Soft Oils for a hard bar?

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SirenSuds

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Hi all! First post (this time around...)

I have a recipe that I love, but it's almost all solid oils. I want to be able to pre-batch my oils and dispense them from a bucket (see picture!) But if they are solid this won't be possible.

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What soft oils are best for making a hard bar?

I know soapmaking is heavy on the chemistry, but I failed chemistry and yet... I still love soapmaking. Any chemistry minded people that can share some advice for me? Thanks!
 

ResolvableOwl

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Welcome to SMF @SirenSuds !

First, not being a chemistry genius doesn't mean to be a sub-average soapmaker. I know of at least one member of this forum who is very active, experienced and helpful, yet tells everyone of her bad high school chemistry grades 😜.

To your question: the choice of masterbatch composition depends on what you mean by “soft oils” and “hard bar”. Edge cases are notoriously difficult to classify, and the fact that they are often very interesting soapmaking oils doesn't help much.
  • “Bureaucratic” definitions are: “soft oil = oil low (<15%) in saturated fats”, and the “hardness number” of soap calculators (“hard” in the sense of “easy to unmould after a short time”) is the amount of saturated fatty acids. That sounds mutually exclusive, like as if you are asking for something outright impossible.
  • In a more technical sense, soft oils are those that are liquid at room temperature. A few oils have significantly more saturated fats than the threshold mentioned above (rice bran, cotton seed, neem, baobab). Independently, some oils fly “under the soapcalc hardness radar”, since they make hard bars with few saturated acids, they are low in poly-unsaturated FAs too (olive oil, HO sunflower, HO safflower). However, these tend to be not very “additive”, i. e. they'll work well on their own (castile soap), but doesn't necessarily carry over into mixed recipes.
  • In oil blends, liquid oils are able to hold a limited amount of semi-solid oils in solution (depending on composition and room temperature), technical term: freezing-point depression. You'll have to experiment with your special oils to which degree a blend keeps fully fluid without deposits (danger of tap clogging and inconsistent composition!), but then you could add some semi-hard oils into your blend. Interesting from a soapmaking perspective are rice bran oil, palm-olein (not straight palm oil itself!), maybe lard, fractionated shea oil, nilotica shea, peanut oil, cupuaçu butter.
  • If you happen to live in a more (sub)tropical than temperate climate and/or have a warm spot in the house and/or a heating mat, the horizon of hard oils extends substantially. Above some 24°C, you can include lauric oils in your mix (coconut, palm kernel, babaçu), that are popular in soapmaking anyway.
  • An important question is: Do you want to have an universal masterbatch, i. e. make soap from oils directly from the bucket, without other added fats? Or are you fine with a “base blend” which ends up semi-hard by its own, but you can easily boost hardness with the addition of a bit of tallow, palm stearin, shea/cocoa butter or soy wax? The latter case is much more flexible and easier in maintenance. You might put 46% HO sunflower, 46% rice bran and 8% castor, and then add 3 parts of this blend to 1 molten part of shea butter and coconut oil each.
  • Think about shelf life. If you expect to need more than a few days to go through such a bucket, add ROE to it.
Complementary to the oil recipe, there are some other ways to increase hardness of bars: salt, sodium lactate, rice. Consider them too if you want to minimise the amount of solid fats to be molten up.

However, my foremost advice is that, whatever you do, first test these options on a small scale, before you start with literally buckets of a masterbatch that you might end up being unhappy with. Unfortunately, that's a lengthy process, that isn't just finished after a month or two of curing time.
 

DeeAnna

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Probably the easiest way to end up with soap that's firm enough to unmold easily is to use a higher lye concentration -- in other words less water. This is not "water as % of oils" by the way -- I advise people to not ever use this setting for the most consistent results. For a recipe that is all liquid fats, I'd suggest trying a 40% lye concentration. If you prefer to use water:lye ratio, a 40% lye concentration translates to 1.5 water:lye ratio.

As far as your choices of liquid fats, I'd look at blends that are relatively high in oleic acid, low to moderate in lauric and myristic acids, and low in linoleic and linolenic acids.
 

SirenSuds

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To clarify, I meant oils that are liquid at room temperature. I use coconut oil, palm shortening, (sustainably harvested!) Shea butter, lard/tallow, and castor oil usually, in no specific order. One batch made with this blend is very hard after 6 weeks of curing.

I tried adding a liquid oil, but not knowing enough about chemistry I just picked one that was easily accessible: Corn oil. The batch I made with that blend was still almost as moldable as clay after 6 weeks.

I just need to know which liquid-at-room-temperature oil I need to add along with my usual mix to still get a hard bar.

@ResolvableOwl made some good points about solids suspending in a liquid oil. I also had not considered using a base, to which I would add my solids per batch.

