatively easy to control. For a fluid HP, you must be very careful, especially if you are use to working with the thicker consistency of non-fluid. While non-fluid HP can be scooped out with a spatula, the thinner consistency of fluid means you’ll have an easier time transferring to color cups with a heat safe ladle or spoon.
There are a few ways that you can achieve a more fluid consistency.
What to add?
Add yogurt once your soap is fully cooked for a fluid batter.Plain greek or regular yogurt is one of the most common additives to help your batter become more fluid. You can add up to 1.5 tablespoons per pound of oils to achieve a looser, easier to swirl batter.
Sodium lactate has the dual use of promoting a hard bar and keeping the soap fluid. Don’t add too much sodium lactate though; keep usage to about .5 to 1 tsp per pound of oils for the best results. You can add sodium lactate to your lye water once it’s cooled down, to the oils just before you add the lye water, or to your batter at the same time as you would add your fragrance oils.
If you don’t want to purchase a special ingredient, you can also try adding more water to your recipe. The more water you use, the more fluid your soap will be-but remember, your soap will shrink during the curing process if you do this.
By simply adding a bit more water, or sodium lactate and/or yogurt to your already wonderful recipe, you can enhance your soap with swirling designs and patterns. Give it a try!
Would you like to learn more about the Hot Process method? Check out our article, Hot Process Soapmaking for Beginners, for more insight.