Soap making is a great hobby. You can make various scents and textures just from the oils you use. However, there are plenty of oils out there that can turn your soap into a nightmare. When choosing a base oil to use, you will probably want to get a balance between cost vs. quality. I’ve tried many of these oils as bases and they have shown to give better or worse qualities.
Canola oil. When keeping your cost down on your soaps, this is a very inexpensive way to do so. It’s easy to find in stores and does the job when it comes to making soap. Canola oil has the potential to make your bars very hard, almost brittle. Using it with calcium based ingredients such as milk, goat’s milk, or clays can make this soap very undesirable as these ingredients make the soap very brittle. Try to avoid this up to a certain percent. High quantities of this oil can cause your soap to break right apart. When coloring your soap, you will find it difficult with this oil because it creates a very light yellow bar that makes most dyes and colorants.
Lard. I really really like lard in soap. It makes the soap smooth and gives it great texture. It creates a nice hard bar of soap. It also acts as a great conditioner when used in the soap. There’s really not too much about this soap that I can say negatively. Many people often don’t use lard because it is an animal by-product. It also gives off a faint odor that usually needs an additive to mask.
Olive oil. Look no further when it comes to creating a good quality soap bar. Olive oil makes a mild, conditioning bar that has a reputation that would put most oils to shame. While olive oil is probably one of the best oils for soap making, it does have a few drawbacks. This oil tends to be SLOW to saponify. That means it takes longer for your soap to turn into soap. Tracing and cure tends to take much longer using this oil. It might take a few hours for your soap to trace and more than a few weeks for your soap to cure. Although, it’s a great hot process soap oil.
Vegetable oil. Like canola oil, it’s inexpensive. You can find it at your local grocer and it also does the job well for making soap. It can be slow to saponify, like olive oil, and it takes a bit longer to cure than canola oil. However, this oil is great to use when mixed with harder oils, such as lard and coconut oil. It doesn’t really slow down these oils and can adapt to almost any color, clay or additive without masking the smell or color.
Coconut oil. Ah, coconut oil…This is one of the best oils when it comes to getting that lasting, bubbly, hard quality that people love about commercial soap without the preservatives and sulfates. When soap is made using this oil, you can easily use it as a shampoo because it is just that sudsy. You need to be careful when using this soap in high quantities because it does tend to dry out your skin. I didn’t believe it at first, then I tried making 100% coconut oil soap and my face itched for about an hour. So, I wouldn’t recommend using it for more than 20% of your oils.
Out of all of these oils, I really haven’t been able to choose a favorite. However, I will say that I’ve had such a bad experience with canola oil I don’t see myself adding it to another bar of soap again. It really is that bad. I wish I could use coconut oil as my only base oil however it just isn’t mild enough. Lard would be my go-to oil if it weren’t for the smell and where it came from. So I guess I’ll just have to stick with mixing oils and find what works for me.