Posted on Leave a comment

Fish in a bag with a jelly twist

Difficulty: Beginner
Time: 30 min
Yields: 4 soaps


If you’ve used melt and pour soap before, I’m sure you’ve come across the ‘Fish in a Bag’ soap. It’s basically clear melt and pour soap base, which has been tinted blue, with a little plastic fish, poured in a plastic bag. I’ve made these quite a few times, mostly for kid’s birthday parties and as treats, but today I wanted to do them in a slightly different way, using jelly soap.

Jelly soap is a melt and pour base, which you can purchase from Pure Nature, and is very easy to use and hugely popular with kids. My son loves jelly soap and can’t get enough of it. Jelly soap is exactly what the name suggests: a soap with a jelly like consistency. It wobbles and jiggles and is a lot of fun to play and wash with. Moreover, it’s very easy to work with and turn into fun soaps.

For this soap, you will also need four plastic fish, which are available from most $2-stores, and preferably a mold with cube cavities, although you could use any other shape as well. You will also need 99% isopropyl alcohol and some blue mica. I used Blue Lustre mica from Pure Nature, which is one of my favourite blue micas.

ONE: Estimate how much jelly soap you need. I usually eyeball it, but if you know the volume of the cavities, you can measure it out. If you are using a similar mold as I am – Pure Nature has the 25 cube cavity mold equivalent of mine, which is only a 9 cube cavity – you will need 500 g of jelly soap to fill 4 cavities. Cut the jelly soap into small cubes and place in a heat-proof pyrex jug.

TWO: On a low setting on the microwave, melt the jelly soap. The low setting is crucial. If you have the setting too high, you will risk boiling the soap, which not only leads to overflowing of the soap, but also creates lots of bubbles that are hard to get rid of in the viscous jelly fluid. On my microwave, I use the second to lowest setting, just one up from the defrost setting, and it takes about 10-15 minutes to melt. I take the jug out every 3-5 minutes or so, and give a careful stir, trying not to create any more bubbles, and that’s how I can keep an eye out on how far it is with the melting.

THREE: While the soap is melting in the microwave, measure out 10 ml of 99% isopropyl alcohol in a little container and add 1/8 of a teaspoon of the Blue Lustre mica. Give it a quick stir. I’m using alcohol here, because it will disperse the mica evenly throughout the melt and pour base and, at the same time, the heat of the melted soap will evaporate the alcohol, leaving only the mica behind. It’s a quick fail-proof method of adding mica to melt and pour bases!

FOUR: Once your jelly soap is melted to a thick viscous liquid, measure out and add your fragrance to the soap, and stir well. I’m using 8 ml of Coconut Lime soap fragrance from Pure Nature, which is a nice fresh fragrance and well-liked by kids (and adults). Other popular kids fragrances are pink grapefruit essential oil or a watermelon fragrance. Make sure that the fragrance you are using is a skin-safe (cosmetic approved) fragrance.

FIVE: Add the mica/alcohol mixture and give it a good stir. You might want to pop your soap back in the microwave again for a minute or so, if a skin has begun to form.

You will have to work quickly from now on and be careful, the soap is VERY HOT AND STICKY!

SIX: Pour the soap evenly into 4 cavities of the soap mold and spray with 99% isopropyl alcohol to get rid of the bubbles. Although, some people have said that the bubbles add to the effect in this soap, so it’s up to you if you want them there or not!

SEVEN: With a toothpick or skewer, push a little plastic fish into the centre of the soap. You might have to break through the skin of the soap, if it has begun to form. The soap should be thick enough for the fish to stay in place. If not, use the toothpick to hold it in place and use a new one for the next fish.

EIGHT: Leave the soaps to cool down for several hours before carefully removing them from the mold. Because jelly soap is a melt and pour base, containing a higher amount of glycerin than cold process soap, you will need to wrap the soaps in glad wrap (cling foil) to store.

Please note that this soap has a small toy embedded in it, so it is not suitable for babies and small toddlers – CHOKING HAZARD!

Fish in a bag with a jelly twist

  • Difficulty: beginners
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 500 g jelly  soap base
  • 8 ml Coconut Lime fragrance
  • Blue Lustre mica
  • 4 plastic toy fish
  • 99% isopropyl alcohol

Directions

  1. Cut 500 g of jelly soap base into small cubes and place into a Pyrex jug.
  2. On a low setting, melt the soap in the microwave, careful not to bring it to boil.
  3. In a separate small container add 10 ml of 99% isopropyl alcohol and mix in 1/8 of mica. Mix well.
  4. When the soap has melted, add fragrance and stir.
  5. Add the alcohol/mica mixture and stir until all the colour has evenly dispersed throughout the soap. If necessary, place the soap back into the microwave to melt again.
  6. Pour the soap evenly into 4 cavities of the soap mold.
  7. Using a toothpick, carefully push in the plastic fish until it is completely submerged.
  8. Let the soap cool down completely before removing from the mold. Store the soap in a plastic bag or wrap in Gladwrap.

