The elusive fatty acid.

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Well-Known Member
Sep 5, 2015
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Los Angeles, CA
Today I made an extra bit of cash and decided to treat myself to Bulk Apothecary! Staring at the list of bulk oils and wondering what to get, one thing lend to another and... well, I ended up with a worksheet of different oils and their fatty acid profiles in a feeble attempt to understand what I'm buying...

I'm still as confused as I was before, but here are some hypotheses. Would love feedback from soapers to see if it matches with your experience.

1. Harder soap is made with a higher % of saturated fat (and/or trans fat)?

Here are some oils with % saturated fat given.
(hardest -> softest)
coconut 93
beef tallow 59
lard 44
rice bran 26
olive 17
avocado 14
sweet almond 9
meadowfoam 0

2. Shorter chains make more bubbles?

Here are the oils with average chain length given (in # of C atoms).
(most bubbly -> least bubbly)
coconut 12.7
beef tallow 17.0
lard 17.3
rice bran 17.5
avocado 17.6
olive 17.7
sweet almond 17.9
meadowfoam 20.7

3. Creamy lather comes from fat made up of chains that are about the same length?

Here are the oils with chain length variance given.
(creamiest -> least creamy)
sweet almond 0.2
olive 0.5
avocado 0.6
rice bran 0.8
meadowfoam 0.9
lard 1.0
beef tallow 2.0
coconut 6.2

I wish that I had information on the unsaponifiable components, which likely contribute to how the soap conditions and washes off.

These are only hypotheses. I am not a chemist and very new to soaping.


Well-Known Member
Feb 20, 2013
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Myristic, lauric, caprylic, capric = Shorter chain, saturated fatty acids = more soluble, large amount of lather, light fluffy bubbles
Stearic, palmitic = Longer chain, saturated fatty acids = less soluble, moderate amount of lather, dense creamy bubbles
Oleic = Longer chain, monounsaturated fatty acid = more soluble, moderate to low amount of lather, creamy bubbles
Linoleic, linolenic = Longer chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids = less soluble, low amount of lather, creamy bubbles

There's more to this story, but this will get ya started..... :)


Supporting Member
Sep 19, 2011
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Southern California
I would highly recommend you check with Soapers Choice for oils before purchasing from Bulk Apothecary. On SC's site you can load your cart and check shipping cost before checking out. Cibaria Soap Supplies also has good oil prices but their shipping cost is higher than SC even with me living on the same coast as them. Fortunately I am able to will call from Cibaria, but they do not carry all my oils so SC is my other go to


Supporting Member
Aug 1, 2013
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And since you are new and not buying 50lbs of each oil, don't forget your local stores. They have convenient hobby sized containers of CO, OO, Lard, Sunflower Oil, Castor oil, etc. Especially if you are a member of Sam's or Costco.

I buy my OO and CO at Sam's, and everything else at Walmart. I can even buy lye at Lowe's, but that is WAY more expensive than ordering online.