Defying the Rules of Soapmaking: 100% Coconut Oil Soap with Aloe Vera and a Mantra Swirl

Today’s tutorials comes to you from one of my favorite soapmakers, Kenna from Amathia Soapworks. Her soaps always have unique designs, ingredients and colors. She is consistently pushing the soaping envelope. This recipe is particularly intriguing because it breaks a few conventional soaping “rules.”

There are a lot of “rules” of soap making that get spread around like wildfire, and for the most part, they are true…

But not always! 100% coconut oil soap defies not one, not two, but THREE of the soapmaking rules I’ve heard from other soap makers in the past:

  1. Single oil soaps do not perform as well as synergistic formulas with multiple oils.
  2. Using over 30-40% coconut oil in a soap recipe is too drying for the skin.
  3. Superfatting above 10% will leave too many free oils and cause the soap to spoil or develop DOS.

What’s the magic soap recipe?

I hit the workshop to make a 100% coconut oil soap with a 20% superfat, an amazingly luxurious formula that is one of my all time favorites. Plus, I power-packed it with goodies, too, like coconut flour and aloe vera juice, and pulled out a mantra swirl with an embed.

Coconut oil has great shelf life and stability, so it’s the perfect oil for extreme superfatting. This coconut oil soap formula results in a rock hard bar, with luscious lather, without drying the skin out. Ready to give it a shot? Let’s do this thing.

Recipe

36 oz Coconut Oil
5.18 oz  Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)
10.53 oz chilled Aloe Vera Liquid
1.5 oz Fragrance Oil (optional)
2 tsp Coconut Flour (optional)
Soap balls for embeds (optional)
2 teaspoons of Mica (optional)
Silicone Loaf Mold
a 5 quart bucket
a 2-cup measuring cup with spout
three 4-cup measuring cups with spouts
a piece of cardboard cut to fit in the mold
Bamboo Skewer
Spatula
Stick Blender

Get Down to Business:

This tutorial assumes you are an experienced soap maker. If you’ve never made Cold Process soap before, stop here! I highly recommend checking out our FREE four part SoapQueen.tv series on Cold Process Soapmaking, especially the episode on lye safety. And if you’d rather do some reading, Bramble Berry carries a wide range of books on the topic, including my newest book, Soap Crafting. You can also checkout the digital downloads for that instant gratification factor.

ONE: Prepare your mold by lining it, if necessary. Cut out a piece of cardboard that fits length and height-wise into your mold snugly. Place the piece of cardboard down the center of the mold to divide the mold in half lengthwise.

TWO: Prepare your lye solution by slowly pouring the sodium hydroxide into the chilled aloe vera juice, stirring until the lye has dissolved. The aloe vera will turn a mustard yellow color, like pictured to the right. Allow to cool.

THREE: Heat your coconut oil to about 120° to 130° F. You want to soap this formula hot (I usually soap at room temperature), soaping coconut oil at too low of a temperature will increase your chances of false trace. I add my fragrance to my oils before my lye solution so I don’t forget it later on.

FOUR: Prepare two containers with mica for coloring the soap halves. I use 1 tsp of mica and 1 tsp of coconut flour per container, with 2 tsp of base oils for each container from my main soaping pot. Using a frother, I thoroughly mix the mica and coconut flour with the oils.

FIVE: Combine half of your lye solution with your coconut oil, and stick blend thoroughly. Add the remaining half of your lye solution, and stick blend only until emulsified. I always refrain from over-mixing – bringing your soap to an emulsion first, and then adding anything extra allows you more time to focus on what is happening with the soap.

SIX: Split the batch of coconut oil soap between your two containers and thoroughly mix with a spatula. If you are still at a barely emulsified or very light trace, bring the coconut oil soap in each container to a medium trace using your stick blender. A medium trace is my favorite pour viscosity for a mantra.

SEVEN: When your mica and coconut flour are thoroughly mixed into each part, begin your pour. I pour both halves at the same time so that there is equal force and weight on each side of the cardboard divider. You can also use two more pieces of cardboard on the ends of your mold with notches cutout to hold the divider in place.

