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Tutorial: Shining up Cold Process Soap (How to Get Rid of Ash on Soap)

Removing Ash on Cold Process Soap TutorialOne common issue among soapmakers is soda ash, which happens during the initial saponification process and sometimes, throughout the curing period. Soda Ash is caused primarily by any free sodium in sodium hydroxide interacting with oxygen, various fragrance constituents, and even heat, which forms sodium carbonate on the surface of the soap as it comes in contact with the air.

Soda ash isn’t harmful in finished soap, and is purely a cosmetic/aesthetic issue.

Minimizing air contact by covering soap in the mold will help to reduce ash, so will spraying the surface of the soap with isopropylΒ alcohol.

What if covering your molds isn’t an option? Or you’d rather not use additional additives? Or if you tend to get ash during cure? Well, there’s a solution for that! πŸ™‚

Here at Amathia Soapworks, two of our soaps often ash during cure. A quick skinny dip in distilled water (which is already in the soap formula) cleanses away the ash and makes them look bright, shiny, and new. Keep reading for the detailed instructions!

Quick Bite Tutorial: How to Get Rid of Ash on Soap (Plus shining it up!)

  • Cold Process Soap with AshSnag those soda ash covered bars of soap! Get set up by lining up an assembly line, with your ash covered soap on one side, a bowl or bucket with enough distilled water to cover a bar of soap, and a surface to place the fresh dipped soap. I recommend using a microfiber cloth or paper towels that do not have a weave texture. (Weave textures will transfer to the soap, so Β you really don’t want to use a terry cloth or towel!)
  • Dip the Soap in Distilled WaterSlap on a pair of gloves that have smooth fingertips, trust me on this one! If you don’t wear gloves, the oils from your skin will transfer to the soap. After it dries, every bar will be showing off your finger prints. Wear gloves. πŸ˜‰
  • Gently give your soap a bath! Dip it into the distilled water, immediately pull it back out, and shake off the excess water. Don’t let it hang out in the water – in and out, quickly. Cold process soap loves to suck up water, you don’t want to have to cure again, do you?
  • Cold Process Soap after WashingPlace the fresh dipped soap on your drying surface. If you weren’t quick enough on your dipping, you’ll want to rotate what side the soap is sitting on so it doesn’t get soggy. Your drying surface should not be sopping wet from the soap, just barely damp where the bars are placed.
  • Using a Heat Gun to Speed Up Dry TimeIf you want to speed up the dry time, hit up the squeaky clean soaps with a heat gun on high. Be careful not to burn yourself or your soap. Keep the heat gun moving and moving!

After the soap has dried, not only will your bars be soda ash free, but they’ll also have a nice sheen on them.

Another cool trick? If you have soap that has scent that is fading, try this method to see if it brings it back. I’ve noticed that after a long cure, some essential oils will seemingly dissipate. Renewing the surface of the soap reveals whether the scent is truly gone!

My favorite thing about using this method is I’m not adding any additional additives to my soap and get to keep my formula the way I love it, plus it’s quick and easy! If you don’t mind heat, you can use steam instead of a quick dip, too. πŸ™‚

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33 Responses

  1. wow. That simple ? amazing. I almost wish for some soda ash to see if it works !!! and I love what you said that CP soap sucks up water. I cannot tell the kids that eNOUGH !!! keep the soap off the shower floor ! or it turns into a pile of disappearing slippage. so sad. especially when it’s been cured for weeks and smells so lovely.
    I know you have a favorite recipe…do you add sodium lactate? non iodized salt? ( to harden bar)
    finally , do you ever share your best ever, best lathering recipe? no one will use it if it doesn’t lather instantly around here…they’re all spoiled by liquid soaps. lazy bums…
    πŸ™‚ so interested in learning more.
    so happy for you and new baby …you will be busy for a while after…

    1. Hi Laurie! πŸ™‚

      Thanks for stopping by! I love this trick for getting rid of soda ash on cold process soap. πŸ™‚

      It took our girls awhile to figure out that leaving a bar of soap floating in the bath doesn’t make Mommy a happy camper!

      I don’t add sodium lactate, salt, or any other hardeners to my formulas. I believe in formulating a formula for the qualities you need, versus trying to fix a “broken” formula with additives. When I first started soaping, Kathy Miller’s website was one of the very few resources for new soapmakers. All of her recipes are tried and true, try some of them out. πŸ™‚ (http://www.millersoap.com/)

      I’m in the process of prepping some recipes for sharing here on my blog, make sure to subscribe if you haven’t already! πŸ™‚

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Thank you for this great tip. I tried it on several bars of dark brown soap that had an ugly ash top and they now look shiny and beautiful. Who knew my little soap just needed a quick shampoo and blow dry!

    By the way, I bought your new book on master-batching today and have done a quick read through. It looks like it will be very helpful to me. I’ve been thinking it was time to learn how to do batching, but I just felt a bit lost in finding out how. It’s really nice to have all the resources and information in one spot!

    Thanks again,

    1. Happy to hear, Donna – on all accounts! I’m glad the trick works for you, I haven’t come across an ash-covered soap that can’t be shined up with this trick!

      I hope you thoroughly enjoy my ebook, I definitely wanted to try to gather everything I had learned in my quest to start batching right in one place. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to get in touch!


