Starting with an Empty Cupboard: Basic Soapmaking Ingredients

Yesterday, I started the Empty Cupboard series with my basic equipment and containers. I’m really beginning to enjoy looking at what I consider necessities and what I consider fun additions. Handmade soap is one of those things I can’t bring myself to live without so I put together a soapmaking ingredients wishlist!

Let’s take a peek at my soapmaking ingredients wishlist!

Required Oils: These are the oils that I feel are the important base oils for any soapmaker. I feel these oils make great soaps without severe expenses.

Coconut Oil: Due to marketing efforts over the years, people have been taught that unless soap has lots bubbles their bodies aren’t getting clean. To give a soap this desired lather factor we use Coconut Oil. Want a dual purpose oil? Coconut Oil also will make a very hard bar of soap. We typically use between 20 and 30% of Coconut Oil in a batch of soap, however, not all soaps we make will have this percentage range as Coconut Oil.

Palm Kernel Oil: In the blog kitchen, we use Coconut Oil and Palm Kernel Oil interchangeably because they give the finished bar of soap similar lather, color and firmness. Palm Kernel Oil will make a very hard bar and does not contribute any color to the finished bar of soap. I have used both Palm Kernel and Coconut in a bar of soap and found that recipe was my favorite, but you don’t have to use both oils in the same recipe.

Palm Oil: This oil is one of the more universal oils and contributes firmness to soap along with a straw color. Many people refer to this oil as vegetable tallow and frequently use it as a filler oil. Many luxury soaps use Palm Oil because it gives soap a special texture and color.

Hydrogenated Soybean Oil: I regard Hydrogenated Soybean Oil as one of those oils that help reduce the costs of the ingredients as well as an oil that contributes to the hardness of the final bar of soap. The soap will be firm, white and have a creamy texture.

Olive Oil: We recommend Olive Oil in soaps for many reasons. It is easy to find in most kitchens and grocery stores so you can make soap at 2 in the morning if you desire! It also contributes a dense “cream” to the lather that helps give a stable foundation for the large bubbles from the Coconut or Palm Kernel Oils. Olive Oil is a slow to trace oil that helps slow things down without making a soap prone to stalling so it can extend the working time of the raw soap. Soaps made with Olive Oil are also noted to be mild and soothing on skin which makes it a favorite ingredient of many soapmakers.

Luxury Addition Oils: My choices are just two of the many potential oils that I feel can give a soap a little extra “Oomph.” I only add a small amount of these luxury or splurge oils to a single batch of soap so they are still a cost effective addition to soap.

Avocado Oil: Most of the soapmakers on our staff recommend Avocado Oil as a luxury oil because soaps made with this oil are dreamy. The smooth glide, gentle cleansing and the creamy lather is a great addition to any soap. I particularly like this oil in any baby soap recipe! We recommend a small amount of this oil per batch, 3 to 12.5% per batch which is 0.5 to 2 ounces in every lb of fats.

Lanolin: I think any soap made with Lanolin is just fantastic on the skin. Lanolin soaps give my skin a moisturized feeling that just can’t be beat! Lanolin is actually a wax that is quick to saponify so we only recommend using a little bit of Lanolin per batch. Usually we use 1/2 to 1 ounce per pound of fats per batch of soap. Lanolin contributes a dense lather and a silky feeling to the skin when used as a luxury oil in a soap.

Tomorrow we will take a look at the basics for making lotions and creams!

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8 Comments

  • Karen Harvey says:

    This is really helpful as I’m using up my initial oils, have made more purchases and am contemplating that it won’t be long before I have to restock. Love making soap.

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  • Kinky Witch says:

    Great post! I, too, love using just a little avocado oil in most of my recipes. When I don’t use avocado oil, I use sweet almond oil. Shea butter is another must for me.

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  • Shea butter is a must for me as well! :-) I try to buy oils that I know I’m going to use for more than one purpose as well. Saves some cupboard space and some money… :-)

    - Cheyenne

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  • Shelley Ritz says:

    I have been making soap for about 5 yrs and since moving to the Pacific Northwest I am having a lot of trouble with the soap sticking and being very difficult to get out of the molds. I always used cocoanut oil, lye, water, essential oils, but have read palm oil in place of cocoanut oil make solve this problem? I don’t know the conversion for using palm oil, as my recipes all use cocoanut oil.? Can anyone help. I do keep my soap covered and at a constant temp for 24hrs, have tried placing molds in freezer for 1-2 hrs, have tried placing mold in cold water before trying to remove, I grease the molds thoroughly with crisco. I’m not sure why I’m having this problem? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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    • Andee says:

      Your problem is that you are “greasing” your molds with crisco. This is a saponifiable oil which means it is an oil that can be converted to soap. When you pour raw soap into your mold, that crisco is saponified right along with the rest of your soap and turns it into soap Super Glue rather than the releasing agent you wanted it to be. For greasing a mold we recommend a thin coating of mineral oil, Vaseline, or a silicone spray that meat grinders use. These are not saponifiable materials. Good luck!

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  • [...] The first request I received was for a soap recipe. Most of the oils in Thompson’s cupboard are liquid oils, but we can easily work with this! If you would like to add another oil to your cupboard, I would recommend adding Coconut Oil or Palm Kernel Oils. You can follow this link for my recommendations for basic soap making ingredients. [...]

  • pabrimhall says:

    Love to hear new ideas and suggestions from others. I am still struggling with adding color to my soap, never sure just how much I should add. My colors are too dark and dull. Any suggestions.

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    • Andee says:

      Which colors are you using? I’m working on putting together a blog series about colors in soap.

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