2020 Update: I have completely changed the way that I make transparent soap! I now use a method that can be done in 20 minutes! Check out the blog post here and check out my eClass here.
**Original Blog Post Below**
I’ve tried making transparent soap a few different times and the results haven’t been so great! After seeing a demo by Jackie Thompson at the Lonestar Soap and Toiletries seminar I was inspired to try it again. I’m going to explain what I did and share my recipe. But please don’t think I’m an expert! I didn’t get completely clear soap, but I’m happy with it. For further reading, check out Making Transparent Soap by Catherine Failor. I will say that the book was a bit confusing to me and the recipes are for really big batches, but it might help you in your research.
So what is transparent soap? Transparent soap is simply hot process soap that uses solvents (sugar, glycerin and alcohol) to dissolve the soap crystals that form allowing light to pass, therefore creating transparency.
When creating a transparent soap recipe, choose at least 75% hard oils (coconut oil, palm oil, tallow, lard, stearic acid). All of the solvents added can soften a recipe that contains lots of soft oils. Include castor oil in your recipe. Castor oil is a bit of solvent so works well in transparent soap.
I formulated my recipe using a 0% superfat, as unsaponfied oils can create cloudiness. The added glycerin acts as a superfat in transparent soap.
All transparent soap recipes that I’ve come across use a combo of solvents, including glycerin, sugar water and alcohol. I don’t know enough about why each is used. This will require some further research on my part. My solvents ended up being equal to my oil amount. I used 500 grams of oils and 500 grams of solvents.
You can cook your transparent soap in a crock pot. I used Jackie’s tip of using Press & Seal wrap to cover the crock pot to reduce water/alcohol evaporation.
Warning! You do use alcohol in this process so be aware of open flames or anything that might ignite the fumes. I went so far as to blow out the gas starters on my stove since I was making this in my kitchen. I opened the patio door so that I had fresh air at all times. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher on hand (a bit dramatic, but you should have one in your kitchen anyways).
I used denatured alcohol from Save on Citric. I don’t see it on their site now, but I’m sure you can find online. I know a lot of you are going to ask if you can use rubbing alcohol or something that you can find at the medical supply and my response is…I have no idea. Try it and see. This is the only alcohol that I have tested.
Transparent Soap Recipe
Oils – 500 grams
- Castor Oil – 100 grams (20%)
- Coconut Oil – 150 grams (30%)
- Tallow – 150 grams (30%)
- Stearic Acid – 60 grams (12%)
- Avocado Oil – 40 grams (8%)
- Lye – 76 grams (0% superfat to reduce cloudiness)
- Distilled Water – 152 grams (double lye amount)
Solvents (equal to 100% of oils)
- Glycerin – 125 grams (25% of oils)
- Denatured Alcohol – 250 grams (50% of oils)
- Sugar – 125 grams (25% of oils)
- Water – 83 grams (to create sugar solution)
Safety Warning: If you try this process be sure to have plenty of air circulation and avoid open flames because of the alcohol evaporation. You don’t want the fumes catching on fire. When working with sodium hydroxide wear safety gear including goggles and gloves.
Step 1 – Weigh the oils (castor, coconut, tallow & avocado) and glycerin into your crock pot and melt. (Do not add the stearic acid yet.)
Step 2 – Weigh the lye and distilled water into two separate containers. Add the lye to the water while stirring to create a solution. Be sure to mix in a well-ventilated area. Be sure to wear safety goggles and gloves.
Step 3 – You don’t have to let it cool down. Pour the lye solution into your melted oils/glycerin and blend to trace.
Step 4 – Weigh out the stearic acid + about 10 extra grams. Melt using a double boiler on the stove.
Step 5 – Place your crock pot onto a scale and hit tare. Weigh your stearic acid into the crock pot. The extra stearic that you measured out to melt will ensure you don’t come up short if any sticks to your container while pouring (pro tip from Jackie!).
Step 6 – Blend again. It will get quite thick because of the stearic acid.
Step 7 – Weigh out the denatured alcohol and add to mixture. Stir quickly, breaking up the soap. It will start to dissolve a bit in the alcohol. Scrape the sides of the crock pot to get all of it mixed together.
Step 8 – Immediately cover with Press & Seal and the lid. Set to cook. You want as little evaporation of the alcohol to happen as possible so that it remains in the soap mixture to dissolve the soap.
Step 9 – Let the soap cook for 2 hours. During this time the solvents will work on dissolving the soap crystals that form, creating a clear soap. No need to stir.
Step 10 – After two hours, test your soap for clarity. You can do this by pouring a bit of soap mixture onto a cold glass cup. When you first remove the press and seal, you’ll notice lots of foam. I simply sprayed with alcohol and it went away.
Here is my first test.
Not the best picture but you get the idea. It looked a bit cloudy to me so I cooked for 30 more minutes and tested again.
Here is a picture of my first test (left) next to the new test (right). It has cleared up a bit.
Is it perfectly clear? No. But I was tired of cooking it at this point! lol I declared it ready for the next step. Cover to prepare your sugar solution.
Step 11 – Create your sugar solution by combing sugar and water into a pot and heating. The sugar should dissolve pretty quickly with high heat. If it doesn’t, add a bit more water.
Step 12 – Add the sugar solution to the crock pot and mix. Cover and cook for 30 minutes – 1 hour longer.
Step 13 – You can check the clearness again if you want. You can then decide to add more alcohol or sugar solution. I left mine as-is.
Step 14 – Once you declare it done, it is time to scent, color and mold. I didn’t add scent because I was going to use this as embeds for cold process soap. I did add a bit of blue mica to turn it green (the natural color of this soap is yellow).
Step 15 – Pour into molds. Spray with alcohol to reduce bubbles on the surface.
Step 16 – After 24 hours un-mold. You can un-mold it as soon as it hardens, which is usually less than 24 hours.
Step 17 – Let this soap cure for 4-6 weeks. During the cure the soap actually gets more clear!
Use your transparent soap as-is or use for embeds! Here is what mine looks like. Not perfect, but I love it!
And yes, it did clear up after a 6 week cure!
Transparent soap making can be a bit daunting to try. I hope this tutorial clearly explains the steps that I used and that it inspires you to give it a try!