Please recommend oils, not acid profiles... This is the stuff that throws me. I've heard the discussions about how acids effect the end results but it's beyond my comprehension. I just need to know which oils will do what I need lol.

Thank you both!
 

ResolvableOwl

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Corn oil is high in linoleic acid (poly-unsaturated fatty acids). As @DeeAnna has mentioned, the use of such oils is limited in soapmaking. A neat resource to find out which oils are, chemistry aside, popular for soapmaking (most often for good reasons, but with caveats) is the “Social Statistics” tab of Soapee Next sorted by the number of recipes. Top on the list are olive, almond, avocado.
 

The Efficacious Gentleman

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You might have to at least dip a toe (or maybe half a leg!) in to the world of acid profiles to get near to where you want. But that said, a recipe made of liquid oils only which yields a hard bar........what are you thinking of when you say "hard"? As I think DeeAnna mentioned, using less water can help with that unmoulding softness when using liquid oils. But I'm still not convinced that you'll get something really good without using at least some oils which are solid at room temperature
 

ResolvableOwl

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But I'm still not convinced that you'll get something really good without using at least some oils which are solid at room temperature
I second this in general. As “that one exception though”, Palmolein comes into my mind. Though cheap and a staple in many parts of the world, I wouldn't know how to obtain it here in B2C quantities.
 

lsg

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Olive oil will produce a hard bar with long curing (months).
 

TheGecko

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I have a recipe that I love, but it's almost all solid oils. I want to be able to pre-batch my oils and dispense them from a bucket (see picture!) But if they are solid this won't be possible.
You can make a soap with all soft oils, but then they are going to take a lot longer to fully cure. Castille Soap is made with 100% Olive Oil and needs a good year. Aleppo Soap is made with Olive and Laurel Berry and also takes a full year.

I Master Batch with 60% Hard Oils/Butters. Because of the 40% Soft Oils, the Hard Oils don't get solid...it's more like Cornbread Batter during the Winter and Pancake Batter during the Summer. I use a 5-gal bucket that I have on wheels. When I got to make soap, I use a commercial paint stirrer and give the mixture a good whiz and then scoop it out with a ladle. I have a spreadsheet that lists every mold and how much batter and Lye Solution (also MB'd) I need for each one. I simple tare out my bowl, then start ladling batter at approximately 3.5 oz a ladle full and then weigh and add more of less. Then pop the bowel in the microwave for approximately 15-20 seconds PPO and go from there.

If I wanted to use a spigot or a pump, then I would need a way to keep my batter fluid which would require a heat pad, either under the bucket or around the bucket. If I was making soap all the time, that would be something I might consider, but at the present time, scoop and heat works very well.
 

SirenSuds

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a recipe made of liquid oils only which yields a hard bar...
You can make a soap with all soft oils, but then they are going to take a lot longer to fully cure.
I am not looking for a recipe with only soft oils. I'm not sure where this got lost in translation but I'm sorry for the confusion. I assumed I could add one liquid oil to help "liquidize" the rest of the oils as @ResolvableOwl and @TheGecko mentioned. Just wanted advice on which liquid-at-room-temperature oil to add.

@ResolvableOwl's post regarding Soapee was a huge help. Having a table with the acid profiles of each oil is a lot easier to look at once I know what I'm looking for, thanks to @DeeAnna's very helpful information regarding which acid profiles I should use.

Thank you all for your input! I'll look into the resources you've given me and see what I can learn.
 

earlene

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Rather than re-formulating a bar that you really like, why not master batch into smaller containers (such as one-batch size containers) instead of big bucket with a spigot? Just curious why you don't try that instead?
 

KiwiMoose

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I am not looking for a recipe with only soft oils. I'm not sure where this got lost in translation but I'm sorry for the confusion. I assumed I could add one liquid oil to help "liquidize" the rest of the oils as @ResolvableOwl and @TheGecko mentioned. Just wanted advice on which liquid-at-room-temperature oil to add.

@ResolvableOwl's post regarding Soapee was a huge help. Having a table with the acid profiles of each oil is a lot easier to look at once I know what I'm looking for, thanks to @DeeAnna's very helpful information regarding which acid profiles I should use.

Thank you all for your input! I'll look into the resources you've given me and see what I can learn.
Yes - that's what i took from your post. So add 20% OO and 20% Rice Bran (not sure what you would want to take off to compensate though - that's up to you).
 

