Soapmaking Oil Chart

Base oil, butter or fat Soft, hard or brittle Properties in soap Recommended usage  Breaking the rules & other notes
Coconut oil Hard large fluffy bubbles, highly cleansing, high   amounts can be too drying, makes a white bar 15-30% Some soapers will use a high amount of coconut oil and bump up the super fat amount.  The higher amount of un-saponified oils in the bar balance out the high cleansing from coconut oil.  Soap making is all   about finding the right balance.  Also a 100% coconut oil soap with a super low or none at all superfat makes a great laundry soap.
Palm oil Hard a great base oil, makes a hard long lasting bar,   stabilizes lather 25-50% Palm oil is the base oil of choice for those who don’t want to use animal fats such as lard or tallow.  I personally do not use palm oil anymore.
Olive oil Soft/Hard makes a very gentle and mild bar, low lotion-like   lather, low cleansing, great for babies and elder folk’s skin, some people   say that high amounts of olive oil make for a slimy or snotty feel in the   shower 25-50% 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.
Lard Hard a great base oil, makes a hard bar with a low   creamy lather, makes a white bar, stabilizes lather 25-50% 100% lard soap with no superfat makes a great laundry soap.
Tallow (beef) Hard a great base oil, makes a hard bar with a low   creamy lather, stabilizes lather 25-50% 100% tallow soap with no superfat makes a great laundry soap.
Palm Kernel oil Brittle similar to coconut oil, large fluffy bubbles,   highly cleansing but milder than coconut oil 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.  I personally do not use palm oil anymore.
Cocoa butter Brittle makes a hard bar of soap, stabilizes lather 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!
Shea butter Hard makes a hard bar of soap, seems to add a silky   feel to the lather, stabilizes lather 5- 15% Same as cocoa butter.  I typically use 5-15% but occasionally will   experiment with using up to 60%.
Castor oil Soft helps suspend/hold the lather from coconut oil,   adds creaminess, high amounts will cause a bar of soap to be sticky and have   a drag when using it in the shower 5-10% Some soap makers like to use 15-20% castor oil in their shampoo bars or shaving bars.
Apricot Kernel oil Soft a wonderful sub for some or all of the olive oil in a recipe, similar properties to olive oil 5-12% Apricot Kernel is a wonderful sub for some of the olive oil in a recipe.
Avocado oil Soft makes a very gentle and mild bar, low cleansing,   great for babies and elder folk’s skin 5-12%  Avocado oil is a wonderful sub for some of the olive oil in a recipe.
Jojoba oil Soft a liquid wax, stabilizes and suspends lather 5-12% Jojoba oil is too expensive to use now in soap making.  I save it for leave on products like lotions and creams.
Sunflower oil Soft sustains lather, mildly cleansing, creamy and   rich 10-20% Sunflower oil is a wonderful sub for some of the olive oil in a recipe.
Grapeseed oil Soft   5-10% I don’t use grapeseed oil much as it has a very limited shelf life.
Hazelnut oil Soft   5-10% I don’t use hazelnut oil much as it has a very limited shelf life.
Hempseed oil Soft   5-10% I don’t use hempseed oil much as it has a very limited shelf life.
Safflower oil Soft mildly cleansing 5-15% Safflower oil is a wonderful sub for some of the olive oil in a recipe.
Soybean oil Soft sustains lather, mildly cleansing 10-20% Soybean oil is a wonderful sub for some of the olive oil in a recipe.
Rice Bran oil Soft makes a very gentle and mild bar, low cleansing,   great for babies and elder folk’s skin , similar properties to olive oil, can give soap a waxy almost shiny finish 10-25% Rice bran is a wonderful sub for some or all of the olive oil in a recipe.
Almond oil, sweet Soft sustains lather, mildly cleansing 10-20% Sweet Almond oil is a wonderful sub for some of the olive oil in a recipe.

*Just because I don’t like an oil, doesn’t mean you won’t. I recommend trying anything once!

Soft, hard and brittle?  What does that mean?

Oils, fats and butters are generally classified as soft, hard or brittle.  You’ll see that I did so in the soap making oil chart.

Soft oils are generally oils that are liquid at room temperature such as olive oil, castor oil, sweet almond, rice bran…etc.  As a general rule, soap made from a high percentage of these oils will be on the softer side.  The only exception to this rule is olive oil.  Soap made from a high percentages of olive oil is soft upon un-molding but will cure to be a really hard bar of soap.

