Soleseife (zo•luh zigh•fuh) – Brine Soap – Step by Step


MIdnight:  I decide that I just have to do another batch (and document it) before I’m done for the day.  I collect everything I need because this soap moves fast. You can take all the time you want getting things ready and cooled but once you start combining… be quick. IMG_7730My 32 ounces of coconut oil is slushy, mostly melted (I bought 93 degree by mistake. Totally interchangeable with 76 degree which is the norm and if it’s not marked, it’s 76 degree. I don’t need to melt it further. I want everything as cool as it can be for this process so I’ll let the heat from the lye finish melting it. 
IMG_7731My lye water is already master-batched which saves time. I’m not going into that for this tutorial but essentially what I have here is the lye needed for this recipe (4.98 oz) with an equal amount of water (4.98 ounces). Since the recipe calls for 12.16 ounces of water and I’ve used 4.98 ounces I have an additional 7.18 ounces to mix with my salt.
IMG_7732I measure out my 3 ounces of salt. The amount of salt that seems to be “standard” for Soleseife is 25% of the amount of water. That seems to be slightly more than will dissolve in my 7.18 ounces of water. But, close enough. (The ratio of lye to fats is crucial in soapmaking. We have much more leeway with the water and most additives). The saltwater goes into the freezer for a few minutes to cool it down while I finish getting everything ready.
IMG_7733Essential oil (or FO)… this is the action hero (or villan) of soap, generally speaking.  Once we mix that in it can change everything. A nice relaxed bunch of ingredients just chilling in the bowl can suddenly decide that they have to be soap right now and BAM! You’ve got an obstacle to overcome.  With salt and brine soaps it seems  that the salt is accelerating things even without scents or color so we really have to be ready when we start adding things.  Color can also make this difference but we deal with both the same way. In this case I’m using Lemongrass and Eucalyptus essential oils. I know them well. They will speed things up a little bit but not terribly. They cause the soap to be a very pretty color so I won’t be adding anything else for color.
IMG_7735Everything ready.  We have our lye water, our little container of scent, the bucket of coconut oil mostly melted and the container of salt water. A spatula and stick blender are also near by. Take three deep breaths. You are going to move smoothly and calmly. Do not rush, just move with quick and sure motions while you breathe. Keep in mind we are practicing alchemy here and deep breaths , being centered, and appreciating how great it is to be an active alchemist are all part of the magic. Also, be mindful. Check the proximity of the blender cord to your lye water. With sure knowledge and appreciation of your own power, and the power of your craft,  begin.
IMG_7736First, gently add the lye water to your coconut oil. Give a few quick blends with the stick on and off. You could even use the spatula for this. You want it mixed well more than anything. This is not likely to start acceleration. It may not be very clear that your coconut oil is changing because it will melt while it also thickens, keeping about the same consistency but changing color and texture if you look closely.
IMG_7738This is melted, thickening coconut oil. It is more yellowy and less gritty or grainy looking. Don’t over-mix. Now move to your saltwater. Slowly pour that into the existing mixture. There will be a little undissolved salt at the bottom of the container. Try to keep it out of your mix. If a small amount of water stays behind with it, that’s ok. Time speeds up now. Give a few good blends to mix but not too much. We want it well mixed but not more thickened than we have to.  Again, you can use a spoon or spatula for this.
IMG_7739Here comes the lovely. Like most attractive elements it’s going to make things wonderful and you know there is always a price for that. Take a deep breath. Give thanks (you can smell that wonderful scent, can’t you?) Then pour into the mix and don’t stop for taking pictures or answering phones.
IMG_7741One ounce of Lemongrass & Eucalyptus. (3:1)
IMG_7742Mix the scent as quickly, smoothly and gently as possible. Sometimes (with other scents or no scent) this mix will still be very thin looking. That’s fine. The thing to remember with this kind of soap is that we don’t wait for trace to do anything but pour. Have your elements mixed in as early as possible so that when trace comes, and doesn’t stay long, you’ll be ready. In this case there is just enough time (perhaps a little more without the picture taking)
IMG_7743By the time this is well mixed it is already pretty thick as you can see and it is going to thicken very quickly from here on.  Get it quickly into your molds. I highly recommend individual molds for brine and salt soaps. Your timing has to be pretty perfect to cut them from a loaf and they will still be somewhat crumbly. Better to go with individual molds. They’ll be more professional looking, easier and you don’t need to wake up in 3 hour to cut them.
IMG_7744With thick soap in cavity molds your biggest concern is air pockets.  (And these bars had some big ones. See the finished soap at the bottom.) The thinner the soap is the less that will be a problem. If it is thick, glob your soap into the molds quickly and pressing it into the corners mainly. Fill it up and give it a few good slams on a hard surfact. That is wny my molds are on trays. Silicone slapped on a hard surface tends to fountain. Overfill the molds and then scrape across the top to get a fill so clean you won’t need much clean up work later.  I used some extra little molds not only for samples but because I don’t really like these heart molds and am going to attempt a little decoration on them.

12:29 My kitchen is as clean as when I began at midnight. It took me a lot longer to write this page than it did to make the soap.  Tomorrow I will un-mold it and I will add it to this page – even if something unexpected happens and it’s not what I think it will be. (But I’m pretty confident that it will be great – except maybe for my decoration idea. Come back and check it out.
IMG_7746Here is the actual recipe as it comes from soap calc. Two things to notice:

1) The salt is not listed in here anywhere but as I mentioned, with about 12 ounces of water you want about 3 ounces of salt (25%)

2) I cut off the bottom of the soap calc on purpose. If you start looking at the qualities this soap will have, it may make you doubt yourself. The important information is here. After you make it, go back and look at the properties compared to your soap. It will teach you a lot about how soap calc sees things.



One final thing: Every soap maker who is not very experienced with 100 percent coconut oil soap will say “Isn’t it drying?”  The big, fat, overwhelmingly popular answer to that question is “Hell no!!!” Although any soap will be drying or in some other way not appropriate for some people, coconut oil soap does not seem to be known to be drying by anyone except soap makers. It has a lot to do with how some common words have been taught in soap making and is not really anyone’s fault.  Just try it.  The majority of my business is based on coconut oil soaps (and castile soaps).

Here is a picture of the finished soaps. Some are perfect but most are not. They have big air pockets/distortions. Next time I’ll make sure my soap is thinner when I pour. The batch I did after this I added my lye water, salt water and scent before I even came near trace and as soon as the soap began to thicken I poured it.  I’ll show you those when they harden.


Please let me know what you think and how this goes for you. I have not been so excited about a soap bar since I first made soap in the 70s. That’s a pretty big deal I’d say!

Namaste’. Have fun. Let me know if I can help.

Please feel free to point out typos and similar errors. I am a terrible proof reader and appreciate your help.

Update:  July 14, 2 weeks after original post: I have been on a soleseife binge trying new molds, scents and colors, deciding what I will add to my soap line for sale.  Here are the varieties I have tried since.
New Soaps

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