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Soap-making oils, which ones to choose?

 
steward
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I've had The Soapmaker's Companion book for years and finally have a spare moment to consider making soap for the homestead and maybe to peddle at our farmer's market if I like the craft.

I'm looking at the recipes with their lists of oils that soap-makers use and I'm a bit daunted by the idea of making wise choices in terms of sustainably grown and acquired. It hardly makes sense to use canola oil, what's the likelihood that's a GMO? Etc. Sunflower oil sounds like something that didn't come half-way around the world. Coconuts? On the surface, that sounds better than palm oil, but how would I know? My great-uncle was a jojoba ranching pioneer when I was a kid, that might be an eco-warrior choice.

Any resources or thoughts or experience?
 
pollinator
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My wife wrestled with this for her soap business, plus vegan vs. tallow/lard (which are more sustainable and make a better soap than many oils but have a stigma).

There isn't one easy answer. She crossed off the " no, never" oils for us and then formulated the best soap based on performance with what was left. Once she got that where she wanted it, we sourced the best of each oil we could find. A few revisions based on experience and I think we have a really good product that is as sustainable as we know how to make it. We crossed off the list any GMO's and sourced things like palm oil from certified sustainable sources. We could easily cut our raw materials cost in half or less if we went with the normal oils, but we can charge a premium that more than makes up for the input cost.
 
Ann Torrence
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R Scott wrote:She crossed off the " no, never" oils for us.


Can you ask her what the worst of the worst are, in her opinion?
 
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She should experiment some. Nothing is chiseled in stone yet, and the type of oil has a noticeable effect on the qualities of the soap.


My personal favorite was 50% soybean oil, 30% lard and 20% coconut oil. Freaking amazing soap. I'll never use that crap from the store again.


Too much coconut oil make the soap drying. The coconut component makes for a lot of lather, and performs well in hard water, but too much is too much, and it's expensive.

Straight lard makes great soap and pigs -can be- very sustainable.


I look at it like, anything made in my kitchen is better than anything from the big industrial soap complex.


 
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I have just started making soap once a year. My family has a tradition of deep frying on Fat Tuesday, (aka mardi gras). I wanted to use the leftover fry oil, so last year I used a soap calculator and gave it a go with an old pot, thermometer and whisk. 3 hours later, it finally traced, and made a soft soap that left a film on your hands.
This year, my recipe was 70% used deep fry oil, 24% coconut oil (the cheaper refined stuff) and 5% olive oil. The final bar lathers nicely, feels pretty good, but gets soft on the bottom easily from the drips of water on the sink. Still, a massive improvement.
When looking for recipes, I found an article about a woman who uses restaurant cooking oil, and sells all the soap she can make. No recipe, of course. Still, with a bit more experimentation I think you could get a really nice bar with a lot of used oil. Now, as far as chemical reaidues, I don’t know - I am not so worried that I don’t get drive through fries once in a while, so I’m clearly not that concerned. From a waste reduction standpoint, it is great, especially in areas where biofuel folks haven’t cornered rhat market.
Just another source to consider.
 
gardener
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following this thread! I make soap with used fry oils, but since we no longer fry at home i`m reduced to either begging used oil (it works) or maybe lard, which I only make when I need but could easily make more often.
We don`t have a lot of affordable options for oil, quite honestly.
 
pollinator
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Fatty acids seem to enter the skin as well as through the guts... So I would avoid any of the high omega 6 oils! And would favor saturated and mono-insaturated fats.
Thus lard, tropical fats and olive oil.
Also think about laurel oil as in the Allep soap.

Logically, it seems we should avoid oxydized fats, but this is just a guess, and maybe they are ok? For eating they are NOT, that is why I doubt...
Maybe ok to recycle fats for loundry? ....and not for body use?
 
