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Neon swirl soap

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 1250 g of soap
Mould: standard loaf mould

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I recently discovered neon pigments, available from Pure Nature, and they’re perfect for this easy-peasy swirling method to create these stunning soaps. I loved the bright colours so much, that I repeated the same recipe with three different colour combinations. Yellow and green, pink and orange, and a trio of pink, blue and purple. I’ll let you decide which you like the best!

This recipe is an ideal introduction into swirling after you’ve done a few other soaps. The swirling method is really easy to do and pretty much fail-safe. You just need to make sure you’re using a fluid soap recipe, because one of the most common problems encountered with swirling or any technique that takes time, is that the soap starts to thicken and becomes impossible to pour. This recipe I’m using here is my go-to recipe whenever I need time.  It is an adaption of a pure Castile (olive oil) soap, to which I’ve added castor oil (for extra lather) and sodium lactate, a natural additive which helps speed up the hardening of the soap. The result is a lovely mild cleansing bar of soap with all the good qualities of olive oil, but without the long curing time.


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

If you have never soap before, I strongly recommend you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first, and make several other easier soaps before continuing.

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ONE: First prepare your lye by weighing out the caustic soda and water. And then, carefully, add the caustic soda to the water (NEVER THE OTHER WAY ROUND!), and stir until the lye water is clear.

Add two teaspoons of sodium lactate, and set aside to cool down. I usually leave my lye solution to cool down in the sink. So in case I knock it over, it will spill into the drains, and the worst thing that will happen is that I have clean drains.

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TWO: In the meantime, weigh out the olive oil and castor oil in your soap pot, which can be a large stock pot, a pyrex jug, or even an empty 2L ice cream container. Set aside.

neon colours

THREE: While you are waiting, prepare the colours. Mix 1/2 -1 teaspoon of each colour that you will be using with 1-2 teaspoon of oil (for example olive oil) in a small beaker or container.

If you are using just two colours, use 1 teaspoon each, for three colours use 1/3 teaspoon each, and if you are using four colours use 1/2 teaspoon of each colour.

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FOUR: Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are still wearing your goggles and gloves, carefully add lye to the oils and then, using a stick blender, pulse and stir to thin trace. Make sure you keep the soap at a very fluid, thin consistency. If you’re worried about getting it too thick, you can also use a whisk and beat the oil/lye mixture until it has emulsified (does not separate). I often can’t be bothered getting my stick blender out and will just whisk the soap. (Yes, that works perfectly fine!)

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FIVE: Add the fragrance to the emulsified soap mixture and give it a quick stir.

I used different Candlescience fragrances for each of the colour combinations:

  • green and yellow: coconut lime
  • orange and hot pink: mango and tangerine
  • white, bright pink, blue and purple: sweet pea

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SIX: Separate the soap into roughly equal portions depending on the number of colours you are using and add the colours to each pot of soap. Using your stick blender or whisk, briefly mix each pot until the colour is evenly dispersed through the soap.

Note for the white/pink/blue/purple soap, I left one portion uncoloured.

SEVEN: To create the swirls, pour a line of one colour along the length of your mould. You can either pour to the line on the side or the centre, it’s up to you. If you pour it in the centre, you’ll have a roughly symmetrical soap, like the white/pink/blue/purple soap, and if you have the line more to one side, it will be more skewed, like the yellow/green soap below.

Next pour a line of another colour INTO the same line of soap that you just poured. So instead of pouring the soap next to each other, you keep pouring into the same line over and over again, and this pushes the colours to the side and creates the swirls that you see in the soaps.

You can be a bit more daring, and instead of one line, create two lines into which you pour the soap, just like I did with the orange/pink soap (further below). Or you can change halfway and start a new line on the other side. You can’t really do anything wrong. Even if you don’t hit the previous line of soap exactly, it doesn’t matter, you’ll still get your swirls.

Keep pouring, alternating the colours, into the same line until all the soap has been used up.

Leave the soap somewhere warm and dry, out of direct sunlight, to cure.

