Single Oil Soap Test - 23 Bars, 19 Oils

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Oct 12, 2023
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Rural, Texas
I made a bunch of different single bar soap batches this weekend and thought I would share my observations. I'll share the oils I used, the recipe, and my thoughts/notes/screwups for all to see.

For all recipes
  1. Saponifcation values I used Scientific Soapmaking (Dunn) and where he didn't have a value. Mostly everything was in 12-14g NaOH per 100g Oil range.
  2. I used a premixed 50% NaOH solution prepared ahead of time. So if you see 30.00g 50% NaOH solution recorded, that means 15g DI water and 15g NaOH (99% pure). The way i prepared it, I was accurate to within 49.98-50.02%.
  3. I used a Roaster Oven at 135-145F, measured using K-type probe in air (drilled hole in the oven lid). This is was used to preheat oils, premixed lye solution, and water. It was also used to bake CP soap for 4 hours (more info in #5).
  4. I mixed soap by shaking it in 500mL polypropylene bottles. First oil, then water, then lye. Dunn recommended this way in Scientific Soapmaking. Besides cleaning the bottles (soak in hot water, bottle brush + soap, isopropyl spray rinse), I liked it. Others recommended packing pillows as a liner, which I've yet to try.
    1. Oil: Approx 90-100.00g dumped into mixing bottle. Then used pipet to transfer remainder to get 100.00+-0.05g.
    2. Water: If needed, used pipet to transfer. Swirl to mix a little bit.
    3. 50% NaOH Solution: small pour, then pipet. Quickly cap and start shaking for 20-60s.
  5. Poured soap into molds that were then placed in the roaster oven for 4 hours (on top of a grate with handles). This is supposed to simulate heat you'd get from larger molds + thicker wall insulation. Its 40-60F outside when I'm doing this.
  6. I will be taking weights weekly for 8 weeks / until weights start to level off.

Jan 4

OilOil Weight (g)50% NaOH Solution (g)Water (g)Pour Temp
Coconut Oil, 76 deg99.96g35.15g17.52g100.2 F

It was a little hard to tell when it reached trace, since it was still pretty liquid. Looking forward to seeing coconutty lather abilities.

Jan 5
OilOil Weight (g)50% NaOH Solution (g)Water (g)Pour Temp
Avocado100.0025.190107.2 F
Extra Virgin Olive100.0126.150101.1 F
Palm #199.9626.9913.53115.3 F
Palm #2100.0629.75 (!)13.55123 F
Castor #199.9725.080116.9 F
Castor #2100.0325.000127 F

Palm #1 - went past trace. Shook for 55 seconds and didn't pour well. Did a redo with Palm #2.
Castor #1 - I was surprised this one didn't fill up the 100mL mold, so I made another batch since I had the space.

Jan 6
OilOil Weight (g)50% NaOH Solution (g)Water (g)Pour Temp
Sunflower100.1326.810123.9 F
Corn100.0426.640115.7 F
Roasted Walnut100.0426.820117.5 F
Palm100.0027.0213.53129.5 F
Tallow100.0227.020119.8 F
Duck fat100.0327.390115.8 F
High Oleic Safflower100.0427.67 (!)0104.0 F
BrambleBerry Pure Olive100.0627.54 (!)0100.5 F

1/6 HO Safflower and BB Pure Olive Oil I messed up with too much lye. I will need to redo that.
1/9 morning: the wind blew my mold off after I left it on the table outside overnight (sad)
1/9 Unmold, engrave and weigh
  • Corn was surprisingly soft to engrave
  • Sunflower pretty hard, engraved similar to avocado and olive
  • Walnut quite soft
  • Palm bulging out mold slightly. Bubbles/pockets
  • Tallow: rough sides
  • Duck fat: Had all kinds of problems. Very slow to harden. There was a layer of liquid (1/4" or so) on top that disappeared overnight. Weirdly, there was a hard layer on the bottom. It's very greasy/fatty to pick up on the top side. I want to remake this, I am thinking I will up the alkali ratio from 13.7 -> 14.3 and shake it for longer. And will dry in a more protected place.
  • HO Safflower: Looks kinda similar to sunflower. I wonder how their acid profiles compare.

Jan 7
OilOil Weight (g)50% NaOH Solution (g)Water (g)Pour Temp
High Oleic Safflower100.0427.150126.5 F
Grapeseed100.0126.720134.9 F
Sesame (unrefined)100.0126.610112.6 F
Canola99.9926.550107.2 F
Liquid Coconut Oil 90% MCTs100.0446.30 (!?)23.14 (?)129.3 F
Argan Oil, Virgin100.0527.200108.8 F
Almond Oil, Naturally refined100.0627.720NA
Vegetable (Soybean)100.0426.77099.1
1/7 I spilled the mold when I vigorously cleaned the table after pouring everything. Oops.
1/9 It looks like the mold blew over yesterday / last night. Most of the soap remained but it is not pretty on the top side.
1/9 Unmold, engrave, and weigh
  • HO Safflower: Very hard to engrave
  • Grapeseed: Very fatty, soft to engrave
  • Sesame: Harder than grapeseed to engrave, but not by much
  • Canoa: Sorta soft
  • Liquid Coconut: Crystalline on top. Very hard. Possibly way too much lye? Pocketed bubbles on bottom and sides
  • Argan: Nice hardness and smoothness. Good color. No wonder it is so expensive.
  • Almond: Also nice white, solid, hard, uniform
  • Soybean: Soft/mushy
Picture Legend

