Tips on How to Change and Customize a Soap Recipe

This website is reader-supported - thank you! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how.

Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap

I share a lot of cold-process soap recipes here on Lovely Greens. Everything from simple goat milk soap to 100% olive oil soap, to how to make pretty Herb Garden Soap. Each recipe is precise in the amounts and types of main oils, lye and water, colour, fragrance, and other ingredients. The directions, including temperature and technique, are also very specific. Still, the most common question I get is how to change the recipe.

There are some very valid reasons why you’d want to change some of my recipes or any others that you come across. In this piece I’ll show you how.

Reasons to change a soap recipe

Sometimes making a soap recipe can be difficult because of regional differences. For example, I’ve had soap makers in Africa email to say that it’s difficult to source or buy olive oil — and when it is available, it’s often very expensive. Other soap makers don’t want to use palm oil (here’s why and my own stance on it). Yet others would like to avoid ingredients that they or their family have a sensitivity to. Here are some of the reasons that people have given me as to why they’d like to change a soap recipe:

Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap
All of these batches of soap have the same base recipe but different colors and scent
  • Allergy or skin sensitivity
  • Cost and affordability
  • Availability of ingredients
  • Prefer Vegan or Vegetarian ingredients
  • Prefer all-natural ingredients
  • Avoiding Palm oil (these are my palm-oil free soap recipes)
  • Would like to add an ingredient they already have

Soap recipes are chemical formulas

The vast majority of people who ask me about changing a soap recipe are beginners. If you’re also a beginner please read this carefully: Changing a soap recipe is not like giving your own flair to a cupcake recipe. Soap making is chemistry.

Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap
Natural soap recipes aren’t like food recipes, they’re chemical formulas

To be clearer, soap recipes aren’t true “recipes”, they’re chemical formulas. Even if you’re making “natural” soap. An experienced soap maker can create and alter soap recipes because they understand which oils and combinations of oils can create a good bar. Then they calculate the correct amount of lye needed to transform the oils into soap. If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend that you use simple beginner soap recipes at first. If you can’t find one that suits you on Lovely Greens, check out these soap making books that I recommend.

Herbal Academy Introductory Course
Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap
The change from oil to soap requires lye. See the full soap making process.

Oil + Lye = Soap

In soap making, the bulk of the oils and the lye will go through a chemical process called saponification. It’s through this process that they’re bonded together and transformed into soap. In a cake, the flour and eggs and all the ingredients used to make it are still there to some extent. In soap recipe using olive oil, that oil will transform from oil into Sodium olivate, a new compound that we’d call olive oil soap. It’s not olive oil any longer. All the other types of oils will change too – Coconut oil becomes Sodium cocoate, Sunflower oil becomes Sodium sunflowerate, and so on.

In a soap recipe, each oil is chosen for a reason, and the amount of lye (NaOH or KOH) is calculated to be the exact amount you need to saponify it. In most cases you’ll also use a superfat. This means that there’s a certain percentage of extra oil in your recipe that will not go through saponification. It stays in your soap to add conditioning properties to your bars.

Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap
Sodium hydroxide is the type of lye that you use in cold-process soap making.

It’s not as easy as changing one oil for another

Each type of oil requires a specific ratio of lye to become soap. That means that you can’t just add a dash of this oil to the recipe, or take a bit of this out, or replace it with something else. It’s not as easy as that and being careless in your soap making can be dangerous. That’s because different oils require different amounts of Sodium hydroxide (lye) to transform them into soap.

If you change a soap recipe’s ingredients without accounting for the change in Sodium hydroxide, you can end up with a batch that fails. Or worse, a batch of soap that could cause skin irritation.

Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap
The Natural Soap Making for Beginners series shows you the basics of making handmade soap

Beginner Soap Making Series

Most of the soap recipes I share are small 1-lb (454g) batches with simple soaping oils, simple techniques, and natural ingredients. You can even get many of those ingredients at shops in town. Head over here for my tips on where to source soap ingredients.

If you’re a beginner and are interested in making soap, please begin with my Natural Soap Making for Beginners series. It will give you a good overview and also some basic soap making recipes. I’d advise all beginners to use tried and tested recipes instead of trying to concoct their own.

