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Northern lights soap

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 1/2 hrs
Yields: 1200 g soap or 10 bars

Northern Lights

One thing I do miss from living in Europe is the dark, cold, clear winter nights. I was never lucky enough to be far enough up north to see the northern lights, the one time I did go was in summer, but I can imagine what an astonishing sight it must be.

This soap uses a variety of colourants to recreate the Northern Lights. I’m using activated charcoal for the black background, blue and yellow soap pigments for the green and blue light, and blue glow in the dark pigment for the light glow. And the soap really does glow in the dark with a beautiful blue glow! The glow in the dark pigments from Pure Nature are classed as skin-safe and are as such safe to use in soaps, and work both in melt and pour soap bases as well as cold process soap making. The soap mold I’m using for this soap is the silicon loaf mold with wooden support box available from Pure Nature.

The colour technique I’m using in this soap is a simple layering technique, where you scoop the coloured soap alternating into the mold in a random fashion.

If you have never made cold-process soap before, I strongly suggest you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first.

Before starting, please read the safety and precautions post, especially since this tutorial requires the handling of caustic soda!

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COLOUR PREPARATION

Prepare the blue and yellow granulated soap pigments as outlined here. I like having my three main colours (red, yellow, blue) already pre-mixed and I keep them in the fridge for storage, so that when I need them, they’re already prepared and ready for use.

In a small container, mix 1 teaspoon of blue glow in the dark pigment with 1 teaspoon of water.

Set the colours, glow in the dark mixture and the activated charcoal aside, ready for use later.

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ONE: To prepare the lye, first measure out the water in a heat proof Pyrex jug. Then, in a separate container (I use a little plastic cup for this), weigh out the caustic soda. Make sure you are wearing protective goggles and gloves. Carefully, add the caustic soda to the water (NEVER THE OTHER WAY ROUND!), and avoiding any splashes, stir until the lye water is clear. Add two teaspoons of sodium lactate, which will help harden the soap and set aside to cool.

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TWO: In a separate large Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil, and heat in the microwave on high for 1 minute or until it has completely melted.

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THREE: Weigh out the olive oil, rice bran oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil , and give it a quick stir. Set aside until the lye has cooled down to room temperature. You will want to make sure that you are soaping at no more than 30 degrees, so that you can slow down the thickening of the soap while you are putting the soap together.

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FOUR: Make sure you are still wearing your goggles and gloves. Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, carefully add it to the oils and then using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified (does not separate).

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FIVE: Add the fragrance and using a stick blender, give it another quick pulse to mix the fragrance into the soap, but make sure you keep the soap at light trace (fluid consistency). Because we’re doing colour work, you want to prevent the soap from thickening too soon.

The fragrance I’m using is called Garden Mint from Candlescience Fragrances. It’s a beautiful fresh, clear fragrance but with a rounded, slightly floral base to it. I think it matches Northern Lights perfectly! 30 ml (1 oz) of fragrance is sufficient for this soap, because mints can quickly become too overpowering, and I wanted a subtle fragrance in this soap.

SIX: Next, pour about 1 cup each into three different containers (I’m using my small Pyrex jugs for this), leaving approximately 3 cups in the main soap pot.

To the main pot with about 3 cups of soap in it, add 1 tablespoon of activated charcoal and 1 tablespoon of water, and give it a good stir until the charcoal and water is well incorporated into the soap. The reason we also add a tablespoon of water to this soap is to off-set the extra water the other 3 parts will have added to it, and prevent an unequal water balance in the soap. This will help avoid glycerin rivers.

To one of the remaining containers or jugs with 1 cup of soap, add 1 teaspoon of blue soap pigment solution. To the other container, add approximately 3/4 yellow soap pigment solution and 1/2 teaspoon blue soap pigment solution. And to the last container, add the pre-mixed glow in the dark and water mixture. Give all three containers a good stir to blend in the colour.

