Common Soap Making Oils And Their Shelf Lives

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 of all the defining factors in your finished product, from its 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.

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. We recommend a usage rate of about 10%.

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. We’ve found 12.5% to be a great usage rate. 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.

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.

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!).

Canola Oil – 1 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’s recommended to use at around 15%. It also produces a whiter 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.

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 super-fatting 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.

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; which smells like warm cocoa, or in it’s deodorized state if you aren’t a fan of the smell. Use cocoa butter at 15% or less in cold process soaps; any higher 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.

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 usage rate of 25% 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.

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.

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.

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) 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%.

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.

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.

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.

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. We recommend a usage rate of up to 15%.

nflower Oil – 3 months if refrigerated

Sunflower Oil has a high amount of essential fatty acids and Vitamin E, making 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.

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