  1. Natural Soap Ingredients
  2. Soap Making Equipment & Safety
  3. Easy Soap Recipes
  4. The Soap Making Process
Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap
Enter the original soap recipe in the SoapCalc online app

Change a soap recipe using the SoapCalc

If you really do need to change a recipe, the first step is to head over to a soap calculator like the SoapCalc. The aim of this exercise is to recreate the original soap recipe in the SoapCalc and then edit it from there.

Begin by selecting options for the first and second fields which are the type of lye you’re using and the units of measurement. Make sure the values in the recipe match the unit (pounds, ounces, grams) in section 2.

Skip sections 3-5 and then add all the ingredients to the form in section 6. Make sure that the radio button is selected for the weight and not the %.

When all the ingredients are in place, click the button next to section 7 – it says ‘1. Calculate Recipe’. After that, click the button ‘2. View or Print Recipe’. A new tab or window will open with your base recipe laid out. You will likely see inconsistencies in the amount of lye and water needed.

Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap
This is the pop-out screen that you’ll see after clicking ‘2. View or Print Recipe’

Adjusting the Superfat to get the Lye amount

If the lye amount is different, head back to the first page and adjust the values in section 4. Ignore the part about fragrance and adjust the Superfat value. Handmade soap is typically made with a superfat of between 3-8%. However, you will find some recipes that are lower or higher. Laundry soap, for example, could have a 0% superfat while shampoo bars can have up to 15%.

Keep adjusting the values, hitting the buttons in section 7, until the lye amount matches the original recipe. Don’t worry if the water amount is different and ignore section 3 — all will be explained further on.

Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap
Changing the palm oil to tallow results in a very similar recipe with practically the same amount of lye required

Change a soap recipe using the SoapCalc

Once you have the original recipe in front of you, it’s time to start adjusting. If you want your new soap recipe to be close to the original as far as hardness, lather, conditioning, and cleansing take some notes. Jot down the original weight of oils, values for water and superfat, and the Soap Quality values. Any changes you make should still reflect similar values for those fields.

Now remove the ingredient(s) that you’d like to omit and/or add the ones you’d like to use. Make sure that the total amount by weight of the entire recipe remains the same (section 2). It can take time adjusting the oils until you get a recipe that looks workable.

In most cases, you will need to use a combination of other oils to replace a single type. You should also keep an eye on using around a 40:60 ratio of saturated fats (mainly solid oils) to unsaturated fats (mainly liquid oils). This is not an absolute rule but a good best practice in formulating soap recipes. You can see this ratio in the SoapCalc at the bottom of section 5.

There are very few oils that are directly interchangeable but the exception is tallow and palm oil. They have very similar saponification values. That’s why you’ll sometimes see palm oil called vegetable tallow. Their fatty acid profiles are also very similar.

Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap
It’s the fatty acids in different oils that contribute to a good bar of soap. That’s why most soap recipes have more than one type of oil.

Oil replacements

You’ll notice a column in section 5 of the SoapCalc that lists a whole lot of chemical looking words. This section is the fatty acid profile for your soap recipe. Each one of those words, Lauric acid, Myristic acid, etc., represents the individual amount of that fatty acid in the oils you’re using. It’s a calculation of how much there is in your entire recipe.

Fatty acids are what oils are made up of and each gives a specific property to your bars. These include silky lather, bubbliness, conditioning and moisturizing levels, hardness, stable lather, and more.

This chart lists the fatty acids you’ll be looking at in soap making along with the qualities they’ll give your soap. It also lists various oils that are high in particular fatty acids. They are arranged in approximate order of those that contain the highest amounts. Some of these oils are exotic, expensive, or have ethical or environmental issues so I’ve highlighted my pick for each in bold.

Fatty Acids in Soaping Oils

Fatty acidProperties that it gives to soapOils that contain this fatty acid
Lauric acidHardnessPalm kernel, coconut, babassu
Linoleic acidConditioning Moisturizing
Evening primrose, grapeseed, poppy seed, passion fruit, hemp, black cumin, cottonseed, corn, rapeseed, hempseed, safflower, soybean
Linolenic acidConditioning Moisturizing
Hemp, flax, but found in smaller and more stable amounts in oils like olive and sunflower
Myristic acidHardness, cleansing, fluffy latherCoconut, palm kernel, babassu
Oleic acidConditioning
Sunflower, camellia, olive oil, hazelnut, shea oil, sweet almond, apricot kernel, peach kernel, apricot kernel, canola, avocado, peanut, shea butter
Palmic acidHardness
Stable lather
Stearic acid, palm, soy wax, cocoa butter, tallow
Ricinoleic acidConditioning
Stable lather
Stearic acidHardness
Stable lather
Stearic acid, sal butter, Illipe butter, shea butter, mango butter, cocoa butter

These are good figures to work towards along with oils rich in that particular fatty acid.

