Olive Oil in Soap Making – Properties + Recipes

Olive oil has been used as a cosmetic and soap ingredient for thousands of years. In today’s soap making, olive oil, botanical name Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil, helps to produce a moisturizing creamy rich lather.

Olive Oil in Soap Making

Types of Olive Oil

Olive oil is derived from crushed olives which are optimally grown in the Mediterranean where the climate is steady with hot summers and cool winters. Damp summers and extremely cold winters are detrimental to the production of olives.

Virgin Olive Oil

  • Derived from crushed olives (one to several presses)
  • No chemicals or refining used in manufacturing
  • Low smoke point (in cooking)
  • Natural flavor, color, and odor is retained
  • Olive oil labeled extra virgin contains less than .8 acidity, and the oil is produced from the first press

Refined Olive Oil

  • Derived from crushed olives
  • Chemical and refining extractions are used after pressing
  • Treated to remove impurities
  • Natural color and odor is reduced

Pure Olive Oil

  • A blend of virgin and refined olive oils

Pomace Olive Oil

  • Extracted from the olive pulp via the use of chemical solvents after the virgin oil has been pressed

Olive oil is only available in liquid form.

Soaping With Olive Oil

Soap makers all have their own preference as to which olive oil they use. Virgin olive oil, refined olive oil and pure olive oil trace slower in soap making so are used when a slower trace is desired, such as when you want to divide your soap out to swirl.

Pomace olive oil is less expensive than other olive oils so is used by many soap makers to lower their production cost. It does speed up trace so be careful when using it in recipes that you want to swirl.

I personally stick to Refined A Olive Oil from Soaperschoice.com. This is my absolute favorite olive oil to use. It creates a harder bar of soap (compared to virgin or pomace), a lighter in color bar of soap and even has nicer lather in a castile soap. If you are new to soap making I recommend creating some comparison batches, simply switching out the olive oil, to see which type of olive oil you prefer in your formulation.

Olive oil in soap

Fatty Acid Profile for Olive Oil

Now for the fatty acid profile and soap qualities of olive oil. These values are based on the use of refined and pomace olive oil:

  • Lauric Acid (hardness, cleansing, bubbly lather) 0%
  • Myristic Acid (hardness, cleansing, bubbly lather) 0%
  • Linoleic Acid (conditioning, moisturizing, lather silkiness) 6-14%
  • Oleic Acid (conditioning, moisturizing, lather silkiness) 63-83%
  • Palmitic Acid (hardness, stable creamy lather) 7-17%
  • Ricinoleic Acid (conditioning, moisturizing, stable creamy lather) 0%
  • Stearic Acid (hardness, stable lather) 3-5%
  • Iodine Value (hardness, conditioning) 79-95 (on a scale of 0-100, with more hardness at 0)

As you can see, olive oil adds to the conditioning and lather silkiness aspects in a finished bar of soap, but not so much for hardness and lather stability. 

And finally, to assist with calculating your soap recipes, the SAP (saponification) value of olive oil is:

  • .135 NaOH (Sodium Hydroxide)
  • .190 KOH (Potassium Hydroxide)

Olive Oil in Soap Formulation

I personally use 25-100% when I formulate recipes.

The more olive oil you use, the more mild, gentle and low-cleansing your soap will be. However, your soap’s lather will also be reduced. High olive oil soaps can also be soft and sticky upon un-molding. Have you ever made a high olive oil soap in a silicone mold and it took a week to get it out?

I use a water discount with high olive oil soaps to combat the soft and sticky factor upon un-molding. Here are my typical water usage amounts.

  • For recipes with 25-60% olive oil/liquid oils, I’ll use water equal to 2 times my lye amount. (Lye = 4 oz., Water = 8 oz.)
  • For recipes with 60-80% olive oil/liquid oils, I’ll use water equal to 1.5 times my lye amount. (Lye = 4 oz., Water = 6 oz.)
  • For traditional castile soap, which is 100% olive oil, I’ll use water equal to 1.1 times my lye amount. This speeds up trace and reduces the cure time. (Lye = 4 oz., Water = 4.4 oz.)

Substitution for Olive Oil in Soap

You never really want to substitute 100% of olive oil in a soap recipe with other oils. At least I don’t. Even though olive oil is a liquid oil, it cures out rock hard. Replacing it with other liquid oils, such as sunflower or apricot kernel, will create a much softer and mushy soap.

You can substitute some of your olive oil for other liquid oils if you want. I like to use rice bran oil and avocado oil. So if my recipe calls for 60% olive oil, I might use 44% olive oil, 8% rice bran oil and 8% avocado oil.

Most liquid oils (avocado oil, rice bran oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, apricot kernel oil, almond oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil…etc) can be substituted for a bit of olive oil in a formula. They all contribute their unique properties to the finished soap.

Soap Recipes Using Olive Oil

Most of the recipes here on LovinSoap.com use olive oil! Here are some of my favorite recipes featuring olive oil.


Happy Soaping!

-Amanda Gail


About the Author:

I am a soapmaker, author and blogger! I started blogging in 2008, sharing soap recipes, design tutorials and publishing articles on various topics of soapmaking.


  1. csgo5000.com March 14, 2018 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    Changing up your recipe to reach your all time best might require switching around your oils and butters, but it s important to understand that all oils and butters are made up of fatty acids that influence how they perform in soap.

  2. Beth August 8, 2017 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    I’m so happy to have finally found this site! So many soap sites are just melt and pour or don’t have a handy comparison like this. I’ve even left messages on some other sites and they don’t even respond! Don’t leave me hanging, ok guys…?
    Ok, so I’ve never made soap but I’ve always thought about it. Now is the time bc I have come into possession of a ton (over 10 liters) of grapefruit flavored extra-virgin olive oil. I love it but, since EVOO doesn’t freeze well, there’s only so much you can do with it culinarily before it goes rancid. I want to make soap. I can’t spend too much money on other oils, since this is partly an exercise in economy. Oils that can be purchased in the grocery store would be helpful since I *live* on gas points.

    (I teach classes/write articles on gardening, cooking, baking and emergency preparedness and it really burns my toast when a newbie pops in and doesn’t want to learn much and just wants to be told what to do bc it depends so much on the person’s life, time, priorities, etc. but here I am halfway doing it to y’all.) I’d like to get a variety of different soaps out of it, for myself and as lovely but simple gifts. I’ve read some of the info here and I want to get into soap making for fun, self-reliance and possibly profit but I just don’t have time to get deep into the weeds right now. I also don’t currently have the $! I can’t even get a book on it right now and the libraries never have good ones. Don’t want the oil to go rancid, though. Would it even matter for soap making if the oil was a little rancid? What do you guys recommend for variety and economy?
    Also, if anybody has any suggestions on recipes that freeze well and could reasonably contain grapefruit flavored EVOO, that would be great too!

  3. Nancy Miller December 20, 2016 at 10:02 am - Reply

    I recently made a batch of castile soap using 100% pure olive oil. I discounted water to 2Xs the lye amount – 2lb of oil, 4.12 Oz Lye, 8.2 oz water, 5% superfat. I checked the soap 24 hours after molding and noticed that the soap was still quite soft and sticky. When I checked the next morning it seemed hard enough to cut. So hard actually, that it was difficult to cut without it “chunking” into pieces. I only got one complete bar out of a 10 bar batch. The next day I grated all of it and rebatched. What could have contributed to making it so hard?

  4. Les Hedaux December 19, 2016 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    So what would be the most expensive ingredients for some luxury soap? My favourite commercial soap is sea Kelp by Scottish Soaps but I would like to make my own, just cannot find the aromatics that go in it…

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