Free Beginner`s Guide to Soapmaking: Common Soapmaking Oils

One of the best parts of soap crafting is being able to customize your recipe down to the very last ingredient. There are an infinite number of oil, fragrance, color and technique combinations, which is one of the reasons soap making can be so exciting!

Arguably one of the most important aspect of any soaping recipe is the combinations of oils and butters that make up your base recipe. The oils you use impact most all defining factors in your finished product, from it’s moisturizing properties, to how well it lathers to the ability to do all kinds of coloring techniques and designs. In essence, think of your oils as the foundation of a house. You need a solid base to support everything else.

To guide you through the wide world of oils, we’ve assembled our most comprehensive resource on fixed oils to date. Think of it as a supplemental companion to our Free Beginner’s Guide to Cold Process Soap Making and our Free Beginner’s Guide to Melt and Pour. It’s just one more tool to help you on your quest for soapy excellence. Keeping scrolling (it’s worth it, we promise!) for a Frequently Asked Questions section as well as a handy chart on fixed oil shelf life.

As an added bonus, we’re even offering a free downloadable two page PDF with information on more than 30 common soapmaking oils and their shelf life, usage rates, characteristics in soap, and more.

Apricot Kernel Oil – 6 months to 1 year

Similar to the makeup of Sweet Almond Oil, Apricot Kernel Oil is lightweight and high in linoleic and oleic acids. It is conditioning and is easily absorbed into the skin (making for an excellent carrier for massage oils). It produces small bubbles and isn’t used at more than 15% because it produces a softer bar of soap that probably will not hold up as well in the shower or bath.

Recipes: Cold Process….With a Twist! & Salt Glow Facial Scrub


Avocado Oil 1 year

Avocado Oil (from the pulp of the Avocado fruit) makes a soft bar of soap and is generally used at 20% or less in cold process recipe. Rich in vitamins A, B, D, and E, Avocado Oil leaves your soap with a high percentage of  fatty acids and unsaponifiables, making it great choice for massage oils, lotions and butters in addition to soap.

Recipes: Tiger Striper Hanger Swirl, Fuzzy Felted Soap Balls & Sea Clay Avocado Facial Bar


Avocado Butter – 3 years

Avocado Butter is solid at room temperature but because of its low melting point, it’s perfect for all sorts of skin care — soaps, balms, hair-care products and even lotion blends! It is derived from the fruit of the Avocado Tree and hydrogenated to yield a green-tinted butter that is kissably soft with just a mild odor. You can use this butter up to 12.5% in your cold process recipe to create a knock-out, skin-loving soap.

Recipes: Whipped Body Butter (pictured below),  Vertical Sandalwood Vanilla Soap, &  Winter Lip Balm


Beeswax (White & Yellow) – Indefinite

Beeswax has an indefinite shelf life. While the Yellow Beeswax is fully refined, the White Beeswax is bleached naturally by exposing it in thin layers to air, sunlight and moisture.  In cold process recipes, Beeswax acts as a natural hardening agent and can be used up to 8% in your recipes. There are special considerations when using beeswax; melt it first and add it at thin trace to soap that is 140 degrees or higher. Otherwise, the beeswax will harden in your soap mixture (no fun!).

 Recipes: Vanilla Latte Lip BalmCoffee Butter Foot Creme & Cuticle Salve

Canola Oil1 to 2 years

For an affordable ingredient option in your recipes, you can use Canola Oil.  This inexpensive oil works great in combination with other oils like Coconut and Palm, and makes for a very balanced bar of soap. It also produces a more white soap than Olive Oil which allows for a wider range of colors to be used. Canola Oil produces a creamy lather that can be used as a partial substitute for Olive Oil or up to 40% of your total oils.

Recipes: Handmade Soap for the Gardener, Peacock Swirl & Three Color Mantra Swirl


Castor Oil – 1 year

This thick and viscous liquid is extracted from the Castor Bean Plant and has a slight but distinctive smell. It behaves like a  humectant, meaning it draws moisture from the air onto the skin. If you want a stable, lush lather, you can technically use Castor Oil in your recipe up to 25% (though using much more than 10% can make for a sticky soft bar). This oil is great for superfatting and is often used to contribute to the thick and large bubbles in most bars. Most soapers use this oil in the range of 2-5% traditionally.

Recipes: How To Make Solid Bubble Bath, Luxurious Liquid Soap, & Invigorating Shampoo Bars

Cocoa Butter – 1 to 2 years

This oil is solid, hard and brittle at room temperature making the term “butter” a bit of a misnomer. When melting cocoa butter for beauty recipes, it’s best to temper it (as you do with chocolate) to prevent crystallization but in cold process soap, no tempering is needed. At Bramble Berry, you can purchase it in it’s natural form, which smells like warm cocoa, or in it’s deodorized state if you aren’t a fan of the smell. Learn more about how our cocoa butter is deodorized here. Use cocoa butter at 15% or less in cold process soaps; any higher than than can cause cracking in your final bar. Because of its naturally chocolatey scent, Cocoa Butter can hide some delicate fragrances, like florals so keep that in mind when working with more faint fragrances.

Recipes:  Luck of the Green BeerHoney Beeswax Cold Process & Chai Latte Love


Coconut Oil – More than a year

One of the most common raw materials used in the soap and cosmetic industry, Coconut Oil comes in a range of melting points (76°F and 92°F are the most common) and has one of the lowest melting points of any solid oil. Both the 76 and 92 degree melting point oils have the same saponification value and can both be used in your soapmaking recipes. Coconut oil is a super cleansing addition that produces big, copious bubbles. It is so good at its job that it can inadvertently strip skin of moisture (leaving it dry and even irritated). A maximum usage rate of 30% is ideal for the perfect balance of cleansing without drying. For more sensitive skin, keep the Coconut Oil a 15% or less in your bar.

Recipes: Crisp Anjou Pear Embed Tutorial, Impressionist Soap Tutorial, Goat Milk In-The-Pot-Swirl


Coffee Butter – 1 year

This luscious and rich butter is perfect for your lotions, body butters and even soap. It is a blend of Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil and Coffee Seed Oil, and contains between .5 – 1% natural caffeine (perfect for that extra pick-me-up!). It has a natural coffee scent with a smooth and creamy feel that can be used at up to 6% in your cold process recipes.

