'liquid' palm ...seriously?

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Well-Known Member
Jul 2, 2008
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somewhere north of Eden
I have never received palm oil in a liquid state before ... I don't use alot of it so haven't ordered it in a while ...I just received my recent order from WSSP ...it was in liquid form ...I emailed them & they told me palm is always liquid ...um, what? When did this happen - is this something new? Does it still contirbute to hardness? Has any of it's attributes changed? I'm baffeld ...I never heard this before - any palm I ever used was solid at room temp ... :shock:
Hmmmmmmmm.........I can see it being liquid if it was really hot, but always liquid? Interesting.

mine, when I received it, was melted all the way thru not like oil liquid but kind of the thick almost solid soft mushy stuff that settles on the top of the fry pan (i guess room temp bacon grease). I stirred the whole bucket just in case and it seems fine. This is the first (bucket) time I have used palm oil. (still new to soaping and only used shortening or lard)
I've made a few batches and they seem fine.
At last my organic chem classes are useful

I am new to the forum and I am not sure what WSSB is. If it is an oil supplier, could you give me the expanded name as I would like to find a cheaper source for coconut oils.

As far as the question as to why your palm oil is liquid versus a solid has to do with its fatty acid profile. I have bought Indonesian palm oil that was a semi-solid as was mentioned by spots71 in the thread. I have also used a hydrogenated palm oil shortening which was solid at room temp.

Palm oil is not a pure chemical, it is a mixture of different tri (and di and mono)glycerides which are composed of fatty acids.with palmitic and oleic acids being the largest amounts by percentage. Palmitic acid has a melting point of approx 64 deg C (147 deg F). Oleic acid has a MP of 14 deg C (57 deg F). The melting point of the palm oil you received is determined by the proportions of the fatty acids that make up the mixture, the length of the FA carbon chains and whether they are saturated or not. Unsaturated fatty acids have lower MP than saturated FA.

Palmitic acid is a saturated fat while oleic acid is a mono-unsaturated fat. So I can speculate that the palm oil you received has a higher percentage of oleic acid, enough to lower the MP to below room temp.

When veggie oils are made, it's not just some guy in a Sinchan t-shirt smoking a cig, running a cold-press. A series of complex steps refines the oil into the product you get. A very precise process called fractionation separates out fatty acids according to carbon chain lengths and the manufacturer can control the purity and types of fatty acids that go into the mix according what the product is being used for. There is a demand for unsaturated cooking oil these days and I can also speculate that your palm oil was highly refined according to that profile. My Indonesian palm oil was not as refined as it probably contained more palmitic acid.

Wait.....wait......waaaiiiiittt! Come back....we're finally getting to the good part! There will be no livin' with ya once you get going here, ya big soap nerd! Um...I mean Soap Wizard!

This then begs a question...if palm oil (and by extension other oils) is a mix of triglycerides made up of a mix of fatty acids, how does that mix affect my soap?

Well, saturated fatty acids make a harder bar while unsaturated FA's tend to make a softer bar. Easy, right? That's partly why lard, which is composed of a mix of more highly saturated fatty acids makes a hard bar while olive oil makes a softer bar.

Because each oil is a mix of fatty acids, it gets complicated trying to determine the effects a particular oil has on a soap product.

Fer instance, we know that coconut oil has good cleansing and lather properties...and looking at it's fatty acid profile on soapcalc shows that it has a large amount of lauric acid, which is a short chain saturated FA. The shorter the chain the more the polar carboxyl end of the FA dominates increasing the solubility of the soap in water, producing a fast foaming, large bubbly lather.

The longer the nonpolar carbon chain is the more it dominates and tends to get absorbed into the skin (cell membranes are lipid bilayers...remember that from high school?) so they are less soluble in water but they also don't strip the oil from your skin as quickly. Lard is a mix of oleic, palmitic and stearic acids which are 18 and 16 carbon chain FAs so they are less soluble in water, producing a small-bubbled stable lather. However, oleic acid is unsaturated which increases lard's relative solubility so it does still produce lather. Pure stearic acid is used to make crayons and would probably produce a very hard soap bar with almost no lather.

See how cool this is? By varying the oils you use according to their FA carbon chain length and saturation, you make soaps that are silky, or bubbly or strong or conditioning or hard or soft and be able to do it consistently. This provides a person with great soap bases upon which to explore the art and magic of soap crafting.

I realize this was a rather long explanation but I am learning to enjoy the technical aspects of soapmaking as much as I enjoy getting the color swirls to come out right. If I can get a handle now on mixing up foo-foo (EO/FO), I'll be set. :D
Is class out yet? :lol:

Thank you Calfax, that was very informative. Understanding a bit about the chemistry of oils certainly helps to formulate depending on the final goal of the soap, cream, lotion, and such.

As far as a cheaper supply for coconut oil, it depends on the amount you use and your location (shipping vs pick up). If you just want oils, quite a few folks use http://www.soaperschoice.com/ For more of a variety, WSP - Wholesale Supply Plus http://www.wholesalesuppliesplus.com/ There are several others, check the Shopping Recommendations forum from the index page.

