Fats/oils that compliment or hate each other

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Well-Known Member
Apr 9, 2016
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I'm just getting started, but are there certain oils that don't play well together(bad reactions, etc). And what are combinations that work really well together?

For example
If you use lard(or whatever), you should never combine it with ________ because it will cause the soap to ________ (fill in the blank with a bad thing)
If you use Coconut oil( or whatever) you should always combine it with ________ because it makes the soap really __________(fill in the blank with a good thing)
Also, is there a calculator out there where you can give it a total batch size and the oils you want to use, and it will give you amounts of each?
there are many calculators out there that will tell you amounts after specifying a batch size. I like SoapCalc.

For recipes, I like to think of it as trying to strike a balance between what all the oils bring to the table. A rule of thumb for me is that everyone coming to my soap party has to bring something I can feel. No fillers and no teeny amounts of a bunch of oils that all bring the same basic thing.

As far as bad reactions go, just be careful with having too high a percentage of oils that are:

Stripping: CO, PKO, and Babassu
Speed Trace: Castor, Pomance OO
DOS Contributors (high amounts of Linoleic & Linolenic fatty acids. Best to keep these under 15 to be on the safe side): Hemp, Cottonseed, Sunflower, etc
To my knowledge, there are no oils that cause bad reactions. For example, if you make soap that's got a lot of your hard oils in it - palm, tallow, lard, cocoa butter, etc - it's probably going to trace very fast, perhaps too fast to swirl, etc.

Oils that I think play well together are sunflower and olive oil. I've read that the sunflower acts synergistically with the olive oil to improve lather and I think that's true. I haven't done a blind test, but I always use 5% sunflower.
I've personally never experienced a scenario where oils/fats have reacted badly when used together (at least none that were so memorable that they stuck around in my memory banks). I have, however, experienced the opposite, where certain oils fats used in the same formula have created a wonderful synergy, such as using lard with tallow, and/or coconut with PKO. Also- castor added to any of my formulas always seems to give them that certain 'something' that they would be lost without.

All of the above, though, is based on my own personal perceptions and preferences. I mention that because the more you make soap and hang out with other soap-makers on the forums, the more you'll realize that so much of how we experience a soap or soap formula is based on our own personal perceptions/preferences, which oftentimes are much different from other's perceptions/preferences in regards to the same soap formula.....all of which is based on our uniquely different skin-types, and also the quality of the water in which we bathe (hard water vs soft water), etc..

The best a new soap-maker can do is to start with one or two different types of baseline recipes, and then tweak them from there to their liking. The SoapCalc calculator is a great source to help you do that.

IrishLass :)
Starting is always the hardest part! A good rule of thumb is to use at least 40% of "hard" oils to make sure the soap sets up. That can be a combination of CO, lard, palm, PKO, etc. The hard oils don't necessarily have to be the bubbly oils. Use oils that are easy for you to get locally. Get familiar with the properties of the oils, then ask if you want to balance those properties. Change one thing at a time in your formula, so you can judge if you like the effect on the formula. For example, start with 25% CO for the sudds, balance the dryness of the CO with 20% lard. You could throw 5% shea in there to assure more moisturizing. Round the rest of the formula with soft oils: olive is traditional, but ricebran is also nice, as well as avocado. Sunflower does support the foaming action. The lye discount will also affect the moisturizing properties, and that is totally up to you. Give it at least 2 months to cure. The important thing is to start! Good Luck!