It is relatively simple to alter your recipes once you know the characteristics of the oils and butters. You can use the chart below to help you to substitute oils in a recipe.
What do the characteristics of the oils mean?
Oils, butters and fats are usually classified as soft, hard or brittle.
Soft oils are those that are liquid at room temperature, such as canola, olive castor rice bran etc. If you make a soap using a high percentage of these, your soap will be on the softer side. The exception to this is olive oil, which is the only soft oil that can be used at 100% in a recipe. It will harden but will take a long time to cure – up to 6 months, or else you will get a slimy bar. Any soap that has amounts of olive oil in it will be soft when you unmold it, but will cure to a really hard bar.
Hard oils are oils, fats and butters that are soild at room temperature such as coconut, palm, tallow, lard, mango, avocado and shea butter. Hard oils make a hard bar of soap.
Brittle oils are oils that are hard at room temperature but are hard to break up when they are solid, such as palm kernel oil and cocoa butter. Brittle oils make a hard bar of soap.
Hard and Brittle Oils
Soap made with high percentages of these oils will unmold sooner and easier, as they set and harden quicker than soaps made with a high percentage of soft oils. These oils are what we call fast oils, meaning that the batter will trace and thicken faster, giving less time for doing swirls and complex designs. These oils are good to use if making soap in individual bar molds, as they will be easier to unmold. If you use high percentages of these oils you need to soap at higher temperatures as low temperatures can cause false trace. This is because the low temperatures cause the oils to start to solidify and thicken, which can be mistaken for trace and you might end up pouring the soap too early and before all your ingredients have mixed together properly. Ensure your oils are 100 -120 degrees F, 38 – 48.9 degrees C.
Soap made with a high percentage of these will be softer and won’t unmold so soon or easily. Just leave them in the mold for another day or 2 before unmolding. Adding sodium lactate or salt at 1 teaspoon per pound or 450g of oils will help them to harden. If you are using individual molds, you can put them in the freezer for an hour or 2 to help them unmold. Soaps with soft oils, especially olive oil are slower to trace and thicken, so they are perfect for swirling and complex designs, as you will have more time to work with your batter.
How To Improve The Characteristics of Your Bar
Increase the superfat from 5-8%. If you use more than this your lather will be affected
Substitute some of your coconut oil with lower cleansing oils/butter such as shea, rice bran, avocado, sweet almond.
Increase the amount of olive oil. However, olive oil vastly reduces the lather of a bar, so the more you use, the less bubbly your soap will be.
Increase the amount of coconut oil. Coconut and pal oil together create a great lather.
Add some castor oil if your lather is short lasting
Add 1 teaspoon of sugar per pound or 450g oils, to your lye water
Use a higher percentage of hard oils such as palm, coconut, butters and olive oil.
Use a water dicount
Add sodium lactate or salt t 1 teaspoon per pound or 450g oils.