Soapmaking: What is a water discount?

A water discount is a reduction in the amount of water needed to dissolve sodium hydroxide lye. When you use a water discount, the soap will harden faster because there is less water in its batter (the mixture that eventually becomes soap). You only use a water discount for cold process or hot process soaps that use lye. You don’t need a water discount for melt and pour soap because the oils are already saponified and the lye has been used up before you ever get the melt and pour container!

Advantages of a water discount:

  • Your soap will cure faster
  • Your soap will be harder (ideal for Castile soap)
  • The soap can be taken out of the mold more easily
  • The mold will be easier to clean (less residue = less cleaning of the little corners of your molds is required – a constant problem I’ve had with homemade cosmetics, especially my all-natural conditioner bar).
  • A water discount helps balance the recipe if you’re adding other ingredients that contain water such as if you are using milk (including breastmilk) or if you’ve mixed mica powder with water rather than alcohol before adding it to your soap.
  • If you want to force a strong gel phase for a specific soap design, a water discount is a great addition to the other things you can do such as using heat pads around your soap while it’s curing.

Disadvantages of a water discount:

  • Your soap batter will thicken (solidify) faster, making it harder to work with. If you’re doing a color effect such as a swirl, you will want your batter to reach trace (ideal thickness) then to solidify slowly, to give you time to make your desired effect.
  • It can also effect your colors by messing with the heat of the soap. The reaction between lye and oils (saponification) is an exothermic reaction — it gives out heat. And if it heats up too much, it will affect what the soap looks like. If you want to avoid gel phase (e.g. when making cold process breastmilk soap, you do NOT want it to get too hot or the milk will spoil before the soap is done), don’t water discount more than you need to for the extra liquid in the milk.

To calculate a water discount, you use a percentage:

The usual amount of water to lye is 70% water to 30% lye. That means you use 70ml of water for every 30g of lye.

Discounting the water by 10%, you would have 63ml of water to 30g of lye.

Discounting the water by 20%, you would have 56ml of water to 30g of lye (this is a heavy water discount).

You also need to factor in whether your recipe requires a superfat (leftover oil for more nourishing soap bars). In this case, you usually wouldn’t discount your water.

Stuck? The very best resource on calculating the amount of oils, water and lye for your recipe is the Brambleberry Lye Calculator (it also calculates fragrance, but beware in the EU some of the fragrance results are higher than permitted under EU law if you’re selling your soaps). This tool is phenomenal!

How to sanitize your hands when there is no hand sanitizer

A quick look on Amazon shows lots of hand sanitizer for sale, but let’s take a look at some of those reviews before discussing what REALLY works to sanitize your hands:

There’s a legit-looking bottle of “50ml” of hand sanitizer (doesn’t that sound like a lot… it’s not even 2oz) sold here and the reviews are claiming it’s not got any alcohol in, it’s a scam, and it’s $7 for a tiny bottle. Don’t buy this hand sanitizer but look at those reviews.

I personally wouldn’t buy hand sanitizer on Amazon right now because there’s so many scams involving fake products. I saw one that said they’d been sent a bottle of glue! Hand sanitizer is a relatively recent invention and before we had it, people were able to clean their hands.

Instead of getting scammed by things that won’t protect you from coronavirus, try these other ways to clean your hands:

  1. Soap and water. The absolute best way to keep clean is soap and water. I’ve talked before about how soap works in my article about micellar water. Basically, you don’t need fancy soap. Any soap will do. And you don’t need hot water (bacteria doesn’t start to die until a higher temperature than you would wash in).  It says a lot about people that you can buy plenty of soap on Amazon still.
  2. Liquid soap and a bottle of water. If you’re out and about, get a bottle of water with a sports cap. Rub liquid soap all over your hands, get all the areas, then wash it off by pouring water out of the bottle. This is the best way to clean your hands if you don’t have access to a faucet. No room in your bag for a bottle? Get one of these flat-folding reusable ones instead.
  3. Shower gel. We should all be washing a lot more now, so this Aveeno moisturizing shower gel (soap free) is a good choice.
  4. Bath bubbles. Guess what? Bath bubbles are identical to shower gel but usually more in a more concentrated form. This one has epsom salt, eucalyptus and spearmint in it.
  5. Shampoo. If you can’t get anything else to wash your hands in, a shampoo with LOTS of sulphates is what you want. Those sodium laureth sulphates we usually avoid putting on our hair are super-strong cleaning agents (which is why they can over-clean your hair and make it dry out). Herbal Essences smells really nice and is full of all the sulphates you can shake a stick at.
  6. Baby wipes. Choose a packet with soap infused into the wipe. One of these is basically a cloth covered in soap and water. As a first choice, soap and water, but baby wipes are a much better idea than those really dangerous “vodka and aloe vera” recipes which won’t be strong enough to be effective. Of course, buying wet wipes online is also nearly impossible right now because people are buying them as a toilet paper substitute, but you can probably get them more easily in a local supermarket depending on where you live and what deliveries are happening.
  7. Micellar water. I’ve said it before, but micelles are basically super-gentle soap. This will clean your hands better than fake hand sanitizer if you wash it off with water aftercovering your hands in it and rubbing it in like soap. You can even get it in teeny tiny bottles to carry around on the go.
  8. Micellar wipes. These are still readily available and will clean your hands.
  9. Dish soap (aka washing up liquid in the UK). This works exactly the same way as any other type of soap or saponified cleansing agent and is cheaper than some of the others, but selling out quickly.
  10. Laundry liquid. Another cleansing agent. Biological is best. Wash hands thoroughly.And if you don’t care if your hands flake/dry out/get dermatitis/burn:
  11. Bleach. Kills all known germs. Not recommended as it’s corrosive.
  12. Listerine. It contains alcohol and is designed to kill things that live in your mouth. As a kid, my mother always used to make me gargle with Listerine if I had a sore throat and it really did help.

Remember these things alone will NOT prevent you getting sick, but they can reduce your chances dramatically if you follow proper hygiene practice and handwashing technique.

Out of toilet paper? Check out my alternatives here!