Using The Soap Calculator And Soap Formulation Guide
This soap calculator is programmed to quickly calculate the necessary lye (Sodium Hydroxide or Potassium Hydroxide) in order to produce a batch of soap. Select your chosen oils, along with the weight or percentage. The soap calculator will then show the weight of lye and water required. The result can be instantly adjusted by changing the preferred superfatting level and water/lye ratio.
If you’ve come to the Savvy Homemade soap calculator and haven’t used it before, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. Perhaps you’ve followed a few of my soap making tutorials, or others across the web.
But have you ever asked yourself, can I come up with my own soap recipe? The answer is, absolutely! And this guide will talk about some of the more important aspects of choosing a soap recipe using the lye calculator.
If You Are A Complete Beginner
If you’re a complete beginner and have never made cold, hot or liquid soap before, I strongly recommend you follow a tutorial/pre-formulated recipe before formulating your own recipe.
- For Making Solid Soap take a look at Cold Process Soap Making For Beginners, it’s a great resource for anyone looking to pick up this wonderful hobby!
- For Making Hot Process Soap, a great example is Deliciously Sweet Hot Process Soap Recipe With Orange.
- For Making Liquid Soap, I will have a tutorial on the site very soon but until then I would like to point you to The Spruce Crafts where you will find one of the best articles on making liquid soap.
Oils, Butter & Waxes, Oh My!
Besides the water and lye, your soap recipe will be comprised mostly of carrier oils, butters and occasionally some waxes.
While there are other ingredients we will talk about later, these are the bulk of your soap recipe and it’s important to get them right!
When you’re choosing oils, butters and waxes for your soap, you have a lot of freedom. Liquid oil is the only thing that you absolutely need. In fact, you can make soap with just olive oil! The butters and waxes are optional but definitely worth considering as they can add some wonderful properties to your soaps.
As a basic ratio, I like to recommend 50% liquid oil, 25% solid oil (something like coconut) and 25% cosmetic butter. This should give you a lovely soap that is medium-soft and rich with nourishing qualities. If you want to use a wax, exchange it with 5% of the butter (so 50% liquid oil, 25% solid oil, 20% cosmetic butter and 5% wax). Keep in mind that all butters and wax have different densities, so this basic soap formula may have to change depending on the type you use.
For instance, if you want to use a wax like beeswax in your soap but you’re vegan, you can exchange it for candelilla wax. However, candelilla wax has double to the stiffness of beeswax, and so you may want to use 2.5% instead of 5% in order to achieve a similar texture to your soap. There’s a similar story for shea butter and cocoa butter, cocoa is harder and will change the texture of soap when substituted (although both are 100% vegan in this case).
Nevertheless, these ratios can totally be stretched, played and experimented with using the lye calculator. You could end up with a new breakthrough formula in soap making, or perhaps your next flop. Keep in mind that cosmetic butters and waxes (waxes especially) can speed up trace considerably. If using high butter or wax ratios, consider using oils that don’t trace very quickly to slow down the chemical reaction.
Soap making is all about experimenting
Sometimes you will formulate a soap and it just doesn’t turn out the way you were hoping. Try to remember that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When you make a mistake or things go wrong, you’re learning valuable lessons about what will and won’t work in soap making.
Just start off simple, using readily available and affordable oils, butters and waxes and always use the soap calculator in order to figure out how much water and lye to use. That way, it really shouldn’t matter if things don’t necessarily go to plan. Even the very best soap makers make mistakes sometimes, just keep yourself motivated and you’ll be a master in no time!
Fatty Acids, What Are They Good For, Cleansing, Conditioning, Lather?
All carrier oils, butters and waxes have what we call ‘fatty acids’. Without going into too much unnecessary detail, these substances are what lend wonderful and useful properties to our soaps! Let’s take a look at a breakdown of the most commonly found fatty acids in our soap making ingredients and how they affect our soap.
|Fatty Acid||Cleansing||Conditioning||Fluffy Lather||Creamy Lather|
Each oil, butter or wax contains differing amounts of these fatty acids. Many contain a few of them, but not all of them.
Considering the fatty acid breakdown of each individual soap making ingredient is an important aspect of formulating a soap. Nevertheless, individual oils, butters and waxes can bring further benefits, and so try not to focus solely on fatty acids.
Most Commonly Used Oils, Fats & Butters With Properties & Sap Values
Let’s take a look at a breakdown of the most commonly used oils, butters and waxes for soap making, including their individual benefits, fatty acid content and any specific considerations and information regarding ratios (if applicable).