Hard oils are oils, fats and butters that are solid but scoopable at room temperature such as palm oil, lard, tallow, coconut oil, mango butter and shea butter.  Hard oils make a hard bar of soap.

Brittle oils are oils that are solid at room temperature but require some chipping at or a bit of elbow grease to break them up.  These generally include palm kernel oil and cocoa butter.  Brittle oils make a hard bar of soap.

Here are some general rules when talking about soft, hard and brittle percentages in your recipe.

Hard and brittle oils

Soap made with higher percentages of hard and brittle oils will be easier and quicker to un-mold.  These soaps set up quickly and harden faster than soaps made with high percentages of soft oils.  Recipes high in hard or brittle oils can be hard to swirl or do advanced designs with that take time as the soap can set up too quickly.

Recipes high in hard and brittle oils make un-molding soap easier in single cavity molds.

Soap made with higher percentages of hard and brittle oils will require higher temps when mixing.  If you soap at too low of a temperature you can get what is called false trace.  This is when the solid and brittle oils start thickening up/re-solidifying because of the low temperatures.  It looks similar to trace so you might end up pouring your soap before you reach trace.  Keep the oil temps in the range of 100-120.

Soft oils

Soap made with high percentages of soft oils tend to be softer and stickier when un-molding.  Simply leave them in the mold a day or two longer before un-molding and cutting.  If you are using single cavity molds, you can try freezing them to harden and hopefully the soap will pop out easier.

Soap made with soft oils, especially olive oil, is slower to trace and setup.  This makes them perfect for swirling.  You have more time to color and play with the soap batter.

What are your favorite oil combos and percentages to use?  Do you like to break out of the box and do anything wacky?  Please leave a comment!

58 Responses

Add yours
  1. I like cottonseed oil, because it contains tocopherol, which improves shelf life. It’s also fairly inexpensive, though not available at the grocery store.

    I also like Candellila wax, because it helps harden up a soft bar. I use hot process, and mold from 180F down to 130F. 130F and it’s really a little too hard for molding. It’s fun to melt it with the hard oils, then pour in the liquids and watch the candellila coat the spoon. :)

    But mostly, I like to just take whatever I have handy and make soap from it. It’s all about documenting and experimenting. I even learned how to turn KOH soap hard (molar conversion to sodium soaps with table salt).

    · Reply
  2. Doubleaitch

    Love experimenting with handfuls of Indian spice seeds, particularly cloves, star anise, cinnamon barks and fennel seed. Great scratchy soap

    · Reply
  3. Just found this site, and really think it is so informative. I have been making my own soap for a couple of years, but still love to find new opinions and advice.

    thanks

    · Reply
  4. Thank you for posting this.
    My rule of thumb is to practice and experiment with oils to create soap you realy love.
    We make mostly Castile soaps as well as olive oil and coconut soaps – but we have customers that love different types, so ocassionaly we make cocoa butter and shea butter soaps as well.

    Thank you for posting this article.

    · Reply
  5. Runa

    I make soap for gifts and for largess (I belong to http://www.sca.org). We experimented recently and found that adding fresh not used coffee grounds to the soap made an excellent kitchen soap. It helps remove ‘odors’ such as peppers, onions, etc. Our favorite turned out to be a mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg which smelled like fresh french toast.

    · Reply
  6. Jane ODonnell

    I’m so happy I found your site – I’m new to soap making and decided to experiment – and looking at your oil chart – my batch should have worked – I used 20% almond oil, 10% castor oil, 30% coconut oil and 40% olive oil. But my soap is soft! So disappointing. Is there something glaring about this recipe I should be aware of?

    thank you.

    · Reply
    • Hi Jane, You can go to SoapCalc.com and create a soap recipe. When all the oils add up to 100%, you are asked to click on the next page. Down towards the bottom of the page, after you see your recipe, is a gauge that tells you if your recipe is within two numbers that refer to :
      How cleansing the bar is
      How creamy ”
      How much later
      How Hard the bar will be, etc.
      This is a great way to check the percentage of your oils to see if you are making a balanced soap. If your numbers don’t come somewhere in the middle of the guage for each quality for the soap, just fool around with your percentages til they do. I love this soap calculator and have used it for years and it has helped me greatly. Good Luck, Joanne!