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I'm using soap mostly for hand washing as I semi-follow the "no poo" shower system, using a minimal amount on really dirty spots. I've made chicken fat soap in the past which my spouse liked and at least I'd grown it myself, but some people complain it's drying.
I was wondering if anyone had tried making soap out of Native Bayberries (https://www.heirloomgardener.com/plant-profiles/medicinal/how-to-grow-bayberry-zm0z17wzcwil), rather than candles? It's described as a "wax" rather than an oil. It would be nice to find a perennial oil source that can be grown in temperate climates for soap making. I don't know if M. californica will grow as far north as I am but I also rarely use candles so it hasn't been on my urgent list to investigate.
 
pollinator
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I have a giant jar of saved bacon grease, and we are not cooking with it enough to justify it; any chance I can use this for my soap? Any extra processing to do before starting the soap-making?
 
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Dustin Rhodes wrote:I have a giant jar of saved bacon grease, and we are not cooking with it enough to justify it; any chance I can use this for my soap? Any extra processing to do before starting the soap-making?



Not only do I see this as a great big 'YES!', but imho, it is not only amazing for your skin, but makes for a great smelling soap. That bacon scent mellows, in use, so you don't walk around smelling like you just finished cooking 10lbs of bacon. And, what could be more 'permie'/sustainable, than something you already have as a byproduct of something you've just eaten, and will eat, again? Using it this way means no waste. It makes great gifts, too - especially for bacon lovers.
 
Lina Joana
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Personally, I’m not worried about omega 6 in my soap. It occurs in food, and we are talking about something that gets rinsed off quite quickly, not a lotion. If the soap smells nice, and my skin feels fine, I feel like I’m probably fine. Naturally, everyone needs to make their own determination on this.
 
Xisca Nicolas
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Lina Joana wrote:Personally, I’m not worried about omega 6 in my soap. It occurs in food, and we are talking about something that gets rinsed off quite quickly, not a lotion. If the soap smells nice, and my skin feels fine, I feel like I’m probably fine. Naturally, everyone needs to make their own determination on this.


Oh I think you are right for soap!
I would be more careful about massage oil for example.

I still wonder about using oxidized fats that are no more ok for eating.... Maybe no problemm either, for the same reason?
 
gardener
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I don't use any fat or oil I just use
soap berries a.k.a. Soap Nuts.  For hand and body washing I make an extract with boiling water and fill my pump dispenser.
 
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I have always wanted to make soap.  I am just afraid of the lye though maybe I just don't need to be.   Here is a helpful article about lye and the oils for soap making:

https://wellnessmama.com/60992/how-to-make-soap/

Here are the oils she uses:

    Coconut Oil
   Olive Oil
   Shea Butter
   Cocoa Butter
   Castor Oil
   Avocado Oil
   Mango Butter  

 
Xisca Nicolas
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Thanks for being on track with the title!
Just to say that cacao butter is sooo expensive, that I keep it for eating!

And I notice that none of these oils are polyinsaturated!
Avocado and olive are both monoinsturated...

I wonder about the price of castor oil, and also its medicinal use.... I would like to make some oil for local use on the liver, warm with a cloth....

So I wanted to say that there is another CRITERIA to choose the oil:
good for soap,
...but not "much better for another use"!
 
pollinator
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Hans Quistorff, A jewelry book I am reading says the soapberry flesh can be irritating. Have you ever found that to be so?
 
Hans Quistorff
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denise ra wrote:Hans Quistorff, A jewelry book I am reading says the soapberry flesh can be irritating. Have you ever found that to be so?


I can't say what the fresh berries would be like. The dried berries from Ecco Nuts I have not found to be irritating. To the contrary garments washed, rinsed, and dried with the soap nuts are more comfortable on my skin than conventionally washed cloths.  I make my personal wash liquid by adding a dozen soap berries with a sprig of rosemary and lavender to a quart jar and adding boiling water cap it and water bath it to sterilize. It can form a vinegar which I don't find objectionable. Washing is slightly different; wet the skin thoroughly with the extract then rinse.  Garden dirt come right out of the crevices in my hands.
 
denise ra
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Can the soap be used for a shampoo? I seem to be sensitive to shampoos,  they break my face out.
 
Hans Quistorff
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Yes I use the soap berry extract for my shampoo.
This is the latest message I received from Ecco Nuts
Hello Hans

Last month I sent a couple of emails asking for help for Eco Nuts.

I want to sincerely thank you for your orders, kind words, offers for help, and advice.

