Soapmaking oils and butters: what do we use at Homestead Soapery

The best thing about making cold process soap is being able to customise it right down the very last ingredient. Because of this, there is an infinite amount of creativity in soap making and you can be experimental as much or as little as you want!

The most important part of making a soap base is looking at the oils you want to use, and also, developing the idea of what you want that soap to be. Using different oils in soap making will impact on the moisturising affect, the lather and even whether you are able to swirl the soap during product development or not.

Oils used in soap making are classified as either hard or soft. An oil that is always liquid, at room temperature or not, is classified as a soft oil. Think olive oil, and other vegetable oils. An oil that is solid at room temperature that needs to be melted to use in soap making is called a hard oil. Think coconut oil, tallow or lard.

At Homestead Soapery we use a mixture of hard and soft oils. We limit our primary oils to lard, coconut oil and tallow, and add butters (such as shea butter) or castor oil to add desirable properties. For example, castor oil increases lather and is better dissolved in water, so is more suitable in a face bar. Shea butter is higher in oleic acid, which means it increases conditioning properties in soap and also provides a level of silkiness.

Generally, when soaps are made from soft oils they tend to be on the softer side. That is, unless you make a 100% castile (olive oil) bar, and let it cure properly for 4-6 months. Castile bars are classified as such when at least 50% (some will argue 40%) of the blend includes olive oil. Castile soap bars get their name from the regional area in Spain where they were first developed. Castile, or bars containing predominantly olive oil that are made by Homestead Soapery generally contain up to 85% olive oil, unless they are listed as purely castile, or 100% olive oil.

Harder bars, which you will see used in descriptors for our products, are often as a result of predominantly harder oils used in the creation of the bar. Harder bars last longer but may not have the super sudsy lather and bubbles that you are used to from liquid pump soap. Remember, suds and lather and bubbles are lovely attributes to have and generally makes us feel cleaner, but a soap doesn’t need to be overtly bubbly to still clean!

Additionally, the use of soft oils in soap making ensures that you can make your own infusions! We have a mixture of calendula and chamomile infusions part of our Cleanse and Nourish collection that provides a gentler soap overall with the benefits that both chamomile and calendula provide.

There’s lots of oils and butters out there that can be used in soap making, and each soap maker will develop a recipe and formula that is suitable for them. We’ve developed our master batch recipes that are used for all of our products that have ample room for substitution or modification when we feel that creativity butterfly spark!

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