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Soap dough (vegan, palm-free)

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 800 g soap

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There’s nothing special about soap dough, you can use any soap as soap dough. There is no secret ingredient or special technique. The trick is to NOT cure the soap, so that it stays soft. In other words, the soap doesn’t dry out and harden. However, not all soap recipes are the same, and a good soap dough is one that is soft, smooth, pliable, and not sticky. Sorcery soap has a book with 20 awesome soap dough recipes, including tallow recipes, vegan recipes, palm free recipes, and lots more. The recipe I’m giving you here is one that I use in my soap making classes, and I’ve tweaked it a little bit to make it even better.  It is vegan, and palm-free like all my recipes here!

In addition, I’ll show you a handy method to make several colours at once, without the hassle of lots of washing up to do! I’m lazy and hate washing up 😉

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For this batch, I’m using the new mica colours from Pure Nature.


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 the lye, first measure out the water in a heat proof container or 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, then, carefully, add the caustic soda to the water (NEVER THE OTHER WAY ROUND!), and avoiding any splashes, stir until the lye water is clear. Set aside to cool.

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TWO: In a separate large Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil and cocoa butter. Either heat in the microwave (if using a Pyrex jug) or on the stove (if using a pot), until the oil and butter have completely melted.

You’ll notice the recipe contains a high percentage of coconut oil and cocoa butter. This allows the soap to thicken to the right dough consistency, without having to cure it. I found that if I used too many liquid oils, the soap would be too soft to work with.

THREE: Weigh out the olive oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil and cocoa butter. Add the titanium dioxide and give the oils a good stir to disperse the titanium dioxide through the oils. Then, let the oils cool down to room temperature. This part is important. The oils need to be lower than 30 C or else you risk the soap gelling, and you want to avoid that.

The reason for adding the titanium dioxide is to make the base colour whiter, which will make the other colours brighter and more intense.

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FOUR: Now you have two options, you can either use cups or containers to mix your colours in, or what I like to do, is add the soap and the colours to zip lock bags and mix it in there. In either case, prepare your cups or your ziplock bags and have your mica colours ready (I’m adding them straight to the soap without mixing them with oil first). The recipe will make for 8 colours of about 100 g each, so you need 8 cups or 8 sandwich sized ziplock bags.

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

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SIX: Now add about 100 g of soap to each cup or ziplock bag. Don’t worry, the ziplock bags will stay put. It’s not as difficult to pour into them as it may seem. Also if you are planning on doubling the batch, make sure you use bigger ziplock bags. If you fill them too full, you risk them popping leaks when you squish them later.

SEVEN: Next add the colour to each cup or ziplock bag, and zip them up. I used 1/2 teaspoon of mica for each. It sounds a lot, but you’ll need that amount to make sure you have rich colours and not pastels. It isn’t enough colour to stain your wash cloth or hands, but could give the lather a slight tinge. However, soap dough is usually used to decorate other soaps, so the little bits of soap dough on your soap won’t have an impact on the overall soap.

Then using your hands, and sitting comfortably in front of your TV with your favourite sitcom, squish and squash the little bags to mix the colour into the soap. I did some yesterday, while waiting for my son at his trampolining course. And that did get me some curious looks and questions from the other parents! Btw great way to promote your business at the same time too!

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If you are using cups, mix the colour thoroughly into the soap and then either use plastic wrap to cover each cup airtight, or pour it into a ziplock bag. (See now you have to use ziplock bags anyway!)

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EIGHT: Leave the little bags or cups in a cool area overnight. Check the consistency the next day. It should be ready to use but will probably still be a little sticky. You can use cornflour to dust the dough to stop it sticking as you work with it, or you can leave it for about a week in your ziplock bag or an airtight container. By then the stickiness should be gone.

To work with your dough, remove as much as you need. Knead it to soften it up. Dust the tools and the surface you’re working on with cornflour to prevent the dough sticking to it. A trick I learned from a cake decorator is to add a little cornflour in a muslin bag or cloth and tie it up, and use that as a little dust stamp. To stick dough bits together, use a little water to wet the surface and that will make it stick again.

Once you’ve finished your masterpiece, you might want to spritz it with water or lightly brush it with a wetted soft paint brush, to give it shine and get rid of the powdery look.

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You can store the soap dough in your ziplock bags or an airtight container for several months or more. I’m still using some dough from last Christmas, which was more than eight months ago!

Once you added the soap dough decorations to your soap, the soap will start to harden and firm quickly.