Recipes: Whipped Coffee Butter (pictured below), Coffee Butter Foot Creme & For the Love of Coffee (Butter)


Emu Oil – 1 year; up to 3 years if frozen

This exotic oil is a medium-weight oil that has known anti-inflammatory and anti-irritation properties. Use it in cold process concoctions up to 12.5%. It is a great skin-loving ingredient to use alongside essentials oils that are known to have anti-inflammatory properties such as Black Pepper, Anise or Eucalyptus Essential Oils.


Evening Primrose – 6 months to 1 year

This lightweight oil has been know to treat dry, red or irritated skin because of its high content of fatty acids. It is an exotic oil with a short shelf life. Use it up to 6% of your total oils in your cold process recipe.


Flax Seed Oil – 6 months to 1 year if refrigerated

Flax Seed Oil is a lightweight and a rich source of fatty acids that can be used to create skin-loving balms, body butters and lotions. You can also use it in any cold process recipe up to 5%. With its shorter shelf life, it typically is not a staple in common cold process soap recipes.


Fractionated Coconut Oil – Indefinite

More stable than traditional Coconut Oil, Fractionated Coconut Oil contains only the medium triglycerides, which means that it won’t ever turn solid. It is a great carrier for essential oils and it often used in scrubs. This clear and lightweight oil can be used in cold process soaps up to 30% though it contributes to a more soft bar and does not have the same cleansing and bubbling abilities of solid Coconut Oil.

Recipes: Coconut Oil & Pink Salt Scrub & Bug Away Spray Bouquet


Grapeseed Oil – 3 months to one year if refrigerated

This lightweight yellowish-green oil makes for a great salt and sugar scrub ingredient and is full of antioxidants. Somewhat oilier than Sweet Almond Oil, Grapeseed adsorbs quickly and you are left with kissably soft and smooth skin.  When working with cold process recipes, you can use it up to 15% of your total oils.


Hazelnut Oil – 3 months

Producing a skin-conditioning and minimal lather, Hazelnut Oil is low in unsaturated fatty acids and slows down trace. It is typically used at less than 15% in cold process recipes, but be aware of the short shelf life when including this oil in your products.


Hempseed Oil – 3-9 months, longer if frozen

This viscous oil has a distinctly earthy smell and helps to create a luxe bar of soap with excellent lather. It is available both refined and unrefined. Use it at less than 20% of the total oils in a recipe.

Recipes: Nourishing Cold Process SoapHot Process Series: Oven Process Layers, & Whipped Belly Butter

Jojoba Oil – Indefinite. 

Acquired from the seeds to the Jojoba Shrub, this oil actually a liquid wax that will contribute to a very stable and long-lasting bar of soap. If used at any more than 10% of the total oils in a recipe it can begin to weigh down the lather, but has an indefinite shelf life which makes it terrific for a wide range of bath and body products.

Recipes:  Loofah Cold Process SoapCheery Holiday CP Soap & Moisturizing Cold Process Soap


Mango Butter – 1 year

Mango Butter is extracted from the fruit kernels of the Mango tree. It is solid at room temperature but melts upon contact with the skin. Because this butter does not strengthen the lather or hardness of a soap, it is generally used at less than 15% of the total oils in a recipe.

Recipes: Mango Avocado Balmy Salve (pictured below), Gardening Cold Process Soap & Let it Bleed CP Color Gradation


Meadowfoam Oil – 3 years

Meadowfoam Oil is a moisturizing and conditioning oil similar to Jojoba Oil. It contributes to a creamy and silky lather in soap. Originally developed as an alternative to Sperm Whale Oil, this skin-loving and earth-friendly product is generally used at 20% or less of the total oil in soap recipes.

Recipes: Bonus 2-in-1: Man Soap with Tamanu Oil, Solid Perfume & Winter Salt Soak


 Olive Oil (Pomace & Pure) – 2 years

Used essentially in soap for its incredibly creamy and mild lather, Olive Oil yields a soap bar that will last longer with tiny bubbles. Any grade (Pomace, Pure or EVOO) can be used in soapmaking, but we have found that the Pure Olive Oil tends to trace much slower than the Pomace Olive Oil, so be sure to use the Pure Olive Oil if you are soaping with a recipe that you need time to work with. It is a wonderful addition to any soap recipe and can be used up to 100%.

Recipes:   Hot Process Series: CPOP SwirlsInvigorating Shampoo Bars & Baby Soap: Buttermilk Bastille Baby Bar


Palm Oil – 1 year

Palm Oil is widely used for it’s hardening properties in soap, and acts as a secondary lathering agent when used in conjunction with Coconut Oil. This is a medium-weight oil that can be used up to 30% in any given cold process recipe. The Palm Oil for sale on Bramble Berry’s website is purchased from a member of the the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an organization that supports sustainable palm oil production. For more information on Palm Oil, click here.

Recipes: Fruit and Veggie Wash, Tiger Stripe “Hanger” Swirl & Crock Pot Camo Soap


Palm Kernel Oil (Flakes) – 1 year

This oil comes in the form of solid flakes that must be melted before use. It contributes to a hard bar of soap and can also add a lustrous sheen. It will speed up trace when used in recipes, so be prepared to work fast. It can be used up to 15% of your total oils.

Recipes: Let it Bleed: Cold Process Soap Color Gradation & Holiday Soap Cubes


Peanut Oil – 6 months to 1 year

This pale yellow oil is typically used as a substitute for Olive Oil or Canola Oil in cold process recipes and can be used up to 25%.


Peach Kernel Oil – 6 months to 1 year

This skin-loving pale yellow oil adds to the moisturizing, nourishing and conditioning properties of your soap while contributing to a stable lather (when used in combination with Coconut Oil). It is used at a rate of 25% of your total oils or less and can be a great substitute for Sweet Almond or Grapeseed Oil.


Rice Bran Oil – 1 to 2 years

Found in the husk of rice grains, this cold-pressed oil is rich in Vitamin E and anti-oxidants. It is an effective substitute for Olive or Canola Oil and contributes to a stable bar of soap with small and mild bubbles. It’s effective for treating dry and mature skin and can be used up to 100%  of the oil in your cold process recipes.

