What is the gel process and why does it matter?

I mentioned in a previous entry about not allowing eggnog soap to go though the gel phase of soap making, and said that I would address it later, and here I am to talk about it.

Handmade soap can be made by a couple of methods: cold process and hot process. All of the soaps available at are made by the cold process method. This and the hot process start the same way with oils being mixed together and then a chemical solution is added and after stirring the mixture (at this point it is called raw soap) for some time it will begin to trace (when you drop a ribbon of soap on the top of the pot of soap it should not sink into the soap immediately, but will sit on the surface for a short period of time), and then is poured into a mold. Usually at this point the mold is insulated to allow the gel phase to occur which speeds up the saponification process (this is the process that allows the oils and chemical solution to react and turn into soap) and can take 12 or more hours to complete. Once the soap has cooled and firmed up it is usually cut and then set to cure.

When you don’t allow soap to gel the saponification process can take longer, but it will still happen. This means a longer curing time for soaps that have not been allowed to gel, and there for longer from raw soap to the shelves to be sold.

It is desirable to not allow the gel phase for soaps with high levels of sugar in them (from milk sources, honey or other sugar sources) as the high heat of the gel phase often causes them to burn and turn the soap colors that you don’t want. It can also increase the temperature of the gel phase and cause swelling of the soap in the mold and that can lead to cracks in the surface of the soap – this is only a cosmetic concern and does not affect the cleaning nature of the soap.

I hope that helped. Please feel free to let me know if you ever have questions about the soap making process.

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2 Responses to “What is the gel process and why does it matter?”

  1. Laurel’s Soap Making Blog » Blog Archive » What is the gel process and why does it matter? Says:

    […] Original post by bodybym […]

  2. Making Coffee Soap Today « Body by M Blog Says:

    […] Making Coffee Soap Today By bodybym My oils are finished their infusion process today and this afternoon they will be turned into coffee soap. I melted the oils and then added some espresso grounds to them to infuse them with the properties of the grounds. Then I will make VERY STRONG coffee and use that to make the soap. I’m going to leave the espresso grounds in the oil to give the soap a scrubby effect. I’ll post a pic later when it’s in the mold before I cover it to let it rest and gel. […]

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