  • Lauric acid at 15% — Using more can cause overdrying
  • Myristic acid at 7% — Using more can cause overdrying
  • Palmic acid at 15% — Using more can cause overdrying
  • Stearic acid at 7% — Using more can cause overdrying
  • Ricinoleic acid at 5-10% — Using too much castor oil can create a sticky bar
  • Oleic acid at 36% — Using more can impede lather
  • Linoleic acid at 10% — Using more can cause DOS (Dreaded Orange Spot)
  • Linolenic at 0-1%
Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap
Most soap recipes will include coconut oil since it creates a good hard bar with lots of lather. On its own, it can be drying though, which is why it’s nearly always used alongside other oils.

Main Soap Making Oils

You could probably spend days fiddling with the soap calculator and trying to come up with the perfect recipe. When I’m creating a recipe I look closely at the Soap Qualities field and especially the INS number. I try to make sure that the values for my recipe fit within their recommended range.

I’ve heard more than once that soap makers have created great recipes that have not fit into these ranges perfectly. However, they are a good standard and I’ve not yet had an experience of a bad recipe if I follow their guidelines.

Here are some of the most common and useful soap making oils and their recommended usage rates as part of a soap recipe.

  • Coconut oil at 15-30%
  • Olive oil at up to 100%
  • Palm oil at up to 50% (please use Sustainable Palm oil though)
  • Sunflower oil at 5-20%
  • Canola oil at 10-15%
  • Shea butter at 5-15%
  • Castor oil at 3-10%
Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap
Changing the fragrance of a soap recipe is one of the easiest ways to customize it

Changing the fragrance in a soap recipe

Sometimes when you want to change a soap recipe, all you want to do is use a different scent. When it comes to using essential oils and fragrance oils you need to be just as diligent with using just the right amount. Too little and the scent will be faint. Too much and it could cause rashes and other skin irritations.

Fragrance oils are not completely natural and are patented perfume products. Some are only suitable for candles, while others are skin-safe. Each one will come with a recommendation for how much you can use in leave-on skin products like lotion, and in wash-off products like soap. Always follow these guidelines. If the usage rate for your fragrance is not clear, contact the manufacturer.

How to work out fragrance amounts

Some people might be confused as to how much fragrance adds up to that percentage. This is how you work it out. If the maximum usage rate for a fragrance oil is 3% it’s calculated as that percentage of the total soap recipe including oils, lye, and fragrance. You don’t work the water content in since most of it evaporates out during the curing phase.

If you’re making a 454g (1lb) batch, then you can use up to 13.62g of fragrance. You can also calculate how much fragrance you can use by using that particular field in the SoapCalc. Set the field for fragrance to reflect the percentage you can use in your soap. It’s in g/kg so 30g would be 3% of 1kg.

Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap
Many essential oils work well on their own and in blends

Changing the essential oils in a soap recipe

When using fragrance oils in soap, you tend to stick with just one. They’re made to stand on their own as a scent. Essential oils are different. You can use many on their own but the vast majority are much better worked into blends.

Essential oil blends are made of two or more oils but are best when they have a top, middle, and base note. I go into far more detail on how to create your own essential oil blends and how much to use in handmade soap over here.

Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap
There’s a world of soap colorants out there to use. Learn more about natural soap colors

Soap Colorants

You might find a soap recipe that you’re interested in making but you want to change the color or color ingredients. To do this, you’ll need to remove the soap colorant from the recipe and replace it with another. You can also choose to leave the color out completely.

There are countless ingredients that you can use to color handmade soap. Some soap colorants are natural, some not. Some are easy to work with and others are more unpredictable. Learn more about natural soap colorants.

Here are some soap colorants that you might come across:

  • Mineral colors such as Red iron oxide, or Ultramarine blue. They’re considered ‘nature identical’ but not completely natural.
  • Micas – some are considered ‘nature identical’ and some are made with dyes
  • LabColors – concentrated dyes
  • FD&C and D&C colors – concentrated dyes
  • Plant parts: leaf, stem, bark, seeds, flower, berries, and roots
  • Animal extracts such as Cochineal
  • Clays
Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap
Water discounting is calculating how much water to use based on how much lye is in the recipe

Understanding how much water to use

Another big question I get asked is why my recipes often have less water than what they’re seeing in the SoapCalc (using the default setting) or in other recipes.

