Science!



Ever wonder what goes into the soap you use on your body every day?


At it's most basic it is a combination of oil mixed with a water and lye solution (yes, that stuff that cleans your drain). When mixed properly, and in the correct amounts, this mixture will go through a process called saponification. The lye is activated when it's poured into the water. When this solution is mixed with oil it creates soap.


There is obviously a lot more to it than that. But when I go into the gritty chemistry details, people get that glazed over look in their eyes...you know the one. So I thought today we'd go into what properties different oils give your soap.


I think about everyone is familiar with Castile soap. Castile is a pure olive oil soap, known for being gentle and moisturizing. It is a bar almost anyone can use. The drawback is that it's extremely soft and can take over a year to cure properly. So we add other oils for their properties. When used alone in a soap, olive oil will have a creamy lather, with small bubbles.


The next most popular is probably coconut oil. It creates an extremely hard bar of soap, very quickly. Used alone it either has to have a 20-30% superfat (superfat is leftover oil in the soap that there isn't enough lye to saponify). Used at regular rates, without superfat or other oils makes an extremely drying bar of soap. It is typically how hand crafted laundry stain sticks and solid dish soaps pucks are made. When added with other oils, coconut oil makes your bar hard, which makes it last longer. It also makes your soap more bubbly.


Palm Oil has a massive amount of controversy around it because of the rainforest deforestation. So why does anyone use it for soap? It also helps harden the bars when combined with coconut oil, and assists with the lather boost. We do use palm in our soaps, but we make sure that ours is RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) certified.


Castor Oil is used at a very low percentage rate because it makes soap very soft. But it also creates spectacular bubbling action!


Shea Butter is thought to protect skin while moisturizing it. It is also said to moisturize without clogging pores.


Canola Oil is an affordable option for soap making. It's moisturizing and can take the place of olive oil. It creates a balanced bubbly bar.


There are tons of other oils out there. From soybean to lard to Argan oil. But I think the oils I've listed are the most common you'll find across the board on soap. I like to save the more exotic oils, like Argan for products that don't wash off and go down the drain.



Soapers spend a huge amount of time formulating and testing recipes. And that's before we even get to the fun part of selecting fragrance or essential oils and which pretty swirl to add...or should I do stripes?


This was a long one! Thanks for sticking with me. If you are curious about the soap making process, soapqueen.com and soaping101.com are fantastic resources. Both also have very

informative youtube channels.

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