Recipe: Making Sunshine Cold Process SoapFalling for Pumpkin Pear Soap & Fall Sweater Stripes


Safflower Oil – 1 year

This mild and skin-loving oil is similar to Soybean, Canola or Sunflower Oil and is superb for lotion bars. Use at a rate of up to 20% of the total weight of your oils in cold process soap.


Sesame Oil 6 months to 1 year

This light, golden oil  is full of unsaponfiables, high in antioxidants and Oleic and Linoleic fatty acids and as a result has a longer shelf life that can add to the moisturizing and skin-loving properties of your soaps. This oil is not the same toasted Sesame Oil that is typically used in Asian Cuisine. It can be used at up to 10% in cold process recipes.

Recipes: Circle Swirled Soap in Column Mold


Shea Butter – 1 year

Acquired from the seed of the African Shea Tree, this oil is solid at room temperature and known for it’s softening and moisturizing qualities. Refined Shea has a neutral smell while the unrefined smells slightly nutty. This super skin-loving butter is typically used at 15% or less of the total oils in your cold process recipes.

Recipes: Luck of the Green Beer (CP tutorial), Shea Butter Soap Cupcakes & Easy Whipped Shea Butter (pictured below)


Soybean Oil – 3 months if refrigerated

Soybean oil has a known creamy, stable and conditioning lather which can produce a hard bar of soap when used in conjunction with Palm or Coconut oil. It’s typically used at 50% or less in cold process recipes.


Sunflower Oil3 months if refrigerated

Sunflower Oil has a high amount of essential fatty acids and Vitamin E, making it it one of the more cost-effective fixed oils. It’s great to blend with other base oils for massage or perfume bases. All types of sunflower oil are suitable for soapmaking and have the same SAP value. This particular oil produces a lather that is incredibly conditioning to the skin.  Some soapmakers choose to use it in large proportions in their recipes because it’s a great alternative to the higher-price Olive Oil. It does have a slower absorption rate, so it can feel slightly oily on the skin in leave-on recipes, such as balms and lotions. To help increase the shelf life of this oil, be sure to keep it refrigerated. It can be used up in cold process recipes up to 100% but is typically used at 20% or less.

Recipes: Oatmeal, Milk and Honey Mantra Swirl SoapImpressionist Soap TutorialHoney Beeswax Cold Process Tutorial


Sweet Almond Oil 6 months to 1 year

Amazing as a massage oil, this luxurious oil can also be added to your soap recipes at a 5-20% usage rate. Because it has a high fatty acid content including oleic and linoleic acids, its an unparalleled carrier for salt scrubs and is a nourishing oil in soap recipes.

Recipes: Faux Funnel Pour: Advanced Cold ProcessHot Process Series: Crock Pot Camo, & Hot Process Series: CPOP Swirls


Tamanu Oil – 2 years, 5 years if refrigerated

Tamanu Oil is a rich and multi-faceted ingredient to use in your bath & body products. Use it in soap up to 5% or as a massage oil or even in a salt scrub. Did you know that it takes a 100 full kilograms of Tamanu fruit to make just 5 kilograms of cold pressed Tamanu Oil? This oil has been used by the people of Tahiti for burns, insect bites and even stretch marks. As with any nut-based oil, people with allergies to nuts should not use it.

Recipes: Bonus 2-in-1: Man Soap with Tamanu Oil, Rich Mud Mask & Healing Under Eye Serum


Walnut Oil – 3 months

Gold in color and high in antioxidants, this emollient oil has been known to condition and moisturize skin. It can be used up to 15% in soap.


Wheatgerm Oil – 6 months

This skin-loving yellow liquid oil has high Vitamin E content and does contribute to the softness of a bar. It typically isn’t used at more than 6% of the total of your oils in any given recipe.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do I need to heat up my entire container of Palm Oil before I use it in my cold process recipe?

A:  Palm Oil contains Stearic Acid strains, which contribute to hardness in your final bar of soap but can also cause spottiness when not properly dispersed throughout the oil. To prevent the Stearic Acid from settling to the bottom of the Palm Oil container, melt the entire container and stir before using in your recipe.

Q: Do I need to heat up my entire container of Coconut Oil before I use it in my cold process recipe?

A:  Unlike Palm Oil, you don’t have to heat up the entire container of Coconut Oil. You will find that most soapers will just scoop out the amount that they need for their recipe.

Q: Whoops, I’m out of Palm Oil – can I use Palm Kernel Oil instead?

A: Palm oil and Palm Kernel oil are harvested from entirely different parts of the palm fruit and will yield completely different results in your final soap, in addition to having different usage and saponification rates. Palm oil contributes to texture and lather, and is a great compliment to the attributes of Coconut oil. Palm Kernel oil contributes to the hardness of your bar, and can add a lustrous sheen to the final bar. For these reasons, they should not be substituted for one another in your soap recipe.

Q: How can I tell if my oil or butter is rancid?

A: When an oil or butter starts going rancid, there is a noticeable change in either the color, consistency or odor of the oils (or any combination of the three) and your butters may start to develop mold or dark spots. Always check your ingredients before you use them in your bath & body products.

Q: What happens if I used rancid oil or butter in soap?

A: If you use a rancid ingredient in your soap, it can develop DOS, or Dreaded Orange Spots. These small spots will start to show up in your soap as a result of oxidation and cause unsightly discoloration. Additionally, the smell of rancidity can sometimes be detected in your final bar. Be sure to check the shelf life of the ingredients that you are using.

Q: What happens if I used a large amount of Olive Oil in my recipe?

A: A 100% Olive Oil Soap (also known as Castile soap) results in a gentle and luxurious soap, but it requires some patience. Being a soft oil, it can take quite some time before the texture of the final bar has reached an ideal hardness. It’s not uncommon for castile bars to take as long as 6 months to cure, which is why many soapers have developed a taste for what is lovingly referred to as a Bastile bar – a recipe with a high percentage of olive oil used in combination with other harder oils to help speed along the hardening process while still yielding many of the desirable benefits that olive oil brings to soap. Another bonus – high amounts of pure or extra virgin olive oil in your recipe tend to inhibit trace, which makes bastile recipes ideal for soaping techniques or designs that require a bit more time to work with them. Try increasing the olive oil content in your recipe the next time you need a slow moving recipe.