  3. o my dear friend,
    thanks so much for replying…I am so happy for your business sense and wonderfully quick synapsing…
    I’m trying to figure out a way to copy in poster size the AMAZINGLY logical quotes you have in here about DOING in the josh post. ( Not that I really get what he is doing, except living a sense of true early American frugality. using only what you need etc. )
    I was depressed for 2 days straight when I figured out your soapmakers convention was already over. I live in st louis !!! so close ! and I have relatives in KC. owell, I am hopeful you will have one next year. IF YOU BUILD IT , THEY WILL COME…( field of dreams, eh? ) God bless all the joys and exhaustion of those early new baby days, and I am so honored to know a person who is living her passions…

    1. Oh, no! I’m so sorry you missed Central Soapers Workshop! There will definitely be a 2014 convention – we’ll start planning it late summer for next spring. πŸ™‚

      If you are ever in the KC area visiting relatives, get in touch! I love getting to talk shop with other soapmakers, no matter how experienced!

      Thank you so much for reading and your sweet comments, I truly adore hearing from other soapers who I have touched in any way whatsoever – we’re all in this together, after all! Soapmaking is definitely a community!


  4. I might have missed this point when reading your information on soda ash, but when do you dip the soap in distilled water? I just cut a brand new soap log into bars and they’re already showing the ash. Do I dip them now or after they’re cured. Thanks so much for this information. It’s wonderful to know this!!

    1. Hi Jewel,

      We got you straightened out via email, but I wanted to respond here in case anyone else had the same question! You would wait until the soap is cured for dipping! I do it the day before packaging. πŸ˜‰


  5. OMG! I am only a new soap maker and made a few soaps with activated charcoal recently and they looked like someone had very delicately sprayed snow all over the black tops πŸ™‚
    I didn’t want to use isopropyl alcohol after reading up on it and stumbled upon this blog of yours! My husband alleges I spent 3 hours polishing various soap tops on Sunday. NOT TRUE. But the glistening tops were so worth it. Wonder why such small things make you smile!

    1. Your comments on allegedly spending 3 hours polishing your soaps made me laugh… I might also be guilty of this.. i can’t wait to try this tip on a batch of shampoo bars that are looking mighty grey!

  6. Heya !!! you just did a great job by sharing this info .. i was so much tensed with my first batch of soap and knowing that all my swirling designs on the top with go in vain after it gets soda ash as i could not arrange to get 99 % iso propyl alcohol on top !! now i know what to do i if i get some πŸ™‚ thank so much !! love your blog .. keep sharing please as new soap makers like me will definitely benefit from this ..

  7. When do you do this? Right after you make them….in the middle of their curing…or after curing 4-6 weeks? Thanks!

  8. Hi Hannah,
    As Kenna says in an earlier post, she does this after curing, the day before packaging. This really works!!

    Hey Kenna thanks muchisimo for all your sharings.


  9. If I just wanted to make my soaps shiny (assuming NO ASH), how soon after unmoulding soap should I water dip the soaps? Does this work on old soaps? If not why not?

  10. Hi there. I have certain soaps that tend to get ashy on top but recently I have made a couple batches of soap where there seems to be ash in the bar. It looks like a white swirl. It’s not chunky or wet so I don’t think it’s a heavy lye problem. But I can’t really find anything about soda ash developing IN the soap. Please help!

    1. Susan, could your “white swirl” be one of your ingredients that didn’t get fully mixed in or didn’t fully saponify? I had coconut oil spots in a soap when I didn’t add the coconut oil until after stirring for a while. It didn’t hurt anything, though – the soap still worked.

  11. Omg thanks Kenna I came to your articles to search for this soda ash issue. I’m new to soap making, have made some very nice soaps and ran into my first soda ash issue on my recent soap . I glad it was clarified to do this method after curing just before packaging! You are super for sharing your expertise with us. Thank you again and again. I love using th soap calc too and get results from my very own recipes like Hardness 37, cleansing 20, conditioning 62, bubbly 33, creamy 27, iod 65 . The soaps lather well. I’ve been using 32% water as percent of batch weight (2.2746:1 water:lye ratio) after reading anothe persons article Calculating your water amount for soapmaking” by Amanda. It lead me to understand never go as low as 1:1 as the lye really neapeds the liquid to dissolve well, and less liquid than the default 38% speeds the curing . I find it to be true but want your expert feedback please. Thanks always…Crystal.

  12. Hi,
    When do you do this….. I just made soap yesterday and it has lil ash, can I dip in water now or after it has cured thanks

  13. I’ve tried that on my cold process soaps with no luck. The soda ash was still there. I even rubbed the top while it was in the water. Didn’t do a thing to remove the ash, so now I stick exclusively to hot process. You don’t have that issue with hot process.

    1. I only do hotprocess & I get ash on alot of my soaps. I had to use wet paper towels to scrub the ash that was on every side of it. Hotprocess does get ash.

  14. Thanks so much for the info.. GREAT HELP! Will be doing this today. Will let you know how it comes out. πŸ˜‰ I am new at soap making so I will be back to ask questions surely.

  15. Not sure I understand when to use the microfiber cloth? Do I rub the soap under water with the cloth and then let the bar dry dry? Thank you for all your terrific posts!

  16. Do you have to wait for the soap to cure before doing the dip or can you do it after they are out of the mold and soda ashy on the tops? I guess its probably best to wait incase more form?

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