EIGHT: Once both halves are poured, carefully and slowly pull your cardboard divider straight up out of the mold. If you are embedding soap balls, use a bamboo skewer to push them down into the soap. Or place them mid-way through pouring.

NINE: Using a bamboo skewer (or chopstick, or your personal weapon of choice!), swirl the mantra. Pushing the skewer down into the mold all the way to the bottom will swirl both sides of your soap. If you only put the end of the skewer into the soap, you can swirl just the top, leaving a crisp line between the two halves in the bars.

TEN: Put the pretty soap to sleep. I do not insulate coconut oil soap, but you can if you want to (same with CPOPing.) Unmold and cut the coconut oil soap as soon as it has hardened up. It sets up real hard, and real quick! You’ll want to clean up the bars of coconut oil soap straight out of the mold, such as beveling or planing – this soap will be a brick in 24 hours flat. The lather is really creamy and luscious straight out of the mold, and just gets better and better as it ages.

All photos courtesy of Amathia Soapworks.

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106 Comments

  1. Sly says

    I made this soap from Kenna’s blog several months ago. I was really excited about 100% coconut, as I so love it and had always wanted to try something like this.
    I think It was a hit with my friends only because they loved the lemongrass scent.
    I found that it didn’t feel good on my skin when I used it myself. I only had one response from another user, who didn’t like it either and I’m afraid to ask anyone else. (They always rave when they like a soap and are very quiet about this one.)
    I would be curious to know how it felt from other Soapers.

    • says

      Hi Sly!

      I’m glad you gave it a try! :) Like all formulas, it’s definitely not for everyone!

      One common problem with coconut oil soap is if you soap too low of a temperature, it feels grainy. So if that happened, try upping your temp!

      It’s definitely a different skin feel than most formulas, I really love it. It’s even better as a salt bar (I use 65% of my oils in salt added at light trace). I have some friends and family who adore it, too, and others who would take a different formula in a second! :)

      Thanks for weighing in!

      Kenna

  2. Mary Lou says

    What is the coconut flour for? I have a great number of aloe plants, do you think I could harvest the gel/liquid from them for soaping? I am looking forward to trying this one out.

    • says

      Hi Mary Lou!

      The coconut flour was an experiment to see if it would be exfoliating or add slip to the formula. It does, very very mildly. I wouldn’t bother adding it. ;)

      Definitely use the aloe from your plants!! Just sub it for the Aloe Vera Liquid in the recipe by weight!

      Have fun!
      Kenna

    • says

      Hi Jamie!

      Sounds like a great idea! A couple of my readers over at Amathia Soapworks have tried it. Be careful and read the ingredients list on your coconut milk though! If it contains any gums or thickeners, it will probably accelerate. So be ready to move, move, move. :)

      Kenna

  3. Brett Griffith says

    I was just wondering the the skin feel is like. Like is it drying or just kinda grainy. If its grainy would it be good ifyou are looking for an exfoliating soap recipe that’s pretty simple.

    • says

      Hi Brett!

      100/20 Coconut Soap has a similar skin feel to salt bars, it’s a very creamy lather and a very very hard bar. The soap can get grainy if soaped at a low temp, so you could do so intentionally for exfoliation if you wanted. :) Give it a try, see what you think!

      Kenna

  4. Pam says

    You mention that you soap this recipe at room temperature. Then you suggest the following “One common problem with coconut oil soap is if you soap too low of a temperature, it feels grainy. So if that happened, try upping your temp!

    What temp range would you consider too low for this soap recipe and what temperature would you suggest soaping the oil at?

    Thank you for any clarification.

    • says

      Hi Pam!

      I had to double check, but I think you misunderstood. :) I usually soap at room temperature, however, for this recipe, I heat the oils to 120 to 130 F. If you soap too low, it gets grainy.

      I don’t follow the old standby of adding lye and oils at a common temperature, as I masterbatch my lye solution, but you can for this recipe without issues.

      So for clarification, soap at 120 to 130 F. ;)

      Kenna

  5. Marleny says

    I would like to try this recipe in a smaller batch size, but it’s at a 20% supper fat and brambleberry’s lye calculator only goes up to 10%,where do I go to figure out the lye amount?