If you’re using the soap making calculator above, you don’t need to worry too much about the SAP values as the calculator will handle that. However, I have listed them for educational purposes.
|Oil, Butter or Wax||Properties & Benefits||Fatty Acid Content||SAP Value|
|Almond oil||A wonderful, all-round oil. A great addition to pretty much any type of soap.||High in Oleic acid, with low levels of Linoleic, Palmitic and Stearic acids.||0.1367|
|Argan oil||A beautiful oil with powerful conditioning benefits. Best used in superfatting due to its high cost.||High in Linoleic and Oleic acid, low levels of Palmitic and Stearic acids.||0.1361|
|Avocado oil||Great oil for anyone with sensitive skin. It’s super moisturizing due to it containing compounds that do not saponify.||High in Oleic acid, low levels of Linoleic, Myristic, Palmitic and Stearic acids.||0.1337|
|Beeswax||Should be used at around 5% in soap formulas.||N/A||0.0689|
|Castor oil||Lends a quick foaming and rich texture to soap fomulas, as well as a great moisturiser for soap.||High in Ricinoleic acid, low levels of Oleic, Palmitic and Stearic acids.||0.1286|
|Cherry Kernel oil||Fantastic in conditioning bars, but should be used with other oils and butters to produce a harder soap. On its own, your bars will be a little on the soft side.||High in Linoleic and Oleic acids, low levels of Palmitic and Stearic acids.||0.1350|
|Cocoa butter||A lovely cosmetic butter that adds great cleansing benefits, as well as producing a very stable soap with fluffy, creamy foam.||High in Oleic, Palmitic and Stearic acids, low levels of Linoleic acid.||0.1378|
|Coconut oil||A wonderful solid oil that I usually always recommend using in any soap. Wonderfully, moisturising, although actually becomes drying in quantities over 35% due to its high Lauric acid conteNT.||High in Lauric and Myristic acids, low levels of Linoleic, Oleic, Palmitic and Stearic acids.||0.1780|
|Cranberry seed oil||Perhaps not a great oil to use on its own, this oil is great when used with oils that deteriorate soap quickly, due to its unique structure and resistance to oxidization.||Low levels of Linoleic, Oleic, Palmitic and Stearic acids.||.1350|
|Grapeseed oil||Great oil for conditioning and softening the skin, although it can produce a soap that is a little too soft so blend with other oils and cosmetic butter.||High levels of Linoleic acid, low levels of Oleic, Palmitic and Stearic acids.||0.1321|
|Hazelnut oil||A great oil to add cleansing benefits to your soap, although does take much longer to reach trace. Perhaps a good oil to use in conjunction with ingredients that trace very quickly in order to produce a slower-moving soap.||High levels of Oleic acid, low levels of Linoleic, Palmitic and Stearic acids.||0.1359|
|Jojoba oil||Not actually an oil, but rather a liquid wax! Nevertheless, produces a rich bar with a dense lather, but isn’t all that moisturizing in soap on its own. I recommend blending with other oils, or superfatting it.||High levels of Stearic acid, low levels of Linoleic, Myristic, Oleic and Palmitic acids.||0.0695|
|Lard||A cheap, easy to get hold of soap ingredient that lends lovely cleansing properties to your soap. However, it is not suitable for vegetarians or vegans.||High levels of Oleic and Palmitic acids, low levels of Linoleic, Myristic and Stearic acids.||0.1399|
|Mango butter||Adds wonderful conditioning and moisturizing benefits to your soap, but does harden it considerably. Great to use with oils that produce a very soft soap, but otherwise should not be used in quantities over 15%.||High levels of Oleic and Stearic acids, low levels of Linoleic and Palmitic acids.||.1360|
|Olive oil||Virgin is fine to use, but I strongly recommend using pomace oil as its much cheaper. Makes a wonderful conditioning bar. Olive oil soaps are very mild, so great for use on babies and young children.||High levels of Oleic acid, low levels of Linoleic, Linolenic, Palmitic and Stearic acids.||0.1353|
|Palm oil||Probably one of the best oils to use in terms of how it behaves in soap. Nevertheless, it is a very controversial ingredient due to sustainability and how harvesting affects local wildlife. For these reasons, I do not recommend this oil to any soap maker, you can substitute with babassu oil, tallow or lard.||High levels of Oleic and Palmitic acids, low levels of Linoleic, Myristic and Stearic acids.||0.1440|
|Peach Kernel oil||Great for sensitive skin, produces a lovely milk soap with a creamy lather||High in Oleic acid, low levels of Linoleic, Linolenic, Palmitic and Stearic acids||0.1361|
|Rice Bran oil||Produces a great conditioning soap and will make skin feel soft and well hydrated. However, its lather is somewhat poor. Best blended with other oils.||High in Linoleic and Oleic acids, low levels of Palmitic and Stearic acids.||0.1290|
|Rosehip Oil||An oil known for it’s powerful healing properties. Nevertheless, these properties are kind of lost when used in the bulk of your soap batter. Best used for superfatting.||High in Linoleic and Linolenic acids, low levels of Oleic, Palmitic and Stearic acids.||.1350|
|Safflower oil||This takes a long time to trace, as well as deteriorates soap quite quickly. Best used with other oils to prolong life as well as speed up trace.||High levels of Linoleic and Oleic acids, low levels of Palmitic and Stearic acids.||0.1374|
|Shea butter||This butter is super moisturizing and will nourish your skin. In soap, it produces a soap that is super creamy and ultra-moisturizing due to its content of un-saponifiable’s||High ion Oleic and Stearic acid, low levels of Linoleic and Palmitic acids.||0.1296|
|Sunflower oil||This oil can deteriorate very quickly in soap, and so best used with long-lasting oils with high vitamin e content.||High in Linoleic acid, low levels of Linolenic, Oleic, Palmitic and Stearic acids.||0.1358|
|Wheatgerm oil||Rich in antixidants and vitamin e, a great oil to use in conjunction with any oils that have shorter shelf lives.||High in Linoleic acid, low levels of Oleic, Palmitic and Stearic acids.||0.1319|
Superfatting With the Lye Calculator
So here’s the deal with superfatting. When you make soap at home, the majority of the oils saponify (turn to soap). However, superfatting allows you to add extra oil that won’t saponify, leaving you with a soap that has luxurious oils left over to nourish your skin.