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SEVEN: You should now have 4 colours, approximately

  • 3 cups of black soap
  • 1 cup of blue soap
  • 1 cup of green soap
  • 1 cup of glow in the dark soap

EIGHT: First, pour or scoop a layer of black soap into your soap mold and then start putting your soap together, by alternately scooping the different coloured soap into your mold. Layer the colours both over each other and next to each other, in a random fashion, making sure you buffer sufficient black soaps between the coloured layers. Keep scooping until you have used up all the soap.

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NINE: Drizzle the last few bits of soap over the surface, and then using a chop stick swirl the surface of the soap. Spritz with 99% isopropyl alcohol to prevent soda ash from forming on the surface. Place the soap somewhere warm and dry, but out of direct sunlight, to cure. I like using the hot water cupboard to cure my soap, which is the driest spot in our house. But when the weather warms up in summer and becomes terribly humid (especially January and February), I move my soaps into our hallway with a dehumidifier right next to them. Even cold process soaps can sweat in extreme humid weather!

TEN: After 2 or 3 days, check if the soap has hardened and isn’t sticky and soft anymore. Carefully unmold, and leave to dry out for another couple of days before cutting it into bars. The bars of soap will need a further 8 weeks to cure before they are ready for use.

Northern lights

  • Difficulty: intermediate
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Before starting, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, free from any distractions!

Ingredients

  • 500g olive oil
  • 250g coconut oil
  • 200g rice bran oil
  • 50g castor oil
  • 136g caustic soda
  • 250 ml water
  • 2 teaspoons sodium lactate
  • 30 ml garden mint fragrance from Candlescience Fragrances
  • 1 tablespoon activated charcoal
  • blue and yellow granulated soap pigment
  • 1 teaspoon blue glow in the dark soap pigment

Directions

COLOUR PREPARATION

Prepare the blue and yellow granulated soap pigments as outlined here. Mix 1 teaspoon of blue glow in the dark pigment with 1 teaspoon of water. Set colours and activated charcoal aside, ready for use later.

  1. Measure out 250 ml of water into a heat proof Pyrex jug. Weigh out the caustic soda and carefully add it to the water, avoiding any splashes. Gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved and the lye water is clear.
  2. Add 2 teaspoon of sodium lactate to the lye water. Set the lye aside to cool down.
  3. In a large heat proof Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil. Heat in microwave (if Pyrex jug) or stove (if pot) until all the oil has completely melted.
  4. Add the olive oil, rice bran oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil, and give it a quick stir.
  5. Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are still wearing protective goggles and gloves, carefully add the lye to the oils.
  6. Using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified.
  7. Add the fragrance and give it another quick pulse with the stick blender to mix in the fragrance. Make sure the soap remains fairly fluid (at thin trace)!
  8. Pour approximately 1 cup of soap into three separate containers, leaving roughly 3 cups of soap in the main pot. You should have 4 containers with soap in total!
  9. To the main pot with 3 cups of soap, add 1 tablespoon of activated charcoal and 1 tablespoon of water and stir well to incorporate the charcoal evenly into the soap.
  10. To the three containers containing 1 cup of soap each, add colourants as follows, and stir each pot until the colour is evenly distributed throughout the soap:
    1. 1 teaspoon of blue pigment solution
    2. 3/4 teaspoon of yellow and 1/2 teaspoon of blue pigment solution
    3. all of the prepared glow in the dark mixture
  11. Pour or scoop a layer of black soap into the soap mold.
  12. Then alternating colours, scoop the soap into the mold, layering them over each other and next to each other in random fashion, until all the soap has been used up.
  13. Drizzle the last remaining soap on the surface, and using a chopstick swirl the surface of the soap, and spritz with 99% isopropyl alcohol.
  14. Leave the soap to cure for several days.
  15. After 2-3 days, check if the soap is firm enough to unmold. Remove from mold and leave to dry for another couple of days, before cutting into bars. The bars will need further curing for about 8 weeks until ready for use.

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Coffee soap

Difficulty: intermediate
Time: 1 hour
Yields: Approximately 1200 g soap (10 bars)

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Here in New Zealand, we drink our coffee as a flat white, which is one shot espresso with steamed milk. I tried to recreate our beloved flat white in this soap using Espresso Fragrance and coffee grounds, and layering and swirling the soap to give it the appearance of pouring the steamed milk into the coffee.