Re: At last my organic chem classes are useful

calfax said:
... Unsaturated fatty acids have lower MP than saturated FA.

This then begs a question...if palm oil (and by extension other oils) is a mix of triglycerides made up of a mix of fatty acids, how does that mix affect my soap?

Well, saturated fatty acids make a harder bar while unsaturated FA's tend to make a softer bar. Easy, right? That's partly why lard, which is composed of a mix of more highly saturated fatty acids makes a hard bar while olive oil makes a softer bar...

exactly ...so, how does this affect my formula?? The whole purpose I use palm ina particular formula is to add hardness, speed up my trace & set up the soap fatser ...very important for my layering formula ...so, I'm thinking this oil won't do that for me... if this oil is unsaturated more than saturated ...I wish the supplier would disclose this information becaue personally, I expect palm to be solid/semi solid at room temp & there for saturated/hydrogenated ... ( this was Wholesale Supplies Plus BTW ...I always thought they were WSSP but I guess it's WSP ...makes sense) ...so what do you all think about using this palm for my intended purpose??
i'd say go for it!!! if in doubt make a smaller batch of your recipe and see if works well. IMO I would use scent in case its a ugly mess (but only cuz I'm cheep and I would be afraid of wasting good scents)-lol
Could be.....yep, cold fusion.

Thank you very much for the supplier names, Digit. That's what I was looking for.

Eden, I looked on the WSP website and the palm oil that they sell is a mixture of palm kernel oil and palm oil. Palm kernel oil has a similar FA profile as coconut oil. I called and asked the customer rep if she had the fatty acid profile for their brand of palm oil. She did not but stated that she'd try to get that information.

Without knowing the fatty acid mixture, it's speculation on my part to say what the effect on your soap may be. So you might want to treat what I say with the same skepticism people reserve for Fox News :shock:

WSP posts the SAP value of 190 - 205. A brief trip around Google goves SAP values for palm oil at about that range too. So we can infer that it's an average molecular weight palm oil. If we had the Iodine # we could also make an educated guess at it's saturated oil content too.

However, we can infer from the fact that your soap is a liquid (below 76 degree F) that it is high in oleic acid and low in palmitic and lauric acids which have much higher melting points. We also know that oleic acid is a monounsaturated 18 carbon fatty acid. It's length is going to make it act more non-polar and therefore less soluble in water but because it's unsaturated, it's much more soluble than a saturated 18 carbon FA like stearic acid (crayons).

So we can speculate that this palm oil would contribute less to hardness than one with more saturated palmitic acid. It would also be lathery owing to it's solubility and stable owing to the chain length. So you'd get a moderate amount of lather I guess. As far as trace time and setup time go.....I don't know if SAP values correlate with trace times and setup times.

A practical suggestion would be to subdivide your batch by the number of layers and react each layer separately but that could be impractical if you are making 10 layers of soap. You could also add a small amount of an oil higher in saturated fat which would help increase hardness.

I use a hydrogenated palm oil vegetable shortening (HEB Grocery's Vegetable Shortening) which contains 50% saturated fats and works ok.

Without knowing the fatty acid profile of this palm oil, it's impossible to predict how it will affect your soap with any certainty. Besides, it wouldn't be any fun if you knew exactly what was going to happen. Too much like work!
When it is really hot my palm stays liquid, when it gets cold it solidifies. Pop your palm oil in the fridge and see if it solidifies. If not then it might be fractionated palm, although I think they would label it accordingly. I have used their palm without a problem. I do not think WSP would sell palm oil as anything other than palm oil and I would guess that it will perform as it should in your recipe
I actually did refridgerate it ...still liquid ...the pic on their site depicts a chunk of solid mass ...so I would think that is what I would get ...yes, I think you are correct in saying it is probably fractionated, but they will not say so ...in fact, they told me that palm is always liquid, never solid ...making me think I'm nuts. I suppose I will use it & see how it performs ...it just ticks me off the more I think about it, becaue this sets my projects back ...I will try this oil but not in my usual formula ...I'll test batch it first - but the whole idea was to get this ball rollin' ...ARG! :?

Calfax - thanks for all your info! I appreciate the time you put into it! You're all great!
You could tell then that you know that palm is not always liquid, you have been using it before and know it is supposed to solidify. You think they may have sent you something else by mistake.
The Palm Oil I purchased from Bramble Berry is almost like a liquid - kinda like the consistency of mayonnaise.
My last 50lb bucket of organic palm from Columbus Foods was liquid. It was almost 90 degrees when it was delivered, so that probably didn't help it stay hard. I mixed about 10lbs of it into my basic brew for RTCP and it's been fine. I checked what is left in the bucket and its still runny. Oh well, whatever works.

Have you tried to use the oil yet? Maybe try a small 1 lb batch and see what happens?
I' do a small test batch w/it Sun or Mon ( next days off) ...it did finally semi-solidify after 48 hours of refigeration ...seems to be holding that state now ...I guess that is just the nature of it maybe - it'll probably be fine - I just never noticed or heard of this before in all my 8 years of soaping ...

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