Water plays two main roles in a soap recipe. It dissolves the lye into a liquid solution that can evenly mix with the oils and start saponification. It can also speed up or slow down the time that your soap comes to ‘Trace’. The more water you use, the slower it will firm up. The less you use, the quicker it traces. Using more water in a soap recipe also helps the soap to heat up and to gel once the soap is in the mold.

Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap
I tend to use a 35.7% lye solution. That means I’ll calculate how much lye is needed in a recipe then multiply that amount times 1.8 for the water amount.

Why I ignore the SoapCalc’s water recommendations

You’ll notice that by default, the SoapCalc will give you a water amount of 38% of the oil content. However, measuring water by the percentage of oil can be inaccurate. That’s because in any two 454g (1-lb) soap recipes the amount of lye will be different. Different oils need differing amounts of lye to change into soap.

Say in one recipe you need 60g (2.1oz) of lye and in another, you need 80g (2.8oz). If you measure the amount of water-based on the oil weight then the water amount will be the same for both recipes at 172.5g (6.09oz). This is calculated at 38% of 454g (1lb).

In the end, this means that the first recipe will have a weaker lye-solution (60g lye + 172.5g water) and will Trace slowly and the other one (80g lye + 172.5g water) will have a stronger lye solution and may trace a lot quicker.

Guidance on how to change a soap recipe to omit or add a type of oil, changing color, calculating a water discount, or using different fragrance. If you plan to customize a soap recipe, these tips will show you how #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soap
Pin this on Pinterest

Creating lye-solutions

A better way to calculate the water amount in a soap recipe is by starting with how much lye is in the recipe. When creating lye solutions, the standard amount of lye to water is generally 25-28%. For example, for a 25% lye solution with 60g of lye you would use 180g of water. Just multiply the lye amount by 3 and you’ll get your water amount.

You’ve also probably come across a term called water discounting. Nearly all my soap recipes are water discounted and all that means is that I use a stronger lye solution. The benefits include a quicker Trace time, shorter curing time, and it stops soda ash from forming on my soap.

Lye Solution Strengths

For single color simple soap recipes with a base made up with mainly coconut and olive oils I use a 35.7% lye solution. I take whatever amount of lye I need and multiply it by 1.8 to get the water amount.

The strongest lye solution you can make is 50% meaning that it’s 50% lye and 50% water. I don’t recommend using this strong a solution since the soap can trace so quickly that it seizes (goes solid in your pan). The lye might also have trouble dissolving in the water if your room temperature is less than 77F/25C. This means that bits of lye might get in your soap and not react with the oils. The outcome would be lye pockets in your soap waiting to burn your skin when you use it.

How to customize a soap recipe

I hope this piece answers any questions that you have about how to customize a soap recipe. If you have any further general questions please leave them as a comment below.

Lovely Greens Natural Soapmaking for Beginners Course

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Asela Balthazar says:

    Hello Tanya,

    Please help me to understand more on LYE part.

    You said in one place that we can multiply Lye amount by 3 to get water amount needed and on other you said multiply by 1.8 to get water amount.

    What is the different between the two? Please help!!

    1. Hi Asela, the amount of water used in a cold process soap recipe is variable. A good all-round amount is 2x the amount of lye by weight. My favorite amount is 1.8x though, since it helps speed up the time to trace and helps firm up the bars quicker in the mold. The SoapCalc by default gives water amounts for recipes based on hot-process soapmaking, though, not cold-process. So please ignore that amount and use 2x the amount of lye for the water amount in the beginner recipes that you’re making now.

  2. Asela Balthazar says:

    Hi Tanya!

    I congratulate you for the hard work that you are doing for us for sure..

    If it pleases you; will you please record a video tutor of how to use a soapcalc? For me the written instruction in this calculator is really confusing🙈🙆.
    And if possible kindly help me understand how to cure the tape water? Can I use EDTA? If yes in what amount?

    Thank you for consideration 🙏

    1. Hi Asela, I’ve just replied to your comments in the online soapmaking course. I recommend that you begin making the small batches that I share in the course and here on the website and get comfortable with making soap before considering making large batches. Walk before you run :) I’ll consider making a guide on how to use the SoapCalc, too!

