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Discounting water for soapmaking
Discounting water in soap formulas is what I have been doing for several years, but I have not taught it openly because it is using a very concentrated lye solution and one needs to be very familiar with making soap before taking up this process. Those that are familiar with the process, find that doing very drastic water discounts can be a problem due to many factors, mostly to do with types of oils used and with some of the synthetic fragrance oils used as well. This can range from a super fast trace and barely getting the soap in the mold, to a soap that seizes and has to be left in the pot and melted back down. And it can also make a very brittle soap that has active lye in the soap because there was not enough water to complete the lye reaction with the oils. I have only had this happen a few times and it was when I was experimenting with a discount that was way to much. This is why I do not go beyond a 22% water discount now, even with my larger batches. But even with all that, it is the only way to help make a soap that will dry out much faster than using the high amounts that many older formulas call for.

I started several years back using 33% of my oils as my water amount and was taught this by a seasoned soapmaker who had been making soap for some 40 years at the time she taught me how to do that process. This was not accepted by many back then, but I found that it worked out much better than using the high amounts they were saying were necessary. That is the highest amount of water that I use in any of my soaps and the calculator on the site works with that amount down to 22%. This is not based on a solution calculation, that is harder to calculate and this method is very easy to calculate. Just remember that if you use the stronger lye, it will be more caustic and will burn easier. So I recommend that you use your gloves, eye protection, etc. through the process of making the soap.

Figuring liquid needed and doing a liquid reduction

This process is to help your figure out the amount of water or water/milk or herbal teas you will need to use for dissolving your lye. This is how I calculate my water for all my soaps when I figure them manually. If you would like to use a calculator, we have one here on the site. TLC Lye Calculator

I figure my liquids by taking the total weight of the oils and dividing by 3, this is approx 33% liquid used. All the formulas that are on the site have the water figured at 33% and at this percentage it makes for a firmer bar out of the mold. And one can reduce the liquid more by discounting the water a bit more, but be careful not to go to low when making your soap or you can have a bar that is brittle and possibly lye heavy because there was not enough water to help the saponification stage complete. I recommend not going any lower than 20% of your oils, but only do that if you have made soap for a while and understand the reactions that go on.

Cold Processed (CP) soaps work best when doing the discount of the water. Please remember that for Hot Processed (HP) soaps it is really best to use all the water for HP soaps. And I find that the 33% that I use works just fine for me and that is the total amount that I use in any formula.

So for a 48 oz. formula it would be 16 oz. for liquid instead of 18 oz. of liquid which is the old amount that would be used by the books and some online sources. I go even further sometimes and reduce my liquid by another 3% in batches 5 lbs. and over then using 30% liquid. So for 80 ozs. it would show 26 ozs. for liquid when 80 is divided by 3, 33% liquid and not the 30 ozs. of liquid which is the old amount that would be used by the books and some online sources. And then reducing it again by 3% by dividing 80 by 30% would make it 24 ozs. for liquid. I usually round down from any decimal that might come up to the nearest whole number.

The larger amount of liquid that you see me referring to were the figures that come up when using the lye calculators that are on the net. Some of them have now changed that to show ranges to amounts of liquid that can be used. With using the less water calculations, you have plenty of water to dissolve the lye and make the mixture saponify, also making the soap not so wet when cut and dry faster for faster packaging and selling.

You can also use multiplications to figure your liquid needed. Take 80 ozs., a 5 lbs. total formula and multiply it times 33%, this will give you the 26 ozs., again rounding down to the whole number and if you want to take a further reduction you can us 30% and this will give you the 24 ozs. This is for milk, water or herbal teas used as your liquid for you soap. Here is our base formula we will figure what liquid we will need for it.

6 oz Olive Oil
6 oz Lard
6 oz Shortening
2 oz Castor Oil
2 oz Coconut Oil

Take the total of the oils, 22 oz. and multiply by 33% and you get 7.26 oz. of liquid needed, you can round this down to 7 oz. And if you want to reduce the water further use 30% as you number and you will get 6.6 oz. needed, again you can round this down to 6 oz.

The 30% is as far as I would go in reducing the liquid for the smaller batches of soap that are from 16 oz. of oils to 32 oz. If the amount of oils in the formula are 36 oz. to 64 oz., then one can go to about 25% to 27% for the reduction. For amounts above 64 oz. of oils you can go lower if you like. But I do recommend that one never goes below 22% when reducing the water, milk, herbal tea, etc. in soap formulas.

If you wish to reduce more for the larger batches of soap, that can be done. I have gone as far as 22% liquid used for my batches are are over 80 oz. of oils. This makes for a very quick trace, hard bar, so it is best to have processed several batches of soap to know what a light/medium trace is, which is best to pour soap at, in my opinion. Remember though if making and HP soap it is best to have at least 33% water or water/milk in the soaps.

This info posted to soapmaking groups in 1998. Updated in 2005.

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