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Monday, April 15, 2013

Making Alcohol Based Soaps

Guinness Beer
Some of my best-selling soaps are those made with alcohol. I think people enjoy them for a few reasons:

1. It's fun. I mean, who wants to wash with a plain old bar of Ivory Soap when you can start your morning routine with Chardonnay?

2. Beer and other alcohols are actually good for your skin. Did you know that the Hops Flower (found in beer) have been used for centuries to soften skin and heal minor skin ailments?

3. Alcohol based soaps make great gifts!

The trick to incorporating alcohol into your soap is finding a way to combat the 'lye volcano' that can happen when lye and alcohol mix, and finding a way to keep the sugars from scorching and turning your soap a yucky brown. This is similar to what happens when making milk based soaps. I prefer to replace all or most of my water percentage with the alcohol I am using. I think it makes for a more interesting soap. Occasionally, I will do a water/other component blend, but not usually.

To make a great alcohol based soap, free of volcanoes and scorching, here are my tricks:

Weighing out my liquid, preparing for the freezer
 - Always start by boiling the alcohol out of the beer or wine. You can simmer for 10 minutes or boil for 5. Be aware though, that beer can boil up and out of your pot due to carbonation. Also, alcohol boils down fast. You may start with 12 ounces of brew, and only end up with 8 ounces. Buy and boil enough to account for the evaporation.

Prepared ice baths
Beer slurry
 - Alcohol will heat up fast and at higher temperature when mixed with lye. The trick to combating this is to start with a cold base of liquid. For something like beer, I will usually toss it in the freezer for an hour or two to make it really slushy and cold. For wine, I will usually leave it in the refrigerator overnight so it becomes a wine ice cube sinceI am also trying to preserve the color of the wine. If it heats up too fast, it will turn brown. The beer will usually turn brown naturally, so I'm not as concerned with that.

Wine ice cube with lye sprinkled on top
 - Always add your lye a little at a time to prevent scorching. Due to the fact that lye heats up quickly it can burn the sugars if the liquid goes over about 106 degrees. I try to keep my liquids at about 100 degrees. This can only be achieved by starting with the cold liquid, making an ice bath for your liquid/lye container, and using your patience.

That's it! This will take longer than a typical soap recipe, but in my opinion, it's worth it.

Questions on how to make alcohol based soaps? Feel free to comment, and don't forget to subscribe to the Seattle Soap Girl Blog


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