  3. Hi Tanya, I am going to make one of your basic recipes for starters. My father in love works in a local hive and he gave me some precious beeswax. I was wondering, if I add 1% to the recipe should I change any other value? Sorry, probably is a super dumb question but I had to try!

    1. Hi Lau, in most cases I’d say to pop the full recipe into the SoapCalc and then make adjustments. If you’re adding just 1% of beeswax, though, then that’s fine! Also, only about half of beeswax can interact with lye and turn into soap and the other half stays in the soap adding hardness. That means that the recipe’s superfat would only increase by 0.5% if you added 1% beeswax to a recipe.

  4. Hello Tanya. I want to make soap using olive oil and castor, what do you think about this combination? What ratio do you suggest? Can I reduce the amount of water like castile soap and use that formula? Thank you

    1. Hi Ali, 95% olive oil and 5% castor oil would work but I wouldn’t recommend using any more castor oil than that. It’s a soft and sticky oil that can help stabilize lather but too much, especially in a soft oil soap recipe like this, can make the bars too soft.

  5. i want to add aloe from my plant to a recipe, what do i need to change in order to do this, thank you

    1. Hi there, you don’t need to change the recipe in itself; you just replace some or all of the water content with pureed and strained aloe vera.

  6. Christine Fortier says:

    Hello Tanya, I am new to soap making and have yet to make a batch. I have 60+ hours in intense study without practical experience. I love your blog and your soap recipes. I want to make several, but I am unfortunately very sensitive to coconut oil. I can tolerate some but the recipes have more then what is safe for me. How can I lower the coconut oil by half if possible, and raise the amounts of other fats/oils? It is so dis-heartening.
    Thanks so much

    1. Hi Christine, whenever you see coconut oil, you can substitute it directly for babassu oil. You will need to run the recipe through a soap calculator to get a new lye amount, though.

  7. Marie gilus says:

    Hi Tania it’s Mariee, I would like to know if I can use tumeric, aloe or fenugreek powder into your recipe

    1. Hi Marie and yes, you can. Powders like turmeric can be added around 1/2-1 tsp PPO (per 1-lb/454g batch of soap) and aloe vera gel can replace some of the water content in a soap recipe.

  8. Hi Tanya,
    I am new to soapmaking and find your lesson very valuable.
    I have a question. I want to decorate my bar with a chocolate-like glaze with a semy glossy finish. What recipe would you recommend using? I can imagine using soap with a glycerin base but not as liquidy or transparent. Would I need to change the lye calculation if I just add glycerin to the hot process soap at the end of the process? Thank you.

    1. The only way that I can think to get a glossy soap “glaze” is with melt and pour soap with a colorant.

  9. Hi Tania,
    Firstly, thank you for everything you do and share with us all. When you make a soap using a tea instead of water in the lye solution, would this be an ‘extract’ in the ingredient list? For instance, infusing lemon balm and mixing with lye. Can I say that the soap contains Melissa leaf extract?
    Thank you :)

    1. Hi Silvie, using your example, it’s my understanding (for the UK) that you could either say melissa officinalis or melissa officinalis leaf extract when labeling your soap.

  10. chris bennett says:

    I would like to add echuim seed oil to my recipe but that oil isnt listed on soapcalc ,echuim seed oil is 190 =205 sapofincation level i think palm oil is 190 to 205 but the the fatty acid characteristics of both oils are different .how do i add echuim oil accurately to ensure it saponify correctly in my soap recipe .id like to ensure that my soap not lye heavy ,as i dont know how to do it as echium oil and listed in soap calc

    1. Echium seed oil is a quite pricey oil high in fatty acids and sold as a supplement or used in skincare. However, it’s an oil that you would use in products that stay on your skin, rather than wash off. I’ve never heard of anyone using it in soap before and there’s a good reason! That fine oil would be wasted in soap either during the saponfication process or if it does make it through that, then it would be washed down the drain as you clean. If you’d like to use it for the skin I’d recommend that you use it to make products like serums, moisturizers, and balms. You can use it in place of some of the liquid oil in this recipe and many others.

      1. I’m interested in making Noni soaps,
        But not too sure how
        Can I replace water with the Noni juice?

        Does this affect soaponification process

        * I wanna use coconut milk as well in my recipes
        Cold process do I also need to adjust the amount
        if I replace water to coconut milk?

