Here is a cute story explaining some of the chemistry of soapmaking.  

 

 

 

(if anyone knows who I can attribute this to please let me know.  I copied it years ago but now don't remember where) 

Hungry Wolves: LYE
Soft, Fluffy Bunnies: OILS & FATS 
Border Collies: SAPONIFIED OILS (SOAP)

Peaceful, Soothing Sheep: GLYCERINE

 

Let's say you have a great big grassy field. On one side of the field

are lurking a bunch of hungry wolves. The middle of the field is filled

with soft, fluffy bunnies, and of course, the hungry wolves want to eat them.

 

So the wolves run into the field and start eating bunnies.

 

But an interesting thing happens. Every time a wolf eats five bunnies -

*Pop!* - he changes into an energetic busy Border Collie and some

peaceful, soothing sheep! So, if there had been 500 bunnies in the field to

begin with, and 100 hungry wolves, all the wolves would eat all the

bunnies and you'd be left with a field full of busy Border Collies and

soothing sheep but no more bunnies or wolves!

 

This is what happens when you pour the lye solution into the oils - the

lye "consumes" the oils and the resulting transformation produces

saponified oils (soap) and glycerine. This is the process called

"Saponification".

 

And what if there had been only 450 bunnies in the field to begin with?

Well, then the 100 hungry wolves would have eaten all the bunnies and most

of them would be transformed into useful Border Collies and soothing Sheep.

But there would still also be 10 hungry wolves left over with no bunnies

left to eat, and you'd probably get bitten. Not good!

 

This is why it is so important to make sure you have always calculated

and measured your recipe carefully. You don't want to end up with any

"leftover lye" when you're finished!

 

On the other hand, maybe you really like having a few soft, fluffy

bunnies around. So you make sure that there are five hundred

AND FIVE bunnies in the field before you let the 100 hungry wolves

in. NOW after all the wolves have eaten their share of bunnies

and been transformed into useful Border Collies and soothing Sheep

you will still have five soft, fluffy bunnies left over and NO hungry wolves.

 

This is "Superfatting". Superfatting is when you deliberately add more oil to

your recipe than the lye can consume. In addition to saponified oils and

glycerine, a superfatted soap will also contain some oils which have been

left unchanged by the saponification process and still have their original

properties.

 

So having leftover bunnies is a good thing, right? And if 5 leftover

bunnies is a good thing, then 10 leftover bunnies would be even better,

right? Or 15 leftover bunnies? Or more? The more leftover bunnies

the better, right?

 

Well, maybe, and maybe not. If you have too MANY leftover bunnies,

they'll get in the way of the Border Collies who are trying to do their

job and distract them. Or the bunnies might eat all the grass in the

field and then the field is no good for sheep or anything else. So while

having leftover bunnies is certainly better than having leftover wolves,

you still need to know just how many leftover bunnies you can have

before you start getting too much of a good thing!

 

Remember this when you decide to superfat a soap recipe. A

superfatted recipe can give you a nice mild soap with the added bonus

of insurance against having any leftover lye. But if you have too much

"leftover oil", then your soap won't be a very useful soap any more!

 

What it all comes down to is you gotta know your bunnies!

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