      · Reply
      • jane

        Thank you so much….that’s exactly what I need. Gratefully appreciate the help!!!!!! Best wishes…Jane

        · Reply
      • Silvia

        Hi. I did the soap calk thin, I’m also don’t know what when wrong with my recipe, just when hard, I didn’t have time to put it in the mold !! My recipe is 20% soybean oil, 5% castor oil, coconut oil 25%, pure olive oil 15%, Palm oil 15%, lard 10% rice brand oil 10%.. S. F. With Shea Butter 5%,( I added when it was getting hard) and fragrance added before hardening, also some sodium lactate to the lye water , please can you tell me what I did wrong ? I’m been making hot process soap, cold process is new to me.

        · Reply
  7. Shirley Molinaro

    Hi,
    I been enjoying your site, lots of great information. My question is, you mention Hemp Seed oil has a short shelf life, is that before it’s made into soap? If I use it shortly about buying it would the soap be fine?
    Thanks.

    · Reply
  8. Runa

    Have been trying various soap bases that you just melt, flavor, color and mold. So far I’ve discovered that if you put wistera blooms in hot soap mix they turn white, greenish, and a teal color… very far away from the natural purple colors. So I’m going to try drying some and then adding them and see what happens.

    Oh and if you make the ‘kitchen’ soap (which really helps get yucky smells off your hands) it can be used on hands and feet. Do not use it on ‘other’ parts of your body as the coffee will clump (my poor neighbor tester) which are difficult to remove.

    · Reply
  9. Mel P

    I’m really against using palm oil, even if it is fair trade oil. Is there a more sustainable oil I can substitute in recipes that contain palm? All palm free recipes I have found seem to be really heavy on olive oil.

    · Reply
      • In my opinion..
        1. Rice bran is a good substitute.
        2. Sesame Oil works great too.
        3. Plain coconut oil with 20% super fatting works
        4. Use body butters

        · Reply
    • Martha Michloney

      I had the same concerns, did some research and settled on Crisco in the can or the store brand equivalent. It has cottonseed oil and soybean oil. I have not tried it yet. so can’t tell you more.

      · Reply
  10. Vasudha

    Hello All… I would like to make my first batch of soap. SO many YouTube videos and so many soap sites am just so confused..
    1. How should i choose my oils?
    2. What combination of oils i shouldn’t use?
    3. How to choose the soap making technique – Hot process or Cold process? Specific oil combinations soap come out well when made by a specific method?
    4. When i chose LYE concentration to be 100% for NaOH with castor, coconut (91 degree F) and olive oil at 4, 15 and 15 lb respectively the water : lye ratio was 0:1. Please help me with what was wrong in my numbers. They were just imaginary though. From videos i understood castor oil to be very less than coconut, n coconut oil to be lesser than olive oil. but after reading the website i understand something about the oils. Using soapcalc.com

    TIA – Vasu

    · Reply
    • You could use brambleberry soap calculator. Its really good.
      Watch soap queen videos (series of 3) to learn how to make your first batch.

      · Reply
    • Lois H

      I would recommend starting with hot process. I found that I was too impatient to wait the 4 – 6 weeks for the soap to cure. Making hot process will allow you to use your new soap much sooner.

      cabinofbows.blogspot.com

      · Reply
  11. Becky

    Are fragrance oils ok to use in soaps. They are much less expensive than essential oils. Thanks.

    · Reply
    • Rosie

      Yes FO are ok to use in soap. Make sure that they are skin safe oils. Some FO are not to be used on the skin.
      Good Luck!

      · Reply
  12. Seve

    Hi everyone,

    Is it possible to make a mild facial soap bar with a high content (60-80%) of palm oil? Which oil is best to combine to get a mild bar? I have an unbelievable amout of palm oil available to me and I would like to include it as much as possible. Thanx everyone

    · Reply
    • Rosie

      olive oil is what I find to be one of the mildest oils and great for face. Not sure about palm since I don’t really use it. :)

      · Reply
    • Jan

      Hi Seve,
      Palm oil is wonderful. Try using 80 % Palm ,
      10 % Coconut and 10 % Sunflower Oil . You get a mild facial bar that is very solid and does a great job. My personal favourite body bar formula is :
      62,5 % Palm
      12.5 % Sunflower or soybean or Olive
      For best results do not do a water discount or it will trace very qiuickly.
      Jan
      25 % Coconut

      · Reply
  13. Leslie

    I am trying to make soap without using palm or soy shortening. I love the feel of sunflower oil in soap and made a recipe using 29% olive, 29% coconut, 34% sunflower, 2% caster and 4% Shea butter. It looks and feels great but is not fully cured only one week. My concern is the sunflower oil is too high and the soap will spoil. I tried decreasing the sunflower but it just increases the coconut oil over 30% which is supposed to be too drying? Any suggestions? Thank you.

