How to Make Pure 100% Coconut Oil Soap (Cold-Process Recipe)

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Use just three ingredients to make this simple coconut oil soap. It uses a 20% superfat stops the bars from being too drying and is one of the bubbliest soap recipes to make. You can even make it without an immersion blender!

Soapmakers are taught that to make a good bar of soap, you need to choose several oils. Olive oil is a common one, as is shea butter, but probably the most common is coconut oil. The idea is that coconut oil soap is very hard and very bubbly but that it can be overdrying, so you need to balance the recipe with milder oils. This recipe blows away that principle and shows you how to use just coconut oil to make a really good bar of soap.

This cold-process soap recipe uses just three ingredients: coconut oil, lye, and distilled water. That’s it! The result is very hard white bars that won’t dry out your skin and that have excellent lather. Coconut oil soap is also a recipe that traces quickly, so you do not need to use an immersion blender to make it. Stirring alone is enough to bring the ingredients to trace.

Use just three ingredients to make this simple coconut oil soap. It uses a 20% superfat stops the bars from being too drying and is one of the bubbliest soap recipes to make. It doesn't even require an immersion blender #soaprecipe #coconutoil #easysoaprecipe

Single Oil Soap Recipes

The vast majority of soapmaking oils do not make good soap when used in single-oil soap recipes. The bars can be soft enough to squeeze like putty, the lather can be poor, and the cleansing ability is too drying or not cleansing enough. Each oil and fat has a different price point and sustainability level, too, which deters us from using some, or at least using a lot of one in a recipe.

For example, palm oil on its own can make a decent bar of soap, but many soapmakers, and soap customers refuse to use it as an ingredient due to its huge environmental toll. Olive oil makes an excellent single-oil soap recipe called Castile soap, but it can be expensive, and the bars need up to a year to cure. Tallow is another fat that makes really good soap on its own, but being that it’s beef fat limits your market since many people will only use vegetarian or Vegan soap.

Use just three ingredients to make this simple coconut oil soap. It uses a 20% superfat stops the bars from being too drying and is one of the bubbliest soap recipes to make. It doesn't even require an immersion blender #soaprecipe #coconutoil #easysoaprecipe
Pure Coconut oil soap is very hard with fluffy lather

Can I make soap with just coconut oil?

Coconut oil is a very popular soapmaking oil because it helps create hard bars with fluffy, stable lather. It’s also inexpensive for many of us and readily available. However, because it’s seen as drying, most soapmakers won’t use it at any more than 20-30% of a typical soap recipe. At that rate, it contributes the best of its qualities without drying out your skin.

It turns out that soapmakers have been wrong all along, though. You CAN use more than that amount of coconut oil in a soap recipe. The trick is giving the recipe a 20% superfat and the finished bars an extra-long cure time. This recipe accounts for both and will give you hard white bars that lather well and that are gentle on your skin.

Use refined coconut oil to make coconut oil soap

Which Coconut Oil to Use in Soap

Another thing that can confuse people is what type of coconut oil to use in soap? This recipe calls for refined coconut oil. It’s a less expensive type of coconut oil used for healthier frying and does not smell of coconut. You can get a large quantity of it, and if it’s food-grade, feel free to try using it to roast potatoes and cook with.

I don’t advise using delicious and more expensive virgin coconut oil in soapmaking. There’s no point, really, since the coconut scent does not survive the soapmaking process. It is better to use virgin coconut oil in food or natural skincare. Also, do not use fractionated coconut oil (liquid at room temperature) for this recipe. It has properties and a saponification value different from solid coconut oil.

Use just three ingredients to make this simple coconut oil soap. It uses a 20% superfat stops the bars from being too drying and is one of the bubbliest soap recipes to make. It doesn't even require an immersion blender #soaprecipe #coconutoil #easysoaprecipe
Coconut oil is easy to make but needs to cure for 10+ weeks

Coconut Oil Soap with 20% Superfat

One of the most surprising aspects of this soap recipe is that it needs a 20% superfat. Say what?! Yes, that much. Some people make pure coconut oil soap with superfats of up to 30% even, but 20% is plenty enough, in my opinion.

