Questions About Oils: smell, color, shelf life

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I’d like to start a practical discussion about what certain oils that are common to soapers (on this forum atleast), but not common to all kitchens, should smell or look like so we can judge the quality of things we’re using but aren’t familiar with. I hope this isn’t too vague a topic to start a thread about.

Castor oil: Mine has a medium-light yellow/green color, but I’ve seen reddish orange, and completely clear castor oil for sale too. The refined stuff atleast doesn’t smell like much of anything to me. Has anyone actually come across rancid castor oil? I googled “castor oil shelf life” with a bunch of sites saying 1-2 years, but I’ve had a small bottle in the cupboard from 5-10 years that looks and smells the same as ever. Anyone ever try mixing rosemary extract/oleoresin in it?

Shea butter: refined vs unrefined are like two different things. I have a tiny jar that says refined through refining earth that has dry/waxy texture with a warm greyish color and a mild scent, not particularly good or bad. Another jar of unrefined shea butter is a grainy, oily, bright yellow with a sharp, fruity/tart scent that I can’t really decide if it’s offputting for soap or not. I don’t mind it but I like all sorts of things 🤷‍♀️. Anyone have experience tempering grainy butters to make lotion bars? Do you need to temper it to prevent graininess in cold process soap?

I’ll edit this a bit later with some photos :).
 
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earlene

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I’d like to start a practical discussion about what certain oils that are common to soapers (on this forum atleast), but not common to all kitchens, should smell or look like so we can judge the quality of things we’re using but aren’t familiar with. I hope this isn’t too vague a topic to start a thread about.

Castor oil: Mine has a medium-light yellow/green color, but I’ve seen reddish orange, and completely clear castor oil for sale too. The refined stuff atleast doesn’t smell like much of anything to me. Has anyone actually come across rancid castor oil? I googled “castor oil shelf life” with a bunch of sites saying 1-2 years, but I’ve had a small bottle in the cupboard from 5-10 years that looks and smells the same as ever. Anyone ever try mixing rosemary extract/oleoresin in it?


I did have a very old bottle (2 ounce bottle from the pharmacy) that was rancid & of course I tossed it. It was probably extremely old and moved from one home to another after, being stored in two different bathrooms and possibly for a stint in a storage unit that was not necessarily temperature controlled. Storage methods do matter, as does length of storage. It was gummy around the edges of the bottle and smelled rancid.

Red turkey oil is Castor oil treated via a sulfonation process (which includes sulfuric acid, EDTA & lye, etc.) and it is reddish orange, but it is not the same as regular castor oil. Here is a little more about this form of castor oil, called Red Turkey Oil. Some sources list the SAP value at 0 (Zero), although I have seen it listed the same as regular castor oil, so it may depend on if the resulting oil was tested or perhaps the process itself varies.

And no, I have not actually added ROE (Rosemary oleoresin extract) to my castor oil. I don't always use castor oil in soap. Because it is used at such a low percentage, I don't buy large quantities. If I don't happen to have any on hand, I simply alter the formula.

Smell is another story. Depending on one's sense of smell, what one person may smell may not be what I smell when it comes to a particular oil, so I tend not to actually mention that kind of thing very often, except to say that some smells are far more apparent to me than they are to others.
 

TheGecko

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I’d like to start a practical discussion about what certain oils that are common to soapers (on this forum atleast), but not common to all kitchens, should smell or look like so we can judge the quality of things we’re using but aren’t familiar with. I hope this isn’t too vague a topic to start a thread about.
Problem is, oils and butters are going to vary a bit from country to country and from origin to origin.

And then there is oils/butters we use for soaping vs oils we might find in our kitchen. Prior to getting into soap making, the only two "oils" in my kitchen were Olive and Vegetable oil...and some butter-flavored Crisco Shortening for baking.

Then there is the whole 'smell' business. As noted by @earlene, some folks have a very sensitive sense of smell and others do not.

And shelf life...while there are 'rules of thumb', a lot is going to depend on where your bought the oils, when your supplier bought the oils, how your store your oils, etc. Take Palm Oil...it's supposed to have a shelf life of one year; I had mine for two years and didn't have any issues with it. It was a 35lb bucket that I melted down, stirred well, filled 1 gal freezer bags 3/4s full, bags back in the bucket with the lid on and kept in the garage next to the wall. I have a bottle of Grapeseed Oil that is a good two years old that's been in the back of the frig on the bottle shelf and it's fine. Heck, I even have a tub of salt scrub that I bought a good 15 years ago that has different kinds of oils that has been in the frig and I still use it.
 

DeeAnna

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Another thing about the smell is residues around the cap can become rancid, even though the bulk oil in the container might not smell rancid. So if you take a whiff of an oil in its container and smell rancidity, pour a little into a clean dish and smell that oil as a double check.

I was baking carrot cake this past weekend and the recipe calls for a mild oil. I was intending to use oil from a partly full bottle of canola oil that was several months old, but I realized the oil smelled slightly rancid in its bottle. I could tell there was some dried oil around the cap, however, so I poured a little bit in a clean dish. Unfortunately the oil in the dish also smelled "off" so it wasn't suitable for use in food. I opened a new container of oil to use in my recipe and discarded the old.
 
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