    · Reply
    • Author

      HI Leslie! Yes, I would be concerned with that high amount of sunflower. If you upped the coconut oil, you could also increase the superfat to make it more moisturizing. Also, you could raise the shea butter up a bit to add some more hardness.

      · Reply
  14. Angela

    Hi everyone,

    I am new to soap making. I tried my first batch of soaps with the following: 42% olive oil, 20% coconut oil, 30% palm oil and 8% Shea butter. But i am not happy as they were little hard bars. So how to make soft bars with any alteration in the oils i have used? or how about by adding castor oil and Sesame oil to the above list? Any suggestions on the % of oils i use or adding any oils to make them soft?

    Thanks,
    Angela

    · Reply
    • Diane

      Just wanted to reply to Lisa H from a while ago in case any new soapers have similar questions. The problem with “sustainable” palm oil is that when you delve a little deeper, the oversight is disorganized and corrupt. It’s not like buying for example USDA organic where you’re reasonably assured of the origins of the product you’re receiving. While there may be some “good guys” out there- without the ability to really reassure myself that my hobby isn’t contributing to destruction of nature I chose to recalculate my recipes and use alternatives–while they make a nice soap, palm oils are far from essential. I just feel better about it. So do a little research on your own and then make a decision about what you’re comfortable with.

      · Reply
  15. Lisa H

    I am a little conflicted with regard to Palm Oil. I am currently using sustainable, but am looking into possible alternatives. obviously deforestation, and killing o orangatangs? is an atrocity. I am conflicted because i am wondering if by boycotting palm oil,we are punishing the farmers trying to do it the right way. There are farms where the palms are grown specifically for the purpose we are using it for. If you are buying from a source that is proven sustainable and organics, should we put those places out of businesses because of poachers and criminals on the other end of the spectrum?

    · Reply
  16. thank you so much. this is really valuable info for a beginner like me :)

    can’t wait to experiment with the oils

    · Reply
  17. Jen

    Great, detailed explanations! I use a coconut oil, olive oil, soybean oil, cocoa butter and goat’s milk blend that sets up well in silicone molds. Trace takes place fairly quick and I add colloidal oatmeal with the stick blender. Using more cocoa butter than you would expect in a recipe ensures that I have a good, solid bar popping out in just a few hours time.

    Does palm oil really rank up there in quality to cocoa butter as a ‘brittle’ oil?

    · Reply
  18. Dianne Kraay

    I’m just gettin’ in the groove and learning as much as I can. I truly appreciate your description of all the different oils and their purpose of using them. I will be using your site as a reference in the future as well,thank you for taking the time and allowing us to share your knowledge.

    · Reply
  19. Traci

    I live in an area where I can’t seem to find soap making classes (I am definitely a visual learner). One thing I’d like to understand better are oil formulations, especially in making my own. As a beginner, I think it would be helpful to have a “garanimal” approach, for eg “30% of a hard oil from column A, 30% of a hard oil from column B, 30% of a soft oil from column C, and 10% of a soft oil from column D”. I figure that once I’m comfortable with the process, I will have the confidence to be more creative. Thank you!

    · Reply
  20. Elizabeth

    Hi, I love this site too! With coconut oil, does it matter if you use fractionated oil or organic coconut oil bought of the shop shelf? Will the end result be similar?
    Thanks.

    · Reply
  21. Michelle

    Hi There, I love the comparison’s here its great!! I am looking at making mummy milk soap and they suggest a mixture of breast milk(will have some fat content in it too), vegetable shortening, olive oil and safflower oil can you tell me what I might be able to replace the safflower oil with? Would sweet almond oil work?

    · Reply
  22. rakesh

    hi,
    very nice side.i want to know whats the diffrence between palm oil,&palm fatty acid.in india many soap manufacturer are using pam fatty.what is it property.& how we can use it in soap manufacturing by replacing palm oil.

    · Reply
    • Elian

      Palm fatty acid is the last result from the palm oil refining process. It’s dark brown and may contain many things that are not saponifiable. You don’t want to use this.

      What you need is refined palm oil, either in the form of palm olein (palm oil used for cooking) or palm stearin (the solid portion of palm oil).

      · Reply
  23. Donna

    I am new to making soap and was wondering if anyone uses palm kernel flakes? how do I go about measuring? Do I melt it down then measure it by weight to pour into other oil mixture? or can I weigh as the flake mixture and melt together in with other oils? Thanks,

    · Reply
    • Elaine Lockey

      You treat palm kernel oil flakes as you would any oil by weighing them. I pour the flakes into a bowl and weigh them then add them to my pot and melt them down.
      Happy Soaping!

