Whole Life Soaps

The Soap Challenge Club for June 2019

Bill McConnellComment

Often, I scroll the internet and wonder how some of these inventive-looking soaps I see are created. I mean, I look at the concept of rimmed soaps or kiss pours and I wonder what inspired soap makers to challenge themselves to create these difficult designs.

Recently, after watching a few videos on youtube by Holly from Kapia Mera Soap, she sent me the link to Amy Warden’s Soap Challenge Club, and I decided to jump in.

This month’s challenge is a food challenge. I often soap with food ingredients (goat milk, beer, buttermilk, pumpkin, to name a few ingredients), so I was enticed by this particular challenge.

June’s entry requires the following components: an edible component and a drinkable component. To make it more difficult on myself, I am doing the advanced challenge. This means that my lye for the drink component needs a 100% water substitution component. The food item needs to be 1/8th of my total oil batch. In addition, advanced entries must only use natural colorants (like clays and plant powders) and natural scents (like essential oils).

So, I have chosen to make a soap from wine, yogurt and coconut milk.


I don’t use small molds. I run a pretty bumping business, and I make my soap in 30-50 pound batches. My attitude is always go big, so I prepped my recipe.

I used 3 separate batches. The first batch was a wine batch. I had to make my lye solution using wine instead of water. I made enough for a 15-pound batch that I would pour as a bottom layer into three separate soap molds.

Boiling off the alcohol. This process takes about 20-30 minutes.

Boiling off the alcohol. This process takes about 20-30 minutes.

I started my boil with two bottles of wine, but since my recipe calls for 60.8 ounces of liquid, it took four bottles wine to create enough alcohol-free liquid in order to make my lye solution.

After the boil off, I had to freeze the wine so that it would work better with sodium hydroxide I planned to pour all over it.

To freeze my wine, I poured the cooled liquid into a silicone mold that I use for melt and pour soaps. This created frozen pucks of wine that were 3.5 ounces each in weight. That meant that for my lye solution, I would need 17.3 pucks of wine to make my soap. I made sure to do this the night before, so the pucks of wine would be good and hard.

The next day, at my shop in Wrightwood, CA, I measured out my lye (my usual recipe takes 710 grams of lye), which is specific to the oils I use. I added a few frozen pucks, then a little lye, and so on until all of the ice wine was in the bowl with the lye, melting into a lye solution for soap.

Ice pucks being melted into lye solution

Ice pucks being melted into lye solution

I made sure to do this in the sink. Had there been any alcohol left, I was worried about it erupting everywhere. I did this mistake once with beer—that is, not using the sink—it was an amateur mistake, and it burned me pretty badly, so I did not acre to repeat that incident.

I allowed the lye to cool to about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. While that was happening, I mixed my oils together and also cooled them down to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, I mixed them together. I had initially planned to add some kaolin clay to whiten it up, but the caramel color of the wine in the soap was so pretty, I chose to leave it natural. I added lemongrass and patchouli to heighten the woodsy and spicy notes of the red wine.

Using the back of a spoon to add textures and layers for a more interesting design

Using the back of a spoon to add textures and layers for a more interesting design

Once poured in the mold, I allowed it to setup some, and then using the back of a spoon, I made a series of wave patterns along the soap. I did this because my intention was to add a pencil line to differentiate the layers. This was definitely going to be the darkest layer fo the three.

Creating a pencil line from Moroccan Red Clay

Creating a pencil line from Moroccan Red Clay

A pencil line is not difficult to make. You can make them straight, or you can add textures, as I did above, to make more inventive lines. In hindsight, the clay powder created a very dark brown line. It is noticeable in the final product, but I should have used a french green clay or perhaps kaolin clay so that the line stands out more. I am not unhappy with it, but it’s an artistic note that I could have developed better. Regardless, to make a pencil line, just use a small sifter and sift the powder of your choice over the soap. The wet soap will absorb it, but just beneath the surface. This way, the line remains rather than being incorporated into the soap.

The next step involved making a yogurt layer. To add a food puree to yoru soap, you need to know the total weight of all your oils in the batch. You then divide that into eight equal parts, and then your puree should be the weight of that eighth. You can certainly add more, but you risk rancidity of you use a food item that is too fatty.

I chose nonfat greek yogurt without any additional sugars. My total oil weight for this layer was 168 ounces. 1/8 of that (.125) is 21 ounces. I added this directly to my heated/cooled oils. I was sure to disperse it with my stick blender before adding a traditional water lye solution.

For color, I added safflower powder, and I scented it with lavender. I poured it as above, added the additional textures, and then amde a second pencil line from unsweetened cocoa powder.

After I finished with this layer, I used a third food/liquid component. I used 100% organic coconut milk. I used the same ratio taht I used for my yogurt layer— 21 ounces. Only this time, I discounted my lye solution by that much so that I would not have an excess of water in my soap. It would have been a bummer to get to this third layer and make that rookie mistake. Anyway, I thought I added a color component to this level. After going back and looking at my notes, the only color comes from white of the coconut milk.

I did make a video of my experience if you care to watch it.


So, how did it turn out? Let’s take a look.

Well, I think it turned out awesome. As you can see, the red clay line is a little harder to see, but it’s definitely there. The cocoa powder amde a fantastic line. I love how each layer is a different shade of taht caramel that the wine inspired.

Overall, win or lose, this is a great lookin and great smelling soap, one that I will not be ashamed to sell in my store.