Q: I have unrefined shea butter and it smells like campfire. Will that scent come through in my soap?

A:  Shea Butter is obtained from the nut fruit of the African Shea Tree, and in its unrefined (virgin) form retains a nutty and smoky natural aroma that can possibly be detected in a final bar of soap. If you don’t want to risk the natural scent of the Shea Butter coming through in your soap, you can always use refined Shea Butter, which has been through a deodorizing process, or embrace the prospect by using a complimentary fragrance or essential oil.

Q: Help! I’m out of Sweet Almond Oil, can I just put in Avocado Oil?

A: The answer to this is both yes and no. You can switch out an oil for any other oil you have on hand, but be aware that it will affect the final consistency, texture and/or other attributes of your bar. Follow the rule of liquid oils for liquid oils and solid oils for solid oils, and be sure that when you need to pull an oil from the bench that you are subbing it for an oil whose usage rates are similar. For example, you wouldn’t want to replace Canola oil in a recipe where it’s used at 30% with Avocado Oil, which shouldn’t be used at more than 20%. A good choice in that situation would be Olive Oil, which can be used at up to 100%. Once you’ve found an alternative ingredient that works for you, be sure to run your entire recipe through the Lye Calculator again. If you don’t, your lye and water amounts will be off and you could run the risk of having a lye-heavy soap!

Q: What is a SAP Value?

A: A saponfication value or number is the amount of lye needed to completely saponify 1 gram of an oil or butter (see the Beginner’s Guide to Cold Process Soapmaking for an explanation of saponification). For example, the SAP value of Canola oil is .132, which means it takes .132 grams of lye to turn 1 gram of Canola oil into soap. Often, SAP values are given in ranges – when in doubt, use the mid range value when calculating your recipe. Or, you can use an online Lye Calculator.


Oil Shelf Life SAP Value Usage Rate in Cold Process
Apricot Kernel Oil 6 months to 1 year .135 up to 15%
Avocado Oil  1 year .133 up to 20%
Avocado Butter 3 years .187 up to 12.5%
Beeswax (White & Yellow) Indefinite .94 up to 8%
Canola Oil 1 to 2 years .132 up to 40%
Castor Oil 1 year .128 up to 25%
Cocoa Butter 1 to 2 years .137  up to 15%
Coconut Oil More than 1 year .178 Up to 30%
Coffee Butter 1 year .188  up to 6%
Emu Oil 1 year, 3 years if frozen .192 up to 12.5%
Evening Primrose 6 months to 1 year .19 up to 6%
Flax Seed Oil 6 months to 1 year if refrigerated .19 up to 5%
Fractionated Coconut Oil Indefinite .34 up to 30%
3 months to 1 year if refrigerated .187 up to 15%
Hazelnut Oil 3 months .136 up to 15%
3 months refrigerated, 9 months frozen .135 up to 20%
Jojoba Oil Indefinite .069  up to 10%
Mango Butter  1 year .184  up to 15%
Meadowfoam Oil 3 years .12 up to 20%
Olive Oil 2 years .134  up to 100%
Palm Oil 1 year .144  up to 30%
Palm Kernel Oil (Flakes) 1 year .178  up to 15%
Peach Kernel Oil 6 months to 1 years .178  up to 25%
Peanut Oil 6 months to 1 year .19 up to 25%
Rice Bran Oil 1 to 2 years .129 up to 100%
Safflower Oil 1 year .19 up to 20%
Sesame Oil 6 months to 1 year .19 up to 10%
Shea Butter 1 year .128 up to 15%
Soybean oil 3 months to 1 year .135 up to 50%
Sunflower Oil 3 months .134  up to 20%
Sweet Almond Oil 6 months to 1 year .136  up to 20%
Tamanu Oil 2 years .189 up to 5%
Walnut Oil 3 months .192 up to 15%
Wheatgerm Oil 6 months .187 up to 6%

Want all this info in a handy dandy chart? You got it! Click here to download a two page PDF with a condensed version of this information.

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  1. Natasha says

    I’m trying to make a recipe out of ingredients I already have.
    Olive Oil 62%
    Coconut Oil 30%
    Shea Butter 4%
    Sweet Almond Oil 4%

    What kind or characteristics do you think this will have?

    • Kelsey says

      Hi Natasha!

      That looks like an amazing recipe! The olive oil, shea butter and sweet almond oil will add some great moisturizing properties to the soap. The coconut oil will add firmness and cleansing properties, as well as lather. :)

      Because the recipe is mostly soft oils, the soap will be on the softer side. To help it release faster from your mold and add some firmness, you can add 1 tsp. of sodium lactate per pound of oils to your cooled lye water. Read more in the Sunday Night Spotlight: Sodium Lactate:

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  2. Carol says

    I’m a newbie soaper and keeping it simple – my recipe is olive and palm and smaller amounts of coconut and shea butter. I am pretty happy with the results. I prefer plain soap and am not too interested in fooling around with coloring, scents, inclusions etc. However, my soap turned out bright orange when I used red palm oil (kind of cool but not what I was going for!) and white when I used regular palm oil. I would like to know what oils will make the end result a tan or brownish color. Many thanks for all the great information.

  3. sk says

    I’m make cold process soap which i use only palm oil & NaOH. when cut the bar then after some hours it’s release some oil or the soap may can i solve it .please tell me

    • Kelsey says

      Hi there!

      Hmm, that’s strange! I’d love to help you figure out what’s going on. I’m wondering if that soap is separating. That can sometimes happen if it’s not completely emulsified.

      Can you tell me how much palm oil, lye and water you use in your soap? Also, how long are you stick blending the soap for? Thanks!

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  4. Craig says

    Is there any rule of thumb for the quantity of oils used in your soap recipe? Can there be too many? I was thinking of trying something like this below, thoughts?

    32% Coconut Oil
    16% Olive Oil
    16% Sunflower Oil
    10% Rice Bran Oil
    16% Mango Butter
    10% Avocado Oil


  5. says

    I don’t know if it’s just me or if everybody else experiencing problems with your site.
    It appears as if some of the text on your content are running off the screen. Can somebody else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them as well?
    This may be a problem with my web browser because I’ve had this happen previously.

