Rebatching My Big Batch

Rebatching soap is something I’ve read a lot about, but I’d never tried it until now. It was never necessary until now!

Remember that triple batch of milk soap that I made a few weeks ago? When I cut the soap, it seemed to be perfectly fine. No big air pockets, no zap, no drying or burning when used on my hands. But after a few weeks of curing, I picked up a bar and found some large crystals that had seeped out of the soap. Since I made the soap, I’ve had this nagging feeling. You know? That gut feeling that something was wrong. I examined every bar and picked out one bar that had a large amount of seeping crystals. I dug into the soap, and sure enough, I found a small pocket of lye. As I had feared from the beginning, there must have been some undissolved lye in the milk when I added it to the oils. Oh, the horror! Soap that can burn your skin! What to do, what to do?

Rebatch! Save the soap!

When I originally made that triple batch of soap, I measured and remeasured, and remeasured again. I am absolutely certain that I used the correct amounts of oils, lye, and milk. The lye simply didn’t get completely dissolved before going into the oils. Since I knew the exact problem, I knew I could save my soap, all TWELVE pounds of it!

I went back to the drawing boards, did some more research, and came across this post about rebatching from the Midlife Farm Wife, an awesome fellow central Illinois soaper. (By the way, Donna is infinitely funnier and cooler than me. You should definitely check out her blog! I’d love to meet her, but we live about 3 hours apart and both have farms to run. Her farm is real with pigs and cows; I’m raising five messy babies on mine.)

Since Donna’s method seemed pretty simple, I decided to try the crock pot to rebatch my soap. Like the good girl that I am, I followed her instructions for my first rebatching experience. I grated up 8 bars of soap, added 4 ounces of milk (about half a cup) and 1 ounce of sweet almond oil to the pot, set it on high, covered, and stirred it all about every 15 minutes.


Check out that sliver of soap. It’s lighter in the middle where it hadn’t fully dried out yet, and it was much softer. Soap is awesome! Grating it all up is not so awesome…

After about half an hour, the pieces were beginning to melt. Then after about an hour and a half, it was all melted and gloppy. It never fully gelled again like in Donna’s picture, but it seemed to be getting dry and was beginning to burn around the bottom edges.

Rebatching soap

Here’s the gloopy, gloppy soap after about an hour and a half.

I added a tiny bit more milk, making the soap more fluid, and I also added a splash of green apple fragrance. After a good stir, it went into my medium sized mold. The scent is absolutely divine! The original oatmeal, milk & honey scent comes through with the finishing bright notes of apple. I’m calling it Honey Crisp Apple. YUM!

The first batch went extremely well, but it left quite a bit of room in my large crock pot once melted down. For the second batch, I grated up 12 bars and increased the milk and oil accordingly. It took a bit longer to get completely melted, but everything else went just as anticipated. At the end of the cook, I added some more oatmeal, milk & honey fragrance, molded it, and pressed in some bubble wrap to get a honeycomb look.

Since I’d been cooking soap for 4 hours already, I thought I might as well finish it all in one day! For the third and fourth batches, I used both a large and a small crock and cooked it at the same time. Into the small pot went 5 bars grated soap, and another 12 bars went into the large pot again. My arms and shoulders were actually sore the next day from grating all that soap! I added some lavender essential oil to the small pot to get Lavender Milk & Honey soap, very comforting and relaxing. To the last large batch, I added some vanilla fragrance, yielding Vanilla Milk & Honey.

These pictures show the differences in size and shape of some of my handmade wooden molds.

DSC03665 (2)

Small, medium, and large wooden molds filled with rebatched soap. I’m not crazy about the tops, but that’s what happens with most hot process soaps as they’re smushed into the molds.

Bars of rebatched soap

Bars of rebatched soap. From left to right: Honey Crisp Apple, Lavender Milk & Honey, Oatmeal Milk & Honey, and Vanilla Milk & Honey.

Bars of rebatched soaps

See all the pretty speckles in the different soaps? Lots of oatmeal and honey goodness packed in every bar!

I’ve tried out several different widths of molds in an attempt to find my favorite size bar of soap. I think I’ve settled on 3 inches long by 2.5 inches wide by 1-1.25 inch thick. What’s your favorite size?

