How to Add Lanolin to Soap Recipes

Learn how to adjust for and add lanolin to soap recipes, plus guidelines for using it.

a bar of lanolin soap with chamomile flowers

Kimberly asked a great question the other day, about how to include lanolin in a soap recipe she’d recently made.

She also wanted to try including it in my Dandelion Scrub Bar recipe, but wasn’t sure what changes to make.

I thought it might be helpful to type up my answer here, in case anyone else has the same questions about adding lanolin to homemade soap!

Note: Some people are extra sensitive or allergic to lanolin, so be sure to clearly label lanolin soaps when gifting or selling to others.

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Lanolin is full of unsaponifiables, which means large parts of it won’t be turned into soap by the lye. Because of this, you may want to consider a lower superfat (such as a 4 or 5%) so you don’t end up with a too-soft soap.

You don’t need a lot of lanolin for a hand & body soap, shampoo bar, or shave soap; around 3 to 5% is plenty, I tend to aim for around 4%.

(To figure percentage: Multiply the total weight of the recipe’s oils by the percent of lanolin you want to use. Example: 28 oz of oils in a recipe x 0.04 (or 4%) = 1.12 oz of lanolin to input in the lye calculator.)

I’ve also had a few readers ask about making wool wash bars, which are made with much higher amounts of lanolin, but I don’t have any experience with those.

You might find some helpful information in one of these articles though:

Why use lanolin in soap? It’s excellent for dry skin types, chapped hands, and shaving soaps. You can read more about its benefits in this great article: Lanolin – The Unlikely but Underrated Moisturizer.

Some soapers report that lanolin has a strong smell in their soap, but that might be the kind they’re using. I bought my jar of ultra refined lanolin from Bramble Berry and the scent is very mild and not unpleasant at all.

jar of ultra refined lanolin from Bramble Berry

How to Change a Soap Recipe to Include Lanolin

Kimberly’s original recipe was:

  • 280g Canola Oil
  • 210g Coconut Oil
  • 140 g Olive Oil
  • 70g Avocado Oil
  • 100 g Water
  • 96 g Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)
  • 1 tsp cacao
  • 1 tsp charcoal
  • salt to decorate the top

To add lanolin to this recipe, first we’re going to input the original amounts in a lye calculator. I’m using Soapee for this example.

Here’s what that recipe looks like in its original form. It has a 7.5% superfat and a very steep water discount:

original soap recipe without lanolin

When you add lanolin to a soap recipe, you need to counterbalance it by taking away an equal amount of another oil.

In this case, I’m going to choose to remove some of the canola oil, since it’s the highest amount. Normally though, I’d probably take away some of the olive oil instead, since the amount of olive in a recipe is very flexible.

So, I’ll add 28 g of lanolin (calculated by figuring out 4% of 700 g total oil weight) to the recipe, and subtract that same amount from the canola oil weight. I’m also bumping up the water amount because lanolin can speed up trace and too little water may make the soap unworkable.

I’m also going to drop the superfat from 7.5% to 5%. The recipe already has a lot of “soft oils” so adding lanolin on top of those, plus a higher superfat might tip the scale too far into the soft soap side. The lower superfat will help with lather too.

Here’s what those changes look like when being input in the calculator:

making changes to include lanolin

and what the final changed recipe is. (Notice the lye amount changed a small amount.):

recipe with lanolin in it

Tips for Adding Lanolin to Soap Recipes

Lanolin is sensitive to high temperatures so you don’t want to overheat it.

Try melting your solid fats (coconut, cocoa butter, tallow, etc) over low heat, then once completely melted, turn off the burner, and stir in the lanolin until it melts as well.

Next, combine the warmed oils/lanolin mixture with the remaining liquid oils.

Lanolin can speed up trace, so be prepared for a shorter time to work.

Using cooler temperatures and a full amount of water can be helpful, also try more hand stirring and less stick blending.

If you run into any problems making your soap, check my ultimate troubleshooting guide for solutions.

Dandelion Scrub Bar Soap Recipe

Changing the Dandelion Scrub Bar Recipe to Add Lanolin

The original recipe (find it HERE) requires:

  • 4.19 oz (119 g) sodium hydroxide (lye)
  • 8.5 oz (241 g) distilled water
  • 16 oz (454 g) dandelion-infused olive oil
  • 3 oz (85 g) sunflower oil
  • 8 oz (227 g) coconut oil
  • 3 oz (85 g) cocoa butter
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) lemongrass essential oil
  • 1/2 tbsp (5 g) poppy seeds

Using the directions above, I input the recipe into Soapee’s calculator, decreasing the olive oil by 1.2 oz (34 g) and adding 1.2 oz (34 g) of lanolin.

(I got that number by calculating 4% of 30 ounces total oil weight in the recipe:  30 oz  x 0.04 = 1.2 oz)

The new recipe with lanolin is:

Dandelion Scrub Bar Soap Recipe with Lanolin (5% superfat)

  • 4.16 oz (118 g) sodium hydroxide (lye)
  • 8.5 oz (241 g) distilled water (you could increase +1 to 2 oz)
  • 14.8 oz (420 g) dandelion infused olive oil
  • 3 oz (85 g) sunflower oil
  • 8 oz (227 g) coconut oil
  • 3 oz (85 g) cocoa butter
  • 1.2 oz (34 g) lanolin
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) lemongrass essential oil
  • 1/2 tbsp (5 g) poppy seeds

Follow the same directions to make as in my Dandelion Scrub Bar Soap Recipe post.

And, that’s how you add lanolin to a soap recipe! :)

a jar of lanolin and lanolin soap
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  1. This is a very helpful and detailed article. First time I used lanolin is soap (earlier just used in lip balms), and I could change my basic recipe more easier – as I followed the advices above. I could make really nice soaps. Thank you so much! :)

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