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Discounted water cold process method (DWCP) (3)


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Using stronger lye solutions involves higher risks when working both with the lye solution, and with the fresh (unsaponified) soap. The smaller the amount of water, the higher the chances to suffer from lye burns or experience the dreaded volcano effect.

Other possible problems with discounted water include unwanted reactions between ingredients and your personal reactions to caustic fumes. Also, and very importantly, please keep in mind that water discounting is not an alternative to correct curing times.

  • Water discounting does not "magically" eliminate curing times. Good soap needs to cure for at least 4 weeks, no matter which method has been used to make it - and if you cure discounted water soap even longer, you will always find your soap only gets better with age.
  • Never attempt discounting water when using potassium hydroxide (KOH). KOH is used for liquid and "soft" soaps, which always require larger water amounts - so discounting water to dissolve KOH is not going to give you any advantages, anyway.
  • Never attempt discounting water before gaining a sound experience with weak caustic solutions (27% NaOH - 73% water).
  • Avoid discounting water if you are hypersensitive to NaOH and its fumes.
  • Avoid discounting water (unless you really know what you're doing) if you're making a soap containing milk, or sugars, or waxes/stearic acid, or fragrance/essential oils that are known to cause seizing problems.
  • Avoid discounting water (unless you really know what you're doing) if your recipe contains relatively large amounts of jojoba oil or mango and shea butter (and I won't mention neem oil because I don't think one could use more than 3% of neem anyway). These oils are all well-known "trace-accelerators", and when used in discounted water recipes, can make it really difficult for you to keep the soap mix soft enough to be mouldable.
  • For similar reasons, avoid discounting water (unless you really know what you're doing) if your recipe uses more than 30% of either tallow, or coconut, or palm kernel oil, plus 10% or more of another hard fat.
  • Pay *double* attention to the usual precautions when working with caustic soda (wear rubber gloves, protective clothes and a mask; always work near a water tap, be it outside, or inside with the window open; avoid breathing in the fumes; lock up kids and pets; do not leave the caustic solution unattended, etc. etc.).
  • At least in the beginning, only discount water in recipes using more than 75% of olive or other soft oils.
  • Always double check your calculations. Do not blindly trust the first set of results; repeat the calculations inverting the factors, and apply all the other interesting tricks you've learned at school to make sure your results are correct.
  • Measure the water in a sturdy, heat resistant container (heavy plastic or pyrex - I suggest avoiding metals altogether with strong lye solutions) and place the container in the sink, or in a large container filled with cold water.
  • Pour the caustic soda in the water A LITTLE BIT AT A TIME. Stop and stir often, to avoid lumps or splashes.
  • Use a long handled plastic tool to mix the solution. Paint stirrers usually work best.
  • Avoid letting the caustic solution cool down without stirring periodically. Strong lye solutions might precipitate (which means, some of the NaOH might congeal in the bottom of the container) and fatally compromise the results of your soap batch.
  • Have your extra ingredients, moulds etc. ready before mixing the caustic solution with the fats. Be prepared to work faster then usual.
  • Always insulate your moulds properly. Saponification is always completed faster when soap goes through gel stage, and this is particularly noticeable in discounted water soaps.
  • Keep in mind that water discounting might make unmoulding more difficult than usual. Try to unmould your discounted water soap as soon as possible - that is, as soon as it's set.
  • If you use log or slab moulds and need to cut your soaps, do this as soon as possible. Discounted water soap can go very hard, very quickly!
  • If you sell your soap, always let your DWCP soaps cure as long as they need, and for 4 weeks at the very minimum. Longer curing times are particularly important for soaps that don't go through gel stage - but it's a fact that good soap always needs correct curing times, and nothing beats soap that has been cured long enough. As I like to point out to all those who ask my advice... if soapmaking could be described in one word, that word would be patience. Let's leave hurried soapmaking to the industries, and always strive for better soaps! :-)

I hope you've found this information useful. If you would like to discuss further, there are currently only two Internet mailing lists that offer qualified support and advice from soapmakers who regularly (and competently) discount water. These are Soap Naturally and DWCP.

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last update 24 sep 2011