Soleseife, or “seaman’s brinewater soap,” is a specialty soap often featured in expensive spas and touted for its nourishing and hydrating effects on the skin. The difference between salt soaps and soleseife soaps is that salt soaps contain much more salt than can be dissolved in the water used to make the soap. Soleseife soaps usually contain no more salt than can be completely dissolved in the lye water. The result is a soap with a creamy--rather than slightly gritty and exfoliating--soap.
There are several advantages to adding salt to soap. Salt makes a very hard and long-lasting bar, which also dries quickly. This makes soleseife soaps--and salt soaps--ideal as travel bars. Salt also provides a slight deodorant effect.
Both soleseife soaps and salt soaps are best made in individual cavity molds--and they work wonderfully well with molds, picking up all the fine details. While they can be made in loaf molds, they can only be cut when fairly soft, and they harden so quickly that they will often crumble when you try to cut them. It can be almost impossible to cut them with a knife without crumbling. (Fishing line or a wire cutter may work.) Besides the crumbling problem, it just isn't a good idea to cut soaps before they have fully saponified, since this results is mega ash problems. With salt soaps and soleseife soaps, if you wait to cut till they have fully saponified in a loaf mold, you may need a splitting maul, and the results would be unsightly. The best idea with these is to pour them into cavity molds.
Fine sea salt or finely ground Himalayan pink salt should be used in making soleseife.
The resulting soap has an exquisite texture, a kind of honeycomb waxiness, combined with a rich, buttery quality.
Soleseife soaps need to be made with a high percentage of coconut oil, because when salt is included in soaps it reduces lather. Coconut oil is the only soapmaking oil that lathers well enough to counteract this problem. The percentage of coconut oil used in a soleseife recipe needs to be around 80%.
How much salt is the right amount? In theory, soleseife soap could be made using a saturated salt solution--meaning that the amount of salt used would be 28% of the amount of the lye water used for making the soap. I've found that you run into difficulties with trying to completely dissolve that much salt in the lye water. This is probably because other ingredients are also dissolved in the water used to make the soap--one of which is the lye itself. I also dissolve a generous amount of sugar in the lye water (before adding the lye), and I add sodium lactate to the lye water. Including these other ingredients probably limits the amount of salt that will fully dissolve in the lye water. In this recipe the amount of salt used is 13% of the amount of the liquid.
As with all soaps made with a high percentage of coconut oil, a fairly high superfat is needed to counteract coconut oil's tendency to be drying to the skin. I would suggest a superfat of at least 10%.
Soleseife soaps and salt soaps may be colored with micas or natural colorants, but the most reliable results are produced by coloring them with clays. This is because salt will bleach out most colorants. My Celtic Lavender soap pictured is an example of this. I planned an in-the-pot swirl of lavenders and greens, with a base color of gray Rhassoul clay slightly tinted lavender. This soap came out a solid cement-gray--which is why I colored the top with micas.
Actually, some mica colors survive in salt soaps and soleseife soaps. I'm just not sure which ones.
Here’s my recipe for the soaps pictured:
25 ounces Coconut Oil
6 ounces Sunflower Oil
4 ounces Beef Tallow
3 ounces Castor Oil
2 ounces Cocoa Butter
1 ounce flaxseed oil
4 tablespoons sugar (optional)
2 ounces Sea Salt
5.9 ounces lye
15.2 ounces water (I always substitute ACV for water)
1 ounce sodium lactate (optional)
3 oz. fragrance oil
(41 ounces TOTAL OILS)
Yield: 63.8 ounces soap, before cure
I always soap at room temperature. The melting point for coconut oil is 76 F. While the melting point for beef tallow is 94 F. to 104 F., once melted it will stay liquid at a lower temperature (probably around 80 F.) when mixed with the other oils. The lye water and the oils should not be mixed until they have cooled to about 80 F. or less.
Preparing the Oils
- Weigh the hard oils (coconut, beef tallow, and cocoa butter) in a large stainless steel pot at a low temperature. Don't heat them any longer than necessary to melt them.
- Weigh all the other oils and mix them in a separate container.
- Allow the hard oils to cool before adding the soft oils to the pot.