Posted on 5 Comments

Lakes and FD&C colours

FD&C is an American labelling standard, which stands for Food, Drugs and Cosmetic.  FD&C dyes have gone through rigorous testing, which makes them safe for use in foods and cosmetics, however, they are artificially made (not natural) and I will leave it up to you to decide if they are healthy or not. The main difference between the FD&C dyes and lakes, is that the FD&C dyes are soluble in water and that the lakes are produced from the FD&C dyes and an aluminium salt, which makes the lake oil-dispersible (but not oil-soluble), meaning it can be mixed with oil.

For the following tests, I used lakes from Pure Nature, which are available for $5 for 10 g. These are strong colourants and they will last you for quite a while. Although, I don’t recommend them for cold process soap, you can still use them in other products, such as lotions, bath bombs and melt and pour soaps.

Pure Nature has the following lakes available:

They are all non-toxic, and approved for food and cosmetic use.

Cold process soap

As mentioned earlier, lakes are best dispersed in oil, and will not dissolve in water. However, I tested the lakes mixed with both water and oil, and the results were the same. Just make sure you give the bottle with water a good shake before each use. The usage rate for lakes in cold process soap is 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon of colour, mixed with 1 tablespoon oil, per 500 g of soap. I used 1/4 teaspoon per 500 g soap in the tests.

You can see in the picture above, that the lakes don’t always perform in cold process soap. The blue lake turned into purple shade after gelling, before gelling it was a greyish shade and the red was orange. The reason for this is that the FD&C dyes don’t like the high pH environment during the soap making process. This is the same reason why food colouring doesn’t work in cold process soap making and some micas can give you funny results. The only lakes that seem to stay true to their colours are yellow and orange, and red only after gelling,  which doesn’t leave you with a lot of options for colour mixing.

Melt and pour soap

Melt and pour bases are finished soap bases to which you only add colour and fragrance. That means that you can’t add extra water or oil to the bases. You also can’t add the powder directly to the soap, because it will leave speckles in your soap.

Pre-mixing the lakes in glycerin, on the other hand, will give you bright, even colours throughout your soap. The colours will stay true, because there is no saponification like in cold process soap, and they are very easy to blend.

The only problem you might come across is when you didn’t mix the colour properly into the glycerin. In this case, you will get speckles at the bottom of the soap. Always mix well and shake bottle before use!

Bath bombs

Lakes are often used to colour bath bombs, because, as powders, they are easy to mix into the dry ingredients and result in brightly coloured bath bombs. To use the lakes, add a pinch of colour to your finished bath bomb mixture. Only add only a tiny amount at a time because they are quite strong in colour. Keep adding until you reach the colour you desire. To achieve the colours in the pictures below, I added 0.3g (two 0.15CC scoops) to 1 cup of bath bomb mixture. As I said, you only need a very tiny amount!



However, using the lakes in powder form will leave the bath bombs speckled, because the colours don’t blend with the other ingredients (remember: not water-soluble). An alternative option is to pre-mix the lakes with glycerin. Glycerin won’t make your bath bombs fizz and it will blend the bath bombs more evenly. Another advantage of pre-mixing the lake with the glycerin is that you can store it for up to a year without having to add a preservative to it.

The colours are a lot more evenly dispersed through the bath bomb, and they mix better than in powder form, as shown in the picture below.

So to summarise, lakes are great for melt and pour bases and bath bombs, as long as you pre-mix them with glycerin. For cold process soap, you have to be aware that they can morph colours and that there are better alternatives out there for cold process soap.

Posted on Leave a comment

Which soap molds can I use?

IMG_3926

First off, I know I’m spelling soap molds wrong. I’m spelling it the American way, because I don’t like ‘mould’ in, on, around or to describe any of my products. Mould is icky, which  I try to avoid at all cost. So if I ever do write mould, then you know that I really mean the stuff that is unwanted. In the meantime, mold equates to something good, like soap molds. Yes, I know, I’m weird that way sometimes!

So let’s get back to the soap molds. When you make soap you need to take in account the technique you’re using. For example, raw cold process soap has a high pH and the chemical process can make the soap reach a very hot temperature. Also you need to be able to remove the soap, so the soap needs to be a bit flexible. For these reasons, you need to keep clear of any metal or glass molds when using the cold process technique.

On the other hand, if you are using a melt and pour base, you don’t have to be as careful. Glass is still not recommended, because glass is solid and doesn’t give way, which makes it difficult to remove the soap. Small metal molds, for example the ones they used to use in baking, can be used. Just gently tap the mold on the table and it should slide out. If a soap does get stuck in a mold, you can pop the soap in the freezer for about 15-30 minutes and  it should come out easy after that.

