Bubbles, bubbles, bubbles !

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Sep 6, 2013
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How to increase bubbles in soap and what is the bubbly/creamy soap calc number ratio to aim for?

My recipe contains 5% castor, 10% coconut (I don't like a bar that is too cleansing so my cleansing no is about 10, conditioning about 50), bubbly/creamy numbers are 12/40, I have also added sugar 4% and soaped with 1/2 coconut and 1/2 goat milk. But the bubbles take a while to come up and in the shower I have no bubbles unless I use a puff.

Where could I be going wrong? Anything else I should add? Or are my expectations of having a bubbly bubbly bar too high?
i think it all comes back to personal preference. my recipes use 5% castor in all of them and i think the bubbles are great. i do have higher percentage of coconut (usually 15-25) though, so perhaps that counts. sugar is supposed to help with lather and bubbles, and at 4%, i reckon that's already high amount. you can experiment with adding more castor, but i wouldn't do it past 10%. once i had 15% castor and the bar is slimy as hell.
You didn't go wrong anywhere. Have you tried rubbing the soap vigorously between both wet hands to see the bubbles yet? Poufs don't do much for me, ie. they scratch my skin, so I don't try that.

Did you add any butters to your recipe? They do tend to take down the bubble level. In fact, if you don't mind, can you post the entire recipe?

Also, another bubble helper is one teaspoon of sugar (plain old sugar) per pound of oil will help with bubbles. Dissolve in h20 first, then add the lye to the water and sugar. HTH. :)
How long did you cure your soap. A lot of mine get much better over time. There are also allot of variables when it comes to bubbles. Whole books are written on soap bubbles and the science of bubbles. I have one bar that has bubbles with really strong surface tension but doesn't have a big lather. Basically when I soap up my legs I can make a soap membrane bubble that's giant (please don't picture me doing this) but when I work it in my hands the lather doesn't get very big. I find honey helps strengthen my bubbles.

here is the info from soapcalc how they describe their verbiage. It's important to keep in mind that there are so many variables in soap that sopacalc definitions are really very general rules.

Bubbly lather - This refers to the soap’s ability to lather up and get bubbly. A typical range of values would be 14 to 46. The higher Bubbly numbers will tend to produce a foamy, fluffy lather rather than a creamy lather with littler or no bubbles.
Creamy lather - This value indicates the stability and creaminess of the lather. Usually, increasing Bubbly will decrease Creamy and vice versa. A range of 16 to 48 is common here. The higher Creamy numbers will tend to produce a creamy lather with lesser amounts of bubbles or foam. Soap made with oils that do not contain Lauric, Myristic or Ricinoleic acids will produce a soap with just creamy lather. An example would be 100% olive oil soap.
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I have a number of recipes that are low cleansing and they too make low bubbles. I've started increasing my coconut % to increase the bubbles but I also increased the superfat, a lot.
My last batch had 25% CO and 20% SF, way more then most people use unless its a salt bar but so far the high superfat is counteracting the high cleansing.
I too upped my CO to 20-25% and sometimes split it with PKO but with it upped the superfat as well. It has made a noticable difference. I like creamy though so it's not huge for me but my customers like some bubbleage.
Adding coconut milk can actually decrease the lather because it ups the superfat by a considerable % depending on how much you use.

I improved my lather by upping my PKO/CO but also upping my superfat so that it doesn't dry me out.
Icing sugar, honey, Aunt Jamima, corn/maple syrup. Sugars work wonders for bubblage, and one day I will discipline myself to learn exactly why (or maybe DeeAnna will pop in and explain ;)).
Icing sugar, honey, Aunt Jamima, corn/maple syrup. Sugars work wonders for bubblage, and one day I will discipline myself to learn exactly why (or maybe DeeAnna will pop in and explain ;)).

I just love it when DeeAnna pops in and explains! How lucky we are to have her in this forum. Yep, I am sure I could start researching and possibly find the answer, but just do not take the time. So much easier when DeeAnna shows up!! :p
I usually use 30% coconut oil. Castor and cotton seed oils (the old Crisco) are used for bubbles too.
Hello! Years ago while learning about soapmaking I purchased a wonderful, self-published soapmaking "booklet" from a soapmaker by the name of Rita Coursey-Scheu. A few of you may remember her. She had a small business called Tender Loving Care Soaps. Her very detailed book was filled with recipes and reasons to add certain oils, fats and other ingredients. It was called "Simply Natural Soapmaking With Tender Loving Care". In her very detailed 125 page handbook her favorite formulation for making loads of bubbles consisted of three ingredients: coconut oil, pko (palm kernel oil) and castor oil. She called them the 'holy trinity' of bubble making. No matter what percentage you use of each if you used all three together (along with other oils and ingredients) you would get lots and lots of bubbles; big bubbles as well as creamy bubbles. I stuck with her insight and yes, you do get lots of great bubbles. I use this 'trinity' (in part) for my main soap recipe. I guess it is the synergy with the oils that helps make more bubbles.