Most coffee fragrances will turn your soap brown due to the vanillin component in the fragrance. The fragrance I’m using in this soap is the Fresh Coffee fragrance from Candlescience, available from Pure Nature, which discolours to a caramel colour. To prevent the whole soap becoming one colour, there are three different layers in this soap:

Layer 1: unscented, which will remain creamy white
Layer 2: scented, which will turn caramel
Layer 3: scented with added coffee grounds, which will be slightly darker than layer 2

This kind of layering technique is a particular useful method for fragrances that cause discolouration and when you want to keep part of the soap white. However, be aware that the fragrance ‘travels’ through the soap and the lines between the scented and unscented layers will become more diffuse over time as the fragrance moves into the unscented layer. Even so, it will never become the same darker colour as the scented layer.

If you have never made cold-process soap before, I strongly suggest you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first.

Before starting, please read the safety and precautions post, especially since this tutorial requires the handling of caustic soda!

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ONE: To prepare your lye, add 250ml water in a small pyrex or other heat proof glass jug, and weigh out the caustic soda in a separate small container. Then, carefully, add the caustic soda to the water and gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved. Set aside.

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TWO: Weigh out the coconut oil and cocoa butter in a large, heat proof Pyrex jug, and heat it in the microwave until they have melted. Weigh out and add the liquid oils.

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THREE: Make sure you are still wearing protective goggles and gloves. Then, when the lye and oils have cooled down to room temperature, add the lye to the oils and give it a good stir with a whisk until the soap mixture has emulsified. Don’t use a stick blender, because we don’t want the soap mixture to become too thick to work with and the fragrance that will be added later will slightly accelerate (thicken) the soap additionally.

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FOUR: Separate approximately a quarter, around 250-300 ml, of the soap mixture into a separate container or jug. This portion will remain unscented, so that it will stay white.

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FIVE: To the remaining soap, add the fragrance and give it another good stir.

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SIX: Again, separate around 250-300 ml of soap into a second container. Because this portion has been scented, it will turn a caramel colour.

You should have about half of the soap left in the jug, around 500 ml. Don’t worry if it’s a bit more or less.

SEVEN: Add the coffee grounds to the remaining soap mixture and give it a good stir.  I used one teaspoon of unused coffee grounds. This portion of the soap will be the darkest colour due to the coffee grounds. If you wish for an even more darker colour, soak the coffee grounds in one teaspoon of water before adding it to the soap. The water will turn a dark brown from the coffee, which will colour the soap.

You should now have three portions in three different jugs/containers: two smaller portions, one unscented and one scented, and a bigger portion (about half of the soap mixture), which is scented and contains coffee grounds.

EIGHT: To assemble the soap, pour the layers on top of each other, adding more of the scented, coffee grounds portion, and only one layer of white soap in the middle of the soap. Leave about a third of the white soap to use later.

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NINE: This part it optional, but I like the broken, discontinued layer effect it created in the soap. Using a hanger tool, move it up and down along the length of the soap several times.

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TEN: Once you have swirled the soap, spoon the remainder of the white, unscented soap on top, and with the spatula or spoon, fluff the soap a bit to create peaks of soap. Sprinkle some coffee grounds over the top. I had wet hands, so my coffee grounds got a little wet and clumped together when I tried to sprinkle it over the soap.

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ELEVEN: Leave the soap to harden for a few days before unmolding and cutting it into bars. Cure the bars for another 6-8 weeks before using.

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Flat white soap

  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print
Before starting, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, free from any distractions!