- Mix the fragrance with the combined oils.
*In my opinion, one of the keys to preventing DOS is to be very careful not to heat the hard oils any more than necessary, and not to heat the soft oils at all.
Now that the oils are prepared, you can mix the colors (preferably clays) you are using.
For the Celtic Rose soap, I used these:
1 tsp. TD / 2 tsp. Rhassoul Clay / 1 tsp. Rose Clay (These three colorants are mixed together in one container to tint the base color of the soap a pale pink.)
2 tsp. Rose Clay
2 tsp. Sea Clay
2 tsp. Rose Clay / 2 tsp. French Pink Clay / 1/2 tsp. Yellow Oxide (These three colorants are mixed together in one container to create a peach tone.)
Mix each colorant or color combination separately, in a measuring cup. To the colorants, add two or three tablespoons of oil taken from the pot of combined oils. Mix these really well to avoid graininess.
Preparing the Lye Water
- Dissolve the sugar in the water (or ACV).
- Pour the the lye into the sugar-water and stir to dissolve.
- Once the lye water is clear, add sea salt to it, and stir to dissolve. I like to add the salt while the lye water is still hot, to make it dissolve better. Don't worry if a little of the salt remains undissolved.
- Stir in the sodium lactate, if you are using it.
- Let both the lye water and the oils cool down to about 80 F. or less.
Mixing the Lye Water with the Oils
- Add lye water to the pot of oils and blend with a stick blender (or hand-stir with a wire whisk) to a light trace. A very light trace. For in-the-pot swirls, you want a texture that is heavier than heavy cream, but lighter than pudding.
- To each cup of colorant (pre-mixed with the “carrier” oil), add about a cup of the liquid soap and blend well.
Doing an In-the-Pot Swirl
You may want to watch some videos on this. Soap Queen has a good one.
- After your swirl colors are mixed, add the base color (which you mixed with raw soap) to the pot and mix well by hand.
- Now you are ready to do the in-the-pot swirl. Pour the colored soaps in your measuring cups into the pot of soap. Make three puddles of the first color at about twelve o'clock, 4:00 o'clock, and 8:00 o'clock. When you are pouring, hold the measuring cup as high above the pot as you can, so that the colors make it to the bottom of the pot. If you can manage to pour from about two feet above the soap surface, that would be good. Now pour the other colors in the same way. You can space them out evenly around the pot, or you can pour colors on top of colors. Or you can pour some spaced out and some on top of each other.
- Now use a knife or rubber scraper to do the in-the-pot swirl. (I like to use a frosting knife.) Stick the knife into the soap batter all the way to the bottom of the pot and drag it through the puddles of colored soap in a circle. You could drag the knife across the middle, but it's usually best not to go around more than once, unless the soap has really thickened up on you.
- Now pour the soap directly from the pot into the individual cavity molds. If you soap has stayed fairly thin, this will be neat and easy. But don't worry too much if the soap has thickened. The swirls will probably still come out fine, even if the process is more of a messy struggle. I think swirls come out best if you pour the soap at the side of each cavity.
- Now bang each mold on the table ten or twenty times to release air bubbles. If you are using silicone molds, you will want to set them on a cutting board and bang the cutting board on the table. This works best if you set them on the cutting board before the pour.
How To Get Soap To Release from Cavity Molds
One of the most common complaints about cavity molds is that the soap is hard to release from the molds, causing fine details to be ruined.
I've found that there are three keys to getting soap to easily release from molds.
- Make sure you get a good gel.
- Wait two or three days before attempting to unmold. For some fragrances that slow saponification (such as lavender or bergamot), you should wait a week. If soap is unmolded before it is fully saponified, it will ash. Waiting a few days also allows the soap to shrink from the mold, as water evaporates.
- Before unmolding, put the molds in the freezer for at least three hours. Overnight is better, and some advise freezing for up to a week.
How To Gel Soap in Cavity Molds
Soap in cavity molds can be gelled in the oven. Preheat the oven to 135 F. Set the molds on cookie sheets or pizza pans or similar. Turn off the oven and put the molds in the oven and shut the oven door. Leave molds in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. Repeat.