      · Reply
  24. I am a midwife and author. I’m working on a children’s chapter book, LOST: the amazing tale of the little goat midwives. (two kids are surviving on an island in an abandoned homesteader cabin and want to make soap. They have a wood stove and pots and pans but all they have for an oil is goat’s butter.) They also have access to bees wax. Any idea of a recipe? They know how to make lye from wood ash.

    · Reply
  25. Corrs

    Hi everyone. I am glad to find this forum. Does anybody here tried to make papaya soap using the fresh fruit (pureed including the peel)? My friend told me that papaya enzyme is good to lighten the face and also good for those having problems with pimples and acne. My concern is the mold or bacteria that will form in the soap, given that it is from a fresh fruit. What oils should be used for papaya and for sensitive skin? And should I do water discount? Thank you!

    · Reply
  26. Elaine L

    I’ve got a related question about using oils in CP soap. If you use oil to mix up a colorant separately before adding it into your soap batch, would that oil add to the oil total in your soap and should you calculate it? For example, I use 1/2teaspoon of olive oil per color additionally to help break up my colorant so its easier to mix in with the trace soap. Should I be counting that too? I’m thinking that could really add up with the more colors I do per soap batch. Thanks!

    · Reply
  27. Bonnie

    Made soap for the first time last week. Just found your site today. I used a recipe from video on tube “making soap at Marshas” I put Lavender and Geranium EO’s in it. It came to trace and poured out into wood box mold as on video set up and cut just like on video then I remembered I had forgot the vitamin E. I mixed up some vitamin E with alcohol and misted the bars. Anyone else ever had this happen? Will the soap go rancid?

    · Reply
  28. Anamaria

    Hi Amanda, there si no coconut oil here where I live, what could I use instead? Thank you

    · Reply
  29. Interesting list. Palm oil is a popular choice for soaps these days but I would not use or buy it on principle because of the widespread deforestation that industry has caused.

    · Reply
  30. Tashy

    Thanks for your suggestions. I make cold processed soaps and I use the oils I love in the volumes I want and have never had problems. I am starting to swap out olive oil for rice bran oil, and I love sunflower, avocado, and cocoa/shea butters/oils in soaps. It is about starting out and then going wild with our own creations.

    · Reply
  31. Ferguson

    Hi! Love the website! It’s been most helpful. However, I have a small issue which is basically formulating my own recipe. The ingredients that I have on hand are aging & I need to use them quickly. But frankly, I don’t know what I’m doing. Haha! I’m still a rookie. What I have are…
    Olive oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil, castor oil, grape seed oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, cocoa butter, Shea butter, bees wax, bentonite clay & essential oils.
    I’d prefer to use what I already have before buying other additives so that these do not go to waste.
    Any suggestions?

    Appreciate it!

    · Reply
  32. Brandi

    Hi I’m VERY new to all of this but my question is about cocoa & shea butter (basically the butter part of the recipes). I tried making a body lotion BAR and used cocoa butter lotion (which was probably the wrong thing). Were is a good place to find cocoa butter, shea butter ,mango or any of the other suggested (butters) also what form is this supposed to come in is this a solid like the bees wax or what?? Thank you so much for the help

    · Reply
  33. Jennie

    Hi! I use cocoa butter, so not sure about shea butter properties, and it does come in a hard cube. Columbusfoods.com is a fabulous site for oils and they have super fast shipping.

    · Reply
  34. Toni

    I can’t read anything on the far right column because your format causes the search and ads to overlap the last column. I live too far out to get *real* internet and have to use my phone. Is there any way you can tell me what the far right column is called and what it says? I apologize for being a bother…

    · Reply
  35. Karishma

    Hi

    Please tell me the benefits and disadvantages of soaping with Palmolein Oil. Since this is widely and easily available in India, I would like to use it. If used at a 30% rate, would it make my soap too oily? I used this recipe but however my soap takes too long to dry and is extremely oily even after a week. I live in a very humid place.

    Shea Butter 10%
    Cocoa Butter 10%
    Coconut Oil 76deg 25%
    Olive Oil Pomace 20%
    Castor Oil 5%
    Palmolein Oil 30%
    Distilled water 38% of base oils
    Fragrance 4% of base oils

    Please Help!!!
    Thank you!

    · Reply
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