Help with oil blend/mix for CP

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texaslather81

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Hello,

I'm new at soaping. Been doing it for about 5 months now and plan on launching my business in Jan 2022. I started making CP with the basic 33% Olive, 33% Palm, and 33% coconut oil mix It seem the easiest at first considering the lye calculations and what not. Now that I'm more experienced, I wanted to maybe add something additional and affordable like sunflower oil and shea butter. I still plan on having 60% hard oils so I was thinking of replacing 10% of coconut/palm with shea butter and maybe replacing 5-10% of olive with sunflower.

Example below:

30% Olive Oil
10% sunflower
25% palm oil
25% cocunut oil
10% shea butter

Question is: Will it make a big difference if I add the shea butter and sunflower and maybe some sea salt ? I just wanted to be a bit unique without breaking the bank. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
 

ResolvableOwl

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Welcome to SMF, @texaslather81 !

All of your prior recipes and new ideas are looking fine! Of course there are infinite variations possible: everyone (including me in a second) will make suggestions – keep in mind that many of them are based on personal preferences, and you are starting from a sound and reliable starting point.

With regular (high-linoleic) sunflower oil, 10–15% shaved off from olive and the “crumple zone” of hard oils is a very reasonable approach. Sunflower oil makes softer soap than olive oil, and can accelerate rancidity when used in high dosages (>30%). But you're a good distance away from this danger zone. (If you're into it, look up chelators and antioxidants on how to be better safe than sorry – especially when you are planning to sell).
If you can get hold of high-oleic sunflower oil, you can even replace all of the olive oil without issue.

Tropical hard fats (palm, shea and other “butters”) are largely interchangeable. IMHO the best is to blend them, and palm + shea is a terrific combo.
Coconut oil is a bit of a question of faith. Anecdotally, quite some users are reporting that CO above 20% can be harsh to the skin and overly drying/stripping. Others don't sense anything. Skins are different. When you want to be on the safe side, lower CO to 15–20%.

One thing you really should consider getting your hands dirty with, is castor oil. Just a few % will make a great difference when it comes to how willingly a bar of soap gives off lather.
 

texaslather81

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Welcome to SMF, @texaslather81 !

All of your prior recipes and new ideas are looking fine! Of course there are infinite variations possible: everyone (including me in a second) will make suggestions – keep in mind that many of them are based on personal preferences, and you are starting from a sound and reliable starting point.

With regular (high-linoleic) sunflower oil, 10–15% shaved off from olive and the “crumple zone” of hard oils is a very reasonable approach. Sunflower oil makes softer soap than olive oil, and can accelerate rancidity when used in high dosages (>30%). But you're a good distance away from this danger zone. (If you're into it, look up chelators and antioxidants on how to be better safe than sorry – especially when you are planning to sell).
If you can get hold of high-oleic sunflower oil, you can even replace all of the olive oil without issue.

Tropical hard fats (palm, shea and other “butters”) are largely interchangeable. IMHO the best is to blend them, and palm + shea is a terrific combo.
Coconut oil is a bit of a question of faith. Anecdotally, quite some users are reporting that CO above 20% can be harsh to the skin and overly drying/stripping. Others don't sense anything. Skins are different. When you want to be on the safe side, lower CO to 15–20%.

One thing you really should consider getting your hands dirty with, is castor oil. Just a few % will make a great difference when it comes to how willingly a bar of soap gives off lather.
 

texaslather81

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Thanks for the quick responce. I kind of agree about the coconut oil. I feel like its making my skin dry and itchy, but thought it was due to the cold weather/ blazing hot showers. I was thinking of using castor too. Thanks again.
 

