Soapmaking Oils Properties and Chart

This helpful reference chart covers 45 soapmaking oils and their characteristics, including hardness, conditioning, bubbly, cleansing, and longevity properties.

It will be helpful to use as a guide when you want to swap out oils in a natural soap recipe!

round bowls of oils above a chart of soapmaking oils and their properties

Before we get into the chart, let’s cover what each column means, as it relates to soapmaking.

I want to stress though that numbers aren’t everything! I often see newer soapmakers get hung up on making their recipe fit neatly into recommended numbers, at the expense of the creative process and sometimes miss out on making some really great recipe ideas!

Just use these numbers loosely as informational aids, since soap calculators don’t take into account things such as sodium lactate or salt for hardening, aloe or honey or milk for extra lather or creaminess, the amount of your recipe’s superfat, extended cure times, discounted water amount, our unique personal preferences that we look for in a soap, and more.

bar of soap that says "natural" on a wooden board with fresh flowers and bottle of wheat germ oil
Wheat Germ & Almond Milk Soap from my Natural Facial Soaps eBook

Property Definitions

In the Oil/Butter column, I have the oil’s name, Latin name or INCI (name that it’s internationally known as), a brief line on how it is in soap, and suggested usage rates. (They are suggestions only, based on my personal experiences and preferences – feel free to experiment outside of those numbers!)

Hardness indicates how well the oil adds to the overall hardness of the soap. A higher number makes for a harder soap. As mentioned above, the numbers don’t tell the whole story here though. Olive oil has a low hardness number of 17, but after an extended cure time, can become a really nice hard soap.

Conditioning is how nice and soothing the oil feels on your skin when made into soap. Oils with a low conditioning number, such as coconut oil or babassu oil, can make your skin feel more tight or dry if used in excess, and/or with a too-low superfat. Oils with a high conditioning number feel nice on your skin, but note that too much total conditioning may come at the price of lower lather and soft soap.

Bubbly is pretty self-explanatory. A higher number means that the oil helps produce or support lots of bubbles when used in soap. A low number or zero, means it doesn’t really contribute to overall lather, but that doesn’t mean your soap will have zero lather. A soap that’s not bubbly can still clean your skin.

Cleansing is based on how well the oil-turned-into-soap will dissolve in hard or salt water, but it also indicates its effectiveness at stripping moisture and oil from your skin. A high cleansing number (such as coconut oil) might feel very harsh on many skin types, unless balanced with a higher superfat and/or other conditioning ingredients. If an oil has a low or zero cleansing number, that doesn’t mean it won’t clean your skin. It means that it’s not as likely to strip your skin or leave it feeling tight and dry after use.

Longevity indicates a rough idea of how long the soap will last when used. A higher number is longer lasting, but a trade-off is that if a soap’s overall longevity number is too-high, it may affect lather/bubbles. If you want your soaps to last longer, look for oils with a higher longevity number.

woman's hand holding flower shaped bar of castile soap
100% olive oil soap starts out soft, but becomes harder over a long cure period (shown is Aloe Castile Soap from Natural Facial Soaps eBook)

How to Use the Oils Properties Chart

Print the chart out (look for the green print friendly button at the bottom of this article, and select which parts you want to print) and use it to help you figure out oil substitutions or recipe tweaks, or as a reference when creating your own recipe.

For example, if you make a soap and find it’s not bubbly enough, try checking through the list and finding oils that have a higher bubbly number, then experiment with higher rates of those in your recipe.

Related: My article, How to Make Test Batches of Soap, might help you plan out mini test batches while you dial a recipe in, and my digital Soapmaking Journal is a great way to record all of your soapy experiments!

soap journal

Soapmaking Journal
-Printable Digital Format

Get organized and inspired with this printable journal – it’s perfect for recording all of your soapy creations and notes!

If you don’t see a favorite oil listed here, no worries! I only picked out the oils I had the most personal experience with using in soap, but you can head over to the Soapee Lye Calculator, click on the desired oil name in box 6, and you’ll see its properties listed to the right of that box.