Zany_in_CO

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I want to be able to pre-batch my oils and dispense them from a bucket (see picture!) But if they are solid this won't be possible.
As @earlene said, the problem is not about chemistry or what oils to use, the problem is the spigot on the bucket. I make lotion and I doubt that spigot would dispense anything other than water-thin lotion or liquid soap. So. Save it for your future journey into liquid soap making and do what I do. I melt my oils stovetop in a stainless steel pot. Then pour the ounces I need into 4 individual buckets, ready to go when I'm ready to soap. ;) :thumbup:

Here is a good recipe for trying different soft oils and tweaking to your heart's delight to find a combo that suits you and your friends and family.

Basic Trinity of Oils

HAPPY SOAPING!
 

earlene

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To clarify, I meant oils that are liquid at room temperature. I use coconut oil, palm shortening, (sustainably harvested!) Shea butter, lard/tallow, and castor oil usually, in no specific order. One batch made with this blend is very hard after 6 weeks of curing.

I tried adding a liquid oil, but not knowing enough about chemistry I just picked one that was easily accessible: Corn oil. The batch I made with that blend was still almost as moldable as clay after 6 weeks.

I just need to know which liquid-at-room-temperature oil I need to add along with my usual mix to still get a hard bar.

@ResolvableOwl made some good points about solids suspending in a liquid oil. I also had not considered using a base, to which I would add my solids per batch.

Please recommend oils, not acid profiles... This is the stuff that throws me. I've heard the discussions about how acids effect the end results but it's beyond my comprehension. I just need to know which oils will do what I need lol.

Thank you both!
I am not looking for a recipe with only soft oils. I'm not sure where this got lost in translation but I'm sorry for the confusion. I assumed I could add one liquid oil to help "liquidize" the rest of the oils as @ResolvableOwl and @TheGecko mentioned. Just wanted advice on which liquid-at-room-temperature oil to add.

@ResolvableOwl's post regarding Soapee was a huge help. Having a table with the acid profiles of each oil is a lot easier to look at once I know what I'm looking for, thanks to @DeeAnna's very helpful information regarding which acid profiles I should use.

Thank you all for your input! I'll look into the resources you've given me and see what I can learn.
You must live in a pretty hot climate year round if your CO and PO (shortening), Lard, Shea and Tallow are soft much of the time!

I do get that you called them 'soft', well at least conceptually. When I was new to soaping, I also thought of oils as Hard, Soft, and Liquid, based on my experience in my house in the summertime, where softer Hard Oils soften and melt, as well as my experience using what we would call softer oils for baking. But that term 'Soft' oils is not really a thing (not used) and is interpreted by the soap making community as 'Liquid' oils, so I stopped using it, both in practice as well as in thinking (as it pertains to soapmaking.) It was just easier to conform to the general rule than to have to explain my thinking.

The one I cannot get a handle on is what the 'generally accepted rule' is for Room Temperature, because in my experience, there really cannot be a global general rule for RT. Room Temperature is whatever the room's temperature happens to be, and that varies, not only seasonally, but globally. In my experience, room temperature can run the gamut from the 50's to the 100's and often below that range in given circumstances.
 

SirenSuds

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I have a recipe that I love, but it's almost all solid oils.
I use coconut oil, palm shortening, (sustainably harvested!) Shea butter, lard/tallow, and castor oil usually.
I just need to know which liquid-at-room-temperature oil I need to add along with my usual mix to still get a hard bar
In regards to the difference between "soft" and "liquid," I did research the forums before posting and came across a number of posts where people corrected the usage of "liquid" oils to the term "soft" oils to clarify what they meant. Any oil can be liquid if you get it hot enough, but there is a difference between soft oils and hard oils. Even palm shortening, which is almost as soft as butter at ambient temperature, is considered a hard oil. Hence the designations "soft" and "hard" rather than liquid or solid. Apparently that's still confusing to many.
 

Arimara

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In regards to the difference between "soft" and "liquid," I did research the forums before posting and came across a number of posts where people corrected the usage of "liquid" oils to the term "soft" oils to clarify what they meant. Any oil can be liquid if you get it hot enough, but there is a difference between soft oils and hard oils. Even palm shortening, which is almost as soft as butter at ambient temperature, is considered a hard oil. Hence the designations "soft" and "hard" rather than liquid or solid. Apparently that's still confusing to many.
Has anyone shared THIS with you?
 

earlene

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A liquid oil that makes a hard bar: Olive Oil. The lye calculators don't reflect how hard a bar of 100% olive oil soap makes, but it is a very hard bar of soap. So you can add it to your hard oils (soft, too).

Also, add any Liquid Oil that has a higher Palmitic or Stearic Acid content as per this list.
Sort by the Fatty Acid to get them in descending order, like this:

1623513888408.png1623513977858.png

NB. Lauric adds hardness as well, but also makes for a harsher (cleansing) bar, and soaps high in Lauric melt away faster in use.
 

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