Soap recipes are calculated to have enough oils/fat for the lye to use up, plus a little extra to create the superfat. It works by using less lye than is needed to transform all of the oils in the recipe into soap. You do this by increasing the superfat amount in whichever lye calculator you’re using. The extra oil left in the bars helps make the soap feel mild and conditioning on your skin.

When we make soap with multiple types of oil, the superfat will be a mixture of all of those oils. The way it works is that lye saponifies with whatever oils are around them. The oil is left after the chemical reaction finishes, and the lye is used up is left free-floating in the soap. Having a higher superfat (more than 8%) risks some of those oils going rancid. It’s especially a problem with oils like sweet almond, sunflower, canola, and many other oils.

Most oils, in fact, but not coconut. That’s why it’s safe to use such an exceptionally high superfat in this recipe. And in case you’re wondering, that superfat does not make the soap soft. Coconut oil soap bars are very hard.

Use just three ingredients to make this simple coconut oil soap. It uses a 20% superfat stops the bars from being too drying and is one of the bubbliest soap recipes to make. It doesn't even require an immersion blender #soaprecipe #coconutoil #easysoaprecipe
This recipe uses 20% more coconut oil than the lye needs to turn into soap

Benefits and Disadvantages of Coconut Oil Soap

The soap that you’ll make in this recipe is simple, unscented, and unadorned. Coconut oil soap has a lot of benefits! It’s pure and natural and perfect for everyday use, especially if you have allergies to essential oils and other fragrances. It’s also quick to trace, meaning that you do not need to use a stick blender (immersion blender) to make it. Depending on your region, this could be a very inexpensive soap to make, too.

There are a few disadvantages to coconut oil soap. Because it traces quickly, I would not consider it a candidate for making swirled soap. A simple one-color natural soap colorant would be okay, though, and I have a list of color ingredients over here.

Coconut oil soap must also be cured for ten weeks before it’s gentle enough for your skin. That means that you need patience and that it’s not great as a last-minute gift idea (this other soap recipe is). Curing is more than about saponification and water evaporating. It’s a process where the soap crystals inside the bars more fully develop. Use soap too early, and it can be over-cleansing. Curing is better explained here.

Use just three ingredients to make this simple coconut oil soap. It uses a 20% superfat stops the bars from being too drying and is one of the bubbliest soap recipes to make. It doesn't even require an immersion blender #soaprecipe #coconutoil #easysoaprecipe
Coconut oil soap curing in an airy place out of direct light

Make Homemade Coconut Oil Soap

This is a very simple soap recipe, easy enough for beginners, but you could customize it too. The coconut oil and sodium hydroxide ingredient amounts must remain the same, but you could replace up to half of the distilled water with coconut milk. If you do so, I recommend adding the coconut milk after you’ve brought the soap to trace. That way, you can avoid it scorching and turning your soap brown. Adding coconut milk may change the color of your bars from white to cream though.

You could also add desiccated coconut as a botanical decoration, though this is probably only best if you live in a region that is not humid. Though there is no such thing as coconut essential oil, you could use coconut soap fragrance oil if you wish.

Coconut Oil Soap Recipe (Cold Process)

Lovely Greens
 A 100% coconut oil soap recipe using the cold-process method. Makes hard, white, unscented bars with a fluffy lather and gentle cleansing action on your skin. 16 oz / 454 g / 1 lb batch — 20% superfat and a 30.5% lye solution
5 from 3 votes
Author Lovely Greens
Cost 10

Materials
  

Lye solution

Solid oils

Instructions
 

Soap Making Preparation

  • Ensure that your soapmaking station is set up with all of the equipment, materials, and tools you need. Pre-measure the ingredients using a digital scale. Take care to wear gloves when measuring the lye.

Make the Lye Solution

  • For full information on soap-making safety and equipment please head over here. It’s important to read it before trying to make soap the first time. Put on your rubber gloves and eye protection (goggles) and set yourself up in an area with good ventilation. Under a hob, on the doorstep, or outdoors is perfect. Pour the sodium hydroxide into the water and stir with a stainless steel spoon. Be careful not to breathe in the fumes. 
  • Stir well and leave someplace safe to cool to 100°F (38°C). I tend to set the jug containing the lye solution in cold water in the sink.