I also want to thank those of you who posted reviews on your social media for our products, and shared photos on Instagram and Facebook. We really appreciate it!


We have almost cleared out most of our back bills and we are able to stay in business this month.

We currently have $13,000 left to go to be caught up and I think with your help we can do it this month. So if you haven’t placed an order yet, please consider ordering soon as it would really help us out.


The sales from last month, in addition to keeping us afloat enabled us to afford to renew our organic certification, and completely restock our liquid detergent which we were completely sold out of before. If you’d like to give it a try, we have lots of small size bottles (doing 48 loads for natural or 24 loads for certified organic).


You can order the natural version here and organic here.


If you would like to invest or donate or have other ways and ideas of helping out, please reach out, I’d love to hear from you!


Naturally,  

Scott



 
pollinator
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This is an amazing topic
 
denise ra
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John C Daley, do you have soap nuts in Australia?
 
John C Daley
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By 'nut" I assume you mean people who dabble with soap recipes.
Yes, but I have not often seen a discussion like this.
I am not a 'soapy', but I am fascinated by the subject.
 
denise ra
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John C. Daley - LOL, I mis spoke- soap berries,  not soap nuts!
 
John C Daley
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I may have introduced something to your lexicon.
I cannot work out what soap berries are anyway??
 
Carla Burke
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Here ya go - soap nuts/soap berries: https://www.reusablenation.com/zero-waste-living/waste-free-laundry-do-soap-nuts-actually-work
 
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i bought some soaps recently from cedar point soaps and the ingredient list is as follows:
olive oil,coconut oil,palm oil,distilled water,sodium hydroxide
and a list of scented oils depending on the bar
 
pollinator
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IMO if you have access to ethically-raised meat, then 100% lard soap is the most obvious choice. It makes a really nice soap and since animals are raised all over the world, it's something you can get from your and ethical sources. Most of the plant oils aren't really grown where I live, and when they are, it's either done as an expensive novelty or it's done with a lot of chemical processing.

As a consumer, I love a good lard soap and I avoid anything with palm oil. Even "certified" palm oil is really sketchy. From what I understand the certification process involves the farm owners promising to try to do better than they have been. Then if they don't, they get a slap on the wrist and have to promise to do better again, and this process can repeat indefinitely. The certification program may have started with good intentions but it seems like greenwashing now.
 
Carla Burke
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I'm not big on lard soap, personally. I don't hate it - I just prefer tallow. The type of oil in a soap *can* make a huge difference in the soap, and ethics, economics, health issues, geographic region, and even climate, can all play into it, so what oil you personally should use is... well... a personal thing. A vegan or vegetarian isn't likely to want anything with animal fats, some faiths will have issues with lard, because it's pork, some people are allergic to certain things, like nuts, coconut, or sunflowers. Some oils have certain health benefits, too. I like tallow and jojoba, for their similarity and compatibility with human sebum, and the fact that they don't aggravate my allergies or skin sensitivities. Very much coconut oil (which, btw is also on the list of "comedogenic - pore-clogging - oils) in my skin care products - including soap - dries out my skin, horribly, but, very much olive oil, even with a lower superfat percentage ends up being too heavy and oily, on my skin.

So, I think researching the oils at your disposal: what properties are inherent in them, cost, any ethical concerns you may have, etc, would be a wise way to begin your search.
 
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Here is an interesting site for soap-makers:

https://www.eocalc.com/enter-your-own-blend/
 
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I have PCOS and one of the delightful (please note oozing sarcasm) symptoms is VERY sensitive skin with most toiletries.  Among other things, I've made my own soap for over 20 years and have experimented with different oils and butters.  However, I have not considered their sustainability until reading this thread.  My focus was always on my skin comfort....which is a HUGE.  However, sustainability will be in my mind going forward.

One of my favorite oils is olive oil.  Usually I can get it fairly inexpensively at membership stores or grocery stores believe it or not (not the extra virgin, but from subsequent pressings).  I've used pomace olive oil as well.  Both work nicely...I go with what I can get cheaper.  I also like coconut and almond oils.  Their combo along with olive makes great soap and will give different properties depending on the ratios you use.  