Reference Chart of Soapmaking Oils & Their Properties

Characteristics & suggested usage rates are sourced from my personal experience and notes, while the property numbers are sourced from Soapee Lye Calculator.

Oil/ButterHardness
(1-100)
Conditioning
(1-100)
Bubbly
(1-100)
Cleansing
(1-100)
Longevity
(1-100)
Almond Oil, Sweet
(Prunus amygdalus dulcis)
nice for dry skin, use 10 to 20% in recipes
789007
Aloe Butter
(Coconut oil; aloe barbadensis leaf extract)
adds bubbles, use abt 10% in recipes
749636311
Apricot Kernel
(Prunus armeniaca)
nourishing, use 10 to 20% in recipes
693006
Argan Oil
(Argania spinosa)
adds luxurious quality to body & shampoo bars, use 5 to 10%
15811114
Avocado Butter
(Hydrogenated avocado oil)
lovely moisturizing feel, use 10 to 20%
31610031
Avocado Oil
(Persea gratissima)
moisturizing, nice for dry skin or eczema, use 10 to 20%
22700022
Babassu Oil
(Orbignya oleifera)
bubbly, good sub for coconut oil, higher amounts may feel drying, use 10 to 25%
8510707015
Oil/Butter Hardness Conditioning Bubbly Cleansing Longevity
Camelina Seed
(Camelina sativa seed)
nourishing, moisturizing, use 5 to 10%
888008
Camellia Seed
(Camellia oleifera seed)
gentle for aged or sensitive skin, use 5 to 10%
11850011
Canola Oil
(Canola oil)
affordable sub for olive oil, use up to 25%
691006
Castor Oil
(Ricinus communis)
supports lather, use 3 to 7% in soap; up to 12 to 15% in shampoo bars
0989000
Cocoa Butter
(Theobroma cacao)
adds hardness, creamy lather; use 5 to 20%
61380061
Coconut Oil (76°)
(Cocos nucifera)
solid below 76 degrees F, melts to liquid at hotter temps, adds bubbles, very cleansing; use 10 to 30% (increase superfat with higher amount)
7910676712
Coconut Oil, fractionated
(Cocos nucifera)
liquid even at cold temperatures, can feel harsh & drying, not usually recommended for soap, or use a small percentage, abt 3%
10001001000
Cupuacu Butter
(Theobroma grandiflorum seed butter)
adds some hardness and nice feel, similar to shea and mango; use 5 to 20%
43440043
Oil/ButterHardness Conditioning Bubbly Cleansing Longevity
Grapeseed Oil
(Vitis vinifera seed oil)
conditioning, but may have shorter shelf life; use 5 to 10%
12880012
Hazelnut Oil
(Corylus avellana seed oil)
feels nice on skin, may have shorter shelf life in soap, use 5 to 10%
885008
Hemp Oil
(Cannabis sativa seed oil)
may help dry or problem skin types, dark green unrefined lightly tints soap, use 5 to 15%
890008
Jojoba Oil
(Simmondsia chinensis)
excellent for shampoo & facial bars, may extend shelf life, use 5 to 10%
012000
Kokum Butter
(Garcinia indica)
similar to cocoa butter, hardens soap, use 5 to 20%
60370060
Kukui Nut Oil
(Aleurites moluccanus)
nourishing lovely feel, use 5 to 10%
891008
Lard (Pig Tallow)
makes a hard soap with low lather, use to replace palm oil, use 5 to 35%, or more
42521141
Laurel Fruit Oil
(Lauris nobilis fruit oil)
used in Aleppo-style soap, adds some color, scent & lather, lovely for skin, use 20 to 30% with the balance of the recipe as olive oil
4258262616
Oil/Butter Hardness Conditioning Bubbly Cleansing Longevity
Mango Butter
(Mangifera indica)
adds some hardness, nourishing feel, use 5 to 20%
49480049
Meadowfoam Oil
(Limnanthes alba)
conditioning, may extend shelf life of soap, use around 10%
095000
Murumuru Butter
(Astrocaryum murumuru)
good sub for coconut oil, use 5 to 20%
821873739
Neem Seed Oil
(Melia azadirachta)
used for troublesome skin or flea/insect repellant, strong smell, not for pregnancy, use 5 to 7%
39582237
Olive Oil
(Olea europaea)
