Patching Up Soap

I have been meaning to do a tutorial on how to patch up the inevitable holes that appear on soaps every now and then. To show you how overdue this post is, the pictures below were taken last August 6, 2014. The photos were hastily taken using my camera phone and not in the best possible light.  I will confess that I don’t like taking pictures of soaps that have not been cleaned up, and the only way to get through the chore was to do it quickly.

Holes are nothing but trapped air bubbles.  They usually appear in soaps with design, and especially when the soap batter starts to thicken before it can be poured into the mold.  Banging the mold helps release trapped air but doesn’t guarantee complete removal. Just like soda ash, holes are nothing but an aesthetic nuisance, and the ones most bothered by them are the soap makers.

Some soaps are simply beyond repair and are better off rebatched or chopped up as embeds. Most, however, simply need a little reconstructive patching up and they’re good as new.  It takes time, patience, and a light touch to leave as little “scarring” as possible.  Some can’t understand the work that goes into prettifying soap that’s just going to melt anyway, but soapmakers tend to be quite passionate and obsessive about their craft.

The other day I downloaded a free photo editing program called  PicMonkey . I learned about it sometime ago from another blogger.  I wish I could remember whose blog it was!  Anyway, I felt like a child that had just gotten a new toy.  As you can see, I am showing off the collage I made. (Ok, I got a little bit crazy and I also downloaded BeFunky for my iPhone. I arrived late to the photo editing party and I’m making up for the missed fun :p )

Patching Up Soap

1.  This was my first camo soap.  I made my own fragrance blend with woodsy notes of oak and fir, balanced out by honey, saffron, vanilla, and eucalyptus.  It smelled awesome and was popular with the boys, but it accelerated trace, hence the the holes.

2.  For this simple operation, we need an offset spatula, toothpicks, and soap trimming to fill up the holes. The triangular thing beside the spatula is some kind of pottery tool that I picked up when I went to Jingdezhen last year.  I don’t know what it’s called, but at that time I thought I could use it as a swirling tool.  Well, I never used it for swirling, but intuitively it was perfect for smoothening surfaces – soap or otherwise!  It’s great to have, but an offset spatula is perfectly sufficient.

3.  Like a dentist, I probe how deep and big the cavity is using a toothpick.  Some holes may appear deceptively small, but is actually a long tunnel under!

4.  Once you’ve assessed the size of the cavity, massage the required amount of soap trimming into a smooth and malleable ball or log – the consistency of play dough. Push the soap into the cavity using a toothpick.  Keep at it until you can’t push in any more.

5.  Flatten patched-up portion with the offset spatula. Wipe it clean. Tilt it at an angle and scrape off excess, in the same way that I did with the pottery tool in the photo.

6.  And there you have it!  After the soap fully cures, the colors will even out and the patches will hardly be noticeable.

woodland camo

24 thoughts on “Patching Up Soap

  1. Natalia

    Interesting to know, Silvia! Thanks for this tip, I have been using small amount of soaps to cover them, but yours sounds great!
    Can’t wait to see more of your soaps!

  2. Vicki

    Great idea! I usually just try to smooth over with my fingers while it’s still soft, which looks ok but doesn’t actually fill the hole. Will try this next time 🙂

  3. soapjam Post author

    That works fine too for inconsequential holes. But even then, try scraping the surface with a spatula for better polish. Looking forward to seeing more of your soaps, Vicki! 🙂

    1. soapjam Post author

      Shucks! Sorry to destroy that illusion. 😀 I would love for every soap to come out naturally perfect, but sometimes it needs some work. 🙂

  4. ecovioletsoap

    This is so simple yet clever! I wished I have tried this – I usually set aside the bars with holes aside for personal use. I will keep this in mind for my future experimental batches. 🙂

    1. soapjam Post author

      My formula generally traces fast so I get holes often enough that I can’t keep all of them for personal use. Hahaha! Hope the technique works for you, Janet. 🙂

  5. Maja

    Hihi, I also do the same! I rarely get holes, but that’s my way to go when I do. And it’s very easy to do,I only hate having holes in the swirled parts with many colours.
    This blend sounds awesome,I always like to smell a hint of mint.

    1. soapjam Post author

      Lucky for you that you rarely get holes. I get them maybe 20% of the time for the ones with design. It’s a good thing I try to balance out the work with plain and simple soaps. 🙂

  6. Cee

    So clever! I have had to patch up the sides of my soap from time to time but never thought to try to patch up the air holes, and this tool looks perfect for the job…thanks for sharing! 🙂


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