  6. says

    Glad to see this post. I guess I don’t keep up on all the faux-pas in the soaping world…my basic recipe uses 33% coconut oil. But I’m also a little different in I’ve never used any palm oils either (not for any reason other than I just haven’t)…and my soaps could be used as weapons they’re so hard! LOL Very pretty soap Kendra ;-)

  7. Lorena says

    I couldn’t find the link for personal tools used in this recipe. I really want to get out of my comfort zone and create this great looking soap. I have a lot of the basic tools but am having trouble finding some of the others.

  8. says

    Ohhh!!! Love this…an entirely new take on “palm free” too!!

    Just wondering though, since the bar sets up so quickly, does trace come on much faster also? Or does that just depend on your FO, etc, as in regular recipes?

    Thanks! Andrea

    • says

      Hi Andrea!

      It does set up quickly from trace. I prefer to use my stick blender very very little, only using it to initially bring the mixture to an emulsified state (not quite to trace), and then I zap it with my stick blender right before it goes in the mold if I need it thicker. Like all recipes, an accelerating FO or EO will also cause it to move quick.

      I’m used to soaping with an extremely high hard oil/stearic formula, which can be difficult to soap with. Because of that, this formula is easy and slow for me. However, if your normal recipe is slower (like many of the great Soap Queen recipes!), this is going to be a little faster than you are used to. :)

      Hope that helps!
      Kenna

  9. says

    I guess if you do not add scent the smell is like coconut :). I made 1 batch with no fragrance and 5% super fat, the scent is coconut but i want to make it unscented with the coconut oil only and no additional scents. What do you advice? thanks

  10. says

    I have made a soap for years that is 75% coconut oil and 25% cocoa butter. It sets up fast, and I usually cut it within 4-5 hours of pouring in my mold and I don’t insulate it. It is also rock hard after 24 hours and makes the most amazing lather!

    I am going to have to try this recipe!

  11. Bev says

    I made this soap minus the coconut flour with rose clay swirls and rose FO for my daughters birthday. It turned out beautiful and lathers very nice.

    One word of caution for those who are newbie’s like me…. Make sure you remove all soap from your utensils with paper towels before washing your soaping dishes. This recipe clogged my drain. I followed my usual method – removing most soap with paper towels and then running hot water over the dishes before filling the sink with hot soapy water and letting it soak overnight.

    All the other recipes I made just melted in the water but this one hardened in the drain. It was easy enough to clear using a snake but who really wants to do that? ;-)

    Great soap that I will make again!

    Thanks Ann-Marie. You are inspirational!

  12. Heidi says

    I just have to ask, at 5% super fat and 100% coconut oil, doesn’t anyone find this soap recipe drying or too cleansing? I’ve always superfatted at a much higher rate to counteract the strong cleansing properties but I’ve never experimented with lower % superfat.

    Thanks,
    Heidi

    • says

      Hi Heidi!

      This recipe is actually superfatted at 20% because of the 100% Coconut Oil used in it. Kenna from Amathia Soapworks (who created this recipe) found that the higher superfat makes a luxurious formula and works really well with this particular recipe. I hope that this helps clear up any confusion. =)

      Happy Soaping!
      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  13. Kayla says

    I love doing a %100 coconut soap!! I tried it twice and it’s so awesome. I have problems with my skin that it doesn’t take much use of soap to cause it to dry bad. Strangely enough this soap is the only one that doesn’t do that. I wish though your soap calculator on brambleberry would go up to %30. This way it would be easier to read vs. some other sites.

  14. Gillian says

    Quick question about water discounting: I’ve been soaping for years and prefer small discount because I’m too impatient and like my soap firm. :) I have run into issues with this practice having a tendency to accelerate the soaping process, but other than that, would there be any reason to not apply a water discount to this recipe?

    • says

      Hi Gillian!

      Because of the 100% Coconut Oil in this recipe, it is going to harden up quite quickly (within a few hours or less of pouring). You wouldn’t necessarily want to do a water discount on this recipe because of the chance of it accelerating. Let us know how your batch turns out, we’d love to hear your feedback. =)

      Happy Soaping!
      -Becky with Bramble Berry

      • Gillian says

        I ended up carrying out my experiment & doing my usual discount with success, although I wouldn’t suggest inexperienced soapers doing it. It didn’t accelerate abnormally on me, but I used Lime & Lemongrass essential oils, I bet FO’s would have gone nuts! It’s my new favorite recipe and I may try adding a bit of Jojoba oil just for some additional moisturizing! So fun & I was able to unmold and use it the next day!! ( actually I unmolded and cut about 4 hours after pour! )

        Thanks guys!