Left Column (Jan 4 and Jan 5)
  • Castor #1, Castor #2
  • Palm #1, Palm #2
  • Extra Virgin Olive, leftover
  • Avocado, leftover
  • Coconut, leftover
Middle Column (Jan 6)
  • Sunflower, Tallow
  • Corn, Duck fat
  • Roasted Walnut, High Oleic Safflower
  • Palm, Olive Oil

Right Column (Jan 7)
  • High Oleic Safflower, Liquid Coconut
  • Grapeseed, Argan
  • Sesame, Almond
  • Canola, Soybean

I'll let them cure for 8 weeks and will let y'all know how it goes! Any other oils or blend suggestions for future rounds welcome :)


  • single oil soap batches jan 4 - jan 7 2024.jpeg
    single oil soap batches jan 4 - jan 7 2024.jpeg
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Last edited:
Wow, impressive @BodyWasher !

To answer your query about what else to try, we need to know what is your ultimate goal?
* See how each single oil soap is different?
* Find a single oil soap you like and primarily make single oil soaps?
* Something else?

I have not read Dunn's book, so not sure of the primary purpose of this exercise. I do know that most of us use a blend of oils to make soap, since different oils turn into different acids, when combined with the water/lye mixture, that then contribute their own attributes to the soap.

A soap calculator helps to see what acids are created and the primary attributes each contributes to the soap. If it was me, that would be my next step. Using a soap calculator, input different percentages of 3-4 oils to see how the attributes change, choose several to try, sticking with your 100 g total for each batch. So for example 5% Castor, 20% Coconut, 30% Palm, 45% Olive. Most soap calculators don't have tutorials, but you can query soap calculators and find some information and some have little "?" on the box yielding a description of what information goes into the box.

Your work is very impressive and you've kept great notes. This will stand you in good stead when you start testing your cured bars!
Keep us updated, you've got a great start to your soap making journey!
Thanks for the praise @Nona'sFarm!

My goal here is to understand the properties of each oil to have a baseline for blends and get a "feel" for each oil. My ultimate goal is to sell some awesome natural bar soap and body wash online, at farmer's markets, and to local stores.

Last year and a little bit of 2022, I tried a bunch of recipes and made a bunch of tweaks at once based on my (very limited) intuition, so it was hard to get an understanding of what was going on. I would fail and not know why, I would succeed and also not really know why. I would also do a loaf at a time, and that was expensive + time consuming! When I changed a bunch of things at once, it was hard to know what actually made the difference. I also didn't take notes back then (boo).

Next, I'm going to make some blends, see what I like. After I get something cured that I like, I'll do more rounds with essential oils for fragrance, and then scale this thing up (easier said than done) and starting selling! (also a lot easier said than done)

My hunch is 50/50 olive/coconut will be good, maybe with 5-10% luxury oils (castor, argan, jojoba, ...) and a healthy superfat, some ROE, and essential oils for fragrance. Reproducibility is important. Tall order lol. There's just so many variations to try!!!

Other experiments I'm thinking about
  1. The same thing, but with a bunch of blends.
  2. Fragrances, of course! Tea tree & eucalyptus, peppermint, "woody" essential oils, ...
  3. Some "broken" soaps (way too little and way too much lye).
  4. Compare Rosemary extract (ROE) vs Tetrasodium EDTA for DOS prevention.
  5. Superfat
  6. Lye:water ratio
  7. Sugar/salt. Including honey from my bees!
  8. Determining saponification values by myself
  9. And then do this all over with liquid soaps, and then probably again with acidic surfactants 🙃
  10. Using my gray water from my shower to water some planters (botanical cells, earthship style)
Got it!

If this was me, while waiting for the 100% oil soaps to cure. I would make a few test bars with blends of oils. For now I would use a soap calculator. It is a little faster than creating your own saponification chart and will save you a little time for now. Try your olive/coconut oil soap, maybe the trinity oil soap (33% palm, 33% coconut, 34% olive), maybe the blend I mention above (5% Castor, 20% Coconut, 30% Palm, 45% Olive), maybe a soap with soy wax if you can find it (5% Castor, 10% GW415 Soy Wax, 20% Sunflower, 20% Coconut, 45% Olive). Except for the olive/coconut oil soap, I would use a 5% SF.
Up to you. I just figure that will give you a jump start on a few oil blends.
Great experiment! I did a similar thing a while back, so here’s a little advice:

Have some soaps that you keep aside (or cut the bars) so you can keep track of how well they age at least 1 year.

When testing the washing, try both with clean hands and hands that you’ve gotten dirty some how (I used rancid oil); the effects will differ.

Test how quickly they dissolve in a little pool of water, and then how quickly they dry; this is a rough indicator of how long lasting they are.

After my single oils, I went right back to blends, but I did feel I got to know each oil a little better 😌.

Also, don’t expect much from fancy oils; they don’t tend to have large effects in soap. See this thread:

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