        1. Hi Lessy, noni juice (juice from the fruit of the noni tree Morinda citrifolia) is well known to have volcano reactions with lye. Even if the juice is refrigerated. With noni juice, and other juices, it’s better to mix the lye with distilled water and allow to cool before adding the noni juice. That means that you could have half the water amount as distilled water and half as the juice.

          Coconut milk would again be a replacement for the water amount. However, the best time to add it is at trace so you’d still mix the lye with some water at the start of the process.

  11. Hi Tanya,
    I’m interested in adding some natural colorants from your other article on the topic. I appreciate that you have described how to mix it in, but I’m not sure if I should subtract the liquid I am going to mix the powder into from the original recipe. For example, I’m considering adding spinach powder at trace. The place I bought it from recommends adding 2 tsp powder to 1 Tbsp light oil. Should I subtract that 1 Tbsp from the olive oil in the recipe? Based on this article I think that will increase my superfat a little but probably not much. Alternatively, I could add the powder to a little water and add at trace. Based on what you wrote here I think that wouldn’t affect the recipe much because the water evaporates.
    How do you decide which to use (oil or water) when adding colorants at trace? And do you have to subtract it from the original amount in the recipe?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Iris, there are many ways to add colorants into soap. If you use oil to pre-mix colorant, use it from the soap recipe rather than adding more in. If you use water, it’s fine to add a little extra. Some colorants mix better into oil or water and I make decisions based on that. Spinach will work with either :)

  12. Hello sister .
    Namaste I am trying to start making soap but I live in Nepal and olive oil is expensive here so is the coconut .Can i replace with sunflower oil?Currently we are having lockdown here so most of the items required are not available .I have lot more questions,can I have your facebook id please.

    1. Hi Monika, you can find me on Facebook here. The point of this article is to explain that replacing an oil in a soap recipe is advanced and not as simple as you’d want. The entire recipe is impacted by the smallest change and you can make unsafe and/or poor quality soap if you don’t stick to the recipe. Sunflower oil is probably one of the worst oils that you can use on its own to make handmade soap. It will result in soft bars that spoil very quickly — they’ll get ‘dreaded orange spot’ and go rancid due to the fatty acid make-up of the oil. Though it’s not ideal due to ethical issues, palm oil might be one of your only choices for inexpensive soap in Nepal. I understand that it’s available as is mustard seed oil (not great for soap).

  13. Hi, just reading how to adjust a recipe. If I adjust the oils being used I understand that, but If I want to use one of the recipes on your site but in bigger containers how do I adjust to make larger quantities.
    If I say use a recipe from here that is say 454grams how do I adjust to 900grams.

    1. Hi Lisa, you would do that by putting all of the figures into the SoapCalc. Then you adjust the batch size to 900 g, and it will work the new amounts out for you.

  14. Hi Tanya,
    I am really enjoying reading your articles and finding a lot of great information. I am new to soap making, so trying to learn as much as I can.
    I am wondering if you have every used maple syrup in your soap recipes? Or how I would go about making a maple soap?
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Charlene, and I’d recommend using maple syrup in the same way as honey. They’re both sugars and added to the lye solution it can caramelize and color/scent your soap or added after trace it can help boost lather. Here’s my recipe for honey and beeswax soap so that you can see how I use honey.

  15. Just love your site!! Thank you for explaining so many soaping things in easy-to-understand terms. Question: When you speak of the fatty acids in this post, example: Lauric acid @ 15%… what does that % relate to? % of what? Because if I calculate it as a % of the oils, the numbers don’t make sense… example: if Lauric is 12, please explain what that “12” means in relation to “lauric acid at 15%”. I use SoapCalc and am trying to understand the profile of the fatty acids and how they relate to recipes. Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Lisa, Lauric acid is a fatty acid found in varying percentages in soapmaking oils. For example, coconut oil is made up of 48% lauric acid. To see this in the SoapCalc, create a recipe with only coconut oil listed. You can see its fatty acid profile to the left. However, some fatty acids such as lauric acid are also listed as ingredients — these are isolated fatty acids that are extracted from oils.

      So to answer your question, the 15% lauric acid refers to the recommended maximum amount of all the lauric acid in the recipe. It accounts for the lauric acid found in soapmaking oils such as coconut oil, and for the lauric acid that may be added in as an ingredient. If you see 12 as a figure in your fatty acid profile, that means that the recipe has 12% lauric acid.