zolveria

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Shea butter really IMO does not impart much to the soap nor does it help with hardness or lather. it a lux item... salt will increase bar hardness. so be careful or you get into the crumbly state. normally de-mold in 4 hours if a lot of salt is used cut and let it sit and cure. as far as sunflower. the max 25% above that you get soft bar. i would add some sugar to the lye water to increase bubbly . or you can try pko @ 10 % and delete shea as it really does nothing to the bar. adding pko will increase bubble factor and give you good lather. adding 5 percent castor oil and taking away 5 percent from PO also increase bubble and cleansing hardness
 

texaslather81

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Shea butter really IMO does not impart much to the soap nor does it help with hardness or lather. it a lux item... salt will increase bar hardness. so be careful or you get into the crumbly state. normally de-mold in 4 hours if a lot of salt is used cut and let it sit and cure. as far as sunflower. the max 25% above that you get soft bar. i would add some sugar to the lye water to increase bubbly . or you can try pko @ 10 % and delete shea as it really does nothing to the bar. adding pko will increase bubble factor and give you good lather. adding 5 percent castor oil and taking away 5 percent from PO also increase bubble and cleansing hardness
Cool thanks for the info :)
 

TheGecko

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Welcome

As someone who started selling soap six months after I started making it…don’t. Wait at least year…maybe even two years. Why? For the simple reason that you a wanting to customize your recipe and then plan to sell it in another month without knowing anything about it. And you need to know your soap! What is it like after a six week cure? Bubbles? Lather? Moisturizing? Cleansing? How long does it last if you shower every day, or every five days or three days a week? What is it like after three months, six months, nine months, a year? How much does your soap shrink during that time? What is the best temperature for your recipe? How much working time do you have? How is your batter at emulsion and trace?

I love Shea Butter. Drop your Coconut to 20% and add 5% Castor Oil.

Don’t think that I am trying to discourage you because I’m not. With almost 334 Million people in the US, there are plenty of customers to go around.

I have two bars of soap on my desk; one is left over from when I first started selling (local craft fair), the second is from a year later. Same recipe…no scent, no colorant…but there is an obvious difference between the soaps. The first one is nice, but the second one…it shines. It’s the difference between moonshine and Pendleton (whiskey).

ETA - I started making soap in June 2019. This was after months and months of research...articles, history, hundreds of hours of YouTube videos. When it came to make soap...I bought a kit from a well-known soap supplier. Made two batches and then started developing my own 'unique' recipe...which in all honesty...really isn't all that unique since so many other people use similar recipes but maybe slightly different amounts. And I experimented enough those first few months (had a lot of testers) that when the opportunity to sell my soap at a craft fair came up, I was pretty confident that I had a good quality soap. And while the craft fair was a positive experience and I did reasonably well, it taught me that I didn't know half of what I thought I knew.

That (the craft fair) was two years ago and I have learned so much more about my craft and my recipe. I know that my recipe likes to hang out in the garage for at least 48 hours Then after it is cut, it likes to wait another day before it is beveled and planed. It much prefers an eight week cure and needs a good rub down the first time it is used. I started out cutting 1" bars, but now cut at 1 1/4" to account for shrinkage over a year's time since I don't want to hassle with reweighing, relabeling and repricing my bars. Not that I intend to keep soap in inventory that long, but selling bars that are less than the stated weight is a big no-no. I know how long my bars last...whether applied directly to the skin, using a standard cotton washcloth and with a fou-fou (one of those mesh thingies). I know the best temperature for my recipe to get the longest working time. I know the difference between false trace, emulsion and trace. I've learned to make test batches when trying a new additive, recipe, colorant or scent. I know about acceleration and ricing. I've learned when to use my Stick Blender and when to leaving it hanging on the wall. I've had soap shatter and I've had it turn into concrete and what to do when your soap 'plops'.

I am just now at the point where I feel that I am truly ready and able to start selling to the public. And I think that if you talk with other soap makers who are in the business of selling soap, they will tell you much of the same.

And if you think you are going to make a living selling artisan soap...having a shop, employees making soap while you sit on a beach somewhere. Odds are pretty low. A lot of artisan soap makers are part-timers...making soap in their kitchens, garage...even basements. The ones that make soap full-time, I only know a couple of long time soap makers who have shops, but they don't have employees. And a lot of them have spouses with jobs. And one that does have employees, doesn't have a shop...just a studio. Unless you have a good $10k or more to spend on marketing AND a really good marketing team (think Dr Squatch)...it'll take a good hard four to five years before you start working in the black.
 
