Testing, 1, 2, 3
Your normal supplier is out of the ingredient you need, so you order the ingredient from another supplier. You have an order to fill for a wholesale account and are in a hurry, so instead of testing the ingredient, you launch right into the large batch. The result is a product that simply is not consistent with your normal work. At best, it is usable, but different. Worst case, the batch is a loss.
Another common circumstance is this: You get a new fragrance or essential oil that you are not familiar with, but you make your normal size batch, only to realize that it seized in cold process soap, lost its scent, discolored or otherwise did not work out as expected in soap or other product.
This kind of result is disappointing and costly, but it’s just part of being a bath and body or candle maker, right?
Wrong. It doesn’t have to be this way.
The answer, of course, is to test, test, test. Yes, it takes time and materials that you don’t think you have; but think of it this way, the time and effort spent testing is less of a waste than a failed batch. Just as good candle makers test every new fragrance, wax, container or other changes, makers of every product should test whenever a condition of the process changes.
Make a small batch of soap, bath fizzies, lotion, whatever the product, to test the new ingredient. Observe carefully and take notes. Did the ingredient perform as expected while making the batch? Did it discolor or change the consistency? Is the final product the same visually? Does it smell the same? Does the product work just as it did before?
Another tip: If you are only testing fragrances, make a batch but separate out a small amount of it to test each one. This way, you can try many in one session. Make 12 bars of soap with 12 fragrances, or 12 candles, each a different fragrance and so on. It is a great way to test efficiently and maximize the time spent. Let the product cure, if necessary, then determine the following: Did the fragrance perform well? Did it last? Did it discolor? And if it did, can you live with it?
Other ingredients require testing, as well. Try a small batch with the new ingredient and see how it performs. If it the final product is like normal, you are all set. If it fails to provide the expected result, at least it is a small amount, not a large batch.
This may sound obvious but given the number of failed batches I read about, makers do not put testing into practice as they should. Perhaps we are gamblers of varying degrees, and since it works out sometimes, we feel invincible, at least until it doesn’t work out.
Small batch testing is key to consistency and ultimately, efficiency, so plan it into your schedule and resist the urge to skip it. Your efforts will pay off.
Another practice that will help you to be prepared and manufacture a consistent product is to line up at least two suppliers for the ingredients you use, but for the story on testing and ensuring ingredient availability, read Valerie George’s article, “How to Secure your Supply Chain and Save Money,” in the March/April issue of Making Soap, Cosmetics & Candles magazine. It drops on March 1.
Until next time, may all your days be filled with bubbles and wax.
Beth Byrne, for & Making Soap, Cosmetics & Candles