  15. Karin says

    I’m excited to try this recipe but, I’m wondering if anyone has made it with goat’s milk instead of aloe… Or if there are any thoughts on whether or not this would work out. Any help is appreciated. Thanks, Karin

    • Gabrielle says

      Hi Karin (and AnneMarie and everyone)

      I’ve been making 100% coconut oil (extra virgin) soaps for years now, although I haven’t tried goat’s milk because my customers are predominantly vegan (and those who aren’t, don’t care what I use lol), so instead, I add organic coconut milk (or organic oat/almond milk) rather than water in my recipes.

      Customers and I absolutely love, love, love the sheer white colour, lather, creaminess and hardness of these, which seem to last forever. Because they’ve been so popular and perform so well, they’re now the only type of soap I make :)

  16. Merryweather says

    “Break the Rules” as the name of a very high coconut oil soap was introduced to soaping forums around 2007. I believe the original recipe/formula was 75% coconut oil & 25% cocoa butter made with milk instead of water. I might have the proportions off = I cannot find the site now. It shifted to 100% coconut oil soap for many. I wish I could find the original posting about it – I think credit for the name should be given, or at least it’s earlier existence mentioned.

    • says

      Hi Merryweather!

      we would definitely love to know who the original recipe came from, we always want to give credit to people who have come up with their recipes. This particular recipe was from Kenna of Amathia Soapworks and Anne-Marie loved it so much she just had to share it with her readers. Thank you so much for telling us about the other one. =)

      Happy Soaping!
      -Becky with Bramble Berry

    • says

      Hi Vanessa!

      You could superfat more than 20% for this recipe, but Kenna from Amathia Soapworks used the 20% as a good starting place. We’d love for you to play around and experiment with soapy recipes until you find one that works perfectly for you! Keep us updated on your projects. :)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  17. LL says

    Hi, great recipe, thank you. If I were to use water instead of Aloe juice or milk to make my lye solution and superfat @ 20% would my soap still be moisturising considering that a 100% coconut oil soap is drying to the skin?

    • says

      Hi LL!

      We are so glad you are going to try out this recipe from Amathia Soapworks and can’t wait to hear how your batch turns out. The 20% superfat is actually what keeps this bar moisturizing and skin-loving, no matter what alternative liquid you work with — whether it is milk, aloe juice or water. Let us know which one you go with and if you are able to get any pictures, we’d love for you to share them with us on Bramble Berry’s Facebook page. =)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

      https://www.facebook.com/BrambleBerry

    • says

      Good morning, Monica!

      When we say 120 Fahrenheit, we typically will have our oils/butter ans lye water at that temperature, or within 10 degrees of each other. The lye will naturally heat the water up, and you will just want to make sure that your oils are within 10 degrees of 120 Fahrenheit. I hope that this helps! :)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  18. Brittany Higgins says

    Hi there, I just purchased some ” pure aloe vera juice” and it has a couple other ingredients in it. I wanted to double check that this is still ok to use. It has: citric acid, sodium benzoate, and potassium sorbate. I purchased it at Trader Joe’s in the dietary supplement aisle. Do you think this is okay to use? Thank you so much!

  19. Sonia says

    I would like to make a 100% coconut oil soap as you have done with 20% superfat. However, I would like to add some raw avocado fruit. What are your thoughts on reducing the 20% superfat down a bit to account for the fat from the added avocado pulp/puree. I plan to do some small batches at different superfat levels. However, I would appreciate a recommendation for where to begin. For example, I could add a half of an avocado (puree in coconut milk) to one pound of oil and adjust the superfat down from 20% to 15%. Thanks.

    • says

      Hi Sonia!

      I have a few suggestions :). Because the avocado and the coconut milk both contain natural sugars, I would recommend placing your soap into the fridge after to avoid your soap from getting too hot and leading to a soap volcano. For the same reason, I would let your lye water cool down to room temperature.

