Soap Making Oil Substitutions:
As you’ve probably guessed by now, this article discusses making substitutions of oils in cold process soap making. Soap making oil substitutions can become important at one point or another. One of the most exciting parts about cold process soap making is that you can literally make and design your soaps from start to finish.
Moisturizing bars, great lather bars, bars with additives, milk based soaps, soaps with honey, unscented bars, “manly” soaps, even soaps using clays as both colorants and skin enriching pieces of heaven!
You have complete control!
When choosing your base oils, it’s important to truly have a grasp on your end goal. What do you want from this bar of soap? This will help to direct you in which oils, additives, lye mixtures you’re going to need.
If you’re just beginning your soap journey, we recommend always starting with a standard bar of soap. What do we mean by “standard”. We simply mean one that is tested, tried and true to leave you with a great bar of soap (as long as your measurements and calculations are correct!).
What we’ve often recommended is the following recipe. These oils all play well together and will give you a nice well-rounded bar!
Can’t Miss Oils For A Balanced Bar Of Soap!
Olive Oil – Adds to “end” hardness of your bar. Widely tolerated. Most popular used oil in soaps! Can be used at 100% when making soap.
Coconut Oil: Great for lather and cleansing properties. If you have dry or sensitive skin, you may use less of this oil as it may be to drying at 30%.
Palm Oil: Great for hardness. Recommended usage around 20-30%
Castor Oil: Great for boosting your bubbles. Suggested % is about 4-7% in your recipe, otherwise it can produce to soft/sticky of a bar.
We want to help you in creating your own recipe. We want you to know that, yes, this is a very common recipe, but there are many avenues you can take to get to your “perfect” bar of soap.
This is where experience comes into play. Hence, why we say to have a basic understanding of the process, first. Attempt to perfect a standard soap recipe and then make your alterations as necessary for your end goal.
Related Article: Process of Blending & Mixing Essential Oils to Perfection, Part I: The Basics!
Common Reasons Why Substitutions are Made:
Let’s say you find the perfect recipe as far as how you want your bars to look and feel, but….
Included in the recipe is olive oil and unfortunately you’re allergic to olive oil? Then, you need to make a substitute for that oil. Preferably to an oil that will give you a similar end product, but not alter things to much. For this example, Rice Bran oil is a perfect substitution. Rice bran, like olive oil, can be used up to 100% in soaps.
Does this make sense?
Here is another example: Let’s say you love the lathering and cleansing properties of coconut oil, but you have an allergy to coconut. You need to find an oil that will still hold true to those properties and not change your final product, to much. The example here is Babassu oil.
You want a palm-free soap. There is often environmental controversies over the use of palm oil, (which is why we use sustainable palm oil).
However, some individuals don’t want to use this product or have it in there bar of soap. Palm oil is great at adding hardness to a bar, and when paired with coconut oil, helps boost lather.
So in this case, you may choose to substitute it out for vegetable butters. For example, like cocoa butter or shea butter or a combination of the two. Cocoa butter will add both hardness, and extra lather.
Hopefully this is making a little more sense. The point we emphasize is to understand your base oil properties. Don’t just choose combinations of oils, know “why” you’re choosing them. What is each of their purpose in CP soap making!
Related Article: Working with Colorants in Cold Process Soap Making: How to Premix
Revisit the Lye Calculator:
You’d be surprised, some substitutions change the lye amount just a small decimal point, but it is always appropriate to run it though the lye calculator once more. You don’t want to waste a bunch of oils, lye, colorants or additives. Making soap is not cheap, and can be discouraging to some if things don’t go according to plan!
The amount of lye to turn your new found oil into soap (saponification process) may be just a bit different then your last.
On That Note, Let’s Talk About The Saponification Value or SAP Value:
When we SAP value we are referring to the amount of lye it takes to turn 1gm of oil into 1gm of soap. These values are different for each oil, fat or butter and that’s where the lye calculator comes into play. It takes all the guess-work out. It doesn’t require math skills, because lord knows we could not be soap maker’s if that were the case!
Here Are Common Oils Used And Their Substitution Oil(s)
- Olive Oil: Rice Bran oil, Canola Oil, Grapeseed Oil
- Coconut Oil: Babassu Oil, Tallow
- Palm Oil: Tallow, Cocoa Butter (for hardness)
- Shea Butter: Mango Butter, Avocado Butter
- Sweet Almond Oil: Avocado Oil, Apricot Oil
- Coffee Butter: Avocado Butter, Shea Butter
- Avocado Oil: Sweet Almond Oil
We’ll leave it here for this post. We hope this helps if you ever feel the need to make substitutions for your oils.
Remember, first find oils, or butters that have similar properties. Then, make sure to run them through a lye calculator before going any further.
Happy Soap Making!