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Soap dough

  • 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

  • 240 g olive oil
  • 200 g coconut oil
  • 120 g cocoa butter
  • 40 g castor oil
  • 80 g caustic soda
  • 180 g water
  • 1/2 t titanium dioxide
  • 8 different mica colours

Directions

  1. Add 180 g of water to a heat proof jug or container. 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. In a large heat proof Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil and cocoa butter. Heat in microwave (if Pyrex jug) or stove (if pot) until all the oil and butter have melted.
  3. Add the olive oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil and cocoa butter.
  4. Add 1/2 teaspoon titanium dioxide to the oils and give it a good stir. Set aside to cool down.
  5. In the meantime, prepare your ziplock bags. You will need 8 and make sure they’re all open.
  6. Once the lye and the oils have cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are still wearing protective goggles and gloves, carefully add the lye to the oils.
  7. Using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified to a thin trace.
  8. Pour approximately 100 g of soap into each bag.
  9. Add 1/2 teaspoon of mica to each bag and zip the bag shut, removing as much of the air as possible.
  10. With your hands, gently squish and squash the bags until the colour is thoroughly mixed into the soap.
  11. Set the bags of soap in a cool area overnight to set. They can be used immediately, though it’s better to leave them for a week before using.
  12. Keep the dough stored in the ziplock bags or an airtight container to keep the soap soft and pliable. You can store the dough for at least several months.

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Bubble bars

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 10 bars

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I love, love, love bubble bars! They’re fun, smell delicious and…. BUBBLES! Lots of bubbles! Need I say anything more?

These bubble bars are created especially with the humid climate in mind! To make them, you will need quite few ingredients, but let me assure you, it’ll be worth it! All the ingredients are available from Pure Nature, except for the corn starch, which you can get from any supermarket.

The fragrance I’m using for these bubble bars is Jamaica Me Crazy from Candlescience, a deliciously fruity tropical blend, and perfect for these fun bubble bars!

ONE: First add all your dry ingredients to the bowl: baking soda, citric acid, SLSa, kaolin powder, corn starch and cream of tartar. Be careful when adding the SLSa, which is a very fine powder. Avoid breathing it in as it can be irritating to your lungs. I will usually work outdoors and upwind when using SLSa, or alternatively, I will tie a scarf or cloth around my face to prevent breathing it in.

The baking soda and citric acid are what will create a fizz in your bath. Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (SLSa), not to be confused with the sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), adds the bubbles to your bath. It is a mild and gentle skin cleanser, and considered skin safe. Both the kaolin clay and cream of tartar add hardness to the bar, and the corn starch acts as a skin softener.

Wearing gloves, mix the dry ingredients and break up any clumps.

TWO: Add the liquid ingredients, glycerin, decyl-glucoside, polysorbate 80, coconut oil and fragrance, and knead everything together to a dough. Glycerin is the ingredient, which helps create this dough like consistency, coco-glucoside is a foam booster, and polysorbate 80 is an emulsifier, helping to mix the oils and mica into the water and preventing oil streaks on the water surface and colour rims on the bath tub.

THREE: Separate the dough into three roughly equal portions, and add 1/2 teaspoon of mica to each portion. Knead until the colour is evenly dispersed throughout the dough, which can take a little while.

The micas I’m using are from Pure Nature and are called Coral Reef (orange), Juicy Pink and Shimmer Green. They also work well in cold process soap.

FOUR: To put the loaf together, first place the green dough on a sheet of baking paper and flatten it slightly with your hand. Place the pink dough on top and flatten it out to the same size as the underlying green dough. And lastly, place the orange dough on top and again, flatten it to the size of the other two doughs.

FIVE: Place another sheet of baking paper on top and roll the dough out to a sheet of about 1-2 cm thickness. The baking paper will avoid the dough sticking to the rolling pin.

SIX: Once you have flattened the dough to the desired thickness, carefully roll it up into a log. You can see in the pictures that I am using the baking paper to help roll the dough.

Once you have rolled the dough into a log, smooth it out with your hands, and because the bottom will most likely still be sticking to the baking paper, carefully roll the log over.

SEVEN: Use a sharp knife, cut the log into 10 equal bars. Place the bars on a sheet of baking paper, and lightly flatten each bar with the palm of your hand.

EIGHT: Leave the bars to dry out overnight. Turn them over and let them dry for another day. Check their hardness, if they are still soft, you will need to let them dry for longer, turning them over each day.

Because of the high humidity here in New Zealand, bubble bars will take longer to harden than usual. It is not unusual for me to have them drying for several days up to a week.

To use them, crumble the bubble bar under running water and watch it make lots and lots of bubbles in your bath!

