ph testing

Ph strips soap making!  The most important aspect about making your own natural soap is to get the chemistry right. Not enough lye will create a soft bar that may never cure or take a long time to cure. Too much lye will cause a caustic bar, which would remove any natural oils from your skin to possibly causing red skin from little pockets of lye water. This is where PH testing soap is important.

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PH test strips, just like you ones you may buy for testing hot tubs or testing urine.

I have always used phenolphthalein, (pronounced FENO FA THAY LEEN) a liquid that smells like nail polish remover. It usually comes in a dropper bottle, is inexpensive, and you simply allow a drop on the top of your soap. If it turns bright pink right away, then there is a high ph problem with your soap. If it turns pinkish after a new minutes, then this would be usual or normal as the soap is still caustic and not fully neutralized. But if it has no color at all, this will indicate a pH normal bar – perfect!

I tried the litmus papers but preferred my phenolphthalein. Although many soap makers swear by them. These test strips need you to wet a bar of the soap till there is some bubbles and place the strip on the bubbly part of the bar. Compare the color of the strip with the color code on the box, from here you will get you PH number. After a few hundred bars of soap, you will have an expert eye and be able to tell by looking if there may be a problem. But in the beginning, I would test every slab.


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The color chart when using ph test strips.

The pH scale ranges from 1 – 14, and the aim for your soap will be between 6 – 10. Generally the numbers you will want for a mild soap would be 5 – 8. For a stronger hand soap, aim for 8 – 10, and for grating later for laundry, you’ll want a reading of 10 – 12. Some soaps that test high initially will have lower pH levels later, so put it aside and retest in a couple of weeks. If you are using phenolphthalein, then the color you would be looking for would be clear for a mild soap, light pink for a hand soap, and dark pink for a laundry soap.

Some people use little electronic pH testers. They are considered more accurate and need to be buffered, or calibrated, before using. And this would also be your most expensive method.

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This would be like a bottle you would order from a soap supply, with a dropper applicator.

Every so often, when not mixed properly, lye water will come to the top of the soap slab and look like harmless water or oil. This water is extremely caustic, be very careful when moving the slab around in the mold that none of this drips.


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The pinker the test drop the more caustic or high alkaline the soap is, hopefully it will change during curing.


When starting out making soap, and maybe as a pro, you should have ph strips soap making as part of your basic inventory. More on those basics here.

It’s a little scientific, but here’s a page relating to ph strips soap making, and all about phenolphthalein at Wikipedia.

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