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Starting with an Empty Cupboard: Basic Soapmaking Ingredients

Yesterday, I started the Empty Cupboard series with my basic equipment and containers. I’m really beginning to enjoy looking at what I consider necessities and what I consider fun additions. Handmade soap is one of those things I can’t bring myself to live without so I put together a soapmaking ingredients wishlist!

Let’s take a peek at my soapmaking ingredients wishlist!

Required Oils: These are the oils that I feel are the important base oils for any soapmaker. I feel these oils make great soaps without severe expenses.

Coconut Oil: Due to marketing efforts over the years, people have been taught that unless soap has lots bubbles their bodies aren’t getting clean. To give a soap this desired lather factor we use Coconut Oil. Want a dual purpose oil? Coconut Oil also will make a very hard bar of soap. We typically use between 20 and 30% of Coconut Oil in a batch of soap, however, not all soaps we make will have this percentage range as Coconut Oil.

Palm Kernel Oil: In the blog kitchen, we use Coconut Oil and Palm Kernel Oil interchangeably because they give the finished bar of soap similar lather, color and firmness. Palm Kernel Oil will make a very hard bar and does not contribute any color to the finished bar of soap. I have used both Palm Kernel and Coconut in a bar of soap and found that recipe was my favorite, but you don’t have to use both oils in the same recipe.

Palm Oil: This oil is one of the more universal oils and contributes firmness to soap along with a straw color. Many people refer to this oil as vegetable tallow and frequently use it as a filler oil. Many luxury soaps use Palm Oil because it gives soap a special texture and color.

Hydrogenated Soybean Oil: I regard Hydrogenated Soybean Oil as one of those oils that help reduce the costs of the ingredients as well as an oil that contributes to the hardness of the final bar of soap. The soap will be firm, white and have a creamy texture.

Olive Oil: We recommend Olive Oil in soaps for many reasons. It is easy to find in most kitchens and grocery stores so you can make soap at 2 in the morning if you desire! It also contributes a dense “cream” to the lather that helps give a stable foundation for the large bubbles from the Coconut or Palm Kernel Oils. Olive Oil is a slow to trace oil that helps slow things down without making a soap prone to stalling so it can extend the working time of the raw soap. Soaps made with Olive Oil are also noted to be mild and soothing on skin which makes it a favorite ingredient of many soapmakers.

Luxury Addition Oils: My choices are just two of the many potential oils that I feel can give a soap a little extra “Oomph.” I only add a small amount of these luxury or splurge oils to a single batch of soap so they are still a cost effective addition to soap.

Avocado Oil: Most of the soapmakers on our staff recommend Avocado Oil as a luxury oil because soaps made with this oil are dreamy. The smooth glide, gentle cleansing and the creamy lather is a great addition to any soap. I particularly like this oil in any baby soap recipe! We recommend a small amount of this oil per batch, 3 to 12.5% per batch which is 0.5 to 2 ounces in every lb of fats.

Lanolin: I think any soap made with Lanolin is just fantastic on the skin. Lanolin soaps give my skin a moisturized feeling that just can’t be beat! Lanolin is actually a wax that is quick to saponify so we only recommend using a little bit of Lanolin per batch. Usually we use 1/2 to 1 ounce per pound of fats per batch of soap. Lanolin contributes a dense lather and a silky feeling to the skin when used as a luxury oil in a soap.

Tomorrow we will take a look at the basics for making lotions and creams!

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