starts out soft, but hardens with a long cure, low lather, use from 5 to 100%
17820017
Palm Kernel Oil
(Elaeis guineensis)
similar to coconut oil, hardens, adds bubbles, can feel drying if too high, use 5 to 20%
7518656510
Palm (Fruit) Oil
(Elaeis guineensis)
hardens soap, long lasting, can be replaced with tallow or lard, or a mix of butters, use up to 35%
50491149
Oil/Butter Hardness Conditioning Bubbly Cleansing Longevity
Peach Kernel
(Prunus persica)
nourishing for sensitive or dry skin, use 5 to 10%
891008
Pumpkin Seed
(Cucurbita pepo)
rich in essential fatty acids, use 5 to 15%
19830019
Rice Bran
(Oryza sativa)
great sub for all or part of the olive oil in a recipe, try around 15 to 25% in a recipe
26741125
Rosehip
(Rosa rubiginosa)
luxury oil for mature or sensitive skin, use 5 to 10%
689006
Safflower, high oleic
(Carthamus tinctorius)
makes a nice sub for part or all of the olive oil in a recipe, use 5 to 20%
792007
Sesame Oil
(Sesamum indicum)
may have a slightly shorter shelf life in soap, use the light kind – not the toasted strongly scented kind, use 5 to 10%
15830015
Shea Butter
(Butyrospermum parkii or Vitellaria paradoxa)
nourishing, slightly hardens soap, use 5 to 20%
45540045
Oil/Butter Hardness Conditioning Bubbly Cleansing Longevity
Soy Wax
(Hydrogenated Soybean Oil)
used to add hardness to soap, try around 2 to 3% for cold process soap, can use higher amounts in hot process and shave soap
9800098
Stearic Acid
used to add hardness to soap, try around 2 to 3% for cold process, higher amounts in shave soap and hot process
9900099
Sunflower, high oleic
(Helianthus annuus)
low silky lather, nice for dry or sensitive skin, use 10 to 20%
788007
Tallow (Beef)
adds hardness, use to replace palm oil, use 5 to 35% in recipes
58408850
Tamanu Oil
(Calophyllum inophyllum)
excellent for various skin conditions, use around 5%
25730025
Tucuma Butter
(Astrocaryum tucuma)
adds hardness and bubbles, use 5 to 15%
771371716
Ucuuba Butter
(Virola Surinamensis)
hardens soap, try 3 to 5% in recipes
100092928
Wheat Germ Oil
(Triticum vulgare)
nourishes dry, mature, or damaged skin, use around 5%
19750019
Chart of soap making oils and their properties

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6 Comments

  1. This is a very very useful chart for me.
    I love it that I can see oils and their properties at once.
    I think it helps reduce the time to think about what oil to choose when making my own soap.
    Thank you for your nice chart!!!

  2. Question why is it my soaps aren’t as white in appearance? I’m assuming it’s the olive oil giving the green tint? Any way I can change that? Love all the articles!!!! Love the books too!!!

    1. Hi Amy! So glad to hear you enjoy the articles & books! :)
      Yes, extra virgin olive oil can slightly affect the tint.
      Some tips for whiter soap:
      – use the lightest clearest oils you can find
      – increasing the coconut oil amount can help whiten soap (but it can make soap more drying, so needs to be balanced with a higher superfat)
      – you can try whitening your soap with zinc oxide (or titanium dioxide if not trying for all-natural soap), or white kaolin clay (make sure it’s a very white clay and mix it into the hot lye solution)
      – check the essential oils that you’re using – some like citrus and patchouli can tint soap yellow or tan
      – check for ingredients with natural sugars – honey, milk, herbal teas can all darken soap
      – keep temperatures low, avoid gel phase

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