While making a natural melt and pour soap base at home is relatively easy, making a transparent soap base requires a couple of “magic” ingredients for you to be sucessful. And as you stretch the limits of using solvents in your soap base to have crystal clear soap, you will definitely sacrifice another important soap property: foaming. But that’s life, always commiting between advantages and disadvantages. If you have been failing at making transparent soap base at home, check out this recipe turned-into-tutorial, and learn how to make transparent soap base that is truly transparent!
Can I Make Melt and Pour Soap Base At Home?
For sure, and the process is even simpler than cold process! Melt and pour is also known as “glycerin” soap, known for its transparency property. Although you should know that all homemade soap has natural glycerin in it, glycerin soap is called like that because the recipe uses vegetable glycerin to counter the drying effects of the solvents (alcohol mostly). And the solvents are there to make the soap transparent.
If you want to know more about glycerin in soap and why commercial soap is drying check out this post.
Melt and pour soap base can easily be made at home with natural ingredients, most of them home ingredients you probably already have at home. The difference to cold process soap is the usage of solvents: sugar syrup and alcohol; and added vegetable glycerin. The process is a bit different as well, where you use higher soap temperatures.
So, What’s The Secret To Make Transparent Soap Base?
I did have some failed attempts at making transparent soap base. Where the recipe garanteed that the soap would be transparent, I’ve only got that translucid whiteish glycerin soap. While a normal glycerin soap base is still great to use it was NOT what I was looking for.
After some research, I’ve stumbled upon this website with this post, that shows a quick method to make transparent soap base. Actually, it has 6 recipes for soap base that you can try. She tries several options with more or less foam, more or less transparency, white and yellow-y soap.
I was really determined to get an ice-like soap. And I didn’t mind if the soap was not that foamy, as I wanted to make soap gifts. So I’ve just gone for batch #5 in that recipe.
A New Soap Calculator
I do like to know what I am doing so I’ve inserted that soap recipe into a soap calculator. My usual soap calculator is SoapCalc. But this is only valid for cold and hot process. I had to use another soap calculator that has a list of addictives you may use in soap: Mendrulandia (available in a lot of languages 🙂 ). I use this soap calculator for glycerin soap bases, but I see no issue in using to all soap types. It’s quite complete.
The soap recipe I was about to make had a superfat of 0% and lye concentration of 32%. Superfat of 0% is quite drying (is what you use for laundry or dishwashing soap). So, I’ve alleviated a little bit these two parameters to 2% superfat and lye concentration of 30%. I was quite afraid of increasing the oil content and get again a translucid soap. Therefore I didn’t increase superfat any further or oil content for a softer soap. And I am counting that the vegetable glycerin will keep the soap mild enough.
Mendrulandia site says that the soap is a 39 about dryness (they make as a good parameter 50 value). The soap base did feel to me a bit drying, but it’s less than the commercial soaps you regularly use. It makes quite little foam, but it’s very cleansing. Don’t forget that this is a melt and pour soap base: when making your actual soaps, you can add a bit of superfat (sweet almond oil for example) and make the soap more hydrating.
The Secret Ingredients
Ok, let’s get to the point. What made this soap base crystal clear was a set of factors:
- Using high temperature (80ºC – 176ºF)
- Using stearic acid
- Using a high % of solvents
- Using a low % of oils
Stearic acid is actually a natural saturated fatty acid present in many oils and fats. It is especially abundant in animal fat and butters like shea or cocoa butter. When you make homemade soap, you will get a percentage of stearic acid on your soap from saponified oils. It contributes to soap with stable lather and soap hardness. The one we use in this recipe is of vegetable origin, processed to be in pure form, separated from other compouds.
High Temperature Is Key
If you fall into making the same mistake I’ve made – don’t worry, most likely you will – you will NOT heat the oils to 80ºC. Using a lower heating temperature for oils (I’m too used at making cold process soap…), and with such low quantity of lye water (around 40ml), the mixture temperature will be lower than the required 80ºC.
And when you add your lye water to your liquid oils and you believe the magic will happen…. your soap base will turn snow white and solid!!! It was nearly impossible to even use the stick blender! AGH!
