Best Oil to Make Soap

Trying to figure out the best oil to make soap when creating a soap recipe can be confusing.  What and how much of each oil should I use?


There are so many reasons and/or purposes for each of the oils used for making soap. Below you will find a list of the Pros and cons of some of the most used Oils and butter in soap making.

Pros and Cons of the best oil to make soap

When choosing oils for making soap different oils and fats will give your soap different properties.  Solid oils like palm, palm kernel, and coconut oil, and fats like lard and tallow will make a hard bar.

Liquid oils need to be combined with solid fat to make a decent bar as liquid oils will not make a hard bar.

There is however one liquid oil that will make a hard bar and this is Olive oil so let’s start there:

Olive Oil

This is my favorite Oil when making soap, it is the largest ingredient in all my soap recipes.  Olive oil makes a great moisturizing soap full of great skin-loving properties.  Olive oil is especially good for people with sensitive skin and makes a great baby soap.  With this oil, it is possible to use 100% of your soap-making oils – doing this produces a bar called Castile Soap.

Due to my skin problems, I made these when I first started making soap.  So if your want to make Olive Oil soap all you need is this one oil to produce a great pure Castile olive oil soap however it will lack bubbles.  If the lack of bubbles bothers you just add some coconut oil to the recipe and it will give you those bubbles.

  • PROS:
  • this oil is considered by most customers to be the best soap-making oil
  • this oil has so many skin-conditioning properties
  • it is readily available and possible to buy in bulk
  • the finished soap has tiny creamy bubbles
  • it is safe for all types of skin – even the most sensitive
  • CONS:
  • it costs more than most oils

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil is my second favorite oil for soap-making, it gives your soap lots of lather and is an excellent cleaning oil.  This oil along with Olive and Palm makes a great soap bar.  You must take care not to use too much coconut oil when making soap as it can be drying.

  • PROS
  • this is the best oil for producing bubbles in your soap bars
  • medium priced
  • excellent cleansing oil
  • great for making laundry soap
  • CONS
  • if too large a quantity is used in soap it will produce a drying bar
  • it melts very easily in warm temperatures – store it in a cool place
  • very expensive in health food stores and grocery stores

Canola Oil

I have never used this oil in soap making but many of my fellow soapmakers have.  I think the key with this oil is to mix it with Olive Oil, replacing a portion of the Olive oil but not over 50%.

  • PROS
  • it is one of the least expensive oils for soap making
  • easy to work with
  • the color is a very clear tint
  • CONS
  • some reports say canola is toxic – my research suggests that some are so be sure to use Organic
  • if more than 50% is used in your recipe, oxidation can occur resulting in brown spots on your soap
  • it may indicate to some customers that you are being cheap.

Castor Oil

I use castor oil when making shaving soap or shampoo bars due to the great lather it produces.  The key is to not use too much or your bar will feel sticky.  I would recommend not using any more than 5 – 8%

  • PROS
  • produces a great lather that is thick and creamy
  • an excellent oil to add to shampoo and shaving soaps
  • has great moisturizing properties
  • thick texture
  • CONS
  • used alone will make a mushy bar
  • if using a high percentage bar will be very soft

Palm Oil

Palm oil helps to create a hard bar of soap with a nice lather, it works well in helping your soap last longer.  I use this in most of my recipes.  It is a key ingredient for most soap makers, but in recent years palm oil has got a bad reputation due to sustainability questions.  There are concerns regarding damage done to the environment and the people living in some manufacturing areas.

I buy only Certified Sustainable palm oil – RBD-RSPO Certified.

  • PROS
  • makes a nice moisturizing bar
  • creates a harder bar
  • nice bubbly action is produced
  • Certified Sustainable Palm is now available
  • CONS
  • with some bio-fuel companies and manufacturing plants stripping the palm of their fruit, most eco-consumers do not want anything that is created with palm.

Palm Kernel Oil

It is very similar to Palm oil but very hard.  It is another great soap-making oil, but also has the same stigma attached to it as Palm Oil.

  • PROS
  • makes a nice moisturizing bar
  • creates a very hard bar
  • CONS
  • see above – same as Palm oil
  • very hard – I use a knife to chip it out of the container

Animal Fats – Lard and Tallow

The only fat I have used is when making pet shampoo in which I use Lard.  It makes an excellent shampoo bar for pets producing a very hard bar.  Lard and Tallow also make very good laundry soap.

  • PROS
  • good cleaning ability
  • produces a hard bar
  • great for laundry and pet shampoos
  • CONS
  • customers may not like anything produced with animal products
  • tallow has to be rendered down and may have a lingering smell

Butters (Cocoa and Shea)

Cocoa and Shea butter help to make hard bars of soap with a nice stable lather.  A good amount to add to your recipe would be about 20%.

  • PROS
  • these kinds of butter smell wonderful
  • great when used as a super fat oil for soap
  • helps to create a hard bar
  • CONS
  • makes a very expensive bar due to the cost

When choosing the oils to make your soap remember that each oil has a different saponification value.  Each oil will require a specific amount of lye per ounce in order to make soap.  Be sure to use a LYE CALCULATOR when creating your recipe.

If you don’t use enough lye it will result in a soft bar of soap and if you use too much your soap could turn out to be caustic which means it would be very drying and could even end up with a pocket of lye-water which could cause mild burning  Too caustic soap would most likely be tossed in the garbage.

You may also want to have a look at this page for more information on scenting your soaps What to Scent Soap

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7 Responses to Best Oil to Make Soap

  1. Tony says:

    Great post! I love the information provided on the different soap making oils and their properties. It’s so helpful to have a comprehensive guide like this when formulating my own soap recipes. The photos are also beautiful and make it easy to see the different oils in action. I also appreciate the tips on where to source the oils and how to store them. I will definitely be referring back to this post in the future.

    • Tes says:

      It’s always great to hear from another soap maker, I’m glad you found the information helpful.  I’m always adding more content so stop by anytime and say hello.   Happy Soap Making

  2. LineCowley says:

    This is a very helpful post on the different oils that can be used in making soaps. I attended a soap making workshop a few years ago, where we used extra virgin olive oil, which resulted in beautiful oil. So it is great to see that it is your favorite oil. And one doesn’t have to use extra virgin olive oil, it can be a more affordable no name brand as well. 

    As an eco warrior, I will certainly avoid using palm oil or palm kernel oil because of the damage that palm oil farming is doing to the environment. There are enough other suitable oils for making your own soap at home.

  3. Rohit says:

    I am definitely going to take up soap-making after going through this article – I simply get a feeling that I know it all, though I am sure there will lot to learn ahead.

    Your Lye calculator is excellent to adjust the constituent of lye with the oil. It comes so handy instead of wasting time, effort and material to get to the right mix.

    Loved reading through. Keep posting more on the subject.

    Thanks for sharing.



  4. LineCowley says:

    Making your own soap can be so much fun, and it is the only way to make sure that no harmful chemicals have been used in the soap that you put on your body. I attended a soap making workshop about two years ago, where er used extra virgin olive oil to make the soap. 

    But as extra virgin olive oil can be expensive, I have been wondering which other oils I can use to make soap with. So it is great to find this post with so many alternatives, as well as the pros and cons of each type of oil. 

    Thank you for sharing this great resource. 

  5. Parameter says:

    I am new to the soap-making industry. I was thought to use Pam oil because it is readily available in my environment. Due to complaints, we started using palm kernel oil, but as you mentioned it also has its unique drawback similar to that of palm oil. Thank you for coming up with this list of alternatives. I will give the olive oil a trial.

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