I’m quite happy with my final products. Even though I didn’t add any interesting bits of colored soap like Donna did, I’m pleased with the simple marbled look of my soaps. The darker bits of soap speckled throughout must be from the honey as it heated and caramelized during rebatching. Dear ol’ hubby likes the looks of these bars better than cold process. After a week of curing, they’re back to being very hard, creating a bubbly, yet very creamy lather.

Rebatched soaps

Not only are they different sizes, but different colors as well. You can already see how much adding vanilla browns the soap. The soap on the far right (Vanilla Milk & Honey) will eventually turn a rich, deep shade of brown.

I hope that I don’t need to rebatch again anytime soon, but I will definitely do this again. This hand milled soap has a look all its own, and the final bars really are very lovely to use. Now that I know that I can do it, I can have some fun trying new scents, colors, and additives that don’t hold up well during cold process soaping. Once again, I’ve found lots more to try! It’s never-ending.


A Big Batch of Soap

There’s a running theme in my soap making experience. Expect the unexpected; things never seem to go as planned! Even the best made plans don’t go as anticipated, and changes abound. Maybe it’s the excitement of making a new soap or trying a new technique that makes my brain run haywire in the middle of a batch. I’m not sure why this happens so frequently, but I’m hoping things will get a little easier with more time and experience. What’s really encouraging is the fact that no matter how many changes I make in the middle of a soap, somehow the combination of fat, water and lye still turns into soap. It’s a little miracle every time!

All of this was true in my recent attempt at making a triple batch of soap. My typical recipe uses 3 pounds of oils to make 4 pounds of soap, and I pour into a loaf mold that makes 12 bars. I recently had a large order placed, and it included 3 loaves of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey soap, so I thought I’d try to make it in one big batch. In my mind, it would be easy to measure out three times the ingredients, and it would take less time overall to get it done. Wrong on both accounts!

The first thing I didn’t anticipate was how long it would take to make the lye solution with 100% oat-milk. I made it very slowly in my usual pitcher, but it was much more difficult because of the large amount of lye and milk. It took f.o.r.e.v.e.r! I had the pitcher sitting in an ice bath, but due to such a large volume, the milk heated up quickly and turned darker than usual. Because I’d infused the milk with oatmeal, it was lumpy and soupy and very much like pudding. It was quite difficult to stir, and I couldn’t really tell if all of the lye had fully dissolved. Lesson learned: use a bigger container to make large amounts of lye solution!

After finally finishing the lye solution, I added it to my giant pot of oils a tiny bit at a time, looking carefully for chunks of undissolved lye. Lo and behold, I found a few! Oh no! I mixed and stirred and took out a few pieces that simply wouldn’t break apart and blend in. This soap will be a bit more superfatted than I intended, but I think it’ll just be that much more moisturizing.

The next thing I didn’t anticipate was how difficult it is to simply manage the weight of such a large volume of oils. Stick blending the soap to light trace took longer than normal.

Big Batch of Soap in the making

The entire tip of my stick blender was completely immersed in the batter when I tried to reach the bottom of the pot. With my current equipment, I couldn’t make a batch any bigger than this one (and I don’t think I’d want to try any bigger anyway).

I usually separate off a bit of soap to turn white, add honey and fragrance to the main soap, then do an in-the-pot swirl and pour the soap into the mold. In this instance, it was difficult to pour just a small amount of soap out of my giant heavy pot, but I muscled my way through! (I’m such a klutz; in my mind’s eye, I can see myself spilling this entire pot of raw soap all over my kitchen!) I added honey to the main soap and blended it in. After I colored the smaller amount white, I added it right back to the main pot. I was excited about how everything was turning out, going smoothly. Hubby was taking pictures for me. Life was good.

Big Batch of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

The in-the-pot swirl was going perfectly, with nice fluid soap.

And then I realized that I’d forgotten to add the fragrance! At this point, I knew that the distinct in-the-pot swirl was out the window. I dumped in my fragrance and lightly mixed it into the soap, turning the entire batch a lighter color, with a only a few wispy swirls of white to be found. I again muscled my way through pouring the soap into three molds, then covered the top with bubble wrap and stuck them all in the oven.

Big Batch of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

From this vantage point, you can still see some white swirls in the soap. Unfortunately, it’s not as noticeable in the final cut bars of soap.

As usual, I had no idea what to expect when unmolding my soaps the next day. Would there be chunks of undissolved lye in there, ruining the whole big batch? Would there be any swirls left at all? Did I mix the fragrance in well enough? Would it even be soap?! 

