|Vivid colors achieved by gelling soap –
I get lots of questions about a variety of soap topics. The other day, I was asked what the differences were between gelled and ungelled soap. They had read some confusing and misleading posts on forums about the differences, including that cure times were shortened and fragrances were stronger in gelled soap. I realized that this may be a question that others want to know more about as well, hence the explanation on gelled vs ungelled soap.
standards of a chemist (in other words, the experiments are not lab quality but certainly reliable information). In my experience, I have to agree with their conclusions.
When a soap goes through a gel phase, it heats up. Soap that is heated takes on a gelatinous appearance, hence the name. The gel phase will hasten saponification. Most saponification occurs in the first 24 hours while still in the mold. The curing time is not so much waiting for the saponification process as it is waiting for the soap to become milder to the skin and to lose some of the water in the soap.
|LabColors tested through a partial gel phase reveal
stronger colors with gelling – from www.soapqueen.com
According to experiments conducted by Kevin Dunn, a chemist specializing in soapmaking, it appears most soaps have a rather short peak in a gel phase and the temperature typically stays below 180°F. The only soaps that reached 180°F in his experiments during gel phase had high water content (amounts that most people would never consider using). Now, some fragrance oils can push this temperature higher, but it is more important to note how long the temperature is sustained in the gel phase. In the experiments, the peaks were short – 20 minutes or so in length at the top temperature. Therefore, cure times would not be shortened as hot process soap needs a longer cooking time, according to most hot process soapmakers. I have yet to find experiments documenting length of cook time with length of cure time. Plus the hot process method requires you to reach a ‘fluff’ stage to know it is finished cooking, which is well past the gel phase. Gelled soap just doesn’t heat up high enough and long enough to reach that state and warrant shorter cure times. If you want shorter cure times, HP your soap.