Sunday, July 22, 2007

Living Without Palm Oil

As a soap-making staple, palm oil has never impressed me. I’ve tried it in a few recipes, but never liked it enough to add it to my permanent list of soaping oils. Those have remained virtually unchanged since I began making soap – olive, coconut, and avocado.

I’m often asked about the hardness of a bar made with olive, coconut, and avocado, and I am honest when I say that those three oils don’t make the hardest bar of soap I’ve ever tried. They do make for a conditioning bar, and for me, this is the most important criteria.

But sometimes a hard bar of soap is essential. Beeswax can help harden a bar, but I’ve never had much success with it. I find it reduces lather and can give the soap a waxy feel. Olive wax is a better alternative, but it can be difficult to find. It’s much easier for me to make couple of quick substitutions with easily obtainable ingredients to produce a very hard bar of soap without the inclusion of palm or even animal fats.

My favourite recipe for hard soap is:

50% Olive
25% Coconut
15% Shea Butter
10% Avocado

The above make a hard, mild bar that is luxurious and easy to produce. It can be slightly expensive, so I’ll include a recipe that is a bit more cost effective as well:

50% Olive
25% Coconut
15% Cocoa Butter
10% Rapeseed (canola)

This bar is not too expensive to produce and is just as hard as any palm oil soap.

If you are looking for a suitable alternative to palm without the use of animal fats, I would encourage you to give these recipes a go. And please let me know what you think!


Rebecca (sustainable living in rural Ireland) said...

This is very useful. I'm doing my best to select oils that are eco friendly, so alternatives like this are wonderful.

gracefruit said...

Please let me know what oils you settle on. :)

Angela said...

I was wondering if you happen to know where I could purchase olive wax. I can't seem to find online suppliers (I'm in the U.S). If you also happen to know where to find Calendula wax, that would be greatly appreciated. I'm new to this world but excited to try out some of these recipes. Thank you for your time and information!

gracefruit said...

Hi Angela,

I don't know where to get olive wax in the US, but there are some fabulous substitutions available there. Oil by Nature have jojoba wax, and they might even have the olive wax.

Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks for this post. I understand that the coconut oil lends some hardness to the bar. Do the butters such as shea and cocoa also lend to the hardness?
I see for these recipes you recommend 25% coconut oil and 15% butter. Is it still possible to get a hard bar using less of either of these, or is 40% total a good minimum? Thanks for any suggestions.

gracefruit said...

40% has always worked well for me, and you can use any hard oil or butter to firm up your soap. Coconut works very well and it isn't expensive. I've used it up to 27% with great results.

Anonymous said...

hi, i am looking for alternative oils to palm and was happy to find your post. i'll likely try the recipe you provided with canola oil. what is the cure time for this soap? i love olive oil soap but i'm not thrilled about waiting eight weeks to use it.
thanks in advance!!