    • Kelsey says

      Hi Joven Skin!

      We have been having some technical difficulties with the blog, but our IT department has been working on it. I checked this morning and it appears to be working just fine! If you’re still having difficulties, let me know and I’ll contact our IT department. :)

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  6. Amanda says

    I am sorry if this is a silly question, but I want to use hazelnut oil in a cold process soap for oily skin. I realise that Hazelnut oil has a short shelf life of three months, so does this mean that if I used 10% of it in my recipe my soap will have a very short shelf life? Thanks so much Amanda

  7. Nic says

    Thanks again for all of BBs wonderful resources and especially your quick replies to questions.

    I LOVE researching and learning about new oils. I just discovered Laurel oil and am going to attempt an Aleppo soap soon. I want to make some luxury soaps to address specific issues (without making claims, of course!) What I can’t figure out is how much of the supposed benefit of the luxury oil will email in the soap? Say, if I use Evening Primrose and Hazelnut oils to benefit dry skin, is the saponofied oil really going to make a difference, or do I need to try to keep those oils to supperfat oils reap their benefits?

    Also, since soap is only briefly on the skin and then washed off, is it really worth it? Or should I work on formulating a serum? I know that’s probably an opinionated question.


    • Kelsey says

      Hi Nic!

      You’re welcome, we are happy to help!

      The saponification process can be a hard environment, and it’s difficult to say what properties of oils remain in the final soap. I can tell you that adding different oils to your bars really makes a difference. For instance, I love adding avocado butter to my soap because it adds such a luxurious, silky feeling. I usually notice right away when I use the soap if it has a butter or luxurious oil!

      Avocado butter:

      The best way to know what works for you is to try it out! I would recommend making a couple small batches and testing each one. If you find the oils aren’t coming through in the soap, you can definitely make a serum. That’s a great option too. :)

      You may like this Gentle Gel Serum recipe:

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  8. Angela says

    I’m fairly new to soap making but have become completely addicted to everything about it and would like to start selling. I thought I finally nailed down a recipe I liked however, there have been a few batches that have been a little wet/sticky when I unmolded them. I’m starting to wonder if I need to modify the recipe or if it’s due to the fragrance I’m using? I also wondered if the use of Avocado & Castor together were causing it. The last 2 batches were the same recipe, different fragrances, both poured in the same kind of silicone mold. One batch unmolded great but the other was very sticky. (This has happened in both the silicone and wood molds) Any suggestions on what to do? I’d appreciate any advice! My recipe is:
    9.2% Avocado Oil
    8% Castor Oil
    29.3% Coconut Oil
    24.1% Olive Oil
    13.2% Shea Butter
    16.2% Soybean Oil
    Thank You So Much! I love your website and find I reference back to it OFTEN!

    • Kelsey says

      Hi Angela!

      That’s so exciting! Selling your soap is a huge step, congratulations. :)

      Your recipe looks great – it has a lot of skin-loving oils. I imagine it feels great. There are a lot of soft oils, or oils that are liquid at room temperature. These contribute to a softer bar that takes a little longer to unmold and cure.

      That’s not a bad thing at all! Soft oils add a luxurious, silky feeling to your skin. And, after 4-6 weeks of curing, the bars will be firm to the touch.

      If you want them a little harder, you can add more hard oils, like palm oil. Palm oil can be used up to 30% in your recipe.

      You can also use sodium lactate. Adding 1 tsp. of sodium lactate per pound of oils to your cooled lye water allows the soap to pop out of the mold faster, and creates a firmer bar. Read more in the Sunday Night Spotlight: Sodium Lactate:

      Also, the 5 Tips to Take Soaping From Hobby to Business blog may be helpful for you:

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  9. Jen says

    Not sure if anyone will know the answer to this, but my dermatologist believes that handmade soaps are comedogenic. I tried googling for more information, and found very little. However, I did read somewhere that after oils go through the saponification process they are no longer comedogenic. Is this true? Or should oils and butters with a high comedogenic rating, such as coconut oil and cocoa butter, not be used in soaps intended for the face? Thank you so much!

    • Kelsey says

      Hi Jen!

      I think it really depends a lot on your skin type! When oils and lye are emulsified, they go through a process called saponification. This transforms them into soap. That means you are not putting straight oils on your face. The soap, depending on which oils you use, can be cleansing and moisturizing. For instance, coconut oil is very cleansing and has great lather.

      The superfat level also plays a role too. Superfat is the amount of free-floating oil in your soap that doesn’t react with the lye. The higher the superfat, the more oil in the bar. Superfat makes the soap feel moisturizing and luxurious, but may also feel heavy on your skin. You can find out more in the Superfatting Soap – An Explanation:

      I have acne-prone skin and I use handmade soap all the time. I haven’t noticed an increase in blackheads! However, it really depends on your skin. If you feel that handmade soap is not working for your face, you can use a blackhead fighting cleanser instead.

      I think the best way to find out is to try the soap on your face! It can also take some testing to find a recipe that works perfectly for your skin. :)

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  10. Tammy says

    Did I just now come to realize that the amount of ingredients you use depends on the size of your mold? I’m so confused…my molds are all different sizes…maybe I am reading wrong when I”m reading different websites…I just want a recipe for a basic batch of soap, Oh I want to try CP so bad but everything I am reading has my head spinning :( how DO I know how much to make without having to rely on what size my molds are…

    • Kelsey says

      Hey Tammy!

      That is correct! Each batch of soap you make will be a little different depending on the size of your mold. For instance, if your mold is 2 pounds, you’ll want to make 32 ounces of soap. All of the molds on say how much they hold:

      Another way to determine mold size is to use water. Place your mold on a scale and hit “tare” to zero it out. Then, fill the mold up. That will help you estimate about how much it holds. Keep in mind the weight of your soap may be a little different, so it does help to make a little extra and pour that into a separate mold. :)

      To find out how much oil, lye and water to use to get the weight you need, you can use our Lye Calculator! First, enter your oil weight. That is a bit of a guessing game. Enter the amount of oils you think your recipe may need, then click “Calculate.” If it’s too much or too little, you can enter new amounts in the “Resize” box!

