Just like consulting a cookbook, starting out by using a recipe from a book or website is great. It's good to learn the craft of soap making by using a tested recipe at first. But think of those recipes as just a starting point because there's nothing like creating your own recipe from scratch. Whether it's because you only have certain oils on hand, or you're looking to create the perfect bar of soap, creating your own recipe allows you to control each and every ingredient.
Though you can make soap using only one oil, the best soap recipes have a balance of oils.
- Hard, stable, long lasting - (palm oil, beef tallow, lard)
- Lathering - (coconut, castor, palm kernel)
- Moisturizing/Conditioning - (olive oil, canola, sunflower, soybean)
- Luxury/Super Moisturizing - (cocoa butter, shea butter, almond oil, hemp oil, jojoba)
A basic balanced recipe should have some of at least the first three oil categories - hard, lathering, and moisturizing. So a basic recipe could be:
- 30% tallow
- 25% coconut oil
- 45% olive oil
(Note: I'm using percentages instead of measurements. If this is confusing, or to scale your recipe to any size, read Measurements vs. Percentages in Soap Making.)
Now, if you wanted to use only vegetable oils, you could use:
Note: Many soapers also swear by adding 4-6% castor oil to their recipes. I'm one of them. It increases the lather and gives the soap a nice creaminess.
So...an even better great, basic recipe for soap would be:
After you have decided on a balance of oils, you just need to run your combination of oils through a lye calculator of your choice and you're ready to go.
My best advice is to not be afraid to experiment. Share your experiences with others in the soap making community. Take good notes in your soap notebook, and above all, keep on soaping!