Soap Making Lipids

Properties – The tricky thing about soap making is that it almost always takes more than one type of oil to get a good bar of soap. Some are very moisturizing but aren’t so great at scrubbing off dirt. Others are great cleansers but will leave your skin feeling tight. Some last forever while others will spoil in just a few months. Try combinations of complimentary oils to get the right balance.

Bar density – A really soft bar of soap won’t last long in a humid shower, but a rock-solid piece of soap can scratch your skin.

Suds – Soap bubbles are usually described on a continuum from bubble to creamy. Occasionally certain soaps can even feel waxy, sticky or slimy. A good bar will be bubbly enough to froth up but creamy enough to stick around when you start washing.

Trace – Different fats come to trace different. Some are incredibly fast and require cooling so that the mixture doesn’t seize up when lye is added. Others won’t get thicker than cake batter, so you can save yourself some time and wrist pain by knowing ahead of time. The goal of trace is to get your oils and lye water to mix enough that they won’t separate when the soap sits.

Special instructions – Just what it sounds like. The density, bubbliness, self-stability, and moisturizing qualities of the oils often means that you don’t want to use too much in a recipe.

Melting point – Knowing the melting point of oils can help you plan when to scoop them into your double boiler so that no oil has to cook longer than necessary.

Fatty acids – All fats are made of triglycerides which are, in turn, made of fatty acids. Knowing the fatty acid composition of a certain oil can be beneficial when you’re wondering why one oil acts or doesn’t act like another or if you’re looking for something similar to an oil you don’t have on hand.

Saturated fats

 Lauric  hard, cleansing (too much can be drying), bubbly lather
 Myristic  hard (but softest of the saturated fats), cleansing (too much can be drying), bubbly lather
 Palmitic  hard, cleansing (too much can be drying), creamy lather, long life
 Ricinoleic  soft, conditioning, creamy lather
 Stearic  hard, creamy lather

Unsaturated fats

 Linoleic  conditioning, silky, short life
 Oleic  conditioning, slippery, long life

SAP value – The saponification value is used to calculate how much lye is needed to react with 1 gram of the fat. Lye calculators do the same job, but if you want to do it by hand, this is all the information you need.


I know that this chart is damn near impossible to read. I’m open to any HTML/Wordpress tricks to make it skinnier


Oil Name Properties Bar Density Suds Trace Special instructions Melting Point Fatty Acids xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Shelf life SAP Value
Avocado Oil Vitamins A, D, E, many unsaponifiables, moisturizing Very soft Creamy Good for superfatting 0ºF 58% oleic, 12% linoleic, 20% palmitic 1 year .132
Beeswax Hardening 145ºF Forever
Castor Oil Moisturizing, humectant Soft Bubbly, creamy Thick, fast, can be slower with a low temperature 5-10% max 0ºF 90% ricinoleic 1 year .127
Cocoa Butter Vitamin E, antioxidants, cleansing Hard Creamy Thick 15% max 95ºF 30% stearic, 27.5% palmitic, 32.5% oleic 1-2 years .136
Coconut Oil Very cleansing, too much can be drying Hard Bubbly, semi-creamy 20% max 77ºF 48% lauric acid, 19% myristic, 10% palmitic > 1 year .178
Grape Seed Oil Increases slipperiness, moisturizing Soft Creamy, sticky 5-10% max; not great to use 14ºF 65% linoleic, 23% oleic 3 months; 1 year refrig. .134
Jojoba Oil Liquid wax, moisturzing, shelf stable, many unsaponifiables Very soft Creamy Slow, thin 10% max for hardness; good for superfatting 50ºF 72.5% eicosenoic, 15% erucic Forever .064
Lanolin Soft 100ºF lanolin .070
Mango Butter 15% max 90ºF 45% oleic, 44% stearic 1 year .134
Olive Oil Moisturizing Soft, slimy Creamy Thin, faster with lower grade Up to 100% 21ºF 75% oleic, 15% linoleic, 10% palmitic 2 years .133
Palm Oil Low glycerin yield, cleansing Hard Creamy Fast 30% max ºF 44% palmitic, 39% oleic 1 year  .142
Rice Bran Moisturizing, similar to olive Hard Creamy Up to 100% ºF 43% oleic, 26% linoleic, 22% palmitic 1-2 years
Safflower Oil Moisturizing Soft Slimy 20% max 2ºF 75% oleic, 15% linoleic 1 year .135
Sesame Oil Earthy smell, moisturizing Hard 10% max 21ºF 45% oleic, 40% linoleic 6 months – 1 year .135
Shea Butter Moisturizing Hard Creamy Fast, thick 15% max; Good for superfatting 95ºF 47% oleic, 43% stearic 1 year .126
Soybean Oil Moisturizing, cheap, short shelf life Hard Creamy, sticky 20% max 3ºF 50% linoleic, 30% oleic, 11% palmitic 3 months refrig. .134
Stearic Acid  Not very cleansing Very hard Waxy Fast 5% max 70ºF 100% stearic .147
Sunflower Seed Oil Short shelf life Soft Slimy 20% max 1ºF 72% lineolic, 16% oleic 3 months refrig. .134
Sweet Almond Oil Moisturizing Soft/Hard Creamy, silky 12.5% max; good for superfatting 0ºF 70% oleic, 20% linoleic 6 months – 1 year .137

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