      Using the Bramble Berry Lye Calculator:

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

      • Tammy says

        Thank you so much for the reply, I don’t think I could do the guessing game part lol, I would literally need a recipe put in front of me, I have no idea how I would pick what base oils I would want to use and then figure out how much of each oil I would need to use…I was just checking out you’re lye calculator, and I think so long as I had a recipe to work from I would be ok, however I would love to eventually learn to pick my oils, find out my mold size and figure out the amount of each oil I would need. This all seems very intimidating to me right now and I figured the more I read, the more I would learn and feel comfortable but it’s turning out, the more I read the more frazzled I get :D, again, thanks so much for taking the time to reply to my question.

  11. Liz says

    I know your busy but I was wondering if you could make a post about suitable substitutes for more common oils in recipes. Many of my “guinea pigs” have allergies to nuts or avocado.

    • Kelsey says

      Hi Liz!

      Great news, we are actually working on a blog post about common substitutions for cold process soap! That should be up in the future, so keep an eye on the blog. :)

      Also, I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you may have! What oils are you wanting to substitute in your recipes?

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  12. Hannah says


    What are the recommended usage rate for pumpkin seed oil and argan oil?
    If I want to add fruit puree (such as pumpkin) to the soap, how is that done and what is the recommended rate? Will I need to add a preservative?

  13. Michelle says

    Hi there! I am just starting my soap making journey. Thank you for making such a useful blog with plenty of free information. I haven’t even ventured into any other websites yet because yours is so comprehensive! I have one question — how do you clean up your container and spoon that you’ve used to make the lye water? Is it ok to rinse it with water and let pour down the drain? I believe the container and tools used to blend the lye water and oils together can be left overnight and cleaned the next day, as it’s essentially soap. Am I correct? Just wondering about the lye water stuff. Thank you!!!

  14. Gabz says

    This is a fantastic guide on oils.

    I’m a bit confused, though, as to why various sites advise using 15% or less cocoa butter and where that warning originated?

    Mine are all made, without exception, (fragrance and colour free) with 40% raw organic cocoa butter, 40% organic castor oil and 20% extra virgin coconut oil, using either organic coconut milk or organic oat milk instead of water (I’ve never used water), with 7% superfat (the milk possibly brings the SF up to around 8%, if I had to guess).

    When I remember to do so, I incorporate 2-3% sodium lactate. Despite usual recommendations, I’m a big lover of organic castor oil and not at all shy about using it on equal footing with cocoa butter in my formula.

    In almost 5 years of cp soapmaking, I’ve never had a bar go brittle (with or without SL), nor have any of my batches ever developed ‘white streaks’ (some sites advise that white streaks will occur if cocoa butter is used at more than 15%).

    Frankly, I’m at the stage now where I just can’t keep up with the demand (some of my soaps mysteriously found their way to Italy, so the demand has grown even more), but I’m most curious to know the origins behind the cocoa butter warnings, given that my experience is quite the opposite.

    • Kelsey says

      Hi Gabz!

      Adding more than 15% cocoa butter to your recipe may cause the soap to crack or be brittle, that’s why we recommend that amount. However, every soaper is different! It sounds like you’ve found an awesome recipe that works great for you. :)

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

      • Jane says

        What is it exactly that can cause soap to crack if butters are used above 15%? For example, does it have something to do with its unsaponifiables, or with a particular fatty acid in the butter?

  15. Iesha says

    Hello, is Coconut oil the only oil that can cleanse? I’m having a difficult time finding information on that. Also I’ve heard about anchoring scents into soap. My scents are very faint. How can I enhance the scent and what is the amount that should be used? Thanks in Advance!

  16. D.J. Binczik says

    I am in a pinch, I need palm oil. I cannot afford overnight shipping and I can’t wait the length of time for regular shipping. I was talking to my grandma who said vegetable shortening is palm oil. While at my local store shopping I found organic vegetable shortening, the ingredients list as “mechanically pressed organic Palm oil”

    Do you think this product that I found Will work in my recipe as a substitute while I am waiting for Brambleberry’s palm oil and what it have the same SAP value?

    If so do you think I still need to melt the container?

    If not what makes it different?

    Thanks for being such a great resource for all of us beginnner/intermediate/advanced soap makers.


  17. Christine says

    My question is: if I use sunflower oil (3 month shelf life) in my CP recipe, after 6 week cure, how longvwill my soap last or is usable? How can we sell a soap that has a short shelf life? What can be done to increase the shelf life if the sunflower oil? Or other short shelf life oils?
    Sorry as there are a few questions in there. Hopefully, you can answer them all. Thanks in advance for interupting your busy schedule.

    • Kelsey says

      Hi Christine!

      Absolutely, we are happy to help out. :)

      How long your soap will last depends on a number of factors, including temperature, humidity and where it’s stored. It’s important to keep your soaps in a cool, dry place with lots of air flow. That will help extend the shelf life. I’ll include a blog with more tips!

      However, there is nothing that can be done to extend the shelf life of sunflower oil. If you’re concerned about that, you may want to use a different oil instead. Sweet almond oil is a great lightweight oil like sunflower oil, and it lasts 6 months to a year.

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

      Dealing with Dreaded Orange Spots:

    • Kelsey says

      Hi Abdulla!

      I believe Petroleum Jelly is a wax-based product. This means it would not saponify, or turn into soap.

      We have never used this in soap, so I’m not sure what would happen. You may want to make a small test batch to see how it reacts. :)

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  18. Karishma says

    Hi Soapqueen,

    Please tell me the benefits and disadvantages of soaping with Palmolein Oil. Since this is widely and easily available in India, I would like to use it. If used at a 30% rate, would it make my soap too oily? I used this recipe but however my soap takes too long to dry and is extremely oily even after a week. I live in a very humid place.

    Shea Butter 10%
    Cocoa Butter 10%
    Coconut Oil 76deg 25%
    Olive Oil Pomace 20%
    Castor Oil 5%
    Palmolein Oil 30%
    Distilled water 38% of base oils
    Fragrance 4% of base oils

    Please Help!!!
    Thank you!

    • Kelsey says

      Hi Karishma!

      We haven’t worked with Palmolein Oil, so I’m not exactly sure!

      Does it come as a solid oil? If not, that may be why your soap is still soft. To make it a little harder, you can increase the Coconut Oil to 30%.

