Which Ones and What Do They Do?
When starting out in making soap, one of the very first things to decide on is what will be your recipe be? All bar soap is made by combining a certain ratio of oils/fats to a certain amount of sodium hydroxide solution to cure turning the oils/fats into soap and that process is called saponification. Soap by definition, is fat or oil mixed with an alkali. The oil can be animal or plant based and the alkali is lye (sodium hydroxide) for bar soap and Potassium Hydroxide for liquid soap. To know the exact ratios of how much alkali does it take to make your oils/fats turn into soap is a complicated math equation, luckily for us non-math wizards we can use a lye calculator such as; http://www.soapcalc.net/calc/soapcalcwp.asp or https://www.soapguild.org/lye-calc.php these calculators are easy to use and you just plunk in your batch size and what percentage of oils you choose, it pumps out the correct amounts to use of each ingredient.
Lastly, before getting into the discussion of what recipe you want to use you must decide on your super-fat percentage. Super-fat is any excess fat that remains in a soap after saponification is done. Most handcrafted soap intended for bathing almost always contains some super-fat for two reasons. The first reason for super-fat is safety. A soap must include enough fat to make sure all of the lye is used up. Since our recipes are based on estimates of the saponification values and alkali (NaOH or KOH) purity, the general policy is to add a little more fat than is strictly necessary to ensure all of the alkali is used up. A super-fat of 1% to 5% is good safety margin. The second reason is to increase the mildness of the soap on the skin. Soap sometimes cleans so well that it dries or irritates the skin. Increasing the super-fat above the 1% to 5% safety margin can help tame this tendency.
So now lets get down to the nitty gritty and learn about oils and fats!!! Here are the oils for soap making, their basic descriptions and soap making properties.
Types of Oils Used in Making Soap
Apricot Kernel Oil • liquid oil • moisturizing and conditioning • high in vitamins A and E • cold pressed • contributes to hardness • stable lather.
Babassu Oil • hard white oil • good for both dry and oily skin • contributes to lather • can be drying • keep totals to 30% or less • produces a hard bar • full lather.
Canola Oil • liquid oil • contains vitamin E, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids • may come from GMO plants • can go rancid quickly • cold pressed from seeds • inexpensive • dense creamy lather.
Castor Oil • liquid oil • cold pressed from seeds • easily absorbed by the skin • quickens trace • stable lather • great for hair care • makes a soft bar • fluffy stable lather.
Coconut Oil • liquid at 77°f, hard oil below this temperature • contributes to lather • very hard bar • can be drying • use at 30% or less • cold pressed from the meat of the coconut • large fluffy lather.
Grape Seed Oil • liquid oil • non-allergic compounds • good for acne-prone or oily skin • light oil • noncomedogenic • short shelf life so use quickly • stable conditioning lather.
Hazelnut Oil • liquid oil • good for all skin types • high in vitamin E and essential fatty acids • long shelf life • slow to saponify • stable conditioning lather.
Hemp Seed Oil • liquid oil with a high rancidity factor that must be refrigerated • deep green color • contains many nutrients • great for aging and dry skin • slow to saponify • stable conditioning lather • can be expensive • use as a small percentage or as a superfatting oil to reduce the chance of spoilage.
Jojoba Oil • liquid oil • cold pressed • closer in structure to a liquid wax • close to skins sebum • can clog pores • long shelf life • soft bar • creamy lather.
Lard • solid oil • can smell like bacon while curing but the scent goes away • shelf stable • very inexpensive • creamy long lasting lather • makes a soft bar • readily available.
Macadamia Nut Oil • liquid oil • cold pressed • good for all skin types, especially dry or mature skin • very mild so good for facial or baby care • thicker than most oils but easily absorbed into the skin • long shelf life • can be expensive • makes a harder bar • full fluffy lather.
Olive Oil • liquid oil • very mild so good for baby care and sensitive skin • cold pressed from the fruit • makes a very hard bar • produces no lather • can be used at 100% • slow to trace and saponify.
Palm Kernel Oil • solid white oil • contributes to lather • cold pressed from palm seeds • makes a hard bar • fluffy long lasting lather • accelerates trace • can be drying.
Palm Oil • solid, creamy oil that can be orange-red • makes a hard, long-lasting bar • creamy lather • must be stirred but you can purchase “no-stir” brands. Note: a controversial oil because growth and harvest contribute to rainforest degradation. It can be found as RSPO oil (an organization dedicated to sustainable palm oil production).
Rice Bran Oil • liquid oil • high in nutrients and antioxidants • mild oil so good for sensitive skin • long shelf life • makes a hard bar • creamy lather.
Safflower Oil • liquid oil • inexpensive • conditioning • makes a softer bar • longer shelf life • contains antioxidants • fluffy lather • slow to trace • best used in combination with other oils.
Sesame Oil • liquid oil • often dark • has a distinctive scent that can be offensive • somewhat expensive • readily available.
Sunflower Oil • liquid oil • cold pressed • very inexpensive • high in vitamin E • very mild scent • light in color • makes a soft bar • slow to saponify • creamy lather.
Sweet Almond Oil • liquid oil • cold pressed • light oil • good for all skin types • makes a soft bar • creamy lather • saponifies easily.
Tallow • hard white oil • may have an offensive smell • must be refined before using • makes a hard bar • creamy lather.
Wheatgerm Oil • liquid oil • cold pressed • high in vitamin E • can have a strong odor • can cause problems for those with gluten intolerance • makes a soft bar, but conditioning • creamy lather.
What Oils does MW Farmstead Use?
So now that you know all of this, you are probably asking what base oils does MW Farmstead use in their bar making soap? Our basic recipe has Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, RSPO Palm Oil, Sweet Almond Oil at a Super-Fat percentage of 5%. You can always find all our ingredients listed on our labels or listed here, We are always here to answer any questions you may have. We are excited to create products for your skin to love and have many more coming soon!