Fractionation in Palm Oil

Palm Oil. The lovely beast that it is. Since it is July I thought we should cover how to work with this oil since it can cause a few problems for soap makers.

When you open your pail does it look like this?

Photo #1
Let’s take a closer peak.

Photo #2
Photo #2
What if we take a spoonful to get a better idea?

Photo #3
If we pour some in a beaker, does it look like this?

Photo #4

All of these pictures make look familiar if you A) live in a warm/hot location or B) order palm oil during the summer.

Palm oil easily fractionates. This fractionation can cause soft soaps and hard soaps from the same pail but different batches. The fractionation can also cause premature oxidation in your soaps, often called DOS – Dreaded Orange Spots.

So, what is a good soapmaker to do? Heat, baby, heat!

Melt the WHOLE pail of palm oil. Small pails like the 5 lb can be done in most microwaves. 10 lb pails can be done in some larger microwaves. The 25 lb needs to be done on the stove. The stove can be inside or outside. Don’t forget those camping gear items. We don’t need to heat the inside anymore than necessary.

Once the whole pail has been heated pour the palm oil into smaller amounts or into shallow pans. We want to cool the palm oil quickly. If I am heating a large pail, something like 25 lbs, then I don’t always have the space to pour into shallow jelly roll pans (think what most call a cookie sheet).

I then pour into small storage containers or zipper bags BY WEIGHT. If my batch typically uses 4 oz, then I make a lot of 4 oz size bags. If my batches are looking bigger, then I might pour into 1 lb sizes. I always use my scale and tare the bags/containers so the weight is just the palm oil. LABEL! LABEL! LABEL! If you don’t label with the product name, weight, date and lot number then you won’t know what it is later. We don’t want mystery oils in the pantry or soap cupboard.

You can refrigerate or freeze the palm oil once it has cooled. Both methods will help prevent oxidation from taking your palm oil early. We know this fractionation issue can be a bit difficult to work with, but palm oil is well worth the effort. If you have any questions about this issue, please let us know.

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One thought on “Fractionation in Palm Oil”

  1. I have just found this post and it answered some questions in my head about my 15kg’s of Palm looking a little weird. The joys of living in 40c heat..

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