      Also, cold process soap does take 4-6 weeks to cure, so those bars may dry out. :)

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

      • Karishma says

        Hi Kelsey,

        Thanks for your quick reply! Actually due to weather conditions, only shea and cocoa butter come in a solid state. Rest of the oils including coconut and palmolein come in a liquid state. Would it help to keep coconut at 25%, reduce palmolein to 25% and add 5% of something else to give hardness? What would you suggest for that 5%?

        Thanks so much for your valuable reply! :)

          • Karishma says

            Hi Kelsey,

            Thank you so much for your valuable suggestions, really appreciate all the help. I reduced my water amount to 33% and it really did help the soap unmould must faster and easier, although it did set up rather quickly. So I think I will settle for 35% water. :)

    • says

      Hi Elaine!

      The best bars of soap have a combination of both hard and soft oils. The higher your temperature of oils and lye, the faster your soap will reach trace. Lowering the temperatures will help slow down trace. Even a difference of 10 degrees can make a difference! :).

      I hope this helps!

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  19. Soap Princess says

    I try to avoid nut oils because of the allergy potential. Is Canola a viable sub for Almond? Soap calc rates canola as slightly more conditioning, but within 2 “points” of of sweet almond in hardness & creamy lather-ness; it has less palmitic and oleic acids (not an issue in a soap with olive and palm oils); slightly more linoleic and a bit of linoleic, too. It seems like it would be a quality substitute for sweet almond, not a budget substitute, with double the shelf life, to boot. Am I missing something?


    • says

      Hi there!

      If you’d like, you could certainly swap out Almond for Canola Oil. Canola can be used up to 40% in your total recipe, while Sweet Almond Oil is recommended to be used around 20%. Of course they have slightly different properties, and be sure to run your recipe through the lye calculator again! :)

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

        • says

          Hi there!

          When substituting oils, there are so many great options, and the majority of times it comes down to a personal preference regarding which oils to use :). You could also use Apricot Kernel Oil, Peach Kernel Oil, or Grapeseed Oil. Truly, there is such a huge amount of possible oil combinations. You just want to make sure your bar has a good balance of both hard, and soft oils :)

          -Amanda with Bramble Berry

          • Crystal Sutton says

            Can vitamin E or safflower oil be used without changing the consistency of the bar? And if so can beeswax help to solidify or harden bars that are softened due to oils? I apologize if this question has been asked multiple times. I just want to ensure that if I mess it up, I can find a way to fix it. Also, will using sweet almond oil, overpower any scent or fragrance in soaps? Ive noticed almond oil has a very overwhelming scent, but if it’s moisturizing properties are what Im looking for, I don’t want the scent to be offputting.

    • Kelsey says

      Hi Crystal!

      Any oils you add to your recipe have the potential to change the consistency.

      Vitamin E Oil makes a great additive to your soap, and can be added at 1 tsp per pound of oils. Safflower Oil is similar to Canola or Soybean Oil, and can be added up to 20%.

      Each of those oils has different properties, so you’ll want to make sure to run it through a Lye Calculator again. :)

      A great way to harden bars is by using Sodium Lactate. We recommend adding 1 tsp. per pound of oils to your cooled lye water.

      Also, we use Sweet Almond Oil in some of our recipes and there isn’t a noticeable smell in the finished product. :)

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

      Common Soapmaking Oils:
      Lye Calculator:
      Sodium Lactate:

  20. says

    This design is steller! You definitely know how to keep a reader amused.
    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog
    (well, almost…HaHa!) Fantastic job. I really loved what
    you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.
    Too cool!

    • says

      Hi Penny!

      You’re right, Neem Oil does indeed have a distinctive, rather strong smell. Many soapers like to use a very strong fragrance oil to try to cover up the smell. In general, it has a shelf life of 1-2 years. It’s known for it’s anti-bacterial properties :) I hope this helps!

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  21. Paul says

    Hello , I am very new to soap making and thanks for the info you are providing thru this website.
    I have couple of questions
    How to calculate the shelf life of a soap? Is it the lowest of the oils I used?
    Ex. If I use Olive Oil and sunflower oil , will the shelf life be 3 months?

    Secondly,If I heat up the whole palm oil can I use 1/2 of it now and keep the rest for few weeks for the next batch ?


  22. says

    Okay so I have been making soap for a while (using wooden molds), but have never found it necessary to use Stearic Acid to produce a harder bar of soap. I purchased a couple of Brambleberry’s 10″ silicone molds (love them!) and they were/are working great, but even after sitting 36-42 hrs there were chunks of soap left in the mold (my mind tells me this has occurred because the soap is not evaporating is water as easily having been in a silicone mold). After doing some reading, I found that it was recommended to use Stearic Acid with these molds to aid in a shorter mold time and to produce a harder loaf (presumably one that will not leave chunks behind during the unmolding process). So I went ahead and used my go to recipe (with Cambrian Blue Clay & Eucalyptus EO. I used 7g per pound (21g in all) and on day 3 the soap is about as hard as cold butter (I cant even un mold it..planning on waiting it out) What did I do wrong? I visually observed a complete gel phase within 5 hrs of pouring in case that’s relevant. Any thoughts?

    • says

      Hi Christina!

      I have actually never worked with Stearic Acid in my soap before, but have used it several times in lotion recipes to act as a thickening agent.

      In order to produce a harder bar of soap, we like to use Sodium Lactate, which is a liquid salt. We add this to slightly cooled lye water at a rate of 1 tsp. per pound of oils.

      I did a little research regarding stearic acid in soap, and it seems that it can be a little tricky to use! From my research, it seems that the amount you use depends on what kind of oils your recipe contains. You may want to check with fellow soapers on the Teach Soap Forum to see if they have any additional tips or tricks :).

      Teach Soap:

      I hope this helps!

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

    • says

      Hi Nic!

      That would be okay, you will just end up with a hard bar of soap! I would make sure the rest of your recipe contains some softer oils to help “even” out your bar. Also keep in mind because you are using the full amount of Kernel Flakes, that it will speed up your trace :)

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  23. kali says

    Is the shelf life of the oils prolonged after they are made into soap that does not have any perservative added? For example hazelnut oil has a 3 month shelf life just sitting around but after I make a soap with it with no added ppreservatives, is the shelf life of the soap only 3 months. And is it safe to Freeze the oils?

