Different liquids can react to the lye differently than plain water. Also note, the lye will often morph the liquid into a foul-smelling, brown soup. The good news is the smell doesn’t remain in the final soap, but it’s pretty nasty when you first mix it. There’s a lot of debate as to whether the healing or moisturizing qualities of the liquid actually survive the reaction with the lye. I think some do and some don’t. But even if they don't, using a liquid other than water adds interest, fun, and a personal touch to your soap.
For making a lye solution with tea, coffee, wine or beer (basically any clear liquid) follow the steps below.
- Follow the general directions for Making Lye including all of the safety guidelines.
- Place your lye pitcher inside of a roasting pan or in the sink to mix it. That way, if it does bubble over, the lye solution won’t go onto the counter or floor.
- Make sure that your liquid is chilled before mixing the lye into it. (This isn’t a bad idea even if just using plain water.) Warm green tea and lye are a bad combination. (Don’t ask me how I know this!)
- Work in an area that has very good ventilation. The fumes from the mixture will be heavy and foul smelling.
- If you’re working with a carbonated beverage, like beer, make sure that it is completely flat. Leave it out on the counter for several days, stirring often. Remember, absolutely, completely flat.
- If you're using a liquid that contains alcohol and/or a high sugar content, you may want to do a small-batch test first. Sometimes the alcohol and/or sugar content can do odd things in the soap batch. At the very least, it's going to make the gel stage VERY hot! Don't insulate these batches - they'll cook quite well on their own.
- Work very slowly, especially if this is the first time you’ve used this particular liquid in your soap. Add the lye slowly. Stir slowly.
- Take notes! Especially note how strong the coffee or tea was.