CP newbie - some questions

by Jane
(London, England)

Hi, I am a newbie and have a few questions.

1. I'm used to making lotions where everything is calculated as a % of the whole. But it seems with CP the % of FO, EOs, additives etc and even the mould volume are calculated as a % of the oils only amount. Why aren't the water/lye amounts included?

2. Which essential oils would you recommend using if you want plenty of time to do swirls etc? I have: grapefruit, lemon, sweet orange, lavender, rosemary, chamomile, petitgrain, patchouli, tea tree, rosewood, mandarin, ylang, geranium, benzoin.

3. If you are want to put calendula petals evenly throughout the soap do you wait until medium trace and then add? I'm worried if it goes through gel stage the petals might fall to the bottom.

4. If I use 50% olive oil and would like to swirl my soap do I need to take the water % down from 35%. I heard that olive oil can take forever to harden so I should bring down the amount of water used. If so, what % water would you recommend?

Sorry so many questions.

Thanks so, so much,



1. In soap making the amount of lye needed is dependent on how much and what types of oil you are using. For each oil, there is a specific amount of lye needed to turn that oil into soap. Once you know what oils you are using, they can be used to calculate the rest of the recipe. It's essentially the same for the water. Soap requires a certain amount of water in it to work...this is determined mostly by the amount of oil in the recipe. I'm not a chemist so unfortunatley I can't give you a technical answer but I can tell you it works.

2. Pretty much all of them. I have had geranium that traced quickly on me. For lots and lots of time lavender works great. Be aware that the recipe you use will greatly determine the amount of time you have to work. High amounts of palm, coconut, cocoa butter, shea butter...basically hard oils will speed up trace. As will pomace and castor oils.

3. Gel stage resembles petroleum gelly in consistancy. Not a chance that anything will sink to the bottom...no worries there. Simply mix the calendula petals in when the soap is anywhere from a thin to thick trace.

4. You can reduce the water amount in your recipe and it will help to speed up the trace time. I tend to use anywhere from 33% to the full 38% water by weight of oils in my recipes. A 50% olive oil recipe shouldn't take that long to trace especially if the rest of the oils are hard oils and you use a stick blender to mix it. Be sure to alternate between power blending and hand blending to be sure you do not have a false trace. Visit David Fishers Video on About.com about trace to see what it looks like and how to blend properly.

Happy Soaping,

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