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The Efficacious Gentleman

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I agree with the above (which will shock no one!) - you admit that the recipe you were using when you thought about selling was not great on the skin and now you know why. There is a lot to learn in making soap, and the difference is like someone who follows a recipe and can certainly cook a tasty meal doing it, verses someone who knows foods and flavours and can create something delicious. I wouldn't want to buy food from the first person, but rather the second one.
 

texaslather81

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Welcome

As someone who started selling soap six months after I started making it…don’t. Wait at least year…maybe even two years. Why? For the simple reason that you a wanting to customize your recipe and then plan to sell it in another month without knowing anything about it. And you need to know your soap! What is it like after a six week cure? Bubbles? Lather? Moisturizing? Cleansing? How long does it last if you shower every day, or every five days or three days a week? What is it like after three months, six months, nine months, a year? How much does your soap shrink during that time? What is the best temperature for your recipe? How much working time do you have? How is your batter at emulsion and trace?

I love Shea Butter. Drop your Coconut to 20% and add 5% Castor Oil.

Don’t think that I am trying to discourage you because I’m not. With almost 334 Million people in the US, there are plenty of customers to go around.

I have two bars of soap on my desk; one is left over from when I first started selling (local craft fair), the second is from a year later. Same recipe…no scent, no colorant…but there is an obvious difference between the soaps. The first one is nice, but the second one…it shines. It’s the difference between moonshine and Pendleton (whiskey).

ETA - I started making soap in June 2019. This was after months and months of research...articles, history, hundreds of hours of YouTube videos. When it came to make soap...I bought a kit from a well-known soap supplier. Made two batches and then started developing my own 'unique' recipe...which in all honesty...really isn't all that unique since so many other people use similar recipes but maybe slightly different amounts. And I experimented enough those first few months (had a lot of testers) that when the opportunity to sell my soap at a craft fair came up, I was pretty confident that I had a good quality soap. And while the craft fair was a positive experience and I did reasonably well, it taught me that I didn't know half of what I thought I knew.

That (the craft fair) was two years ago and I have learned so much more about my craft and my recipe. I know that my recipe likes to hang out in the garage for at least 48 hours Then after it is cut, it likes to wait another day before it is beveled and planed. It much prefers an eight week cure and needs a good rub down the first time it is used. I started out cutting 1" bars, but now cut at 1 1/4" to account for shrinkage over a year's time since I don't want to hassle with reweighing, relabeling and repricing my bars. Not that I intend to keep soap in inventory that long, but selling bars that are less than the stated weight is a big no-no. I know how long my bars last...whether applied directly to the skin, using a standard cotton washcloth and with a fou-fou (one of those mesh thingies). I know the best temperature for my recipe to get the longest working time. I know the difference between false trace, emulsion and trace. I've learned to make test batches when trying a new additive, recipe, colorant or scent. I know about acceleration and ricing. I've learned when to use my Stick Blender and when to leaving it hanging on the wall. I've had soap shatter and I've had it turn into concrete and what to do when your soap 'plops'.

I am just now at the point where I feel that I am truly ready and able to start selling to the public. And I think that if you talk with other soap makers who are in the business of selling soap, they will tell you much of the same.

And if you think you are going to make a living selling artisan soap...having a shop, employees making soap while you sit on a beach somewhere. Odds are pretty low. A lot of artisan soap makers are part-timers...making soap in their kitchens, garage...even basements. The ones that make soap full-time, I only know a couple of long time soap makers who have shops, but they don't have employees. And a lot of them have spouses with jobs. And one that does have employees, doesn't have a shop...just a studio. Unless you have a good $10k or more to spend on marketing AND a really good marketing team (think Dr Squatch)...it'll take a good hard four to five years before you start working in the black.
Thanks for taking time in putting the message together. Lots of great information. I think I made a good decision in becoming a member and can see how this will be helpful with my endeavors and hope to help others in the future. I agree with waiting a bit. The cure time is my biggest constraint right now. I feel that I have to build up my inventory for several months because of the curing time and then start marketing/selling. Is that pretty much what you suggest? I think my soap making skills are improving. I wanted to keep it simple. This is why I was trying to start with basic recipes but now want to add some value to the soap bars. I plan on starting a side hustle at first with a possibility of growing to full time business. We shall see.

Do you sell online or craft fairs/ brick n mortar only? I plan on doing online primarily with some fairs/shows sprinkled in.

