Why do we need water?
Lye (NaOH for soap bars, or KOH for liquid soap) is not soluble in oil, so you must dissolve it first in water (or a liquid) before you mix it with the oils. You must use deionized or distilled water to dissolve the lye, as tap water contains minerals which can affect the quality of your soap. The iron in tap water can encourage the oils in your soap to become rancid and create DOS (dreaded orange spots).
What is the difference between deionized, distilled and purified water?
Deionized and distilled waters are both purified waters. Deionized water is water that has had almost all of its mineral ions removed. They are cations like sodium, calcium, iron, and copper, and anions like chloride and sulfate. Removing the iron ions helps you avoid DOS. Distilled water is water which was boiled, evaporated and condensed, leaving most impurities behind.
Other liquids you can use to replace water
Tea – You must use distilled or deionized water when brewing the tea. You must also leave the tea to cool down completely before mixing it with the lye, or freeze it to keep the lye solution cool. Chamomile tea makes a lovely, light yellow soap, and your soap will have a light scent of chamomile. The scent of most teas will not go into the soap. And they will turn brown when mixed with lye. So your soap will have a brownish colour. You must keep this in mind when choosing the colours of your soap. But teas make lovely botanical soaps;
Fruit or vegetable juice – You can use orange, pineapple, beetroot, apple, carrot, parsley, etc. The lye will react with the natural sugars in the juice and it will oxidise it. So most juices will turn brown when mixed with lye. Carrot juice is an exception, and it will make light yellow/orange soap. But you must freeze the juice to keep the temperature of the lye solution low. When mixing the juice with lye it might also release an unpleasant smell. But the smell will fade and will be overpowered by the fragrances or essential oils you use to fragrance your soap. Because of the colour of the juice, your soap base will not be white but coloured. So any other colours you will add will not come through as nice;
Milk – The milk’s natural sugars and fats will react with the lye. If you are not careful your milk will scorch, it will turn yellow-orange, or even curdle. The best way to avoid the milk scorching is to keep the temperature of the lye solution very low. You can find detailed information and tips and tricks on how to make milk soap without scorching your milk in Module 10 – How to make milk soap.
Beer – A favourite amongst beer brewers who are also soap crafters and for soap for men. Beer soap is a great soap to try. Beer will give a great lather. But due to its natural sugars and alcohol, the lye might scorch the beer and the soap will harden very fast. Best would be to freeze the beer before mixing it with lye. Also keep the oils and butters at low temperatures, and don’t insulate your soap after you poured it in the mould. If you insulate it (cover it in a blanket) it might overheat and crack.
If you use dark beer you must keep in mind that it will colour your soap, so other colours will not come through as nice. You need to take this into consideration when deciding the colour scheme of your soap;
Wine – Similar with beer, and should be treated the same way when making wine soap. Wine soap makes great hen dues/bachelorette parties’ favours.
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