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Bubble bars

  • Difficulty: intermediate
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Make sure you work in a well-ventilated area!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  • 1 cup SLSa
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/4 cup kaolin clay
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon glycerin
  • 1 teaspoon decyl-glucoside
  • 1 tablespoon polysorbate 80
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 3 teaspoons fragrance
  • 1/2 teaspoon green mica
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange mica
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink mica

Directions

  1. Combine the baking soda, citric acid, SLSa, corn starch, kaolin clay and cream of tartar in a bowl, and mix it, using your hands, breaking up any clumps. Be careful of the SLSa, which is a very fine powder, and try not to breathe it in.
  2. Add the liquid ingredients (glycerin, decyl-glucoside, polysorbate 80, coconut oil, fragrance) and, still using your hands, knead it together to a dough.
  3. Separate the dough to approximately 3 equal portions.
  4. To each portion add a different colour mica, and knead well until the colour is evenly dispersed throughout the dough.
  5. Spread out a sheet of baking paper and place your green dough on it. Flatten it a little with your hand. Place the pink dough on top and flatten it out to the size of the green. Lastly, add the orange dough and flatten that out as well to match the other two.
  6. Place another sheet of baking paper over the dough, and using a rolling pin, roll it to a fairly thin rectangle sheet, approximately 1-2 cm thick. The baking paper will help avoid the dough sticking to the rolling pin.
  7. Carefully roll up the sheet of dough into a log.
  8. Using a knife, cut the log into bars. Place the bars on to a sheet of baking paper and gently flatten them a little with the palm of your hand.
  9. Leave the bars to dry overnight, then carefully turn them over and dry them for another day. Check if they are solid enough. If not, let them dry for another few days, keep turning them each day.

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Holly Berry soap

Difficulty: Advanced
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 1000 g soap or 10 bars

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Holly Berry fragrance from Candlescience is known for seizing, but the fragrance has such a lovely delicious Christmas scent, that I really wanted to give this a try and I wasn’t disappointed. This is probably my favourite Christmas soap!

I’ve rated this tutorial as ‘advanced’, but there are several ways you can make it easier for you:

  1. use a different fragrance that you known won’t accelerate or seize, for example Mistletoe from Candlescience
  2. leave out the mica lines
  3. make sure you soap at low temperatures (room temperature)
  4. have everything prepared
  5. and work fast! Very fast!

The mold I used for this soap is the silicon loaf mold  with wooden support box from Pure Nature, which holds approximately 1200 g of soap.

There is a preparation part, which you should do about a week before. A good tip is to do a preparation session for Christmas, where you make a batch of soap and use that to make all your embeds, cut outs, etc.

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!

PREPARATION: You can either take the leftover soap in the pot from an earlier batch and wrap it in a little glad wrap so that it will cure but not harden. Or I used cut-offs from a soap, which I placed in a little plastic bag to keep soft. A couple of days later, I formed them into little balls with my hands. The soap was cured by then, so using my bare hands was fine. If you are worried, or have sensitive hands, wearing disposable gloves works just as well. I placed the little balls into a small container into which I added about 1 teaspoon of red wine mica. And then just swirl the container around, until all the balls are covered in mica. You will need approximately 30 little balls.

Note there are both large and smaller balls, the larger ones I’m using for this tutorial. The smaller ones will be for a later tutorial.

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Preparation is the key to this soap. So make sure you have all the equipment and ingredients all laid out and prepared before you start.

COLOUR PREPARATION: You will need two little containers. To one container add and mix 1 teaspoon of lightweight oil and 1/2 teaspoon of irradiant white mica. To the second container add 1 teaspoon of lightweight oil and 1/2 teaspoon of designer green mica. Also set aside 1 tablespoon of red wine mica into a little container with a small sieve utensil (see picture in STEP FIVE) ready for use.

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ONE: Prepare your lye, making sure you are wearing protective goggles and gloves, and set aside to cool. Because this soap will accelerate and/or seize, you won’t need any sodium lactate in this recipe.

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TWO: In a separate large Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the olive oil and castor oil. I am not using any hard oils in this recipe, since I know that the fragrance will accelerate and possible seize the soap,  I will need to keep the soap as fluid as long as possible. Hence using only olive oil and castor oil.

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THREE: When the lye has cooled down to room temperature, carefully add it to the oils and then, using a whisk, stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified (thin trace).