Sadly, Rita passed away a few years ago from breast cancer. In fact, she had made some soap and lotion recipes to help with the sensitivity with radiation and chemotherapy treatments. I have no idea how may copies of her booklet and additional specific bath and body methods (beauty product recipes like lotions, salves, etc.) she produced and sold but I really treasure my copy. I remember I had sent her a few emails thanking her for her generosity in publishing her knowledge and giving her moral support in her battle with cancer (my mother developed it three times). Her responses were absolutely delightful! I wish I had the chance to meet her in person. She is sadly missed. :cry:
Did anyone mention using sodium lactate? It makes your soap harder, therefore more lathering.
Thanks, Glenn, for sharing this. You're a sweetie for giving your feelings about Rita as a person as well as sharing her wisdom about soapmaking. That's how people live on in the world ... in our memories and in our willingness to share those memories with others......
Thanks everyone for sharing! I will have to give the holy trinity a try. Sounds interesting, God bless her soul.

I am confused by two things. Coconut milk actually inhibits bubbles? And SF up to 20%? Wouldn't that increase the spoilage rate significantly?
Okay, I'm "popping in" about the sugar => more bubbles thing. Makes me feel a little like Mary Poppins! :)

A couple of definitions:
Soap film = a very thin sturdy layer of soap and water and possibly other ingredients.
Soap bubble = a spherical soap film that encloses a certain volume of air.

The lifetime and size of a soap bubble depends on
(1) the strength and elasticity of the soap film itself which depends on the ingredients in the soap solution,
(2) the rate of evaporation of water out of the soap film,
(3) the presence of contaminants such as dirt or fat, and
(4) the rate of drainage of water in the soap film toward the bottom of the bubble due to gravity.

To make long lived bubbles, you would want to make a relatively strong elastic soap film, slow the evaporation of water, and minimize contaminants in the soap film.

What does a sugar solution or glycerin contribute toward this goal? Up to a point, these ingredients will reduce water evaporation and increase the soap film strength. If too much sugar or glycerin is added, they will cut lather, however, because they will increase the viscosity (thickness) of the soap solution too much. If the soap solution is too thick and syrupy => few or no bubbles. So don't get carried away!

And, since I cannot resist the temptation to expand on this topic....

Castor adds ricinoleic acid to a soap recipe. Ricinoleic acid is an unusual fatty acid because it is somewhat water soluble -- more so than any other fatty acid normally used in soap making. As others have pointed out elsewhere on SMF, castor added to a soap recipe can add bubble-age, even though a pure castor soap doesn't bubble much. This partial water solubility is probably the reason why -- castor soap acts a bit like glycerin or sugar to make a more stable soap film when part of a mixed soap.

The composition of the soap itself contributes to the strength of the soap film. Lower molecular length soaps (such as those in coconut oil soap) tend to make bigger bubbles that pop easily, all other things being equal. Longer molecular length soaps (such as tallow soap or olive oil soap) make smaller bubbles that stick around. My guess is that the longer soap molecules are stronger, so they are able to make a longer lived, more elastic soap film. The downside to being stronger and more elastic is that the soap film is not able to form bigger, fluffier -- and less stable -- bubbles. The amount of saturated fats vs unsaturated probably affect this too, but don't quiz me on this.

Contaminants, such as high superfat, high amount of botanicals, clays, some additives, etc., will tend to reduce the total amount of lather as well as the size of the bubbles, because these ingredients can reduce the strength of the soap film. Contaminants added to an existing soap bubble can "damage" the soap film, much like poking a hole in a balloon -- think about how touching a soap bubble with a dry finger causes it to pop or spraying alcohol on a soap foam will "break" the foam.


Edit: See Amathia Soapworks "Lather Lovers Test": http://www.flickr.com/photos/amathiasoapworks/6878711296/in/set-72157629324839760/
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When you say a high superfat can lessen lather, how high is high? Is there a relative cut-off or drop off percentage? I assume there would be variability dependent on ingredients but I'm wondering if there is a general rule of thumb.
I don't really have an answer for you, rule of thumb or otherwise. It depends so much on personal preference and the recipe.

If you want my personal opinion, I pretty much always use a 5% SF and get decently lather-y bars. I am not a fan of higher superfat levels.

Compare photo set 1 at 8% SF with photo set 2 at 5% SF. Recipe is otherwise the same in both cases.

wow, i can see the difference in the bubbles in those 2 photos. thanks for posting the link, DeAnna, always new stuff to learn :)