I always recommend to superfat at 5% as standard, so when you use the lye calculator above you will see that the default is set to 5%. However, you can increase this up to 10% or decrease it to 0% by using the superfatting level slider. For a super luxurious soap, you may wish to have a relatively high superfat content. However, a teenager with acne wouldn’t benefit from superfatting over 3%. So when deciding how much to superfat, always keep the purpose of the soap at the forefront of your mind.
If you want to superfat with the bulk oils of your recipe, my soap making calculator will handle that for you when you use the superfatting slider. This is great, because it is easy to do and quite effective. Nevertheless, you will not be able to guarantee which oils in your recipe will be superfatted, or your superfatting will be split across your oils equally.
Making Use Of Precious Oils When Superfatting
However, there are times when you might want to make use of precious oils for superfatting, which may require you to be more precise. Argan oil is an excellent example of this. Because argan is so damn expensive, using it in the bulk of your soap will make your soap extremely expensive to reproduce. This is especially problematic for anyone who plans to sell their soap.
While you can add argan oil to the soap calculator, you will have the problem of all of your oils being superfatted as opposed to just your argan oil. If you want it more precise, we’ll need to use a little math. Don’t worry, it’s nothing you can’t do on a calculator.
So, if you want to superfat with something like argan oil, use the calculator as you normally would, but leave out the argan and make sure the lye calculators superfatting slider is set at 0%. Then, you are free to add up to 10% of your argan oil by adding it at trace with your aromas, colors and added botanicals. Though I would recommend 5%.
If you’re not sure how much 5% of your total batch is, there’s a simple formula you can follow. Take the total weight of your soap batch, divide that by 100 and then times that number by 5 (or whatever percentage you wish to superfat). That should give you the amount of argan oil you’d need to use.
So, for example, if my soap batch is 1.3kg and I wanted to superfat with argan oil at 5%, I would follow this calculation: 1300/100*5 = 65g. I would then add 65g of argan oil at trace, along with my extra ingredients. While some of this may still saponify, it is much more likely to remain as a superfat when you add it at trace, as opposed to with the bulk of your oils in the emulsion stage.
The sap values you see in the chart above, of which are the same used by the calculator, are taken as an average of saponification values provided by Certified Lye and many other trusted sources. But please remember that depending on a variety of factors, saponification values of oils can change.
For example, sap values may change depending on the supplier, manufacturer, region of origin and even time of year. However, this should not affect your soap making when using this calculator, as the differences will only be small and margin for error is minimal.
If you would like to check the sap value we have applied to a specific oil, select it and set the weight to 1. As an example, if we choose almond oil and set the weight to 1 gram, it will show the sap value is 0.137
Water/Lye Ratios With the Lye Calculator
The amount of lye and water you’ll need to properly saponify your oils, butters and waxes into soap will be handled by the soap calculator. So, no need to get your calculator out for this one!
I usually recommend selecting a ratio of 2/1 in the water/lye section of the calculator. That’s a pretty good standard for any hard soap. For liquid soap, you would want 3/1.
You’ll notice I have offered the option to lower the ratio in the calculator. This is there for experienced soap makers who want to try and speed up saponification.
Sometimes certain soaps can take a very long time to harden in the mold (e.g. when making castile soap I use 1.5/1). By lowering the amount of water, you can get that soap out and start curing it earlier. Nevertheless, this does leave more room for error. I would only recommend utilizing this option if you’re experienced with making soap.
