I have been on a bit of a castile soap bender the past few weeks. What is castile soap? It originated in Spain, and is a soap traditionally made from simply olive oil, water and lye. It is a very gentle and soothing soap, with a creamy lather (vs. big bubbles) and usually has to cure for AGES (many cure for a year or more). Well, enter hot process soap making and my experiments making this soap the non-traditional way (pretty sure they did not have crock pots when this soap came to be). Rarely are things as simple as you would like them to be, so this post aims to share what I have learned so far about hot process castile soapmaking.
Before we start. I make my soaps in the crockpot, so my experiences may not apply to other HP techniques, and there are quite a few. And I did not stick to the strict rules about Castile and at times added a few of my usual additives which include goat milk, oat milk, yogurt, coconut milk and clays.
First soap came out GREAT! A lovely castile with ground calendula petals and lemon verbena fragrance. I added silk to my lye water, and yogurt, coconut milk & kaolin clay after the cook.
Next I wanted to try again with my best-selling scent (Rosemary & Lemongrass EOs) and color it light green using French green clay. Well, soap came out great, scent is prefect but it is not exactly light green. No additives added to this one other than silk in the lye water.
So, next attempt. I used more green clay for the background color, and spirulina for an accent color. I also wanted to try to swirl the soap which I knew would be a challenge. Why? I use less water in the castile soap to help reduce the amount of time it takes for the soap to harden and cure. My typical HP recipe is 38% water and I used 30% for this Castile. Less water = thicker batter = more difficulty swirling. Part of the challenge is my beat up swirl tie I have been using (I am waiting for a metal swirl tool to arrive) that bends too easily in thick soap batter. I had this really nice herbal fragrance called Basil, Mint & Sage that I wanted to use.
Well, I learned two things. One: don’t add too much clay (I used 2T for a 40 oz batch). Two, if I want to swirl I need to add more water. A few of the bars got re-batched because the clay made them crumbly. And after thinking about it, clay and castile is not really a good idea. Many complain of the sliminess of castile soaps, and adding clay (which provides slip to soap, among other things) won’t help with that. I added goat milk, yogurt, coconut milk after the cook, and silk to the lye water.
If you have never made HP castile, be prepared for a very different textured bar of soap. It gets really hard quickly, and feels heavy. I used the first soap I made after a week, and even with that short of a cure time, I got nice bubbles and the bar is going to last a long time (because it is so hard). And the sliminess that some dislike about Castile soap was not an issue (but my additives may be helpful in creating bubbles).
Next I wanted to see what happened if I colored the soap using micas. I color a lot of soaps I make with micas because I love the vibrant colors that come out in my swirls, but this soap is so different I was not sure what to expect. I colored this soap with a green and blue mica (scent is a peppermint rosemary EO/FO blend). I did not add any clay! But I did add my favored additives goat milk, yogurt and coconut milk after the cook, and silk to the lye water. The colors are really different than they are in my usual soap recipe (more pastel in the castile).
I wanted to add a basic, unscented castile to my line of soaps, and this was an easy soap to make after the others. No additives but I upped my water to 34% and am really happy I did that. This made for a more fluid batter and without having to split up the soaps for coloring, or even to add a scent, this was a piece of cake. If you would like to make your first Castile soap and have any interest in an unscented soap, I would start here. I did not add any additives at all.
After this one I got ambitious and wanted to make a castile using carrot juice instead of water. DISASTER! It was completely my fault though as the batter kept separating, over and over, and eventually I decided it would just be fine and molded it. BIG MISTAKE. Lesson learned: do not mold a soap that is even a little bit separated! I actually already learned this lesson and foolishly got it. I did not take any photos of this disaster, but is was an oily mess with lots of holes. UGH. So I promptly cut it up and rebatched it. And it actually is ok now. Scented with cedarwood, lemongrass and orange 5x eos.
After that experience I think I will cook my castile with water (potentially even less than 34%), and add liquids like carrot juice, goat milk, etc. AFTER the cook. I have had this separation issue when cooking with goat milk as well and it is a pain in the neck.
So, what did I learn?
- Be careful of adding too much clay in a water reduced castile soap. Clay is likely not a good idea in this kind of soap anyway.
- Find the best water percentage for the soap you want to make. 34% is good for me
- Be prepared for colorants like mica to look different in this soap
- Don’t wait too long to cut, and you don’t need to freeze it as long as it will harden quickly. Waiting too long could lead to a crumbly soap and make the cut a challenge
- HP is definitely a great way to make castile soap as I had a wonderful, bubbly soap in two weeks (I think they will only get better with time though as is the case with cold process castile)
Do you have any HP castile stories to share? Please tell us what you have learned or experienced in the comments.