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!
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.
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.
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!
-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.
|Almond Oil, Sweet|
(Prunus amygdalus dulcis)
nice for dry skin, use 10 to 20% in recipes
(Coconut oil; aloe barbadensis leaf extract)
adds bubbles, use abt 10% in recipes
nourishing, use 10 to 20% in recipes
adds luxurious quality to body & shampoo bars, use 5 to 10%
(Hydrogenated avocado oil)
lovely moisturizing feel, use 10 to 20%
moisturizing, nice for dry skin or eczema, use 10 to 20%
bubbly, good sub for coconut oil, higher amounts may feel drying, use 10 to 25%
(Camelina sativa seed)
nourishing, moisturizing, use 5 to 10%
(Camellia oleifera seed)
gentle for aged or sensitive skin, use 5 to 10%
affordable sub for olive oil, use up to 25%
supports lather, use 3 to 7% in soap; up to 12 to 15% in shampoo bars
adds hardness, creamy lather; use 5 to 20%
|Coconut Oil (76°)|
solid below 76 degrees F, melts to liquid at hotter temps, adds bubbles, very cleansing; use 10 to 30% (increase superfat with higher amount)
|Coconut Oil, fractionated|
liquid even at cold temperatures, can feel harsh & drying, not usually recommended for soap, or use a small percentage, abt 3%
(Theobroma grandiflorum seed butter)
adds some hardness and nice feel, similar to shea and mango; use 5 to 20%
(Vitis vinifera seed oil)
conditioning, but may have shorter shelf life; use 5 to 10%
(Corylus avellana seed oil)
feels nice on skin, may have shorter shelf life in soap, use 5 to 10%
(Cannabis sativa seed oil)
may help dry or problem skin types, dark green unrefined lightly tints soap, use 5 to 15%
excellent for shampoo & facial bars, may extend shelf life, use 5 to 10%
similar to cocoa butter, hardens soap, use 5 to 20%
|Kukui Nut Oil|
nourishing lovely feel, use 5 to 10%
|Lard (Pig Tallow)|
makes a hard soap with low lather, use to replace palm oil, use 5 to 35%, or more
|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
adds some hardness, nourishing feel, use 5 to 20%
conditioning, may extend shelf life of soap, use around 10%
good sub for coconut oil, use 5 to 20%
|Neem Seed Oil|
used for troublesome skin or flea/insect repellant, strong smell, not for pregnancy, use 5 to 7%
starts out soft, but hardens with a long cure, low lather, use from 5 to 100%
|Palm Kernel Oil|
similar to coconut oil, hardens, adds bubbles, can feel drying if too high, use 5 to 20%
|Palm (Fruit) Oil|
hardens soap, long lasting, can be replaced with tallow or lard, or a mix of butters, use up to 35%
nourishing for sensitive or dry skin, use 5 to 10%
rich in essential fatty acids, use 5 to 15%
great sub for all or part of the olive oil in a recipe, try around 15 to 25% in a recipe
luxury oil for mature or sensitive skin, use 5 to 10%
|Safflower, high oleic|
makes a nice sub for part or all of the olive oil in a recipe, use 5 to 20%
may have a slightly shorter shelf life in soap, use the light kind – not the toasted strongly scented kind, use 5 to 10%
(Butyrospermum parkii or Vitellaria paradoxa)
nourishing, slightly hardens soap, use 5 to 20%
(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
used to add hardness to soap, try around 2 to 3% for cold process, higher amounts in shave soap and hot process
|Sunflower, high oleic|
low silky lather, nice for dry or sensitive skin, use 10 to 20%
adds hardness, use to replace palm oil, use 5 to 35% in recipes
excellent for various skin conditions, use around 5%
adds hardness and bubbles, use 5 to 15%
hardens soap, try 3 to 5% in recipes
|Wheat Germ Oil|
nourishes dry, mature, or damaged skin, use around 5%
LEARN TO USE HERBS & FLOWERS IN SOAP
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- Discover 21 of the top herbs and flowers for making handmade natural soap
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