“Easy does it” for mica oil swirls

When you make soap in a log mold (like I do for most of the Sirona Springs soaps), a new way to decorate that top edge of the bar is always welcome. The mica oil swirl is something that I’ve been watching other soapmakers do all of last year, with some great results! (Just Google “mica oil swirl soap” and you’ll see what I mean).

I gave it a try recently and found that, like most new skills, it takes a bit of practice. And that (also like most new skills) once you get it, the results are totally worth it!

Using micas to swirl soap
Micas are a class of soap colorants that soapmakers use because they blend easily and come in lots of vibrant colors. They also have a lovely sparkling look to them. Think “shimmery eyeshadow” and you’ll have a good idea of what I’m talking about. Micas are what make eyeshadows sparkle the way they do. But in cold process soap, the shimmer is lost when the mica is mixed into the soap. The color is still vibrant, but no sparkle.

This technique is so exciting because it keeps the shimmer of the mica in cold process soap.

Mixing the oil and the mica
The first step is to mix some mica with a bit of light oil. I used olive oil. Other kinds of oils that could be used are sweet almond, rice bran, or safflower. I used 2 parts oil to 1 part of mica. That ratio gave a pretty good consistency: not too runny and not pasty. I mixed them up in these little glass custard cups that I use to mix all my soap colors. But little Dixie cups or small plastic portion cups would work well, too.

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I started by mixing up some gold mica and some pearly white mica. Can you see how shiny they are?

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But I quickly decided that I needed to try this technique with a few more micas, while I was at it.

Once the mica oil is ready, the soap is made in the usual way and poured into a mold. I was using some little wood molds that each hold one pound of soap.

Swirling the mica oil
The mica oil is drizzled on top of the soap right after pouring it, while it’s still loose enough to be swirled around. You can use a spoon or plastic pipette to drizzle the oil. Then choose a tool like a skewer or chopstick to swirl the oil around.

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I used a chopstick to gently swirl the mica oil.

I was really surprised at how thin the mica oil is. I’m used to swirling with soap batter that is colored, but this flows and spreads out so much more easily. I quickly figured out that only a few drops are needed to get a nice wispy swirl.

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Here’s how it looked when it was done but still wet.

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And here is the same soap when it was ready to cut a couple days later. The mica is still as shimmery as ever.

In my first tries I drizzled on more mica oil and the soap ended up more heavily colored. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (especially with this beautiful copper mica), but it was good to learn.

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The fragrance oil in this soap also caused it to thicken up quickly. That’s why the surface looks more “wavy” than the others.

One of my favorite swirls was with the gold and pearly white micas. I chose those colors for this soap because I had scented it with a vanilla fragrance oil, which I knew was going to turn the soap brown. It can be so difficult to make brown soap look pretty, but this mica oil swirl really fit the bill perfectly!

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Here’s the top of this batch right after swirling in the mica oil.

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And here is a bar from that same soap after a few weeks of curing. The fragrance causes the discoloration, but the mica makes it gorgeous!

With this technique, you only need a little bit of mica and a little bit of swirling to have a really big impact.

Have you tried this yourself yet? Leave me a link in the comments and show off your own beauty! 🙂

46 thoughts on ““Easy does it” for mica oil swirls

  1. This looks like a fun and interesting way to add contrast. I’m going to try this next time I am making soap. Wonder how it will look with my bar shape….. might be very cool! Thanks for the lesson Ruth!

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    • Thanks for sharing those, Eszter! I see that you used glycerin instead of oil for your mica swirl. It’s so interesting how different it is: more of an etched look. But still nice and shiny.

  3. This is awesome thanks so much for sharing. What happens when you get the dreaded soap ash on this beautiful swirl? any ideas to be sure not to get it? thanks

  4. Thank you for this great technique. I was so excited to try the swirl on top, that I forgot to add fragrance. I took it out of the mold this morning, after 2 days. I used merlot mica from brambleberry and it looks great! I don’t even miss the fragrance.

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  8. Just come across your site and love the swirling. Im trying to learn/perfect my swirling at the moment so your advice has come just at the right time. Love your colours and explanantion. Thank you.

  9. When I tried it I notice during the curing process if you pass anything on the bright coloured swirls, it rubbed off…is this normal

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