Saponification and Curing
This question has been asked so many times it needs a clear answer. I have written two books on this subject, Soap Dough and Soap Molding.
Soap dough is made from cold process soap which saponifies anywhere from 8-36 hours. After all the lye molecules have attached to the fat/oils, the soap is safe to touch. (For those who have purchased either of my two books, see "Fear and Danger: Lye Safety" section) AFTER saponification is complete, lye is no longer active.
After you know the process of saponification the next step is a course of logic - curing. Curing is the evaporation of water used to activate and carry the lye (sodium hydroxide) to the fat/oils. It takes 4-6 weeks to cure soap - for all the water to be evaporated from cold process soap. Evaporation of cold process soap is equivalent to curing.
The curing process does these things:
- Curing hardens the soap bar.
- Maintaining water keeps soap soft.
- Curing enables the soap to be correctly weighed, with the water fully evaporated, you are left with the weight of the actual soap.
- Curing shrinks and hardens the bar, so the soap can be correctly packaged. If you want to see how much your soap shrinks during curing, wrap a piece of paper around a freshly cut bar cold process soap as tight as possible and leave it for fully 8 weeks. You'll see how much your soap shrinks, by how loose the band will be. Not accurate but this experiment will give you a visual of the curing process.
Now that you have a working definition of "curing" you can see how the next step to maintaining your Sorcery Soap Dough is to keep your soap from evaporation.
How to Store Sorcery Soap Dough
By wrapping your soap dough in plastic wrap, placing it inside a plastic airtight bag or container, your soap dough will maintain its pliability. So, keep air away from your soap dough and your soap dough will stay moldable for months. Even the best air tight containers will allow some air, and the soap will have a harder form, simply work the soap dough in your hands and your soap dough will soften. It softens from the heat of your hands along with breaking the structure of the soap.
Working this information backward, what keeps the soap pliable is water.
- Cold process soap is made with water,
- Saponification takes 12-36 hours for the lye to be come inactive, touching soap after full saponification is perfectly safe,
- Curing i.e. water evaporation takes approximately 6 weeks.
- Maintaining water in cold process by wrapping in plastic, avoiding air exposure, maintains pliable soap and therefore "SOAP DOUGH".
- Even with these efforts to eliminate water evaporation, the outside of the soap dough can begin to harden. This crystalline structure can be soften and broken to produce a smooth moldable soap dough with the effort of your hands.
- Sorcery Soap Dough is an ideal recipe I have cultivated that produces a smooth, pliable and moldable dough.