The Teardrop Soap Challenge

The Teardrop, this month’s Soap Challenge Club technique, was so appropriately named since it caused so many of us soapmakers to cry! Holy moly, was this a tough one (for me at least)! Amy gave us a lovely tutorial, and she warned us that we had to find that “Goldilocks” consistency of soap…but it was completely elusive to me.

So here’s the technique in a nutshell: Make a soap batter that is slow moving, and get it to barely light trace. Pour off about 10% of the soap into different contrasting colors. Pour about a third of the main batter into the mold, then very very slowly, pour the colors down the center of the mold, one after the next, creating stripes that should spread over the first layer. Then, pour the main batter simultaneously down both sides of the mold to essentially squish the colored stripes into the shape of a teardrop in the center that climbs toward the top of the mold. Doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult, but I had so much trouble!!!

I chose to use Amy’s slow-moving recipe and the fragrance Bite Me from Nature’s Garden, a combination that I’ve found to be incredibly easy to work with in the past. In fact, I’ve used this same awesome duo in a few of Soap Challenges: the spin swirl, the tall skinny shimmy, and the circling Taiwan swirl (the Satsuma batch). And with great success each time! So what happened with this teardrop technique?

For my first attempt, I used a regular loaf mold, soaped at room temperature (about 73 degrees), and added some goat milk powder and colloidal oatmeal to the oils. Mad Oils is the sponsor of the Club this month, so I chose to use their lovely micas as colorants, mixed with water. I began mixing the oils and lye, pulsing and stirring, being patient and going slowly to try to find that perfect trace. I was careful to stop and poured off a bit of soap into 5 cups, but I soon discovered that my little 3 ounce paper cups weren’t quite big enough! I had a difficult time mixing up the colors without splashing them all over the place, and this took longer than I’d anticipated. By the time I poured the main batter into the mold, I could tell I was in trouble. It was already at a medium to thick trace. I tried to work quickly to pour the colored stripes down the center, but they were setting up as well.

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Definitely too thick! And I “poured” too much soap for each stripe too.

When I got to “pouring” the main batter down both sides, it was more of a spoon plop to get it in. As suspected, I did NOT end up with a teardrop, but more of a triangle.

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Mount Vesuvius in multicolor!

I did a Taiwan swirl on top with the remainder of the colors, and it makes a lovely eruption coming out of the volcanoes.

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A few bars only partially gelled, too. A framed view of the volcano!

Batch #1: FAIL. But, it’s still soap, smells good, and looks kind of cool if you didn’t know that I was aiming for a teardrop.

Second verse, same as the first. Mostly. I chose a tall skinny mold instead of a loaf, but used the same recipe, same fragrance, same additives, and Mad Oils micas again. I changed up the order of the micas, used a different blue and pink, and added an orange rather than a red, but those small changes shouldn’t have affected the behavior of the soap. This time, pink was the base color. Again, I slowly and carefully stirred and pulsed my blender, waiting for the perfect consistency. I stopped just shy of trace, hoping to be able to work with it longer before it set up. I poured off the colors into 5 ounce paper cups this time and stirred as quickly as possible, but I was still pretty messy here. (I need to find some of the tiny whisks that Amy used in her tutorial! Spoons didn’t work nearly as well.) Just like in my first attempt, by the time I poured the first layer, it was pretty thick. I only poured in one stripe of each color and needed to add in more pink up the sides. No pictures of the pour this time; not enough time! I knew it was too thick already, so what’s a girl to do? I still had quite a bit of colored soap left in the cups. Never without hope, I thought maybe with lots of stirring to loosen it up, I could pull a teardrop out after all by trying a second pour. But I was wrong.

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What is this? Definitely not any teardrops in there!

The stirring didn’t really help, and I just ended up with 2 weird multicolor spots in the middle of a pink soap.

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Is that a platypus on top? Or maybe a lizard-like creature?

And to add insult to injury, I used too much water in the yellow and orange micas and apparently didn’t stir it up well enough. As I was pouring those colors, I found a few pools of water in the soap! They broke through the other colors and layers, and upon cutting the soap, the extra water seeped out.

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A few bars have holes and pocks in them.

Yuck! At least my girls love this fragrance. They’ll have fun using the hole-y soap!

By the third attempt, I decided to blend just to emulsion. Same recipe, same fragrance, same additives, same micas as the second batch, tall skinny mold, and again soaped at room temperature. I switched up the order of colors (just to be able to quickly identify which batch was which). Just like the previous two tries, my soap batter set up quickly as I mixed in colorants, and I knew I wasn’t going to find a teardrop. After the first round of striped pours, the soap was spreading out to the edges of the mold, so I added a little bit of green base soap. Then I quickly poured another round of stripes and added more green. I still had quite a bit of colored soap in my cups, so I spread out thin layers in rainbow order on top of the mold…a poor attempt at a salvage, but I knew it would still be interesting to look at and result in a usable soap.

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Rainbow huts with rainbow smoke coming from the chimney!

Haha! Nope, no teardrops here.

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A lovely row of houses, yes? My entry for the Challenge Club!

Batch #3: FAIL. Still no teardrops.

Since I wanted to at least make an entry, I’ve decided to go with this last row of houses. Not a teardrop in sight, but perhaps others can learn from my many mistakes!

With all of the end-of-school activities and craziness around here, I haven’t been able to try to make any more teardrops. I was hoping to try some new batches with no additives, but alas, it’ll have to wait a week or two. I’m interested to see what may be causing the faster than usual trace with this slow-moving recipe that I’ve used successfully time and time again. There must be a scientific explanation for this, and I’m determined to figure it out! It’ll just have to be after the Challenge Club closes. Anyone out there have any input? I’ve seen that several other soapmakers had a rough go with this technique just like me. I love that we can pool our collective experiences and knew knowledge and come up with some answers!! Another of the many reasons that I LOVE this Club! Thanks so much, Amy, for putting it all together. I’ve haven’t participated in the last few months, and I’ve really been missing it! Now I’m looking forward to finishing up the school year so that I can take the time to read everyone else’s experiences.

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