Soap Troubleshooting Chart
Soap won't trace Insufficient lye, excess amount of water, wrong temperatures, not stirred enough or too slow. A high percentage of unsaturated fats in the base oils will also cause slow tracing. Double check water, oil and lye measurements. If amounts and temperatures are correct, continue stirring up to 3 hours or until the solution traces. If possible, switch to a stick blender which will substantially speed up tracing. Remember that you don't have to stir constantly for the full 3 hours. Stir 5 minutes and then wait 15 and repeat. After 3 hours stirring or 30 minutes blending, if it shows no signs of thickening, pour into molds regardless of trace and let sit for 24 hours. If the mixture still does not harden, discard it.
Mixture curdles while stirring Oil and/or lye poured into mixing bowl at too high temperature. Sporadic or slow stirring. Switch to a stick blender and smooth out mixture then pour into molds. You can also continue stirring and pour the mixture into the molds and then check for irregularities in the soap bars. If there are irregularities discard the bars.
Mixture sets up too quickly in pan. Oil and Lye/water temperatures were too high or low. Fats and oils are reacting to a synthetic fragrance or other additive. The percentage of saturated fats was excessive. Pour the mix into the molds as quickly as possible. Smooth out with a spatula. Everything should be fine other than aesthetic problems.
Mixture is slightly grainy Oils and lye solution either too hot or too cold. Sporadic stirring process. Switch to a stick blender or continue stirring to a traced pour into molds. Should be an aesthetic problem only.
As soap cools in the mold, a layer of oil rises to the top Too much oil in recipe or not enough lye. Incorrect measuring. Continue to stir or switch to a stick blender. Go ahead and pour into molds at trace or even if soap does not trace (try for up to 3 hours stirring or 30 minutes blending) Check soap in 2 - 3 weeks. If it doesn't lather well and is caustic, discard soap.
When cutting up soap after popping it out of the mold or while cutting it for hand-milled soap, there is a clear liquid present. Too much lye in formula. Poor stirring method. You can try and cut up the soap with gloves on and wash away the excess lye however it would be safer to discard the bars and start again.
Soft Spongy Soap Not enough lye or too much unsaturated fat in formula or too much water Try curing the bars for a couple weeks longer. If they remain soft discard them.
Hard Brittle Soap Too much lye. Discard. Bars with too much lye can irritate or burn skin.
Soap smells rancid. Too much fat or too little lye in recipe. Discard soap.
Air Bubbles in Soap Stirred too long or whipped while stirring Using a stick blender or regular blender can cause this. It is not really a problem. Only aesthetic in some cases.
Lye pockets in soap either in powdered or liquid form Insuffient stirring or too much lye in formula No solution. Discard and consider using a stick blender to avoid under mixing. Also double check lye calculation.
Mottled or irregular looking soap with a freckled look. Uneven stirring or substantial temperature changes during curing. Aesthetic problem only.
Soap separates in the mold with a greasy layer of oil on top of a hard soap. Insuffient stirring, not enough lye, mixture poured into molds too soon. Discard
Lots of white powder on top of soap during curing process Hard water used and/or lye did not properly dissolve in water Discard
Small amount of white powder on top of soap Reaction with air createing a buildup of sodium carbonate Aesthetic problem only.
Warped soap Problem in the drying process Not a problem with the soap. Try shaving the bars smooth with a vegetable peeler or carve the bars into shapes or cut into pieces for rebatching.
Various aesthetic problems, cracks, warped soap, mottled look, unwanted colors, etc.. various causes, temperature changes, bad molds, poor recipe. etc These bars should still be good as soap. Rebatching is a good option for these bars.

Click here for information on safely working with lye.
Click here for information on ingredients and tools you will need.
Click here for information on how to make soap from scratch.
Click here for information on making soap in a blender.
Click here for information on making liquid hand soap in a blender.
Click here for information on rebatching soap.
Click here for information on soapmaking oils and their properties.
Click here to Troubleshoot your Soap problems.
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