Regarding the recipe. Does this one look good?

20% coconut
30% palm
10% shea butter
35% olive
5% Castor

Sorry for all of the questions. I could spend all day on this forum LOL

Thanks again for the help!
 

TheGecko

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It looks fine.

First…find your recipe. While you may develop other recipes down the road, start with the one that you will be your go-to. You’ll need some folks who will test your variations…make sure they can be honest with you. I used to provide little postcards that my testers could use to ‘rate’ my soaps and then mail them to me. I gave half bars, lightly colored, unscented, did not say what was in the soap. Asked them to use each bar for a week. And don’t forget to test your recipes yourself.

Second, what kind of soap do you want to make? I had an idea…then fell down the rabbit hole and have a rack on my garage wall filled with 1oz and 2oz bottles of FOs and we don’t talk about all the different shades of pink mica that I have. LOL And it’s easy…so many colorants and scents, designs and techniques, and molds…oh my! So…I have narrowed it down to about a dozen soaps that will be ’stock’ soaps, a half dozen ‘seasonal’ soaps and then maybe a half dozen of whatever I feel like making.

I’ve tried a lot of different designs and techniques, but they weren’t me or reflective of the ‘brand’ that I wanted to create. The earlier this summer I was making some soap…I was going to do a Drop Swirl where you pour some of you base color, then dropped in your accent color, then more base, the more accent then do sone swoopy thing on top except I really wasn’t paying attention and I poured all the base in at once and crap, grab the accent and pour from as high up as I can before I start to make a mess because I’m soaping warmer than usual and batter is thickening up and oh crap, oh crap, oh crap…spy a pack of chopsticks on the counter from dinner the night before and so some tunnel swirly thing and wiggle it back and forth across the top to tidy up the splatters. I was sure it was going to be a disaster, so it sat in the garage for several days and then I cut it and…OMG…it’s me! THIS IS MY SOAP! I can do this!

There is no easy answer to Inventory; like curing, it just takes time. I’ve run out of soap…kind, sort off. I’ve got lots of soap in the garage, but I have run out of a particular soap before. It’s part of the reason why I am in the process of investing in larger molds so I can make more of any soap at one time and will start using my software a lot more to track sales trends and inventory levels. My goal is to start with approximately one dozen bars of each ‘stock’ soap and then make another dozen of each every week for six weeks and then go from there.

I’m not a “market” person mainly because I work full-time. Weekends is when I make soap, do housework, run errands, and kick back and knit. I did enjoy the craft fair and would do it again as it’s just seasonal. I do have a wholesale account…I make Goat Milk Soap for that they sell under their brand. It’s a fairly laid back gig; it’s all made to order so I’m not have to stock anything. I make the soap, cut the soap, cure it for four weeks, wrap the loaves and ship. The customer unpacks it, puts it in her soap closet for another two weeks, packages it, labels it and sells it. I only make loaves, minimum of four loaves…just because of the time it takes to make my goat milk lye solution. I make one large batch, then divide for scent (no colorants) and pour. Easy peasy.

My website, which I am working on, is just a place to folks to order from. It’ll be nice, but I’m not forking out bucks for SEO.

Brick and mortar? I just turned 60 a couple of months ago; if I was in my 20s or 30s, it would definitely be a goal. It might have still be a goal even 20 years ago, but now? If I won the lottery, I would open a shop, but it would be more of a school which would then lead to setting up general facilities that would teach a wide range of old timey skills that have been forgotten.
 

texaslather81

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It looks fine.

First…find your recipe. While you may develop other recipes down the road, start with the one that you will be your go-to. You’ll need some folks who will test your variations…make sure they can be honest with you. I used to provide little postcards that my testers could use to ‘rate’ my soaps and then mail them to me. I gave half bars, lightly colored, unscented, did not say what was in the soap. Asked them to use each bar for a week. And don’t forget to test your recipes yourself.

Second, what kind of soap do you want to make? I had an idea…then fell down the rabbit hole and have a rack on my garage wall filled with 1oz and 2oz bottles of FOs and we don’t talk about all the different shades of pink mica that I have. LOL And it’s easy…so many colorants and scents, designs and techniques, and molds…oh my! So…I have narrowed it down to about a dozen soaps that will be ’stock’ soaps, a half dozen ‘seasonal’ soaps and then maybe a half dozen of whatever I feel like making.

