Palm oil is one of the more common oils used in soap making at home and it’s one that I use in most of my recipes.
Soap Making Properties of Palm Oil
When used in soap making, palm oil helps to create a hard, long-lasting bar. This is especially important if you are using a high percentage of olive oil, which creates a very soft bar.
As well as creating a hard bar, palm oil provides a rich, creamy lather. This is also important if you use a lot of olive oil in your soap making, because olive oil creates very little lather, so the palm oil is a nice addition.
As with any of the soap making oils that create lather, too much palm oil in your soap can make it overly drying. I would recommend that you keep the percentage in your soap to less than 40% for body soap and less than 25% for facial soap.
Personally, I like a very conditioning soap, and I rarely use more than 15% in a soap making recipe.
My castile soap recipe calls for olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil and palm oil. The palm oil adds hardness and lather to the bar, as does the coconut oil. The palm oil is milder than the coconut oil though, and that is why I add it.
This soap making oil combination creates a bar that is very rich and moisturizing, while still being cleansing.
Soap Making Options for Palm Oil
There are a few different types of palm oil you should know about.
Unrefined palm oil is dark orange in color. I generally try to buy unrefined products as much as possible, but I make an exception with palm oil. This is because I don’t always want my soap to have the orange color that unrefined palm oil tends to give it – especially when I’m using it to make laundry soap!
Refined palm oil is a soft white color and will give your soap all of the same qualities that unrefined palm oil will, but without the orange tint.
Palm kernel oil is also an option for soap making. Although it is derived from the same plant as palm oil is, the properties of palm kernel oil are closer to coconut oil than to palm oil. Palm kernel oil creates a very hard bar of soap with a lot of lather. It is also more similar to coconut oil in that it tends to be more harsh and drying. Keep your percentage of palm kernel oil to less than 30%. Although I personally prefer coconut oil to palm kernel oil to make my soap more cleansing, the advantage that palm kernel oil has is that it comes in easy to handle flakes.
Is Palm Oil a Responsible Soap Making Choice?
There is some controversy surrounding the use of palm oil in soap making that you should be aware of.
The cultivation of palm oil has been responsible for the destruction of much of the rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia. This, of course, puts many species of animals at risk.
That said, there are sources of palm oil for soap making that are responsibly produced. It may be a bit more expensive, but I really believe it is worth the extra money to find it and buy it. This can be especially important if you are making soap to sell, as it’s good to be able to tell your customers that all of the ingredients are not only natural, but also ecologically responsible.
So give palm oil a try in your home soap making efforts – I know you’ll love the results!