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Why Does Soda Ash (White Powdery Thingy) Happens On Cold Process Soap?

Cold Process Soap With Soda Ash After 2 days of Making

Heres one question that i get asked all the time; why is there this white powdery thingy on my cold process soap? 

It usually happens few days after cold process soap is poured into a mold and suddenly you will get this whitish powder on the surface of the soap. 

Most first time soap maker will freak out when they see this because they would think its mold and some even throw it away!

But dont worry! its not mold guys; its soda ash; or scientifically; its called the sodium carbonate (or even washing soda in lay man term).

How It Happens?

Soda ash happens when there is a reaction between the lye we use (sodium hydroxide) and carbon dioxide in the air when we are making the cold process soap. 

So basically theoretically; the more living things is around when we make the cold process soap; the more soda ash will form. 

Is It Harmful?

No its not. unlike sodium hydroxide that requires proper handling due to its 'corrosive' nature; soda ash isnt like that. you dont need to wear gloves when handling soda ash.

How To Prevent It?

There are few ways to prevent it but the best so far is by spray-ing rubbing alcohol on the surface of your soap immediately once its added into the mold. 

This will form a protective layer that would help in reducing this problem.

Another way is by covering your soap after you are done. usually with a cling wrap; or towel; or even putting it into an airtight ice box would help. This way the carbon dioxide wouldnt react to the lye and so soda ash wouldnt form. 

Some say that we should add a little beeswax into the soap to avoid this but ive never tried it before because if beeswax is added into CP soap it would fasten trace; causing it to become hard very fast! Sometimes before its poured into mold! So no i have not used this method before but you can try and let me know how it goes!

How To Clean It?

There are two ways to clean soda ash. 

The easiest; is to wipe it off using a damp towel. Just simply wipe the soda ash off the surface after the 4 weeks curing time (or when soap has harden). This is the easiest method if you have a flat surface on the soap. 

Soap With Swirls

However; if you have bumpy surface; or swirls like cupcakes; its quite difficult to wipe the soda ash off; so the next thing to do is to dip the whole soap into water and gently wiping it off using your fingers. 

Do this only after curing as the soap will be too soft if you do it any sooner.

Personally; i prefer the dipping the whole soap into water thingy because its much easier and it gives my soaps 'shine' once the water dries off.

What Do I Think About Soda Ash?

For me personally; i just love chemistry the way it works:-) 

I dont fnd them a nuisance and its all there for a reason. 

Many people i know learn how to make cold process soap by manually calculating the amount of lye to add; and this would naturally cause human error. 

That means that sometimes; people might wrongly add extra sodium hydroxide into the soap. 

If this CO2 and NaOH reaction didn't happen; those people will have burn from the excess NaOH when it touches the skin. 

So for me; this is a safety net incase that happens. 

The worst thing that one can get frm soda ash is rashes. 

But if you compare; burn from sodium hydroxide; or rashes from soda ash; which would you choose?

Of course the best is to not have any; but if there is a choice; soda ash is way better.

So now; really; don't you just love this white powdery thing on top of your soap?


Love;

Nisha


 

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