100% Olive oil soapIf you like the idea of 100% olive oil soap and think that the simplicity of the recipe makes it an ideal soap for beginners, I have some bad news for you – you better avoid it before you gather enough experience…


If you are a total beginner, you probably wish 3 things:

  • to create a soap that foams well and is reasonably hard
  • to pass the process of preparation without problems and unexpected complications
  • to use the soap as soon as possible (the best the other day :D)

Neither of the three conditions is fulfilled when making 100% olive oil soap and therefore it can be a real challenge for a beginner. What an experienced soapmaker considers a manageable situation, beginner sees as a catastrophe. What can happen is that you won’t retry doing the olive oil soap for a long time. Why is olive oil soap tricky? Let’s look at its fatty acid profile:


Fatty acid
Myristic(C14) Palmitic
Oleic(C18:1) Linoleic(C18:2) Arachidonic(C20)
% 0.1-1.2% 7.0-16.0% 1.0-3.0% 65.0-80.0% 4.0-10.0% 0.1-0.3%

Leged to table above: C18:1 – number of carbon atoms (C) in the molecule (18) and number of unsaturated bonds(1).

Unsaturated fatty acids (in this case oleic and linoleic) give soaps that only very slowly create tension with water and therefore:

  • It takes very long time to get the soap trace… slow reaction of unsaturated fatty acids with lye makes the thickening and trace very slow
  • After pouring into the mold it can take up to 48-72 hours to harden for unmolding
  • 100% olive oil soap is soft, slimy has a hard time to foam. In very fresh soaps old only few weeks or months, there is no foam at all…

This is the video of my foaming test of olive oil soap after 2 months

Of course, all the above mentioned problems have their solutions, however, this is exactly what an experienced soapmaker can resolve without problems, while a beginner can have a hard time as he does not know how the process should look like or what to expect.

Tips and tricks for 100% olive oil soap

1) To accelerate the trace…

(choose one method at a time, a combination can cause troubles of too fast trace)
Of course, using blender accelerates the trace, however it still takes much longer than with other recipes

  • Discount water.
    Instead of 38% of oils as recommended by SoapCalc, use less water to obtain 35% lye solution (e.g. if you need 125g of NaOH, use 125/35*65=232g of water).

    This accelerates the trace – attention, can cause problems with other oils!

  • Add an essential oil or fragrance that accelerate trace.
  • Dissolve a bit of soap in the lye solution – this helps to emulsify oils with lye and accelerates the trace

2) Make it foam…

  • By long cure time – Castile soaps are cured for more than a year before being distributed to the shops. The less water, the better the foam.
  • Mechanically- use the old, good soap net!
  • By using warm and soft water – hard water create soap scum and makes it much more difficult to foam. Warm water helps foaming!
  • By adding something containing sugar (sugar, honey, milk, yogurt…) in your lye solution, … or substitute 5% of your olive oil by castor oil (but then it is not a 100% olive oil soap ).
  • By substituting KOH for part of your NaOH in the recipe. KOH makes soaps that are readily soluble in water (that is why it is used for liquid soapmaking). 5% should be enough. Do not forget that you need more KOH than NaOH to saponify the same recipe, so use this formula: amount of KOH needed = 0.713 / amount of NaOH you substitute for (e.g. if you need 100g of NaOH for your recipe, you take out 5g of NaOH and will add 5g / 0.713=7g of KOH. Thus, you will need 95g of NaOH and 7g of KOH.)


3) Make it less slimy

  • By adding beeswax – cca 3% of the recipe
  • By adding kitchen salt – dissolve around 1 and 1/2 teaspoon in the water before adding your NaOH, for each 1kg of oils in your recipe (this is a recommendation I read somewhere, did not try to tweak the amount yet)

4) Make it cure faster

  • Discount water (see 1) )
  •  Ensure your soap goes through the gel phase by:
    • The CPOP technique (cold process in the oven) that will help the soap gel – in this case, I do NOT recommend the water discount, as in the oven a part of water tends to evaporate and you can finish by slowing down the reaction by evaporating too much water
    • Insulating your molds too keep it warm

Indeed, now you ask yourself, what about other oils with high percentage of unsaturated fatty acids – is this the same for those? Well, for some yes, for some no, but this will be maybe for another post…


Do you have any recommendations for olive oil soapmaking?