Other Ingredients Worth Thinking About
Before considering adding any extra ingredients, keep in mind that all of the below will accelerate trace, some quicker than others. Just be sure to add these at a light trace, right before you plan to pour into the mold.
Essential and Fragrance Oils
We all want a nice smelling soap, this is where essential and fragrance oils come in! Let’s talk about them separately, though, because both have their strengths and weaknesses.
are amazing in soaps. They smell wonderful but also have many benefits that can be imbued in your soaps. They’re also 100% natural, and so great for anyone who wants to avoid synthetic chemicals. To learn more about these benefits and where to buy them, take a look at our essential oil use guides.
However, essential oils can hurt your wallet. Because they’re a natural product, supply is not always assured. This, in conjunction with the process in which they’re extracted, they can be very expensive and their price can vary from year to year.
Furthermore, various factors (such as climate) can change how essential oils smell. For instance, if the region that grows the lavender used for your essential oil has less rainfall one year, this could impact the quality of the essential oil. So there are a variety of issues regarding essential oils that you should keep in mind, especially when it comes to producing a consistent product.
Now, let’s chat about fragrance oil. These aromatic, albeit synthetic oils are the unnatural cousins of the essential oil. They’re cheaper, more consistent and the supply is always available. They also come in waaaaaay more varieties than essential oils do. Want a soap that smells like blueberry muffins? Fragrance oils are the way to go.
But, there’s a big catch. Because they’re synthetic, they have literally no benefit other than that they smell nice. They’re also packed full of artificially produced chemicals made in laboratories. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of smearing my body with something so unnatural. While the long term research on the safety of fragrance oils doesn’t currently exist, I just personally wouldn’t chance it.
There’s also something worth mentioning, and that’s how fragrance oils behave in soap. I find fragrance oils to be the bane of my soap making life. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had soap rice after adding them at trace. While you can buy fragrance oils that are formulated for cp and hp soap making, even those seem to be a bit hit and miss sometimes. Fragrance oils are great for melt and pour soap, but just don’t seem to be great for cp and hp soap.
Dying your soaps can be a great way to make them more beautiful and eye-catching. Like essential oils and fragrance oils, you have two options here; natural and unnatural.
For the natural, there are a few options you can go for. Tarragon, for instance, is a great way to get a nice orange looking soap without impacting the scent profile of your soaps. There are other options, though, so take a look at my soap colorant section of my soap supplies page. The only problem is that you are more limited in what you can do and what colors you can get out of natural dyes. They’re also not all that vibrant, either.
As for unnatural, you have the micas. While mica is technically a naturally occurring mineral, many of the micas you find on the market are adulterated with synthetic pigments to get them to look nice and bright. While you’ll see many suppliers claiming their micas to be all-natural, I’m not sure I always trust them on that one.
Nevertheless, I have used micas many many times and haven’t have a problem. They are beautifully bright, vivid and come in a plenitude of colors, shades and hues. I tend not to use a lot of mica in my soaps anyway, so I think a pinch of something not so natural probably won’t hurt. Whereas dumping a load of synthetic fragrance oil is, for me, a big no-no.
Be careful when using anything that claims to be a liquid soap dye in your cp and hp soap. These are usually formulated for melt and pour soaps and not for cp or hp methods. Always make sure the product say it is suitable for cp and hp, otherwise pass on it.
Now for the little extras that aren’t necessary, but could make your product that bit more interesting or useful.
First, let’s talk about added botanicals. Often I’ll add dried or crushed organic herbs into my soap. A good example of that is my lavender and mint soap recipe, where I use crushed dried mint leaves. These add a great ascetic to your product and also scream ‘I am natural’ to your customers (if you sell your soaps, that is).
Be careful what you choose, though. dried flowers, for instance, are great when sprinkled on top but completely lose their color when stirred into the soap batter. Just be mindful and do your research.
Other added extras include exfoliants. Adding something like poppy seeds, jojoba beads or crushed almond shells can give your product an added exfoliating benefit. You’ll be able to clean your skin but also get rid of dead skin cells at the same time! I love doing this, and the pieces of exfoliants can look great in your soaps, too!
Lastly, we have functional additives. Sometimes you’ll want to add an extra ingredient in your soap that does something specific. Lactic acid, for instance, jumps to mind immediately. This ingredient will make your soap harden up much more quickly. Its something I have worked with in the past, but I personally prefer to formulate a recipe that works great on its own.
Another optional ingredient you could try is titanium dioxide. This product will help lighten your soap. An all-natural soap has a tendency to look a little beige or dull. By adding this, you can actually get a soap that looks very white and pure. Nevertheless, it is entirely unnatural and I ordinarily will not make use of it.
This list of functional ingredients to use in my soap calculator will likely get longer as I discover new ones, so come back from time to time and check out what I’ve discovered!