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Red Palm Oil Soap

Updated on March 19, 2016
Red Palm Oil Soap, scented with Brambleberry's Ancient Sedona and colored with red clay, rose clay, purple Brazilian clay, red oxide mixed with yellow oxide, ultramarine lavender, ultramarine pink.
Red Palm Oil Soap, scented with Brambleberry's Ancient Sedona and colored with red clay, rose clay, purple Brazilian clay, red oxide mixed with yellow oxide, ultramarine lavender, ultramarine pink.
Red Palm Oil Soap swirled with Madder Root Powder, Red Clay, and Rose Clay. This batch was scented with a blend of Opium and Jasmine.
Red Palm Oil Soap swirled with Madder Root Powder, Red Clay, and Rose Clay. This batch was scented with a blend of Opium and Jasmine.
Red Palm Oil Soap scented with Blood Orange FO swirled with Madder Root Powder, Red Clay, and Rose Clay
Red Palm Oil Soap scented with Blood Orange FO swirled with Madder Root Powder, Red Clay, and Rose Clay

Red palm oil is one of my favorite oils to soap with. It seems to lend a distinctive texture to both the raw soap batter and the finished soap, supplying hardness and a waxy sheen. Depending on the percentage of red palm used in a soap recipe, colors ranging from pale yellow to deep orange can be achieved.

Like regular palm oil, red palm is rich in tocopherols and tocotrienols--forms of Vitamin E that are beneficial to the skin. While the Vitamin E is lost in the saponification process, some should survive in the the finished soap's superfat. Red palm oil is also rich in the carotenes that give it its deep orange color, and these are believed to be especially beneficial to mature skin.

I find soap made with high amounts of red palm oil especially delightful in some indefinable way.

Red Palm Oil Soap is tied for first place among my very favorite soap recipes--the other favorite being my Bastile soap recipe.

Here's the recipe:

10 ounces Red Palm Oil
6 ounces Rice Bran Oil
4 ounces Coconut Oil
4 ounces Canola Oil
2 ounces Almond Oil
2 ounces Shea Butter
2 ounces Cocoa Butter
2 ounces Castor Oil
---
4.2 ounces Lye
12.2 Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 ounce Sodium Lactate
---
2 ounces fragrance oil (Ancient Sedona or Blood Orange are nice choices but you will likely have your own ideas about this.)

NOTES ON THIS RECIPE

Even experienced soaper are likely to notice that there are some idiosyncratic elements to this recipe:

First, instead of mixing the lye with water, I suggest substituting apple cider vinegar (ACV)for all water. This is because apple cider vinegar helps boost lather and some believe it makes a bar with a milder feel. I like to substitute ACV for water in recipes that don't promise lavish lather.

Second, this bar includes sugar, also used to boost lather. Sugar should be dissolved in the ACV before the lye is added.

Third, sodium lactate is included in this recipe. Sodium lactate has several purposes: It makes a harder finished bar, boosts lather, has powerful humectant properties, causes soap to harden more quickly in the mold and to be more easily unmolded, and helps the raw soap batter maintain fluidity longer for swirling soap colors. Sodium lactate is a wonderful additive, used by soap-makers for specific purposes in some recipes. Some soap-makers never use sodium lactate. This recipe will serve as an introduction to what it can do. I've included it in this recipe for all the above reasons.

NOTE: One little caveat about including sodium lactate in a soap recipe should be mentioned ahead of time. You will find it difficult or impossible to successfully cut these soaps with a knife. Use fishing line or a stainless steel wire to cut the soap into bars.

Every new soap-maker should become familiar with online lye calculators. These are the tools that enable you to create your own recipes for soap that has the properties you desire. Experienced soap-makers always advise beginners, if they are using someone else's recipe, to run it through a lye calculator to check for accuracy.

One of the most popular online lye calculators is SoapCalc. I have supplied a SoapCalc screenshot of this recipe at the bottom of this page. Notice that it provides a wealth of information about the soap's qualities, as well as its fatty acid profile. It does not, however, show that ACV has been substituted for water, or indicate the change in hardness and lather that can be expected from the addition of sodium lactate and sugar.

MAKE SOAP

Make soap in the normal way: Melt all the oils together in a stainless steel pot or crock pot.

While the oils are melting, dissolve the sugar in the ACV. Then dissolve the lye in the ACV. Once the lye has cooled mix the Sodium Lactate into the sugar-ACV-lye mixture.

While you are waiting for your melted oils to cool, you can mix colorants as described below. This is also a good time to line your mold with freezer paper, if you haven't already done so, and set out all utensils you expect to need, such as a ladle, rubber scraper, and frosting knife or chopsticks or spoons for swirling.

Once the melted oils have cooled to about 80 degrees F., add the lye mixture to the melted oils and stick-blend to a light trace.

ADD YOUR FRAGRANCE OIL NOW AND MIX WELL BY HAND.

Your colorants (which may be either the ones I have suggested or your own choices) should have been already prepared, as described below.

COLORANTS:

Any colorants you desire can be used in this or any recipe. I am listing colorants used for all three of the soaps pictured, which will help beginning soapers get an idea of both colorant possibilities and amounts.

The colorants used for the first two soaps pictured are identical. The reason for the difference in the appearance of the soaps is that the Opium/Jasmine Soap was swirled at a thicker trace than the Blood Orange Soap.