If you have the soapmaking “bug” inside you, making a transparent soap base by yourself is a “must” in your to-do list. Transparent soaps with objects inside or floating herbs are so cute!
The stearic acid, when bonding with the lye water, needs a high temperature to remain liquid. So, using a lower temperature will turn your soap batter solid and so-very-white. Was the soap base ruined for good? No. I’ve followed the recipe, being able to stick blend when adding all solvents. In the end I’ve just heat it up to 80ºC – 176ºF.
And then finally the magic happened and my soap base turned completely transparent. You do need to let it heat for around 30 minutes or so. Until ALL bits of stearic acid are able to melt again.
In the end, I’ve got sucess and a crystal clear soap base that looked like ice 🙂
How To Make Transparent Soap Base: The Recipe
I have tried to make this soap base by heating the oils to 80ºC-176ºF, and stick blend the soap with heat (to keep the stearic acid liquid). Unfortunately, the final soap turned a bit yellowish. The crystal-clear tone could only be achieved with the “mistake” of making the soap at lower temperatures (60ºC-140ºF).
The soap recipe was also adjusted and it foams fairly well now, compared to my prior recipe. For some reason, when using the soap for the first time, it’s hard to foam. Just be a little patient, and use it under water for a while. Foam will come up.
You can of course experiment by changing the recipe, inserting the ingredients and quantities into Mendrulandia, a quite complete soap calculator, and play with the quantities. You will be able to see how ingredients influence the different soap properties and get what you wish for. Then try your new recipe at home and see how it goes 🙂
The website gives you a big warning when using negative superfat (that’s when you are turning your soap lye heavy), so as long as you use the soap calculator and respect the website warnings, your soap will be safe.
With this soap base you can make quite cute soaps for gifts, and all made by yourself from scratch!!! Try this recipe at home and enjoy your soaps!!
Find Where To Buy Transparent Soap Base
Not willing to try to make soap base, but you still want to make melt and pour soap at home? You can purchase transparent soap bases in the following links:
- Wear goggles, gloves and mask! Look at “Safety Recommendations” in the video above or in How to Make Soap From Scratch
- Assemble everything: ingredients, equipment, safety equipment. Prepare your workstation, including a well ventilated area to make the lye water. Measure all the ingredients. Don’t start the recipe without having everything ready!
- Learn how to make sugar syrup in this video, but make sure you use the quantities indicated above: 200 g of sugar and 100 g of water. Do not let it turn into caramel, be careful with temperatures – and keep it thin.
Make the Lye Water
- Make the lye solution according to How To Make Lye Water. Mix it until the vapors start to dissipate.
Heat the Oils
- Heat the oils until the coconut oil and stearic acid are fully melted. The oils should be at a a temperature of 80ºC (180ºF). You can use the microwave or a double boiler.
Make the Soap
- Pour the lye water into the oils. The mixture will harden and turn white (looking like salt or snow), due to the stearic acid. Mix with the stick blender, as much as you can.
- NOTE: By using temperatures below 80ºC – 176ºF, something quite easy to achieve as your bowl will be at room temperature and the amount of lye water and oils are not enough to keep such high temperatures, your soap batter will harden and turn white. Follow the recipe and heat the soap batter in the end to get the transparent soap. Using other solutions, like a crock pot at high temperature, will overheat the sugar syrup and turn your soap base yellowish or even brownish. The way this recipe was made was the only time I cold get truly crystal-clear soap.
- Add half of alcohol and glycerin and continue to mix well with the immersion blender. Your mixture should turn liquid and clear.
- Add the rest of the alcohol and glycerin and continue to mix well with the immersion blender for around 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the sugar syrup and mix a bit longer.
- If you are at this step with a clear mixture, you can skip this step. If your mixture is white like mine (because I've just heated the oils up to 60ºC), heat it in bagne-marie up to 80ºC (180ºF) and leave for a while at that temperature until your soap becomes completely clear.
Molding and Curing
- Pour the soap into your mold. Your mold can be pretty much anything, but I've used a silicone cake mold. Sprinkle with alcohol to remove any bubbles, and cover it with transparent film.
- Put your soap in the fridge and let it set for 24 h. After that, your soap is ready to be used.