Should refined palm oil be odorless? Is mine rancid or not?

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Well-Known Member
Feb 13, 2017
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Hi folks!

I have not made soaps in 100 years. But I will make soap on wednesday. And my plan is to make 3 loaves at a time. Because now, I am out of handmade soap, and that is an emergency! So I have to do something about it.

But, I have some old oils. My shea is out of date, but it smells 100% of nothing, and looks perfect, crisp white.
My palm oil have a best before date of march 2021 (and it have not been stored in a dark and cold place, stupid me). I don't know how refined palm oil is supposed to look and smell like, since it is not available in my country. Mine is white, but sort of off-white-ish. And it have a slight grassy smell. Maybe a little earthy. Like linen seeds, perhaps. Maybe a little like make-up. I tried to oil my hands with it, to get a better idea of the smell. It is not bad smell, just a faint smell of some earthy grassyness-ish. Is that rancid, on the edge, or is it natural for palm oil?

So, my question is: What is refined palm oil supposed to smell like? Should it be 100% odorless or not? I know that red palm oil has a strong odor of used motor oil and what not. But the refined white one, I have no idea since I have never ever seen palm oil before. I can only guess that the pungent smell of the crude one can be hard to get rid of.

And second: Can I use it to make soap? Is it a good idea, or should I just throw it away?

My worries are that I searched this forum and read something DeeAnna wrote about some free fatty acids that can form in old oils, which can make your soap trace faster. That would not be a big problem normally, but since I am planning to make a big batch to emulsion, using the heat transfer method to melt my hard oils, dividing it up in three parts and make one soap at a time, the batch will sit around for some time and I don't fancy soap on a stick. I have used stearic acid in soap before, and that was not very funny (became an emergency hot process in the microwave).

I think the shea butter is fine, and it is not as old as the palm oil, so I will use that anyway. Shea can, as I understand, also speed up trace because of those free fatty acids naturally in shea butter, and it probably doesn't help that my shea is out of date. But I will anyway use it. I want shea in my soap, regardless.

But the palm oil, well, I don't know. I have brand new lard, coconut and olive oil + that old shea, so it is not a disaster if the palm have to go. It will be a great soap anyway. But nothing is better if it is still good to use after all those years.
Hi Rune. I hope someone else sees this and can give you better advice than me since I don’t use palm oil very often. I am not sure how old the palm I have is, but I order a couple of gallon buckets when I do buy it, and store the extra one in my freezer. I noticed it in there last spring and pulled it out to use. About a month later I had an injury and couldn’t make soap until October. So the palm I have is six months out of the freezer and possibly Over a year old from time of purchase. I want to use it up and have made a couple of batches with it and had no noticeable issues. My palm has an odor, but it’s not unpleasant.

I guess you will have to decide if you want to discard the palm, or give it a try and take the chance that the soap might develop DOS at some point. I would be inclined to try a small batch.
Thank you @dibbles and @AliOop :thumbs:
I made soap, and did not use the palm oil, just because I did not take the chance on destroying the whole double batch.
My palm has an odor, but it’s not unpleasant.
Yes, exactly how mine is. And you made soap with yours and it worked fine. So I will do it too. Thank you for great advice.:)

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