Melt the Coconut Oil

  • In a stainless steel pan, heat the coconut oil on very low heat until just liquefied. Coconut oil has a low melting point of only 76°F/ 24°C so it will melt quicker than you think. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat.
  • When fully melted, take the pan off the heat and cool on a potholder. Stir every few minutes, and cool to 100°F (38°C). Although the recipe does not call for an essential oil/fragrance you could add one to the melted coconut oil at this point if you wish*

Make Coconut Oil Soap

  • Get the soap mold prepared and double-check that your goggles and gloves are on and that you won't be disturbed for the next ten minutes.
  • When the lye solution and oils are both about 100°F (38°C), pour the lye solution into the pan of oils. Pour the lye solution against a spoon held in the oils as this will reduce air bubbles in your final bars.
  • Next, blend the lye solution and oil together until it reaches trace. I don't recommend using a stick blender for this recipe if you're a beginner. At least, not at first as it can trace (thicken/emulsify) quickly. Instead, gently stir with a silicone spatula or stainless steel spoon. If the soap does not trace as quickly and you are stirring after a few minutes, feel free to dip your stick blender in the pot and give it a few pulses.
  • The soap will be at trace when the consistency looks about the thickness of warm pudding. It will not have a purely flat surface, but a light texture, especially if you drizzle batter down on top of it.

Mold the Coconut Oil Soap

  • Pour the soap into your mold, and I recommend a silicone mold with cavities. That's because coconut oil soap hardens quickly, and may be difficult to cut into bars if you wait too long to cut it.*
  • Leave the soap on a kitchen counter or someplace similar (out of reach of kids and dogs) out of direct sunlight. Leave the soap inside for 48 hours before popping it out and curing it.

Cut and Cure your Soap

  • Leave your coconut soap bars someplace airy and out of direct sunlight to cure for at least ten weeks. This sounds like a lot of time, but if you use the soap before the time is up it may over-cleanse your skin, making it feel dry and uncomfortable. After ten or more weeks, coconut oil soap is mild enough to use as any other body soap. More information on curing is here.
  • At the end of the cure time, the soaps will be hard and white. For full instructions on how to cure handmade soap head over here
  • Once made, your soap will have a shelf-life of up to two years. Check the coconut oil best-by date though, since that will be your soap's best-by date too!

Notes

* Adding essential oil after trace, as is usual in soap recipes, might be difficult for beginners in this recipe. Coconut oil soap can trace fairly quickly, and leave you without much time to add it after it thickens.
* If you do use a loaf mold, you should take the soap out of the mold and cut it as soon as you can. This can be as soon as two hours after pouring but don’t wait any longer than 12 hours. Wait any longer and your bars can crumble and/or be difficult to cut. After cutting, cure as instructed.
Lastly, are you a beginner soapmaker looking for more guidance on how to make handmade soap? Enroll in the Natural Soapmaking for Beginners Online Course to get up to speed quickly. You’ll learn all about soap ingredients and equipment and be guided through step-by-step soap recipe videos. Learn more
Tried this project?Let us know how it was!
Use just three ingredients to make this simple coconut oil soap. It uses a 20% superfat stops the bars from being too drying and is one of the bubbliest soap recipes to make. It doesn't even require an immersion blender #soaprecipe #coconutoil #easysoaprecipe
Coconut oil soap is quick and easy to make

More Simple Soap Recipes

Coconut oil is a quick and inexpensive soap to make! With the lashings of extra coconut oil in these bars, they’re mild and perfect for everyday use. Though you might have seen coconut soap recommended as laundry detergent before, I do not recommend it for this recipe. All those extra oils can get into the fibers of your clothing and linens. Instead, treat this soap recipe as a typical soap recipe for bathing and washing hands.