EIGHT: After 2-3 days, check if the soap has hardened and isn’t sticky and soft anymore. Don’t be tempted to unmould to soon, like I was with the orange/pink soap. The hardest part of creating swirl soaps is waiting for the soap to become hard enough to unmould. Once it is hard enough, carefully unmould, and cut it into bars. The bars of soap will need a further 6-8 weeks to cure before they are ready for use.

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Neon swirl 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

  • 950 g olive oil
  • 50 g castor oil
  • 128 g caustic soda
  • 280 g water
  • 2 teaspoons sodium lactate
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon each of the neon colours you are using
  • 30 ml fragrance

Directions

  1. Measure out 280 g of water into a heat proof Pyrex jug. Weigh out 128 g of caustic soda and carefully add it to the water, avoiding any splashes. Gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved and the lye solution is clear.
  2. Add two teaspoons of sodium lactate to the lye solution. Set aside to cool down.
  3. Weigh out the olive oil and castor oil in your soap pot. Set aside.
  4. Prepare your essential oil blend. Set aside.
  5. Mix 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of each colour with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil in a separate pot. The exact amounts depend on how many colours you are using. Set aside.
  6. 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.
  7. Using a stick blender or whisk, stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified.
  8. Add 30 ml of fragrance and give it another quick mix with the stick blender.
  9. Divide the soap into roughly equal portions and colour each portion with one of the colour/oil mixture. Briefly mix each pot a quick pulse with a stick blender or whisk until the colour is evenly dispersed through the soap.
  10. Pour a line of one colour along the length of the mould.
  11. Pour another colour of soap into the previous line of soap. Keep repeating the colours until all the soap has been used up.
  12. Place the soap in a warm, dry area to cure.
  13. After 2-3 days, check if the soap is firm enough to unmould. Remove from mould and cut into bars. The bars will need further curing for about 6-8 weeks until ready for use.

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Amethyst crystal soaps

Difficulty: Beginners
Time: 1 1/2 hr
Yields: Several clusters and single crystals

I have always had this thing for crystals, and I have a shelf full of pretty, shiny rocks. So it’s no surprise then that I had to have a go at making soap crystals. Surprisingly, they are a lot easier to make than you think and I had the most fun two days preparing this tutorial. Mind you, I probably could have done it in one day, but hey, it’s not every day a girl gets to play with crystals!

Melt and pour soap bases are the perfect material to make these crystals. I used melt and pour soap base in both clear and white. For the soap crystals I recommend to use the sweat-free melt and pour bases from Pure Nature, because of the high humidity here in New Zealand. The sweat-free soap will allow you to keep the crystals only lightly packaged, for example in a pretty cellophane bag. Here are the links to the sweat-free white soap base and the sweat-free clear soap base. To colour the crystals, I used the Silken Violet mica from Pure Nature.

ONE: To start, gather all your materials and prepare your colour. Pour about 10 ml of 99% isopropyl alcohol into a small container and add 1/4 teaspoon of mica. This will be used to colour the soap. I’m using alcohol to premix the mica, because it will disperse better in the melt and pour soap base.

TWO: Next, cut up roughly one cup of clear melt and pour soap into cubes and put it in a solid heat-proof glass jug, such as a Pyrex jug. Heat on high for about 20 seconds or until all the soap has melted.

THREE: Add a teaspoon of fragrance. I’m using Candlescience Sage and Pomegranate fragrance from Pure Nature, which is safe to use in soaps and lotions.

FOUR: Now it’s time to colour the soap. Pour a little of the alcohol/mica into your soap and stir. You want a nice dark violet colour. If it’s too light, add a bit more until you are happy with the colour. Remember, you can always add more but you can’t take any away. So start with a little colour and keep adding in small amounts until you reach the right shade.

FIVE: Pour the soap into your mold until you have filled it to about 1 cm, and then leave it to cool down. We’ll be using the remainder of the soap for the next layer. The mold I’m using is the small square mold, available from Pure Nature. It holds 500g of soap (volume is approximately 630 ml), and will give you four bars of soap. It’s my favourite and most used mold, and it’s so versatile. I use it for testing soap batches, making small volumes, including the many tutorials here on my blog, and as a handy mold for special projects like the soap crystals here.

