Thursday, February 24, 2011

Soap Oils

Olive Oil
So people wonder why soapmakers use the oils/fats that they do. They know they are good, but don't really know why. Here's a crash course in the basic oils that I use.


You can use all variety of olive oils in soapmaking. I use grade A olive oil.  Extra virgin and virgin olive oils come from the very first gentle pressing of the olives. The refined, or Grade A oil (generally the best grade for soap) comes from the second pressing, and is lightly refined/filtered. Olive oils have been used in soap for centuries. One hundred percent olive oil makes the famous "Castille soap" and "Marseille soap" must contain at least 72% olive oil. Olive oil is generally the #1 oil in most soap makers' recipes - and for good reason. Olive oil soaps are very moisturizing, make hard, white bars of soap (though high % olive oil soaps take a longer time to cure) and are exceptionally mild. But the lather from Castille soap  is low and a bit slimy. Most soap makers combine olive oil with other oils to improve the lather.

Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp seed oil is a deep, green color with a light, nutty smell. While it does come from the seed of the cannabis plant, it does not smell like marijuana, or have any of the affects that marijuana has.  It's really lovely in lotions and creams and great in soap too. It gives a light, creamy/silky lather. Because of its fatty acid makeup, it has a very short shelf life...less than six it should be refrigerated or even kept in the freezer. It can be used as a luxury healing/moisturizing oil in soap. I use hemp seed oil in some, but not all of my soaps.

Palm Oil

Palm oil, along with olive and coconut, is one of the top oils used by soap makers today. Because of the qualities it gives soap, it is often called "veggie tallow" in that it gives many of the same qualities that beef tallow does - a hard bar with a rich creamy lather. Alone, it's pretty unremarkable, but combined with other oils like olive, coconut and castor, it makes great, hard, long lasting soap. In keeping with our social and ethical responsibility goals, our Palm oil supplier is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an organization that supports sustainable palm oil production.

Coconut Tree
 Coconut Oil


I LOVE the lather that Coconut oil gives to my soap. Do do my customers. It is one of the primary oils soapmakers use in their soap. Coconut oil gives tremendous, bubbly lather to your soap. It also makes for a very hard, white bar of soap. The collective opinion is that using more than 30% coconut oil in your recipe will be drying to the skin.

Castor Oil

Castor oil in soap?! Yes it's fantastic and just a dab will do ya'! A little goes a LONG way with castor oil. Castor oil is a thick, clear oil that helps increase the lather in soap - a rich, creamy lather. Castor oil is a humectant oil- this means that is draws moisture to your skin. Castor oil has a fatty acid makeup that's completely unique - which makes what it contributes to your soap rich creamy lather.  

I will write more about the butters I use later on.
More info about common oils and fats here:


  1. Would love to hear your thoughts on jojoba oil! Coconut oil is also good in gluten free baked goodies, food grade, of course. :)

  2. I agree! I have been using more coconut oil in my food. I use it just like olive oil when I am cooking things.

    As for jojoba oil...I think it's a great supperfatting oil in cold process soap. It's great for preventing the oils in your soap from going rancid. It also is super moisturizing. It acts like a wax. I do wish it were less expensive.