The majority of the soap recipes I share are very easy to make and use all-natural ingredients. The batch sizes are small too, and perfect for beginners! If you’re looking for more soapmaking inspiration check out the ideas I’ve recommended below. You can also browse all of my soap recipes.

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Recipe Rating




68 Comments

  1. When I mixed lye and oil together I had to wait more than hour to trace. Why? And it was quiet thin. Not like pudding I think. And after 5 hours in mold it is still soft to even take off, should I cut it inside mold? Did I something wrong or is it normal? Maybe I gave less sodium hydroxide, but I gave 66 grams, I don’t know. What do you think?

    1. There are so many things that could have happened and it’s hard to say without watching you make the soap. The recipe is sound, though. I’d recommend making it again but first checking and double checking that your ingredients are correct and the measurements match the recipe. If the soap doesn’t come to trace from stirring, use an immersion blender.

  2. Hello,
    What is the content of final product? Thank you

      1. I tried this recipe and I really like it. And I would like to know content of this soap. For example sodium cocoa 30%, glycerine, aqua or so :)

        1. The ingredients are all listed in the recipe, John. You can work out percentages of each ingredient/soap type manually, if you wish.

  3. Do you know the expiration date of this base?

    1. This is a from scratch recipe, not a soap base. As for its shelf-life, it lasts almost indefinitely! Technically, the shelf-life would be the closest best-by date of any ingredients used to make it, though.

  4. Hi Tanya, I’m new to soap making. I actually haven’t made any soap yet. I like to study up before doing things. I have been devouring the information on your website (and others, although yours is my favorite) and I LOVE IT! I know that you do not recommend this soap for laundry … but if I modified the recipe to use only 1% superfat, could I? I ask because I did find a 100% coconut soap with 1% superfat on another website. It’s a hot process soap and the recipe was specifically designed to be used in a laundry detergent recipe. Yeah, I could just make the hot process soap recipe but I don’t want to use my crockpot for soap making. At some point, I hope to get another (used) crockpot but until then … Thanks!

    1. Hi Bev and welcome to the world of soapmaking :) To answer your question about laundry soap – I’m not a fan of real soap in washing machines because it has a tendency to leave deposits of soap scum. Soap scum is worse in areas with hard water but it can form in places with softer water too. If it builds up in your washing machine and isn’t somehow cleaned out then your machine may break. Soap may also affect the plastic gaskets and parts inside machines, too. So that’s why I stick with an eco-friendly laundry detergent instead of homemade laundry detergent. Also, be aware that even a 1% superfat in soap can leave oil build-up on fabric over time.

  5. Hello there, I know that you do not recommend unrefined coconut oil for this recipe, but let’s say it’s all we have. Would the saponification calculations (fat/lye ratio) for the recipe need to change when substituting unrefined coconut oil for refined coconut oil?

    1. Hi Justin, the SAP values and everything else would remain the same. The cost can be much different, though, with virgin coconut oil being at least 25% more expensive. Unfortunately, the coconut scent doesn’t survive the soapmaking process, either. You can buy refined coconut oil online if you don’t have a local source.

  6. Erik Maitland says:

    Great recipe. Can’t wait to try it. Does this soap need to be covered and insulated to reach gel phase after molding? Thanks.

    1. Hi Erik, insulating soap is always an optional step in soap recipes, but usually recommended with ones that have a colorant that would benefit from gelling. I also recommend it if you use a loaf mold, opposed to slab or cavity molds, since it helps stop a partial gel from forming in the middle of the block. This recipe hardens VERY fast though, so instead I recommend using cavity molds, which do not need insulating. If one made this recipe with a loaf mold, the soap would need cutting into bars within hours of being poured, otherwise the soap gets so hard that it would be almost impossible to cut if you waited a day or two.

      1. Thanks, Tanya. I made this twice. The first batch later at night so I had to hand cut it after 8 hours in the mold. Still turned out well. The second batch I put in the slicer at 2 hours with no trouble. It was easy to unmold by then and had reached partial gel. I did have to end up stick blending to reach trace but it wasn’t a big deal. Great recipe. Now, the 70 day wait. Thanks, again, for your inspiration! I actually owe my soaping to you but that’s another story. :-)

  7. Do you think this can be done using hot process?
    I tried looking through the comments but didn’t find my answer.

    1. I’ve not tried it hot process before but know that you can make it! Obviously, you’ll need the full water amount and add a bit more after the cook to help keep it fluid, though.