One thing to consider is the properties of the oils used.  Not all are created equal.  For example, my mom liked using Crisco for the fat for a few years.  She loved the soap, but it melted too easily with water.  My skin was not happy with it.  

If someone is just starting out with soap making, my suggestion would be to experiment with different oils/fats (and combinations) to see what you like best.  You may like the leftover fryer fat if it's mixed with something else.  Also, keep in mind superfatting soap to give it more moisturizing properties.  I usually superfat with cocoa butter, or shea butter.  

I make an olive oil soap with freshly ground rosemary and oregano for times we need a bit more antimicrobial power.  It bubbles up nicely and washes away clean.  It works great and you don't smell like spaghetti as much as you would think...hehehe

For my cinnamon, oatmeal, goat milk soap, I use less coconut and more olive and almond.  The soap doesn't bubble up much which bothers some people, but to me is wonderful.  Less drying and the properties of the ingredients seem to work better on my skin because they aren't washed away as much.  (To give an example of how powerful ingredients can be, this was also a favorite of a nurse who was helping me take care of a dying loved one as it helped my loved one's skin greatly.  I loaded her up with as much as I could to use on other patients.)

Happy soaping everyone!
 
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I have never personally made soap.  There are so many persons who make soap to sell here on the Olympic Peninsula that my wife & I just buy it at the local Farmers Market.  I did see & read an article on soap making in Mother Earth magazine that I thought was quite interesting. It 'Almost' made me give it a try.  https://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/how-to-make-soap-from-ashes-zmaz72jfzfre
 
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I've been making soap for 20 plus years.

I quit palm oil  few years ago because even though a "sustainable" palm oil is marketed, I was not convinced that orangutan habitat was not being destroyed, politics of poverty and wealth being what they are.

I use coconut oil, tallow (to replace the palm oil) and either rice bran oil, sunflower oil or olive oil. I have to work at it to be sure the sunflower oil is not GMO, and I am leery of inexpensive olive oils because olive oil from some regions is adulterated with canola or other oils.  Even award winning "olive oil" often has other oils in it.  (this from an olive oil producer friend in Central California).

The best resource I can recommmend is "the soap makers companion", which includes charts and lists of oils and the qualities they impart to the soap, but I find that author's method of "superfatting", which she calls "discount" incomprehensible.

The price of shipping has gone up a lot in the last few months, but I don't have a better source. I have bought  my ingredient oils from "Soapers Choice".

And I recommend Liberty Natural for decent price and quality essential oils, though prices are going up on those too.  
 
pollinator
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I have been a soap maker for 10 years, and have decided on a recipe that gives us a nice hard bar, with less expensive ingredients, using the most sustainable products we can find while also be soft on the skin. We do not use my soap for shampoo - just body washing. I also make facial bars with this recipe.

25% coconut oil (sustainably produced, but who can really know for sure.)
50% olive oil (we use extra virgin, but you can use pomace oil, too and in some ways, I like pomace better - I just hate ordering things online and can't source it locally.)
20% clarified lard (from pigs our friends raise every year)
5% castor oil

Because of the high olive oil percentage, these bars have to cure for about 8 weeks before use - the higher the olive oil, the longer cure time. Although in the end, it produces a much harder and long lasting bar. From this base, I can use hydrosols for the liquid, any and all herbal ingredients (added at trace), essential oils and/or clays (like kaolin - good for facial bars).

We superfat at 5% and find that it creates a bar that is really sudsy (thank you lard and coconut oil) while also creating a firm and proliferate lather (the olive and castor oil).

Sometimes I use more lard and less coconut oil - and just change the lye/water amount using the lye calculator on Brambleberry.com

I use to go all fancy (think apricot and avocado oils, etc) but it meant much more buying online and getting shipments to the house and waiting. And the cost was much higher. Plus, I cook with 3 of the ingredients, so I always have them on hand and a bottle of castor oil lasts forever. I have found that no oil is completely without it's problems - from mislabeling to companies just straight up lying about how they harvest product to being shuttled halfway around the world, burning through layers of fossil fuels to get here.  I settled on the lesser of the evils when it comes to oil and went from there.

Anywho - whatever chance I have to talk soap, I'm on it, even though this post is old!
 
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