I’ve tried a lot of different designs and techniques, but they weren’t me or reflective of the ‘brand’ that I wanted to create. The earlier this summer I was making some soap…I was going to do a Drop Swirl where you pour some of you base color, then dropped in your accent color, then more base, the more accent then do sone swoopy thing on top except I really wasn’t paying attention and I poured all the base in at once and crap, grab the accent and pour from as high up as I can before I start to make a mess because I’m soaping warmer than usual and batter is thickening up and oh crap, oh crap, oh crap…spy a pack of chopsticks on the counter from dinner the night before and so some tunnel swirly thing and wiggle it back and forth across the top to tidy up the splatters. I was sure it was going to be a disaster, so it sat in the garage for several days and then I cut it and…OMG…it’s me! THIS IS MY SOAP! I can do this!

There is no easy answer to Inventory; like curing, it just takes time. I’ve run out of soap…kind, sort off. I’ve got lots of soap in the garage, but I have run out of a particular soap before. It’s part of the reason why I am in the process of investing in larger molds so I can make more of any soap at one time and will start using my software a lot more to track sales trends and inventory levels. My goal is to start with approximately one dozen bars of each ‘stock’ soap and then make another dozen of each every week for six weeks and then go from there.

I’m not a “market” person mainly because I work full-time. Weekends is when I make soap, do housework, run errands, and kick back and knit. I did enjoy the craft fair and would do it again as it’s just seasonal. I do have a wholesale account…I make Goat Milk Soap for that they sell under their brand. It’s a fairly laid back gig; it’s all made to order so I’m not have to stock anything. I make the soap, cut the soap, cure it for four weeks, wrap the loaves and ship. The customer unpacks it, puts it in her soap closet for another two weeks, packages it, labels it and sells it. I only make loaves, minimum of four loaves…just because of the time it takes to make my goat milk lye solution. I make one large batch, then divide for scent (no colorants) and pour. Easy peasy.

My website, which I am working on, is just a place to folks to order from. It’ll be nice, but I’m not forking out bucks for SEO.

Brick and mortar? I just turned 60 a couple of months ago; if I was in my 20s or 30s, it would definitely be a goal. It might have still be a goal even 20 years ago, but now? If I won the lottery, I would open a shop, but it would be more of a school which would then lead to setting up general facilities that would teach a wide range of old timey skills that have been forgotten.
Thanks again for your time and the info. I think I'm on the right track. :)
 

Zing

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First, welcome!
As for your recipe, it is very close to my main recipe. When I first started soaping I used olive oil. I don't anymore, mainly because it takes longer to cure and I found substitute oils feeling better on my skin. Soap Queen/Bramble Berry has some great summaries of many oils and butters. Take good notes.

My wife likes soaps high in shea but the lather is too 'lotion-y' (my technical term) and I like bubbles. I'm a huge castor oil fan!
 

Dawni

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Thanks for the feedback. What do you use in lieu of Olive oil?
Me, Rice Bran Oil! For me personally, it's less drying, it's way cheaper, and it helps with hardness and longevity a bit too. It's one of my favourites oils actually.

If your sunflower is high oleic, you can halve your olive with that too if it costs less. I like how sunflower oil lathers.

Shea butter alone does not help longevity much, I agree but I've made soap without it and maybe it's my own experience, I quite like soap with it so that's something you'd need to know too before selling.

It's ok to think about the business side of things early if that's your goal but there's a lot of testing on your part alone, then comes the others testing, then comes the selling. Maybe figure out what your brand will be, then go in that direction - I decided no micas or FOs in mine for example (pain in the butt sometimes really lol but I enjoy it), so all my experimenting went that way. And that's just one part. Like knowing when and how much to make so you always have enough soap to sell is one part only. Then there's suppliers, labeling, packaging, permits, etc....

Enjoy the process first! Take down good notes. Get to know your soap. You'll need to be prepared for any question a customer might ask and you shouldn't answer with "I don't know yet." Find the middle ground of what you like and others seem to like. See what you're comfortable with doing over n over again.
 
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