Colorants Used for Opium/Jasmine and Blood Orange Soaps

1/2 teaspoon Madder Root mixed with 1/4 teaspoon Titanium Dioxide
1/2 teaspoon Rose Clay mixed with 1/4 teaspoon Titanium Dioxide
1/2 teaspoon Red Clay mixed with 1/4 teaspoon Titanium Dioxide

Thoroughly mix these dry powdered colorants in individual cups. Then add about 1 Tablespoon of oil to each cup and mix well. The oil that you use to mix with the colorants can be taken from the pot you have melted the oils in.

To color the soap, first bring soap to trace, then add about a cup of raw soap batter to each cup of colorant and mix well. Soap can then be colored by doing an in-the-pot (ITP) swirl. This is done by pouring the colored soap from the cups into the uncolored soap in the pot. Pour the colored soap in the cups around the perimeter of the pot. Pour about half of the Madder Root mixture on one side of the pot and the other half on the other side. Do the same with the other cups of colored soap. You'll have six fairly evenly spaced puddles of colored soap around the perimeter of the pot when you're done pouring.

Now take a frosting knife or rubber scraper and circle the perimeter of the pot with it, passing through all the colors. Do this only once--though it can sometimes be good to make one pass across the diameter of the pot. Your knife or rubber scraper should be touching the bottom of the pot when you swirl the colors in the pot.

Now pour the soap into a loaf mold. You can use the leftover soap in the colorant cups to make swirls on the top of the soap, if desired.

Colorants for Ancient Sedona Soap

1/2 tsp. Brazilian Purple Clay
1/8 tsp. Red oxide mixed with 1/4 tsp. yellow oxide
1/4 tsp. Rose Clay
1/4 tsp. Red clay
1/4 tsp. Ultramarine Lavender
1/4 tsp. Ultramarine Pink

This version uses six colors. Almost all the raw soap batter should be used up in coloring the soap, so you will need to use colorant containers that will hold about two cups of soap batter.

Thoroughly mix these dry powdered colorants in individual cups. Then add about 1 Tablespoon of oil to each cup and mix well. The oil that you use to mix with the colorants can be taken from the pot you have melted the oils in.

To color the soap, first bring soap to trace, then add about two cups of raw soap batter to each cup of colorant and mix well. Now pour the colored soap into the mold in layers, planning on making two layers of each color. Bang the mold on the work surface after adding each layer of colored soap. (If a little uncolored soap was left in the pot, you can use this as a seventh color.)

When the mold is full, use a frosting knife, chopstick, spoon, or other utensil and make a few swirls in the soap in the mold, making sure you reach all the way to the bottom of the mold. You can make circles from top to bottom, or side-to-side, or end-to-end. Don't overdo this, and don't worry too much about the final effect.

Now pour the soap into a loaf mold. You can use the leftover soap in the colorant cups to make swirls on the top of the soap, if desired.

NOW WE WAIT

Once your soap is in the mold, it is often a good idea to put it on a heating pad set on medium, cover with a cardboard box, and cover the box with a comforter to retain heat. I find that about two hours of heat works well.

Alternatively, your soap mold can be placed in an oven heated to about 170 degrees F., and TURNED OFF before the soap is put in the oven.Then shut the oven door. Your oven is well insulated and enough heat should be retained to ensure complete gel of your soap.

Soap may be unmolded cut when it is hard and has cooled. This usually takes from 12 to 18 hours. The sodium lactate in this recipe may hurry the process some.

CUTTING THE SOAP

After you have removed the cooled and hardened soap from the mold and peeled away the freezer paper, you are ready to cut.

Use fishing line to cut soaps made with sodium lactate. If you attempt to use a knife, these soaps are apt to crumble or crack. A think stainless steel wire can also be used. I prefer to cut soap using an inexpensive plastic miter box and about two feet of fishing line, and cut soap into 1-inch-thick bars.

To use the fishing line, put on the rubber gloves you always use for soap-making. That way the fishing line won't cut into your fingers. Wrap each end of the fishing line around one or two of the fingers of each hand several times, pull the line taut, and cut the soap with it using the miter box as a guide.

In case you are very new to soap-making, I should mention that it is the usual practice to cut about a 1/4" slice off of the ends of the loaf. That's because the ends are unattractive. Set these end pieces aside for your personal use for testing the soap, or to offer as samples, or whatever.

HOW WILL YOUR SWIRLS LOOK?

There is simply no telling! Soap swirled at a thin trace or blended just to emulsification (not-quite-trace) will produce thin, wispy swirls. Soap swirled at a heavier trace will produce more full-bodied swirls. Over-swirling can produced muddied colors that have blended together, especially if the raw soap is very fluid while you are doing that. Over-swirling after the raw soap has set up and become fairly heavy will produce sort of a riot of crazy swirls.

One of the things that makes soap-making so fascinating is the excitement of the cut!

Screenshot of this recipe, showing more detailed information about the soap's properties, from SoapCalc, a popular online lye calculator
Screenshot of this recipe, showing more detailed information about the soap's properties, from SoapCalc, a popular online lye calculator

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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 23 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Sharon, this was an interesting hub about red palm oil soap and how to make it at home. Voted up!

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