      1. Thanks so much for your reply. Right after I sent the question, I found that you had answered further down in the comments. Sorry for the duplicate, thanks again.

  8. i combined when both were appx 100 deg but seems to be taking quite awhile to reach trace? its been 20 min and yes its thickening but not to the point of a textured surface… is there a drop dead point where i just need to go ahead and pour into moulds?? maybe put in fridge for a bit??

    1. Hi Patrick, this is one of those recipes that traces pretty quickly, even by just stirring. Are you sure that your ingredients are correct and measured precisely? Have you tested your digital kitchen scale to make sure that it’s working correctly?

  9. Hi, thanks for the recipe, can I substitute destile water with goat milk in this recipe?

  10. Thanks for this recipe. I made it and cured for 3 months. I find it to be a great soap but slightly harsh and drying still. Can I add 5% Shea butter to it without risking it going rancid?

    1. Hi Attila, coconut oil soap isn’t right for all skin types and as you’ve found, it can be a little drying. You can use up to 25% superfat for a slightly milder bar (this recipe is 20%) otherwise I recommend that you try a different recipe altogether. I have many soap recipes to choose from and personally prefer soap recipes with around 20-25% coconut oil.

  11. Catherine B. says:

    Hi! I’m so very new to this. You said to superfat 20%. How to do it?
    When I look at your ingredients in the recipe, it only says coconut oil. What is the superfat then? Please educate me. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Catherine, the superfat is already built into the recipe. You don’t have to do anything other than make the recipe using the quantities of the ingredients listed :)

  12. Worked great came out perfect. Can I use lard in the same proportions?

  13. Jay woods says:

    5 stars
    Could this be used as a melt and pour soap base for hand milled soaps? And will it mess up the recipe add in additives other than essential oils?

    1. Hi Jay, this is a cold-process soap and cannot be used as melt-and-pour. There is a technique called rebatching soap that you could use with this recipe, though.

  14. Jay woods says:

    Can you use this as a soap base for hand milled soap recipes? Or will ot not work to mix water and additives other than essential oils to it?

  15. Do you have a recommended source for larger amounts of coconut oil that would be good for this recipe? I’m hoping to find a bulk/bargain price!!!

    1. Virgin coconut oil is always pretty expensive. Refined coconut oil, the type used for healthier frying, is much cheaper and what most soapmakers use for recipes. You can find it with soapmaking suppliers and sometimes through health shops. It’s also available online here and here and a big bucket of it here.

  16. hi, I made my soap today, I use the double recipe, it took long to settle, don’t know why, after I poured on the molds about half hour some started to have a dark part in the middle of the soap! I don’t know what happened, does someone knows what could it be? thank you

    1. Hi Mariela, the darker part is soap that has gotten warmer than the rest and has ‘gelled’. It doesn’t affect the soap’s qualities, only the color and look of the soap. Next time, if you want to avoid partial-gelling, keep your soaping temperatures on the cool side (the temperatures in the recipe) and if you live in a hot place, you may want to consider putting the soap in the fridge for a few hours after pouring it.

  17. Deborah Doris Billman says:

    Hello
    I have a lot of coconut oil and wanted to make this recipe, but it does not say whether or not it is REFINED, I got it from Bramble Berry can i use it ??

    Thank You!

    1. If it smells like coconut it is virgin coconut oil — it if has no scent, then it’s refined. For this recipe, you could use either if you have it to hand. I personally wouldn’t use virgin coconut oil though since it’s so yummy and better used for food! The coconut scent would not survive the soap making process.

  18. Cinnamon Le says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe. My friends and I adore all your recipes !! I just made these coconut soaps and they are so perfectly beautiful and white!! I can’t to use them !!! Don’t stop what you do ! Your recipes are amazing !!

