What are glycerin soaps?
How do you make clear or transparent soap?
How do I make glycerin soap?
All very good questions that I have been asked many times over the years.
Many of us have fond memories of Pears soap from our childhood. Something about the amber translucency seems to have made it particularly memorable.
I resisted looking at glycerine soaps too closely for a long time having read in horror that they are full of solvents which automatically made me think of paint stripper, but curiosity eventually got the better of me and I decided to dive in and have a closer look.
Translucent or glycerin soap is, in a nutshell, a soap base which is then dissolved in solvents to make the soap crystals (that are usually opaque) smaller and therefore clear.
Can I use my usual soap recipe for glycerin soap?
In one word. No. The base oils you choose are important as not all recipes are suitable, in fact the vast majority of your favourite recipes will not transfer across to a glycerine soap and therefore you will need to think outside of the box somewhat.
Glycerine soap requires a very high percentage of hard oils , soft oils will result in a cloudier bar so ingredients such as coconut oil, palm oil, tallow or lard work well. Stearic acid is also extremely useful being a natural, plant based, fatty acid that adds hardness to soap. You can begin to see that a recipe containing 50% soft oils which is common in cold process soap will not work for glycerine soap.
What solvents do I need for glycerine soap?
The solvents are generally a mix of alcohol, glycerine and a sugar solution and each bring their own benefits to the mix.
Quantities vary wildly depending upon your base recipe and how clear you want your end result to be. I have seen everything from 1 part oils to 1 part solvents right through to 1 part oils to 5 parts solvents. Experimentation really is key to achieve the end result that suits you best. The more hard oils you use the more solvents you need. The more soft oils the less solvents but also you have a cloudier bar.
How do I make glycerin soap?
There are various methods but they are all based on one version or another of hot process soap making.
In effect, we make our soap, force it through saponification by cooking it and then dissolve it in a combination of solvents which makes the soap crystals smaller and therefore clear or translucent. The whole process takes around an hour to 3 or 4 hours depending upon your recipe, batch size and method.
Your soap then requires an additional 4 to 6 weeks curing time, there is a lot of additional fluid and alcohol that needs to evaporate out as well as the usual changes that curing brings about.
Glycerin soaps are not hard to make but do take some confidence to get your head around the process, you need to look at your recipes from a different perspective and experiment. They are lovely soaps to use, gentle and moisturising due to the high glycerin content and have the added bonus of behaving like melt and pour soap - yes you can melt them down again, add colour, fragrance and generally get creative so they have a huge amount going for them.
The September 2022 tutorial inside The Soap Suite is all about glycerin soaps with an eBook and video class so if you had been thinking of joining and are tempted to have a go now is a great time to join us and have access to this tutorial which comes with 3 different recipes as well as a whole host of other classes. You can find out more information here.