After cutting through all 3 loaves, I’m happy to report that I found no lye pockets! The pH is great! Woohoo! I did find a few tiny pools of fragrance next to small pieces of oatmeal, but they are disappearing as the soaps cure. I’m not sure if they reabsorb or evaporate out, but they are disappearing. Immediately upon cutting them, most of the bars didn’t have a noticeable swirl, but the colors are changing a bit as they cure, showing off more white! They have a nice gentle look overall.

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey (Big Batch)

See the wisps of white in there? I’m so happy that a few still came out!

I have made so many different batches of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey soap, and not a single one looks like another. Consistency is apparently not my strong suit, and I’m learning to be OK with that. It simply means that each batch is unique, individual, a small work of art. That’s the definition of hand crafted, right?

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey (Big Batch)

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

I’m amazed at people who are able to create soaps from large batches. This batch that made 12 pounds of soap isn’t even very big compared to others I’ve seen online. And this soap isn’t too terribly intricate, either! Not lots of colors, no difficult technique. I can’t imagine trying to do a fancier soap with this much to work with! I think I’ll try about 8 pounds next, but it’ll be a while before I try to make another triple batch.

To my fellow soapers out there: How big are the batches that you typically make? Have you found it easier to make smaller or larger batches? Do you have any tips for making big batches? Pros and cons? I’d love to have a conversation about this with others who have experience!

Mama’s Milk Soap

Our newest babe has super sensitive skin and had terrible eczema breakouts from two months old until about four months old. Every so often, she still has a little flare up, especially on her face. I’ve found that my soap is nearly the only soap I can use on her skin. It keeps her super moisturized, helping to heal the eczema breakouts and preventing new ones from occurring. In my attempts to prevent it, I’ve been researching ingredients known to help and playing around with soap recipes that are very nourishing. In my studies, I’ve found many who say that using breast milk is great for healing skin problems from eczema to sunburns. I’ve seen recipes for breast milk lotion, heard of applying it directly to the skin via wet gauze wrap, taking baths with it added to the water, and so on. So, why not use it in soap?!

I’m sure I’m not the first to try this, but I’m also sure that not many people probably want to talk about it! (I can just hear some of my friends with weak stomachs gagging now.) After breastfeeding five kids, I’m not grossed out in the least by this awesome, natural wonder of God’s creation. In fact, I think it’s pretty incredible! So. many. benefits. Please don’t think I’m getting on a soap box. (Haha! No pun intended!) As wonderful as breast milk is, I totally understand using formula and other types of milk as well. But science has proven how totally awesome breast milk is in so many ways. Plus, I have GALLONS of extra milk in my deep freezer! Just ask my husband. He’ll tell you in a very annoyed voice that I’m not lying when I say our chest deep freezer is FULL of breast milk. The entire freezer. I’m not kidding. My body thinks I had triplets again! 

Another incredible natural wonder for skin: honey! Have you ever checked out the benefits of honey? It’s great at drawing moisture to the skin, and it has antibacterial properties. I’ve been using it as a facial mask a few times a week, and my skin is much more moisturized and clearer. I’ve added it to a few other soaps and wanted to include it in this one as well.

Loaf of Baby Bee Buttermilk fresh out of the mold.

Loaf of Baby Bee Buttermilk Soap fresh out of the mold.

This newest Baby Bee Buttermilk soap recipe includes lots of nourishing oils and butters, high in vitamin E and other skin-benefiting vitamins. It begins with a lye solution made from 100% breast milk. I froze the milk to a slushy state, then added the lye very, very slowly with the pitcher sitting in an ice bath. The milk went from a creamy white color to a deep yellow, almost orange color. When I added it to the oils, everything turned a lovely deep tan color. I separated out a bit of soap and colored it white. At a very thin trace, I added about half an ounce of honey and scented the main batch. For fun, I put bubble wrap in the bottom of the mold, poured the main soap in, did an in-the-mold swirl with the white, then put more bubble wrap on top. Looks like a honeycomb. I oven processed this soap overnight. After just 24 hours, it was already quite hard when I cut it. 

Baby Bee Buttermilk Soap

Baby Bee Buttermilk Soap

It’s cute with the honeycomb edges and a whimsical swirl, smells great, and should be really great for my baby’s skin. Great for my skin too. And yours. And your family’s. And your friends’. And…