Properties Oils and Fats Used in Soap Making

Use this table as a guideline to achieve the desired quality of soap.

Base Oil, Butter or Fat

Soft, Hard or Brittle

Properties in Soap

Recommended Usage

Breaking the Rules & Other Notes

Almond oil, sweet

Soft

Medium lather, mild cleansing

5-12%

Sweet Almond oil is a wonderful sub for some of the olive oil in a recipe.

Apricot Kernel oil

Soft

Medium lather, mild cleansing

5-12%

Apricot Kernel is a wonderful sub for some of the olive oil in a recipe.

Avocado oil

Soft

Medium lather, mild cleansing

5-12%

Avocado oil is a wonderful sub for some of the olive oil in a recipe. It is high in vitamin E and other vitamins and minerals making it a great addition to facial bars or bars for elder skin.

Babassu oil

Brittle

Similar to coconut oil, large fluffy bubbles, high cleansing but a bit milder than coconut oil, white color

 15-30%

Babassu oil is a great oil to use in place of coconut oil for those that have a coconut allergy.

Castor oil

Hard

Suspends the lather created by coconut oil

5-10%

Some soap makers like to use 15-20% castor oil in their shampoo bars or shaving bars.

Cocoa butter

Brittle

Mild stabilizing lotion-like lather, hard, long lasting bar

5-15%

You can experiment using cocoa butter and other butters in high amounts – up to 80%.  Try a bar made from 60% cocoa butter and 40% coconut oil.  You might like it!

Coconut Oil

Hard

Abundant lather, large fluffy bubbles, high cleansing, hard bar, white color

15-50%

High amounts of coconut oil can be drying, however you can always use a higher superfat to counteract the drying effect. The more un-saponified oils in your soap the more moisturizing it is. Experiment with a 100% coconut oil soap with a 20% superfat.

Grapeseed oil

Soft

Medium lather, mild cleansing

5-12%

Grapeseed is a wonderful sub for some of the olive oil in a recipe.

Hazelnut oil

Soft

Medium lather, mild cleansing

5-8%

Hazelnut is a wonderful sub for some of the olive oil in a recipe.

Hemp Seed oil

Soft

Medium lather, mild cleansing

5-8%

Hemp Seed is a wonderful sub for some of the olive oil in a recipe.

Jojoba oil

Soft

Stabilizes and suspends lather

5-8%

Jojoba oil, a liquid wax, can kill lather when used in high amounts.

Lard

Hard

Mild stabilizing creamy lather, hard, white bar

25-50%

100% lard soap with no superfat makes great laundry soap.

Olive Oil

Soft/Hard

Low slippery lather, almost no bubbles, low cleansing

25-100%

The low cleansing properties of olive oil make it very mild and nourishing. Soap for sensitive skin, elder skin or baby skin should include high amounts of olive (60%). Castile soap is made with 100% olive oil.  I classify this as a soft/hard oil because it makes a very soft bar of soap initially upon unmolding but cures into a rock hard bar.  Soaps high (50%+) in olive oil need longer to cure and unmold.

Palm Kernel oil

Brittle

Similar

to coconut oil, large fluffy bubbles, high cleansing but a bit milder than coconut oil, white color

15-30%

Palm kernel oil is a great sub for coconut oil.  You can also use it with coconut oil to add some hardness to your bar. If you have a recipe that calls for 20% coconut oil…try using 10% coconut oil and 10% palm kernel oil.

Palm Oil

Hard

Mild stabilizing lather, hard, long lasting bar

25-50%

Palm oil is great for those that don’t want to use animal fats such as lard or tallow. I personally do not use palm oil because of the environmental effects of producing it. 

Rice Bran oil

Soft

Medium lather, mild cleansing, gives soap a sheen making it look less dull

5-12%

Rice Bran oil is a wonderful sub for some of the olive oil in a recipe.

Safflower oil

Soft

Medium lather, mild cleansing

5-12%

Safflower oil is a wonderful sub for some of the olive oil in a recipe.

Shea butter

Hard

Mild stabilizing lotion-like lather, medium hard, long lasting bar

5-20%

Same as cocoa butter. I typically use 5-15% but occasionally will experiment with using up to 60%.

Soybean oil

Soft

Medium lather, mild cleansing

5-12%

Soybean oil is a wonderful sub for some of the olive oil in a recipe.

Sunflower oil

Soft

Medium lather, mild cleansing

5-12%

Sunflower oil is a wonderful sub for some of the olive oil in a recipe.

Tallow (beef)

Hard

Mild stabilizing creamy lather, hard, white bar

25-50%

100% tallow soap with no superfat makes great laundry soap.

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