The best molds to use are made of plastic or silicon. In recent years, silicon has seen a popularity boost both cooking and crafts, and they have come down in price considerably. They’re also available in all shapes and sizes and you can find them in shops like the Warehouse, Briscoes, and your supermarket. If you like more specialised molds, check out the soap making suppliers here in New Zealand like Pure Nature and Go Native, or have a look on Trade Me.

You can also make your own wooden soap box for making loaves of soaps, which you can then cut into even bars. Be aware that if you do use wood, you will need to line your box with baking paper, to prevent the soap from sticking to the wood. The advantage of using baking paper, is that you can easily lift the soap out of your box, when it has hardened.

But you don’t need to spend money on molds. You can re-use or recycle containers and pots, such as custard cartons and yoghurt pots. I like using my 500ml Campbell’s Soup cartons (and no the soap does not smell like soup afterwards!). I’ve made some pretty soaps using these cartons.

IMG_3962


Where you can buy soap molds

  • The Warehouse has various silicon muffin and cupcake trays, as well as silicon ice cube trays that can be used.
  • Many supermarkets also have limited stock of silicon muffin trays, but they also have small plastic storage containers, such as those from Gladwrap or Pam’s. I use these in my soap workshops. The 700 ml Gladwrap container will give you 4 well-sized bars of soap.
  • Spotlight has plastic chocolate molds that you can use for soap making.
  • Go Native has a range of special silicon molds for soap making.
  • Aussie Soap Supplies also has large range of soap molds, both heavy duty plastic and silicon. However, they do have a minimum order of AU$100 and charge and extra AU$15 handling fee for international orders.
  • If you are making larger batches of soap, you might want to check out Hawthorn Bay, also located in Australia. They have large soap boxes with reusable liner and acrylic dividers, which can make 42 bars of soap at a time.
Posted on 4 Comments

Basic melt and pour soap tutorial

Difficulty: Beginner
Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 6 soaps

img_4031
Melt & pour soaps

Melt and pour soap is basically melting a pre-made soap base and then pouring it into a soap mold, hence the name! Although some soapers consider using this method as ‘cheating’, I find that there are some techniques where melt and pour is the more suitable soap than cold process soap. For example, where a design asks for clear cut straight lines or when you are using molds with intricate designs. More on soap molds, check out this post here.

IMG_3936

In addition, melt and pour soap also comes as a clear soap base (also known as glycerin soap), which is an advanced soap making technique if you want to do this yourself. In the past few years, many kinds of melt and pour soap bases have become available, such as goats milk, olive oil, shea butter, honey, and even a wobbly jelly-like soap base! Personally, I like using melt and pour soap bases because you can create some pretty cool soaps with it, plus your soap is ready to use as soon as it sets. Great for last minute gifts!

IMG_3938

The technique of melting and pouring the pre-made soap is very simple. Cut up the required amount of melt and pour soap base into small cubes and place them in a heat proof glass jug (i.e. Pyrex, available at supermarkets, Briscoes or the Warehouse). In short bursts of no more than 20-30 seconds each, melt the soap in your microwave. Be careful your soap does not boil! If you don’t have a microwave, you can melt the soap on the stove using the double boiler method (placing one smaller pot inside a bigger pot of water).

IMG_3939

Once your soap has melted, add your fragrance and colour and give it a good stir. You can use essential oils or skin-friendly fragrances. To colour your soap, you can  use special soap dyes or powders, micas, or liquid food colouring. Note that colours added to a white soap base will become pastel coloured. To achieve bright vivid colours, you will need to use a clear soap base. And if you find your soap has hardened in the meantime, just pop it back into the microwave again for another 20 seconds.

IMG_3941

Carefully pour the soap into your soap mold. If there are any bubbles on the surface, you can disperse them by spritzing some isopropyl alcohol (available from pharmacies) on it. Leave the soap to harden fully before removing from the mold.

IMG_3942

Because melt and pour soap contains glycerin, a humectant, which attracts moisture, it is important to wrap your soaps in glad wrap as soon as they have cooled down and hardened. Especially here in New Zealand when it can be very humid, you’ll find beads of water on the surface of your soap if you leave them unwrapped.

Basic Melt and Pour Soap

  • Difficulty: beginners
  • Print

Ingredients

  • enough melt and pour soap base to fill your soap mold
  • food colouring of your choice
  • essential oil or fragrance of your choice
  • spray bottle with isopropyl alcohol
  • heat proof glass jug (i.e. Pyrex)
  • silicon or plastic soap mold

Directions

  1. Cut up the soap base in small cubes and add them to the heat proof glass jug.
  2. In short 20-30 second bursts, melt the soap base in your microwave on your highest setting.
  3. Once the soap is completely melted, add your fragrance and colour and mix well. If you find the soap has hardened again, just pop it back in the microwave for another 20 seconds.
  4. Carefully pour the soap into your soap mold and let it harden before removing the soaps from the molds.
  5. Don’t forget to wrap the soaps in glad wrap once the soaps have cooled down completely!

Where to get your supplies from