best oil to make soap

Trying to figure out the best oil to make soap can be confusing. There are a variety of reasons and/or purposes for each oil. What I’ve learned over the past couple decades of soapmaking is as follows, and further reading lists the pro’s and con’s of each oil or butter.

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Pro’s and Con’s of the best oil to make soap:

When choosing a carrier oil and/or superfatting oil:

  • the cost! Olive oil is 3 – 4 times the cost of Canola oil
  • do your customers really want to pay more for only olive oil/castile soap? my experience is ‘no, they don’t’
  • easy obtainable supply, I would order my olive and canola oils from a restaurant supply
  • other oils and butters from a soap supply company

Olive Oil:

  • Pros:
  • considered by customers everywhere to be the best oil to make soap
  • the finished soap has small creamy bubbles
  • there are many skin conditioning properties from olive oil
  • can find everywhere, and can buy in bulk sizes at mega stores
  • Cons:
  • costs more that palm oils and definitely costs more than canola

Coconut Oil:

  • Pros:
  • best oil for creating a bubbly bar
  • medium priced
  • sometimes found at mega stores
  • cons:
  • if used 100% as a soap oil, the bar will actually be a little drying
  • can melt in the bucket on a summer day, just makes it a little harder to pour or scoop
  • expensive in groceries and health food stores

Canola Oil:

  • Pros:
  • the least expensive oil for soap making
  • easy to work with
  • has a clear tint
  • Cons:
  • if used in over 50% of a recipe, oxidation occurs and your soap will get brown spots
  • canola is considered toxic by some reports
  • customers think you are being cheap

Palm Oil:

  • Pros:
  • has a middle price
  • creates a more moisturizing bar
  • provides a slightly harder bar
  • allows for a medium bubbly action
  • Cons:
  • because bio-fuel corporations have started stripping all visible palm of their fruit, eco-consumers believe that anything with palm now is creating a global agriculture catastrophe
  • you don’t want customers blaming you for the annihilation of palm trees
  • was getting more difficult to find at suppliers
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it is chemistry that helps turns this oil, plus water, plus an electrolysized salt, all into soap!

Palm Kernel oil:

  • Pros:
  • again, another great oil for making soap
  • helped to create a more moisturizing bar
  • helped to create a harder soap bar
  • Cons:
  • see palm oil con list
  • is a very solid oil, I’d have to chip it out of the box

Sunflower Oil:

  • Pros:
  • nice light oil and a less expensive cost
  • can find anywhere
  • lots of benefits to skin
  • Cons:
  • doesn’t saponify well, making a softer bar, use as a super fat only


  • never used it
  • heard that it created a not-so-pleasant smelling bar
  • fat has to be rendered first
  • newly acquired fat will probably have gross things in it

Cocoa Butter:

  • Pros:
  • smells wonderful
  • has a medium price
  • better utilized as a super fat oil
  • Cons:
  • makes a very very hard bar
  • would make a very expensive bar

Shea Butter:

  • pretty much the same as cocoa butter, except no wonderful smell and the very very hard bar part, shea is a soft butter
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shea butter, or sheanut butter


Each oil has a different saponification value. This means that each oil per ounce needs an specific amount of lye per ounce in order to make the lye and water and oils saponify – meaning to turn into soap. Too soft soap could be grated into new soap.

If you had too less lye, your soap would be soft. Too much lye and your soap could be caustic, meaning it would be drying, perhaps even have pockets or bubbles of un-saponified lye-water and cause a mild burning sensation. Too caustic soap would have to be tossed out or used to clean automotive parts.

One of the basic soap making recipes with a super-fat in it is the Orange and Lavender, aka Sunflower, soap bar.

Even the best oil to make soap may need a superfat, great article on the benefits of Shea butter or sheanut butter, awesome for skin care.

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