  16. Dragonfly.Drifter says:

    I’m a new soaper. I’ve made many of your recipes and they all turn out great! But I am trying to go further and understand more fully the term “water discounting” and where to enter that into Soap Calc. I guess I must have a mental block even though I’ve read your info and numerous sites over and over. When your recipe (or any recipes) says “x-% water discount”, where do I enter that into SoapCalc? Is “Water Discount” synonymous with “Lye Concentration”? If I enter your recipe into Soap Calc in the Lye Concentration field, the results are exactly as your recipe indicates. So, do I understand that “Water Discount” and “Lye Concentration” are the same?

    1. They are two terms that refer to the same thing — using less water to create a stronger lye-solution. Water discounting refers to the process of using less water, and lye concentration refers to the final result. The terms can be used interchangeably.

  17. Lauren R. Bennewith says:

    I tried your lavender soap recipe about 5 months ago and it turned out beautifully. I trust your recipes as it is obvious you understand the chemistry and have also tested extensively. I’m wondering if I can simply double or triple your original recipe (no substations) or should I run the ingredients through the soap calc to batch up?

    1. I’m in the process of converting all of my soap recipes into printable pieces that can also double or triple the recipe. I’ve not got to that one yet, though :) To answer your question, yes you can scale the recipe up if you wish. Run it through the SoapCalc if you have any worries though.

  18. Hello tanya, I have a very rough skin. Nothing I use is working, .please can you help me out.

  19. Hi Tanya in all the tutorials I’ve watched and articles I’ve read none of them explains so vividly why soap recipes cannot be changed just like that the way yours did. Your article mastered the touch of answering my every question.I’m an excellent baker and have been quite successful with alot of my recipes from adding my own touch or taking away and replacing and was a little disheartened by the fact that this doesn’t work in my newly found passion. However, this little mole hill in my pathway will not dampen my passion to master the art of soaping. I’ll continue to stick to your recipes because I like yours best for now till I master the soap calc. Let me mention because of you I’m now collecting my own herbs and spices and infusing oils to make my own handmade soaps. You inspire me and made me realize I was not enjoying my life because I wasn’t doing the things I love on a daily basis such as gardening , soaping and collecting all sorts of spices and dried flowers and herbs. Looking forward to reading more of your articles and trying out more of your recipes.

    1. Thanks for the lovely feedback Alisha and don’t worry, with time and experience, you’ll be able to customize your own soap too :)

      1. HELLO, have you used nanogold oraz nanosilver in your soaps. How much of it should be added to simple basic soaps recipe? I would appreciate your suggestion very much.

        1. I’ve not used it but don’t think that it’s an approved ingredient for soapmaking, in any case.

        2. I’m new to soap making and have been using one of your soap recipes that is easy to follow and has simple ingredients. I’m finding it very smooth and hydrating which I love! but it makes small creamy bubbles rather than big lathered bubbles, which is what I would like. I’m wondering if I can adjust the ratio of coconut oil and olive oil by adding more coconut oil and less olive? I get confused about potentially having to adjust the lye amount if I change any of the oil amounts. The recipe I am using of yours is this one:
          110 g Sodium hydroxide
          220 g Distilled water
          200 g Coconut oil (refined)
          80 g Shea butter
          480 g Olive pomace oil
          40 g Castor oil

          Please help! Thank you for all of your soap making info and recipes :)

          1. Hi Courtney, I don’t give individual advice on how to change individual soap recipes, but have a piece that gives more info! Also, if you want big fluffy bubbles, use soap that’s cured for at least six weeks and choose recipes that use around 25% coconut oil or babassu oil. Adding sugar to soap recipes can increase the lather too! Use 1 tsp white sugar per 1lb (454 g) oil in a soap recipe. Dissolve in a TBSP of warmed distilled water and add at trace. A tsp of honey at trace can help with more bubbles too. Good luck :)

  20. Hi Tanya,
    thank you so much for taking the time to write this article out so concisely. I am new to soap making, and have just made my first batch of castile soap using your instructions (I am happy and impressed that it came to trace super nicely). I like castile soap because it’s super simple and uses only olive oil. I was then looking at some of your other recipes, thinking it would be nice to try more but do I really want to buy multiple different oils and fats, and can’t I just substitute all for olive oil… well, you’ve excellently answered why that is Not a good idea, as I suspected.