FOUR: Add the Holly Berry fragrance. I am using a stick blender here, but only for a very quick pulse to mix everything together. As you can see in the pictures, it already started to accelerate. So I suggest to just use your whisk to mix in the fragrance, if you don’t want to risk it, or to keep the stick blending to a minimum.

FIVE: Pour about one third of the soap into the soap mold and then sprinkle the red mica  over the top. The easiest way is to use a little sieve like I am using.

Pour or scoop another third of soap carefully over the soap, trying to not disturb the mica too much. You might need to use your spatula to even out the surface. Sprinkle another layer of mica over the soap.

Lastly scoop the last remaining soap into your mold and smooth it out carefully. This will probably be the most difficult part, since your soap will most likely have started to set already.

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SIX: Drizzle the white mica/oil mixture over the surface and then using a chopstick swirl and shape the surface of the soap. Because holly is a naturally prickly plant, the jagged and rough surface will accentuate this!

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SEVEN: Using the green mica/oil mixture, place some drops onto the surface and using a toothpick, stretch the colour out to make it appear like the leaves of the holly. Add two or three berries (the little red balls) to each leaf and gently push them in a little. Lastly, sprinkle a little of gold or bronze glitter on some of the white parts of the surface.

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EIGHT: Leave the soap to set and harden overnight. Soaps that seize or accelerate quickly will harden very quickly as well. The next day you should be able to unmold and cut your soaps into bars. Leave the bars of soap to cure for another 6-8 weeks.

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Noel

  • 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

  • 750g olive oil
  • 50g castor oil
  • 100g caustic soda
  • 200 ml water
  • 30 ml Holly Berry fragrance from Candlescience
  • 1/2 teaspoon irradiant white mica
  • 1/2 teaspoon designer green mica
  • roughly 1 tablespoon of red wine mica
  • 2 teaspoon of lightweight oil, i.e. rice bran oil
  • approximately 30 little ball embeds
  • gold or bronze glitter

Directions

  1. Preparation
    1. from a previous batch, use the leftover soap in the pot to form 30 little balls of about 1/2 cm diameter each
    2. add the balls to a container, into which you have added 1 tablespoon of red wine mica, and swirl until all the balls are coated with the mica
  2. Colour preparation
    1. First container: 1 teaspoon of lightweight oil and 1/2 teaspoon of irradiant white mica
    2. Second container: 1 teaspoon of lightweight oil and 1/2 teaspoon of designer green mica
  3. Measure out 200 ml of water into a heat proof Pyrex jug. Weigh out 100 g 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. Set aside to cool down.
  4. In a large Pyrex jug or pot, weigh and add 750g olive oil and 50 g castor oil.
  5. When 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 whisk, stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified.
  7. Add 30 ml Holly Berry fragrance and still using a whisk, stir until the fragrance has been well incorporated into the soap. SOAP WILL ACCELERATE AND MAY EVEN SEIZE – FROM THIS POINT ON YOU WILL HAVE TO WORK VERY FAST
  8. Pour 1/3 of the soap into the soap mold and sprinkle a layer of red wine mica over the top.
  9. Pour or scoop another 1/3 of soap into the mold, careful not to disturb the mica, and even out the surface with a spatula. Sprinkle a layer of red wine mica over the soap.
  10. Scoop the remainder of the soap into your mold and even out the surface with a spatula.
  11. Drizzle the white oil/mica mixture over the surface of the soap and, using a chopstick, swirl and shape the surface.
  12. Place drops of the green oil/mica mixture on the surface and using a toothpick stretch the drops to resemble holly leaves.
  13. Add 2-3 berries (little red soap balls) to each leaf.
  14. Sprinkle a little gold or bronze glitter into some of the white areas of the surface.
  15. Leave to harden overnight.
  16. The next day, unmold and cut into bars. Leave the bars to cure for another 6-8 weeks.

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Play dough soap

Just in time for the school  holidays, I bring you PLAY DOUGH SOAP! I’ve been asked so many times about this, and so here it is.

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There are quite a lot of recipes out there, most of them consisting of corn starch, liquid soap and a colourant, but I found many of them either didn’t have a nice consistency or they didn’t keep. I wanted to make a play dough soap that would keep and kids would love to play with.

The recipe will make about an orange sized amount of play dough. Just make several lots and colour each a different colour, like I did.

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ONE: Measure out 1/2 cup of corn starch or wheat starch. I’m using wheat starch here, but corn starch will work as well. I didn’t add any tapioca starch, as some recipes have, because to in order for it to make the play dough consistency smooth, you’d have to dissolve it in water, and then you’d need to use a preservative. Adding it straight to the mix, without dissolving it first, would have given the consistency a sandy texture. So to keep it smooth, no tapioca starch.

