Try this homemade 100% palm oil soap recipe – talk about a recipe filled with controversy… With so many soap making blogs defending palm oil-free recipes, and refusing to use palm oil, why on earth one of them presents a 100% palm oil recipe. Well… Keep reading, and you’ll find out.
1-Oil Soap Recipes
I don’t know why I love 1-oil soap recipes. They are so simple to make: one oil, lye and water, and you don’t need anything else. Of course, like the next soapmaker, I like to experiment with oil mixtures, but there’s something about 1-oil soap that attracts me. I suppose it’s because of its simplicity – and if it’s a locally produced oil, cheap and of good quality (assuming local production is good, of course), it’ the most logical choice.
During my research for lard and palm oil recipes, I’ve stumbled upon this website, http://www.zensoaps.com/singleoil.htm and I definitely plan to experiment on many of these 1-oil recipes. This is probably the forth 1-oil soap recipe I try – with success.
This is also a very good recipe for soap maker beginners due to its simplicity.
Why Use Palm Oil?
The use of palm oil in food products and cosmetic ones has attracted the concern of environmental groups; the high oil yield of the trees has encouraged wider cultivation, leading to the clearing of natural habitat forests in parts of Indonesia to make space for oil-palm monoculture. So, it’s only logical to boycott palm oil, in an attempt to save wild animal endangered species, by publishing only handmade palm oil-free soap recipes, and simply refusing to buy it and use it.
Now, let me give you another way to see this issue:
- Palm oil is not just a soap oil used by the cosmetic industry (this actually represents only 5%-10% of world consumption). It’s also, and above all, a vegetable oil that makes part of the daily diet in a lot of countries,namely in Africa, Malaysia and Indonesia. As a cheap, healthy vegetable oil, it is a basic, vital ingredient in many families’ tables. To ban it, is to ban a good food source from impoverished people who will simply stop having this ingredient, as I seriously doubt that they even have the option of going to the supermarket and opt to choose another oil…
- Soap making is a relatively cheap business area, that can be an income complement, or even the only one, for many poor families.
- Cosmetic industry and unethical governments aside, palm oil IS a very sustainable product and is very good to make soap. It has one of the highest yields, meaning that you need less plant material to produce 1 liter of palm oil compared with, for example, sunflower oil. The ingredient itself makes for a relatively balanced soap, having in mind it’s a 1-oil, with no oil mixtures.
- If world usage of palm oil in cosmetics represents 5% to 10%, and handmade soap is even less than that in total cosmetics consumption, aside from spreading a message, we will make zero difference in stopping to use palm oil
Summarizing, banning palm oil from handmade soap, and avoiding to publish soap recipes with palm oil won’t make a difference in its production on in the risk of further deforestation.
We will only be limiting soap makers with very limited access to soap ingredients of more information about palm oil and its usage… Besides, being a vital food ingredient for many poor families, it doesn’t sit right on me to simply say that palm oil usage should be banished.
So, what CAN we ACTUALLY to do?
Always Use RSPO Palm Oil, When Possible
Ok, it’s a fact that palm oil has been the culprit for severe deforestation of virgin forests in Indonesia, endangering some wild animals species. Palm oil is cheap to manufacture, due to its high yield, and it’s used worldwide, mostly in food production. Globalization made it possible to concentrate mass production in a couple of countries and they take economical advantage of that, at the cost of unsustainability and unethical practices.
This lead to the creation of an association that produces sustainable palm oil, the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil. Whenever you wish to use palm oil, make sure it’s from a producer from this association – you will be buying palm oil from sustainable and ethical producers.
I’d strongly advise you to read these articles about the subject:
In Europe, namely in Portugal, RSPO palm oil is readily available in supermarkets, and cosmetic suppliers have an increase range of organic products, where palm oil is only available (organic and non-organic) from RSPO sources.
Therefore, I’d advise you to not avoid to use palm oil if you wish to use it in your soap experiences, OR if it’s the only oil avalable to you locally. Always try to buy palm oil from RSPO producers.
As always, I recommend using your locally available oil, of local production (as long as your local producer does fulfill good manufacturing practices) and usually cheaper. In Portugal, for example, that means to use olive oil.
With so much to talk about palm oil, the other ingredients are practically forgotten. However there are still some space to talk about the other main ingredient of this recipe – calendula.
Calendula is a well-known herb and uplifting ornamental garden plant that has been used topically, ceremonially, and as a dye and food plant for centuries.
This recipe uses calendula dried petals as the natural colorant added to the lye water. Some of the dried petals are used whole as decoration.
I wanted to make an experiment and see how ylang -ylang III essential oil behaves on its own in soap. So this is the essential oil used for soap fragrance. However, you can use your favorite essential oil for soap, or a blend of your choice. Some suggestions:
- Lemongrass (60%) and Cedarwood (40%) essential oil blend
- Litsea Cubeba/May Chang essential oil
- Lavender (4), Ylang Ylang III (1) and Benzoin (1) essential oil blend
Soap Recipe for Beginners
This is a great soap recipe for beginners, especially to learn about fast tracing and how to deal with hard oils in soap making. Similar to How To Make Coconut Soap and Homemade Lard Soap Recipe, this soap traces quite fast when you are using the stick blender. You might pass liquid trace without even realizing.
Because you only have to add the anti-oxidant and the essential oil afterwards, it’s relatively easy to save if you get distracted. Most likely you will pour this soap batter into your molds with a spoon 🙂
Other Palm Oil Soap Recipes
If you’re looking for more recipes with palm oil (in a mixture) check out the following links:
- Homemade Rosemary Soap
- Patchouli Soap Recipe
- Colorful Homemade Soap Gift
- Homemade Lavender Soap Recipe
- Rosemary and Eucalyptus Soap Recipe
- More about vegetable oils: Soap Making Oils Chart
- More about Essential Oils: Essential Oils for Soap Making
- More Soap Recipes: Cold Process Soap Recipes
- More Recipes for Beginners: Homemade Soap Recipes For Beginners
Watch These Videos Before Starting Your Recipe
100% Palm Oil Soap Recipe
- 210 g RSPO palm oil
Add After Trace
- dried calendula petals whole or in powder
- Wear goggles and gloves! Look at “Safety Recommendations” in the video above or in How to Make Soap From Scratch
- Watch the video above about "Cold Process Soap Making tutorial" or read the post How To Make Soap by Cold Process Step-by-Step for instructions on cold process soap making before starting. These are generic but important steps for all recipes.
- Assemble everything: ingredients, equipment, safety equipment. Prepare your workstations. Measure all the ingredients. Don’t start the recipe without having everything ready!
- The essential oil is optional. It adds scent to your soap. You can choose the one from the recipe or another like lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemongrass. You can also choose a fragrance oil. But do not exceed the 6,5 ml limit. Your soap will be really cheap if you skip this.
Make the Lye Water
- Make the lye solution according to How To Make Lye Water. Mix it until the vapors start to dissipate. Add the dried petals at the end.
Make the Soap Batter
- Use as target temperature 28ºC for the oil-solution mixture. If necessary, heat the palm oil a little.
- Reach trace with the immersion blender. You will reach trace very, very fast, be ready.
- Add the extract, essential oil and calendula dried petals/powder after tracing. Mix with a spoon. Be swift with this operation and molding.
Molding and Curing
- Pour the dough in the molds with a pitcher and sprinkle with alcohol or witch hazel.
- Let it set for 48 hours.
- Unmold and let the bars cure for 4 to 6 weeks. See How To Cure Soap.