      I think your suggestion of 15% is a great place to start! Between the fats in the coconut milk and avocado, I think decreasing it from 20% is a good idea :).

      I hope this helps!

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

      • Sonia says

        I actually make all my soaps with 100% coconut milk and no water so I never let my soap go through gel phase. I’ve been freezing the coconut milk before adding the lye and then cooling the lye/milk solution to between 125 and 130 degrees before adding to oils. So I will try cooling down further to room temp when adding the avocado. I’ll give it a try and see how it turns out. Thanks.

  20. says

    I like the recipe and coconut oil soap can be a hit with people. So I tried the recipe but came across some problems. First, I did not have aloe vera liquid (Juice?) but had an aloe leaf, cut it and used the aloe jelly. Unfortunately, I did not have enough aloe so I had to add water. (Problem) I blended both together but had a floating of aloe fat on the top of the lye solution, but used it anyway. I did not have coconut flour so I used a tsp of mica to 1 tbp of sunflower oil for coloring. (Problem) As written in the recipe, I placed my FO into the oil then my fatty lye solution, and my soap Seized. At that point I knew placing FO in the Oil before trace was Not A Good Idea. I had to spoon the soap into the mold. I made an attempt at the swirl but the skew cut through the soap rather than swirl it. OH Well. So I decided to CPOP it to make sure it completes the gel phase. Tomorrow I will see how it looks.
    ** I feel that a Note about the fragrance in oil should be added to the recipe because one never knows how the oil will perform in the soap. A sure way to have a problem is to put fragrance in too early.

    • says

      Thanks for your comment and feedback on your recipe Shirley.
      I have found in my own soaping that adding fragrance oil too soon can definitely cause a thicker trace which throws everything off of your original plan.I have also found that the temps of my oils with my fragrance oils can definitely cause variable issues.
      I am curious to see how this turns out and please keep us posted on how it turns out.
      ~Kevin with Bramble Berry

      • Shirley says

        Hello again, its Shirley
        My seized soap came out look pretty good. No swirl but a nice two separate colors. Unfortunately, the soap is not smooth looking since you can see the aloe frothy jelly on the soap. But overall despite the problems it not horrible but not beautiful either. Thanks for your reply. Shirley

    • says

      Hi LC!

      The reason that this bar was superfatted at such a high amount (20%), is to ensure it is not drying to the skin. You may want to consider superfatting your soap at a higher amount to ensure your soap is not drying. Of course everybody’s skin is different, so you may find 5% to be fine :)

      -Amanda with Bramble berry

    • says

      Hi Lori –

      I think you and Todd are both thinking that the superfatting oil is being added in later.

      The superfat in this case is simply using less lye than is required for the recipe; also known as lye discounting.

      So for example, if you were to do a 0% superfat, the recipe would be a full 6.41 ounces of lye. In this case, with the 20% superfat, it calls for over a full ounce less of lye – leaving 20% of the coconut oil unsaponified.

      I hope this helps explain where the superfat is =)

  21. Joy says

    I made this soap to the letter…everything i could have possibly wanted to know was covered
    Its simply divine.
    It is a little more cleansing than my regular recipe but I love ALL types of soap for all different moods and seasons
    I feel super fresh after this one, the lather is stunning…and I want to thank you for all the wonderful information and this recipe. A winner

  22. Shirley Perez says

    I want to make the 100% coconut soap oil recipe, however, I cannot tell whether we should weigh the ingredients or measured in measuring cups. Also, If I wanted to superfat part of the coconut oil with shea butter. Just a small amount. Please respond so I can start my recipe. Can the shea butter be a small part of the superfat?

    • says

      Hi Shirley,
      We also recommend creating recipes in weight, not volume! It’s more accurate than using cups to measure :) You can read more about that here:
      Weight vs. Volume: http://www.soapqueen.com/bath-and-body-tutorials/tips-and-tricks/a-guide-to-weight-vs-volume/

      Superfatting with shea butter is a great idea! If you want it to be mostly coconut oil, I would recommend doing a 90% coconut oil and 10% shea butter recipe. I would choose anywhere between a 5 – 10% superfat. Our lye calculator makes it easy to do all of that!