    1. Thank you so much for the lovely feedback :) Really pleased that the recipe came out spot on for you too!

  19. Floyd Blevins says:

    What would be the average bar yield for this recipe?

    1. That information is in the recipe card, along with further details. The base recipe makes six standard-sized bars.

  20. Can I add fragrance and colorant to this recipe?

    1. Yes, of course! I’d recommend adding it before the soap comes to trace though since that can happen quickly with a pure coconut oil soap recipe. Guidance on how much eo to use is in this piece on making essential oil soap.

  21. Allison Dove says:

    5 stars
    I thought I would try this recipe as I had a couple of kilos of some gorgeous organic coconut oil to use up. I have just used my first bar today after 5 weeks curing (I just couldn’t wait another day!) It is a beautiful, fragrance free, hard, white bar with a fantastic lather. I was surprised just how quickly it lathered with dense, creamy bubbles. I will definitely be making more of this soap in the future and it is a definite winner with my family.

    1. Apologies for the error I made in my review yesterday, It should read 8 weeks and not 5 weeks.

  22. I have tried several times to make 100% coconut soap, but none of them have lather! please guide me
    the formulation:
    refined coconut oil 76 deg 100%
    super fat 20%
    lye 33%
    I reduced the Super Fat to 5%, but it still does not foam! What could be the cause?

    1. Coconut oil makes the fluffiest lather of them all! It needs a full four to six weeks to cure before you use it though. I wouldn’t recommend making pure coconut oil soap at any less than 20% superfat and many people even prefer 30%. Any less than that and the soap will be very drying to most people’s skin.

  23. Hi, I have never made cold process soap before but really want to give it a try! Just wondering if this is a recipe you recommend for a beginner, and if I can add botanicals on top of the soap?

    1. Hi Maria, pure coconut oil soap is not the best beginner soap in my opinion. It may not agree with everyone’s skin in the way a more balanced soap recipe can and it can also trace (thicken) quicker than expected. Instead, I recommend that you check out these three beginner soap recipes. They’re easier to make and show you how to use botanicals on/in soap.

  24. Hello. You mentioned to use refined coconut oil rather than extra virgin but your Amazon link shows extra virgin.. is there a brand of “refined” you recommend?

  25. Can I substitute coconut milk for cow milk? Would there be a significant change in the recipe esp the superfat % ?

    1. Hi Sharon, using milk in soap recipes does not significantly change the superfat of the recipe. I don’t even consider it when formulating. Though you could use cow milk in this recipe, you need to add it differently and I’d recommend in the same way that I add milk in my goat milk soap recipe.

  26. I used this method for the first time but when I leave it to cure part of it turned out like gel.why is it?

    1. It sounds like your soap gelled while it was molded and you’re just now seeing the coloration difference. You can avoid this by using cavity molds and refrigerating the soap after it’s poured :)

  27. This is one of my favorite soaps. It washes nicely and is not drying. I have used it up to 30% fat with not problem. Its my go to out of all others.

    1. Great recipe.. just made these and came out great. Question. Do they really have to have 10 weeks of curing time? All my other soaps I only wait 4 weeks.

      1. Hi Joules and yes that’s right. It takes that long for the crystalline structure to fully form in pure coconut oil soap and for the soap to feel gentle on your skin. Use any sooner than this and you may find the soap leaves your skin feeling dry.

        1. 5 stars
          Thanks. I actually tried the soap after just 5 weeks and it had lovely soft bubbles and was creamy too (although I added 1 teaspoon of coconut cream powder to the recipe). Not a drying soap at all

  28. Love me a one oil soap recipe! Would this recipe work in hot process soap making? Just curious…thanks so much for sharing the recipe.

    1. I don’t see why not! Just make sure to use more water and you’re good to cook :)

  29. thank you for this recipe, I will use it a lot!
    can I add color and smell to it? or will it ruin the soap bars?

    1. Hi Mala, and no, it won’t ruin them at all :) They obviously won’t be white if you color them, but they will be the same bar of soap that just smells lovely and in a different shade.

  30. Sharon Lee says:

    How much fragrance or essential oil can be added to this recipe?