Ingredients

  • 400 g olive oil
  • 250 g coconut oil
  • 200 g rice bran oil
  • 100 g cocoa butter
  • 50 g castor oil
  • 137 g caustic soda
  • 250 ml water
  • 40 ml Fresh Coffee fragrance
  • 1 teaspoon ground coffee

Directions

  1. Prepare your lye: carefully add the caustic soda to the water and stir gently until all the caustic soda has dissolved. Set aside.
  2. Weigh out the coconut oil and cocoa butter in a heat proof pyrex jug and heat in the microwave until completely melted.
  3. Weigh out and add the liquid oils to the melted coconut oil and cocoa butter. Set aside.
  4. When both the lye and oils have cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are still wearing protective goggles and gloves, add the lye carefully to the oils, avoiding any splashes.
  5. Using only a whisk, stir the lye/oil mixture until it has emulsified.
  6. Separate around 250 ml of the soap mixture in a separate container.
  7. Add the fragrance to the remaining soap and give it a good stir.
  8. Separate around 250 ml of the scented soap mixture into a second container.
  9. To the remaining soap, which should be around 500 ml, add 1 teaspoon of coffee grounds and stir. You should now have 3 portions of soap in 3 separate jugs/containers: 1 unscented, 2 scented, 3 scented and with coffee grounds.
  10. Layer the soap into the soap mold, using more of the scented, coffee grounds portion and leaving around 1/3 of the unscented soap for later use.
  11. Optional: use a hanger tool to break up the layers by moving it up and down along the length of the soap several times.
  12. Scoop the remainder of the white, unscented soap on top and fluff it up to create peaks. Sprinkle some coffee grounds over the top.
  13. Leave to harden for several days before unmolding and cutting into bars. Let the bars cure for another 6-8 weeks before using.

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Ocean Waves Soap

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hr 30 mins
Yields: 500 g soap

There’s something about waves in the ocean that fascinate me. You can have the most stormy weather and waves crashing about on the surface of the ocean, but go deeper and you’ll find yourself surrounded by the still and calm of the ocean, blissfully unaware of the tempest raging above. I wanted to recreate this in a soap, with the movement of the waves on the surface and just deep blue in the lower part of the soap. The technique I used is simple layering, with a bit of mica dusting between the layers. I created the wave movement with swirling, using my chopstick.

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The micas I used for the blue layers in the soap are Blue Lustre and Iridescent Blue from Pure Nature. I also used a bronze mica for dusting between the layers, and a silver mica for mica swirling on the top of the soap.

If you have never made cold-process soap before, I strongly suggest you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first.

Before starting, please read the safety and precautions post, especially since this tutorial requires the handling of caustic soda!

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ONE: First, prepare your lye. Weigh out the caustic soda in a small container. Measure the water in a small pyrex or other heat proof glass jug. Then carefully add the caustic soda to the water and gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved. Stir in one teaspoon of sodium lactate. Sodium lactate is a naturally derived salt, which I use to make the soap harder. Set the lye aside to cool down in a safe place, while you prepare the other ingredients.

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TWO: Take two small containers. To one container add 1/4 teaspoon of Blue Lustre mica, and to the other add 1/4 teaspoon of Iridescent Blue mica. Add 10 ml of a light weight oil, such as rice bran oil or sweet almond oil, to each container. Stir well to mix the mica and the oil.

THREE: Measure out 20 ml of fragrance, ready for when you need it. I’m using Ocean Breeze here – a lovely, fresh uni-sex fragrance with a bit of a floral, musky undertone.

Next, it’s time to get the oils ready.

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FOUR: Weigh out olive oil and castor oil in a large pyrex jug or pot, and then check if the lye has cooled down to room temperature.

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FIVE: Once your lye has cooled down sufficiently (feels cold to touch), you can carefully add it to your oils, avoiding splashes. Make sure you are wearing protective gloves and goggles! Give the mixture a few quick pulses with a stick blender until you reach thin trace.

SIX: Add your fragrance and give it another stir. The fragrance can cause the soap to accelerate (thicken), so work quickly from here on.

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SEVEN: Divide the soap up evenly in three containers. There will be roughly 175 ml of soap in each container. The containers I’m using here are cheap ones I got from the Warehouse, and although the writing is slowly coming off from use, they’re very handy for doing colour work.

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EIGHT: Take the two small containers with the mica/oil mixtures and give each of them another quick stir. Add each colour to one of the soap containers, and mix well, so that all the colour is evenly dispersed throughout the soap. The third container will be left uncoloured.

Next, we’ll be putting together the soap.