  24. Nic says

    Hi Amanda,
    I’ve been playing around with several different lye calculators just out of curiosity. They all give slightly different values when the oils and superfat are the same.

    Any thoughts on this?

  25. Jessica says

    Just wondering if you have any information about Corn Oil? I’m really interested in subbing out most of the Olive Oil in my soap recipe to make a more inexpensive bar. Would Corn Oil be a good substitute? Thanks in advance!

    • says

      Hi Jessica!

      Corn Oil is not a very good substitution for Olive Oil. I would recommend Canola Oil instead. We have found using Corn Oil results in a slimy, weak lather in your soap. Canola is a good economical oil for soap making. It gives a nice, low, creamy lather and is moisturizing.

      Hope this helps!

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

    • says

      Hi Nic!

      Oooh, I see :). You can freeze your soap, but I wouldn’t recommend freezing it for a long period of time. Because there is water in the soap, freezing could result in some texture issues, possibly crumbling.

      Once your oils are in soap, they will last longer than the shelf life listed above. The time period listed above (3-9 months for Hemp Seed Oil) refers to how long the oil lasts in the bottle, so most likely your soap will sell before it goes bad :).

      I hope this helps!

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  26. Nic says

    Thanks Amanda!
    I’d like to use Hemp oil in my soap but I’m afraid that it will go bad before I can sell it. I’m wondering if I could freeze some of it to keep it fresh longer. Would that dry it out? Or possibly some other problem. I looked around for the info, I was surprised no one else had asked this yet!

  27. Nic Pesante says

    I’m curious about the shelf life of sunflower oil; shouldn’t the high vitamin E content make the shelf life longer? I have seen it listed on other pages as up to 1 year, just wondered how you came to the 3 month conclusion.

    • says

      Hi Nic!
      I have looked into this and have found somewhat mixed information regarding the shelf life of Sunflower Oil. I did find a few sources that claimed (like you found) that Sunflower oil is good for up to 1 year. They did not indicate if this was unopened or opened, so I’m assuming unopened. I did find a few sources that claimed a shorter shelf life, so I’m assuming they are referring to opened oil.

      We highly recommend either refrigerating or freezing what you will not use right away. The important thing is to keep the oil out of light, air and heat. This will help your oils last longer.

      When an oil or butter starts going rancid, there is a noticeable change in either the color, consistency or odor of the oils (or any combination of the three) and your butters may start to develop mold or dark spots.

      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

  28. says

    I’ve noticed that the table in this post, as well as the PDF both show that palm oil shouldn’t be used over 30% in a recipe. But I know that the tried and true 33/33/33 recipe, as well as many others commonly have over that %.

    Just wondering why this is! My current recipe is 35.5% palm and takes up to 8 days to harden (if not gelled, 3 days if gelled) and I now wonder if maybe I’ve been using too much palm? I’ve no idea why my soap takes so long to harden LOL A conundrum indeed!

  29. Delinda says

    This list is very helpful! There are several similar lists available on the internet and all seem to use different recommended percentages for each oil. It would be helpful to know what happens if you go over the recommended amount. For example, if you use too much coconut oil it will be too drying. I guess I’m just wondering how you came to your recommended amounts.

    • says

      Good morning, Delinda!

      We know that the mass amount of information can be confusing, but this actually comes from years of research and experimentation by Anne-Marie. Typically, if you go over the recommended amount, your lather isn’t going to be as stable and your soap may be too soft, too sticky or too hard. We highly encourage you to experiment with your recipes until you find the perfect one for you.

      In the meantime, we’d love for you to take advantage of all our free cold process recipes on the blog. To view them, click the link below:

      I hope that this helps! =)
      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  30. Tracey says

    Thanks for replying Becky, just so I am clear on this, a soap with walnut oil in it will have a shelf life of 3 months from the date of being made and a soap with wheat germ in it will have a shelf life of 6 months. Is that correct.

    • says

      Good morning, Tracey!

      If you have created a soap with Walnut Oil in it, the shelf life will only be about three months, so you are correct! Sometimes the soaps do last longer, but we recommended a use by 3 months on Walnut Oil. This is the same on the Wheatgerm Oil as well.

      To determine the shelf life of any bath & body product you will always want to go by the ingredients (typically oils or butters) that have the shortest shelf life.

      I hope this helps! =)
      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  31. Tracey says

    Great resource, just wondering if the shelf life refers to the life before being made into soap or does it refer to the shelf life of the soap made with the oil.
    Thanks tracey

    • says

      Hi Tracey!

      When looking at the shelf lives of these particular oils, we are referring to the oils themselves. If you use new oils, your shelf life of your oils and soaps should be just the same! In fact, we’ve found that most soaps even last a bit longer then their shelf lives (I have a few soaps that are 2 years old!).

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  32. Carrie says

    Thank you for pulling this information together, all in one place! I’d like to print the PDF, but am getting an error message when it gets to that page: “This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below.”
    Do you have any suggestions for how to access the chart? Thank you!

  33. Sly says

    What a really wonderful guide.

    When I was reading all the info, I was shocked to read the cocoa butter only lasted 1 year – I had been told it was 5 years and just stocked up on some that would last me way over a year.

    But then I saw on your handy chart that says Cocoa butter lasts up to a 5 years, so I really hope the chart gives the correct info.

    Thank you for this great stuff!!!

  34. Debbie says

    Wow! Thank you so much! It’ll be awesome to have this handy chart when designing new recipes! You are the best! Thanks again…and for everything to put on your websites! :)


  1. […] The first step in making soap, is determining which oils you will use.  Each oil will provide some unique qualities, so choose the oils that best meet your needs.  A generic soap recipe may contain two to three primary oils, which will constitute 80%-90% of your total oils.   A typical recipe might have 25-30% Coconut oil (76⁰) because of its cleansing properties; 20%-40% olive oil, for its moisturizing qualities; and other choices include soy bean oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil to complete your recipe.  You will then choose some specific oils to meet your needs.  Castor oil creates a luxurious lathering soap, avocado oil will provide some extra moisture.  You can find a complete list of oil and there properties at… […]

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