SIX: Cut up some more clear melt and pour soap, about 1 cup again, and add it to the remainder in the jug. This layer will be lighter in colour than the previous layer, so don’t add any more colour to it. Again heat it in the microwave until all the soap has melted. Add 1 teaspoon of fragrance and stir.

SEVEN: Check if the layer is solid enough to support the next layer, and spritz the surface with 99% isopropyl alcohol, so that the next layer will adhere to it. Then, gently pour the soap over the previous layer, being careful as not to let the soap break through the surface. And again leave the soap to set and harden before the next step.

EIGHT: Cut up some white melt and pour soap base and melt it in the microwave. Once the previous layer has hardened, spritz the surface with alcohol again, and then pour the white soap on top of it. I didn’t fragrance this portion, because it’s only a small portion.

NINE: The next step is to carve the soap into crystals. But, before you start cutting, make sure that the soap has completely cooled down and solidified. First cut the soap into vertical rectangles, and then carve each rectangle into crystals. The easiest way was to cut the four edges first to make an octagon, and then carve the top into a rough unequal pyramid (with four sides). If that makes sense.

Btw you can watch TV while doing this part. I put my little soap rectangles in a 2L (empty) ice cream container and sat carving my soaps while binge-watching Blacklist. Just watch your fingers!

TEN: Once you have all your crystals, it’s time to start assembling your cluster. I used a soap mold with round cavities but you can use any shape. As long as it’s something to hold your cluster together. Melt a little more of the white melt and pour soap and pour thin layer into the mold.

ELEVEN: Then stick the crystals one by one into the layer of soap, arranging them into a tight cluster, as shown in the picture below. In some clusters, I used tooth picks to hold them in place. I cut some of the bases to make some of them shorter and others to make them lean into a particular direction. Leave to set and cool before removing the crystal cluster. You might want to tidy the cluster up using a knife, or you can leave it as it is.

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VARIATIONS: The above method is just one way of colouring the block of soap for making crystals. I also made one block with only two layers, one dark violet and one only slightly lighter and carved these into crystals. Another block I made I added little bits of cut offs from my previous crystal carvings into the soap. And in yet another, I drizzled white melt and pour into the still liquid violet coloured clear melt and pour soap.

Instead of arranging them into cluster, you can also carve bigger crystals and leave them as single crystals. Particular the soap blocks with the white drizzled into it and the ones with the cut offs made some stunning crystals!

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Amethyst crystal soap

  • Difficulty: beginners
  • Print

Ingredients

  • white melt and pour soap base
  • clear melt and pour soap base
  • Sage and Pomegranate fragrance
  • Silken Violet mica
  • 99% isopropyl alcohol

Directions

  1. Pour 10 ml of 99% isopropyl alcohol into a small container and add 1/4 mica. Stir well and set aside for later use.
  2. Cut up approximately one cup of clear melt and pour soap and add it to a heat-proof Pyrex jug. Heat in microwave until all the soap has melted.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon of fragrance and stir.
  4. Add the alcohol/mica mix in small amounts until you have the colour you desire.
  5. Pour an approximately 1 cm layer of soap into the mold. Leave to cool and set.
  6. Cut up another cup of clear melt and pour soap and add to the remainder in the jug. Again, heat in the microwave until melted and add 1 teaspoon of fragrance.
  7. Check if the soap in the mold has hardened sufficiently to support the next layer. Spritz the surface with 99% isopropyl alcohol and gently pour the soap over the previous layer. Leave the soap to cool and set.
  8. Cut up some white soap and melt it in the microwave. Again, check if the soap has hardened, spritz the surface with alcohol and pour the white soap over the clear layers. Leave to harden and cool down completely.
  9. Remove the soap from the mold and cut up into vertical rectangles. Carve the rectangles into crystal shapes.
  10. Next, take a soap mold with circular or other small cavities. Melt a little more of the white melt and pour soap base and pour a thin layer into one of the cavities.
  11. Then, stick the crystals into the layer one by one, arranging the into a crystal cluster form. Leave to set and cool before removing from the mold.

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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!