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TWO: Add 2 tablespoons of liquid bubble bath base, which I purchased from Pure Nature. I wanted to use something that would produce a bubbly lather, and I found that using normal liquid soap only produced few bubbles. The bubble bath base is unscented and uncoloured, so you can use it to make a whole rainbow of different coloured and scented bubble bath with it!

THREE: Add 1 teaspoon of a light weight vegetable oil, such as sweet almond oil or rice bran oil. I used sunflower oil here. Any vegetable oil will do.

FOUR: Add 1 teaspoon of glycerin. I’m using glycerin for two reasons. The first is because glycerin is a humectant, which means it draws moisture. This will help prevent it drying out too quickly. Secondly, glycerin also helps with the consistency of the play dough. Though, using too much of it, will make it sticky!

FIVE: Add your fragrance. Use no more than 2-3 ml of fragrance or essential oil. For kids I like using fresh and fruity scents such as watermelon fragrance, pink grapefruit or sweet orange essential oils, or you can use calming lavender essential oil. A favourite combination of mine is lavender and mandarin essential oil.

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SIX: Knead all your ingredients together. At the beginning, you’ll find it will be very sticky, but as you continue to knead, the consistency will become smoother and more like play dough.

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SEVEN: To colour the soap, I used mica, which will also add a little sparkle to the soap. The micas I used are Silken Violet, Coral Reef, Juicy Pink, and Shimmer Green from Pure Nature. I added about 1/8 of a teaspoon of mica to get the colour in the picture.

EIGHT: Carefully knead the colour into the dough, and continue kneading until the dough is evenly coloured.

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NINE: At this stage, I found that the dough would often become a bit crumbly, so I added another teaspoon of glycerin and kneaded some more. The extra glycerin also helped keep the dough smooth and pliable after storing.

TEN: Store the play dough soap in a plastic bag or container to avoid drying out. You’ll find that after a while of  not being used, the play dough might be a bit crumbly. Try kneading it first, because I found that helped get it to the pliable consistency again. If it is still too dry, add a little glycerin to it. Btw did you know that you can use glycerin to revive old (store bought) Play Doh as well? Just a little tip!

If you haven’t used any preservative, make sure you store the play dough soap in the fridge. And instead of giving the kids the whole lot to play at once, just take a bit from each colour and leave the remainder in the fridge until next time!

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Play dough soap

  • Difficulty: beginners
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup corn starch or wheat starch
  • 2 tablespoons liquid bubble bath base
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, such as sunflower oil
  • 2 teaspoons glycerin
  • fragrance
  • mica colourants
  • preservative (optional)

Directions

  1. Add 1/2 cup of corn starch or wheat starch into a bowl.
  2. Measure out and add all the wet ingredients (liquid bubble bath base, vegetable oil, glycerin, fragrance and preservative if using).
  3. Knead the mixture into a smooth play dough consistency.
  4. Add approximately 1/8 teaspoon of mica and keep kneading until the colour is evenly mixed through the play dough.
  5. Add another teaspoon of glycerin and mix it into the dough.
  6. Place in a plastic bag or container, to prevent it drying out.
  7. If you haven’t used preservative, store the play dough soap in the fridge.

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The colour purple

This will be the last part of the mica colour tests for now. The colour purple has always been a difficult child of the colour family. It is hard to achieve with blending, because as you know purple is made with the two primary colours red and blue, but the undertone of the soap has yellow, which often leaves a rather muddied grey colour than the pretty purple you aimed for. This is one reason many soap makers turn to micas for the colour purple. However, not all micas perform well in cold process and purple is a particular colour prone to disappearing. If you want to know what I mean when I talk about colour disappearing, here’s an example.

I tested the three purple micas Pure Nature has in stock: Magic Violet, Silken Violet, and Dark Violet Purple. And here’s how they the performed in cold process soap:

Luckily, none of Pure Nature‘s purple micas disappeared, although the Dark Violet Purple did turn a dark grey, but the other two micas produced very pretty similar purple/violet colours.

I even found that one of them, Silken Violet, stayed fairly true to the colour of the mica in powder form. I think I may have a new favourite colour!

What can you expect this week in tutorials? Since I started this colour testing, I knew that when it was purple’s turn, I wanted to show you how to make gemstones out of melt and pour. So one of the tutorials will be to produce very pretty, sparkling amethyst soaps. The other tutorial will be a cold process soap, which will show you how to produce fine line swirls in soap. Check back for these tutorials and Happy Soaping!