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NINE: First pour the darker of the two blue soaps. That will be the one you coloured with the Iridescent Blue mica. Give it a few taps on the bench to even out the surface and to release any air bubbles within the soap.

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Next, sprinkle some bronze mica over the layer and gently blow on it to spread it over the whole surface of the soap. Be careful, this can get very messy! Don’t worry if it doesn’t spread evenly and you have the odd spot with a bit more mica. This will just add to the effect!

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TEN: Carefully pour or spoon the uncoloured soap over the mica covered layer. Try not to move it too much as not to mix the mica into your white soap. Leave a little white for later use. And again dust the white layer with bronze mica and blow on it to spread it over the whole surface.

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ELEVEN: Add the last layer, the Blue Lustre mica coloured soap. And again, work carefully as not to disturb the mica layer and mix it into the soap.

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TWELVE: Using your spatula, scrape out any remainder soap in your containers and add it to the surface of your soap.

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THIRTEEN: If you haven’t already, mix one teaspoon of a silver coloured mica into 10 ml of lightweight oil, such as rice bran oil. Give it a good stir.

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FOURTEEN: Drip the mica/oil slurry over your soap. It’s ok if you have puddles like I have, as you can see in the photo below. We’ll be mixing it partly into the soap.

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FIFTEEN: Using your chopstick, swirl the surface of the soap. To create a semblance of waves, I lifted and pulled the soap out with my chopstick in a kind of vertical circular motion.

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SIXTEEN: Leave to cure in the mold for a couple of days. Then carefully remove the soap from the mold and let it harden for another few days, before cutting it into bars. Let the bars cure for 6-8 weeks.

Ocean Waves Soap

  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print
Before starting, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, free from any distractions!

Ingredients

  • 375 g olive oil
  • 25 g castor oil
  • 50 g caustic soda
  • 100 ml water
  • 1 teaspoon sodium lactate
  • Blue Lustre mica
  • Iridescent Blue mica
  • bronze coloured mica
  • silver coloured mica
  • Ocean Breeze fragrance
  • rice bran oil or other light weight oil

Directions

  1. Prepare your lye: carefully add the caustic soda to the water and stir gently until all the caustic soda has dissolved. Add one teaspoon of sodium lactate. Set aside to cool.
  2. Prepare your colours: add 5 ml rice bran oil to two small containers. To the first, add 1 teaspoon of Blue Lustre mica, and to the second, add 1 teaspoon Iridescent Blue mica. Mix each container well.
  3. Measure out your fragrance and set aside.
  4. Weigh out the oils in a large pyrex jug or pot.
  5. Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, carefully add it to the oils and using a whisk, stir briskly until you reach thin trace.
  6. Add the fragrance oil, and stir again using the whisk.
  7. Divide the soap evenly into three containers.
  8. To one of the containers add the Blue Lustre mica/oil mixture and to another container add the Iridescent Blue mica/oil mixture. Mix the two containers well to disperse the colour throughout the soap. Leave the third container uncoloured.
  9. Pour the darker of the blue (Iridescent Blue) soaps into the mold, and tap gently to release any air bubbles in the soap.
  10. Sprinkle some bronze mica over the layer of the soap and gently blow on it. Make sure the whole surface is covered with bronze coloured mica.
  11. Next, carefully spoon the uncoloured soap over the mica, trying not the mix the mica into the soap. Tap gently to even the soap.
  12. Again, sprinkle bronze mica over the layer and gently blow on it, covering the whole surface.
  13. Spoon the other blue soap over the layer. Again, try not to mix the mica into the soap.
  14. If you have any soap left in the other containers, scrape it out with a spatula and add it to the top of your soap.
  15. Mix 1/4 teaspoon of silver coloured mica in 1/2 teaspoon of rice bran oil and mix well. Drizzle over the surface of the soap.
  16. Using a chopstick, swirl the surface of the soap, making some wave impressions. Leave the soap to cure for a few days.
  17. Once the soap is firm enough, remove from the mold and let it cure for another couple of days before cutting into bars. The bars will need a further 6-8 weeks to cure.