Even us soap makers that have been soaping for awhile make a mistake every now and then. I personally get in a hurry or try to move too quickly through the process on occasion.
Have you ever gone to pour your lye solution into your oils and noticed that there was a solid ring of lye in the bottom of your lye solution container? I’ve done this more than once. Check out my latest.
That white, ice-looking thing in the bowl is undissolved lye.
You probably can guess what causes this.
I was lazy about mixing my water while stirring in my lye. I dumped the lye in too quickly with not enough stirring.
How to Correctly Stir Your Sodium Hydroxide Into Water
Start mixing your water before you even sprinkle in your sodium hydroxide. The pre-swirling of the water helps when mixing in the sodium hydroxide.
Start adding your sodium hydroxide while continually stirring. Add about half. Mix really well.
Add the rest. Mix really well.
You should never just dump in your sodium hydroxide and THEN mix. Keep the water swirling.
Fixing the Issue
I personally have had good luck with breaking up the ring of lye and adding warm water to dissolve. It doesn’t break up easily…you have to chop at it with a spoon or something similar (stainless steel). It will eventually dissolve though.
You just have to cross your fingers that your soap doesn’t start thickening up before you add the rest of the lye solution.
UPDATED TO ADD: Wear goggles and gloves when you make your lye solution and when you’re chopping up the lye ring! It will splash. 🙂 Thanks, Carol!
Have you had this happen? What have you done? Post in the comments below!
I just mixed dry lye into oils that I had already added water to.
Is there any way to salvage? Reprocess?
Very interesting. I have lye that doesn’t want to dissolve, I mix in a stainless steel bowl. Maybe that’s the problem or I bought some out of date lye?. Thanks for any input.
I’ve been making soap for year successfully but this has now happened to me – I ignored the ring at the bottom and made the soap but now, of course, the soap hasn’t hardened! In hindsight, I mixed well but there was a pause before I started to mix so I guess that’s when it happened. I now know I shouldn’t have ignored it!
I now have 1lb of soap which won’t harden – is there anything I can do with it? It would be such a shame to throw it away.
This will happen only with Stainless Steel pot or glass pot. If you change a plastic one, it’ll be fine without stirring it on time.
I only use plastic, and it still happens on occasion. (never make a lye solution in glass!)
It’s not just a mixing issue. I had this happen and thought it must be– so I was super alert and vigilant the next time. I stirred it thoroughly and then came back frequently, and check it at intervals. It was almost to room temperature and all was well…. then I left the house for a few hours– came back and a HUGE lye ring!
I have had this happen with my milk/lye solution . I soap cool. Just filtered most of the solution and left a little behind to dissolve the ring. It took time. No major issues just filtered and incorporated the remaining solution and then added to my oils as usual. It did worry me. I now pay close attention to the side of my container so as not to let the lye collect there.
I warm it gently over a gas burner on my stove and it disdolves and disappears quickly. No chopping. Just stirring.
This happened to me for the first time today. I make my lye in batches, in advance, and it is certainly probable that I should have stirred better. I chopped the bits and then strained through cheesecloth.
I’m so glad I found this post! I premix a 50/50 water:lye solution so it’s ready when I want to make a batch of soap. I put my container in an ice bath so the fumes are not as strong.Today I was interrupted and couldn’t stir as often. So I took it out of the ice bath & just left it in the sink. When I came back to it, a ring of undissolved lye had formed. I broke it up & a lot has melted but there are still chunks that have not. Fingers crossed it will dissolve on it’s own over night, but what if it doesn’t? I was thinking that when I measure out my lye water, I add more water per the recipe and maybe that additional water will be enough to melt these chunks. Sound right?
Update to my original comment. By the following day the remaining bits of lye dissolved ?
I’ve had the same experience as Colleen when adding the lye to ice or an ice/water combo – last week, in fact. But my crusty lye deposits have usually been in a small round patch. So I suspect that the form of the lye deposits may depend on the shape of the bottom of the container you use.
I’ve found that if you stir the solution at regular intervals, the patch of lye does dissolve slowly as the water warms up. Even without chopping. (I soap at room temperature, so usually have plenty of time for the lye to dissolve.)
I’ve been making soaps since 1999 (and teaching since 2003) and it has happened a couple times. It was usually when I used ice in place of water and did not stir enough. I love your posts! I usually end up reading soap making blogs and finding lots of misinformation. Your posts are spot on and I’ve learned from you 🙂 Thanks!
I’ve never had that happen either. I’ve been soaping since 2004. As a hobbyist, I buy lye as needed and it’s fresh. I can’t help but wonder if it’s “old” lye that comes from buying in bulk? OR that it’s been stored on a concrete floor in the basement or garage? It that’s so, I’ve heard that lye can take on water by osmosis through the concrete floor. To prevent this from happening, the bucket needs to be lifted off the floor onto a wood pallet or something similar. Hope this helps someone.
Hi Cee! I buy small bottles of lye. I’m 100% certain that this is a mixing issue. 🙂
But your comment is super helpful for someone who might have the issue that you are explaining. Thank you!
I bought anog solid Chuck lye (1 big bar). How do I break it into smaller pieces to make soap
I don’t ever remember having this happen but since I’ve only been making soap about 2-3yrs now I’m still very cautious w it. I don’t pour it as fast as I’ve noticed the seasoned soapers cuz I’m still convinced that I’m gonna blow Kingston up w mixing up my lye for my soaps but I’m sure I’ll get there someday
Happens to me more often that it should. I usually make my lye solution with half ice and half water so not only is there less water (initially) to dissolve the lye, but lye doesn’t dissolve quickly in super cold water.
I chop it up as well as I can and then usually set it aside to use in a later batch (covered, in a super safe place) and start again for the current bath.
Alternatively I warm the whole shebang (after chopping) and stir often until it’s gone.
WEAR GOGGLES AND GLOVES WHILE CHOPPING. SPLASHING WILL OCCUR!!!
Yes yes yes! 🙂 <3
thanks! has not happened to me yet! but appreciate learning about this … i will add an extra effort to my combining! thank you:)
I have never had this happen to me. So your telling me this is one more thing I can have happen. What would I do? If I noticed it before It ended up in my oils, I would dump the water & lye and start over. I have had some mistakes like oily soap and still have not figured out if I measured wrong, or did not stir it enough before molding.