      Lye calculator: http://www.brambleberry.com/pages/Lye-Calculator.aspx

      I hope that helps! Happy soaping :)

        • Marley says

          While you’re thinking of a reply to my question, let me second-guess the reason for the huge difference in SF% when changing the formula from 100% CO (SF 20%) to 90% CO & 10% Shea (SF 5-10%). Is it to avoid DOS from the added Shea content?

          If that’s the concern, would adding any Tocopherol (maybe 1% of the total oils) hopefully alleviate that concern?

          Or perhaps there is another reason for the huge difference in SF% when adding 10% Shea???

          Thanks in advance for any ideas.
          Marley

          Oops!! Sorry about that duplicate original reply. Don’t know how to delete it.

          • Marley says

            Okay, I’m still guessing here and I’ve come up with another theory: Maybe I didn’t fully understand Kirsten’s original reply to Shirley Perez.

            When I superfat, ALL my oils are in the same pot. I don’t hold the belief that adding an oil later in the process is going to mean that the oil added later is going to be the one that superfats your formula. It is my belief that the lye solution will attach itself to whatever oil(s) it pleases regardless of when they’re added to the pot.

            Perhaps Kirsten was suggesting that Shirley reserve the Shea Butter (which makes up btwn 5-10% of the formula)and add it after trace? But still superfatting the entire formula by 20%? But then I’m further confused because Bramble Berry’s Lye Calc only goes up to 10%SF, and she recommends using it. If she really meant a total 20%SF, she would have recommended SoapCalc.

            Oh well, I guess I’ll experiment both ways and let you know how it comes out. I was hoping to hear something back from someone by now to avoid that step, but I have a customer waiting for his Coconut Oil Soap and I don’t want to prolong the process.

            I’ll check back from time to time to see if there is a reply here. I just don’t understand why the 20%SF would fall to 5-10%SF just because I alter my formula to include 10% Shea Butter. Thanks for letting me rack my brain in public. LOL Chime in any time.

  23. maila says

    Hi Kristen, thank you for the recipe.

    When I tried it, my soap seized in just seconds when I add lye in the oil. I mixed the oil and lye in room temp, use SB then in about 10 seconds of mixing, it seized very fast. I can’t even scope it out :(

    I don’t know what went wrong..

    • says

      Hi Maila!

      Oh no, I’m sorry to hear that happened! Did you change anything in the recipe? If you could tell me a little bit more about your methods, I would be happy to help you troubleshoot :)

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

      • Maila says

        Hi Amanda,

        Thanks for your reply. I am using the following ingredients:
        – 30oz coconut oil
        – 1.5 oz shea butter
        – 5.1 oz NaOH
        – 10 oz water

        First, I melt the shea butter, then mix it with coconut oil. I let the lye solution to cool down to room temp before mixing it to the oils. After adding lye to the oil mix, i used a stick blender to mix, but it seized in less than 2 minutes.

        Thanks..

        • Kelsey says

          Hi Malia!

          Because we haven’t tested this recipe with Shea Butter, I’m not exactly sure why it is seizing! Shea Butter and Coconut Oil are both ingredients that make a harder bar, so that may be the culprit.

          I ran your recipe through the Lye Calculator, and got a recommended water amount of 11.97 oz and a lye amount of 4.5 oz. That’s a little different than yours, so that may be it!

          -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  24. Engilish says

    K, you guys got me all worked up! I gotta try it! I think I’m going to try a 1/2# batch just to see. A few years back I bought some silicone muffin cups that really aren’t great for muffins so I may use those. But a question…this 100% coconut oil 20% super fat seems just like Kirks Castile soap? So is it large bubbly lather or more like creamy foam?

    • Kelsey says

      Hi Lauren!

      For this recipe, 76 degree Coconut Oil was used. We only used one type of Coconut Oil, so I’m not exactly sure how blending coconut oils would work. You may want to try a small test batch. :)

      Also, Fractionated Coconut Oil is a liquid rather than a solid oil, meaning it may take longer to harden. It also does not have the same cleansing and bubbling abilities of solid Coconut Oil.

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

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