    1. Hi Maria, what you could do is use my castile soap recipe and customize with the optional ingredients. Meaning, make the recipe as explained but then add different essential oils, colors, or flowers as described in other 1-lb soap recipes. Add these as described in the second recipe but stick to temperatures and base soap ingredients with the castile soap recipe. Hope that makes sense?

  21. Christine says:

    This article is so helpful. Someone above was talking about superfat/discount. Say I am going to do a soap and put 7% superfat/discount. Are you saying that I measure out 7% of oil a put it aside till after it has come to trace then mix it in? How do you decide which oil? Also any recipe that has a % of superfat I do the same?

    1. If you want a specific oil to stay free floating in your bars, add that oil to the soap batter after Trace. Otherwise, you don’t have to add it at that point — just mix all the oils together with the lye-solution. The end result of that would be bars that still have a superfat, but it’s made up of all of the oils you’ve used in your recipe.

      1. Hello how are you?! On this question of superfat, so, if I want to leave the percentage of floating oils in the trace, should I leave it at 0% superfat in the calculator?

  22. Hi Tanya
    I will just order my equipment for cold process soap,and will be starting with few recipe ,but I am still trying to understand everything about soap cal I find it very complicated
    I wish you will make this video ., if not I would like you to visit Curacao to teach me .

  23. Dear Tanya,
    First of all, thank you so much for sharing this on your beautiful website.
    I have a question regarding the use of the soapcalc, maybe you can give some insight.

    If I would make a batch with an super fat of 10% (of almond oil or grape seed oil), is it a good idea to use the soapcalculator entering all my other oils and fill in 0%overfat, and adding 10% of my oil weight extra as super fat after the trace. Because the amount of lye-NaOH is depending on the types of oil you use. But in the calculator isn’t a subdivision incorporated for which oils you add after the trace stadium.
    If I do it this way, I probably won’t be able to use the quality ranges as relevant for that batch?
    Sorry if my question is complicated, but I can’t get my head around it.
    Kind regards,

    1. Hi Charlie — the soap calc can be difficult to learn to use so don’t worry. First of all, be aware that a soap with a 10% superfat will probably come out of the mold soft and sticky. Depending on the oils, it may harden up with time.

      The superfat calculated takes into consideration the average of all the oils used. However, it’s perfectly fine to use in your calculations even if you just want one oil to be the superfat. Calculate your recipe using the soap calc and then assemble your ingredients. Measure out 10% of your oil quantity that you want as the superfat and stir it in after Trace.

  24. Darlene Shannon says:


    I love receiving all the information you share. I do have a concern with the SoapCalc app, it’s not a secure site. Any recommendations?


  25. Hi Tanya,

    Great lengthy article! I love reading all your soaping blogposts because through you I’ve become a soap maker myself. I knew a lot already, but the part about lye concentrations was new and I learned a lot from that!

    Also, I think you made a typo in the fragrance part: “It’s in g/kg so 30g would be 30% of 1kg.” That should be 3%.

    Keep up the great work :)


  26. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, some of it I understood but some are a bit hard for me since i’m a visual learner :) Can you maybe make a video about the lye to water percentage
    ( concentration ) and the water recommendation.
    Thanks again :)

  27. Thank you for all your great information. I really appreciate that you explained the water discount.
    If I add clay, should I reserve water from the lye to mix with the clay? I was thinking of adding a white clay to lighten soap made with organic olive oil and then adding alkanet root.
    I’m tyring to accomplish pink and purple colors while using organic olive oil.

    1. Organic olive oil tends to be a greenish-yellow in color and that translates to the soap too. I’m afraid it’s not as simple as adding clay and alkanet to balance it out. It’s not like painting a wall with layers of paint but rather like mixing the paint itself. The end color would be a mix of all three.

      Pomace olive oil is lighter in color which is one reason it’s more popular with soap makers.

      To answer your question about mixing clay: it’s better to not water discount when adding clay to a recipe since it can cause your soap to crack. Use a full water amount and mix your clay in with the lye or with water reserved from the water part. It’s your choice.

  28. Fabulously thorough article! Thank you a million times over!! I’ve just gotten the SoapCalc. You’ve also included so much extra incredibly valuable info. I’m bookmarking this as I know I’ll refer to it again and again. Thanks!