Even plastic Milky Way molds can withstand a temperature up to 135 F. Silicone molds can withstand higher temperatures, but higher temperatures may cause a rough texture with these mods, and there's no need for higher temperatures.
Releasing Soap from Cavity Molds
After you have set your molds aside for 3-7 days, stick them in the freezer. Three hours should be enough, but overnight is often convenient.
Milky Way molds are super easy. Remove the molds from the freezer, turn them upside-down, and warm each cavity with your hand. Normally the soap will fall out of the mold onto the table. Sometimes you may have to bend the mold a little to release the soap, especially if the cavity was over-filled. Often, when you go to take the molds out of the freezer, you will find that some bars fell out of the molds in the freezer.
With silicone molds, there is probably little use in warming them with your hand. What seems to work best is to pull the silicone away from the soap on all sides before turning the molds upside-down to release them.
There are some silicone molds--the kind that seem to wrap around the soap too much--that seem to work best if some cuts are made in the corners of each mold. The silicone leaf mold is like this. This mold actually needs to be modified in other ways to get the detail of the stem to release without damage. To modify this mold, use a cuticle trimmer to very slightly widen the stem. The mold actually wraps around the stem and wants to hang onto it when you're trying to unmold. The result is a broken stem. Don't be afraid to modify some silicone molds if you find it necessary. (Most don't need modification.)
SoapCalc Recipe Page
I like to show the SoapCalc recipe page for soaps, so that you can see the various soap qualities, along with ingredients by percentages.
Sharon Vile (author) from Odessa, MO on January 14, 2018:
Thank you! Cold process is easy! Don't be afraid to try it.
Vicki Wood from Eldon, Missouri on January 14, 2018:
these are absolutely gorgeous. I am a long time glycerin soap maker, too timid to try cold process.
Sharon Vile (author) from Odessa, MO on October 17, 2017:
Deborah Minter from U.S, California on October 17, 2017:
Nice recipe, I love the seashells and the leaf molds.
Sharon Vile (author) from Odessa, MO on April 13, 2017:
tori from Washington state on April 07, 2017:
Thank you so much for all of your patience and incredible information! I am now ready to make the soap!!!!!!!!
Sharon Vile (author) from Odessa, MO on April 07, 2017:
Sorry! The amounts are teaspoons. I will edit this article right away.
I have never used silk in soaps, so I am not sure how it is added. Many people seem to love it, though.
Sharon Vile (author) from Odessa, MO on April 07, 2017:
TD is titanium dioxide, available from many soap suppliers. It is used to color soap white and is nearly indispensable for masking unwanted colors of soaping oils.
tori from Washington state on April 03, 2017:
I still don't know what 'TD' means. 1 tsp TD: what is that? What does that mean?? I'm sure it is probably something real stupid that I should know......... but, I don't.
tori from Washington state on March 28, 2017:
In this recipe, the clays are listed as 1 TD/ 2Rhassoul Clay/ 1 Rose Clay ??????
2 Rose Clay??????
2 Sea Clay??????
2 Rose Clay/2 French Pink Clay/1/2 Yellow Oxide?????
What are the measurements??? Teaspoons? Tablespoons? Ounces??? Pleas explain.... thank you.
Also, could I add a pinch of silk to the lye mixture or would that ruin everything?
Sharon Vile (author) from Odessa, MO on November 16, 2015:
Thank you so much! You are very kind.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on September 03, 2015:
Sharon, this was a nice post on how to make that kind of soap. Thanks for the recipe and thanks for sharing with great tips.
Sharon Vile (author) from Odessa, MO on April 09, 2015:
You're totally right on adding lye to water and not vice versa! (I need to edit.) I wrote this hub when I first started soaping, and it seemed like there were about an equal number of people saying add water to lye. And to tell the truth, I added the water to the lye for the better part of a year of soap--since I thought I was listening to the correct people--without mishap. For the home hobbyist soaper making small batches, it seems to make no difference either way. (I couldn't notice a difference during the many months I did it backwards.) However, if you were making very large batches and mixing large amounts of lye with large amounts of water, I suspect you would be taking quite a risk.
Smitten on April 08, 2015:
One change you should make, never add water to the lye.