Canola oil has become a staple in kitchens thanks to its versatility, affordability, and health properties. But beyond sautéing and salad dressings, this vegetable oil also offers unique benefits when used in home soap making. The specific fatty acid profile of canola determines the qualities it brings to handcrafted bars. Understanding the composition of this plant-based oil will help you create your perfect DIY soap recipe.

Canola Oil Properties and Composition

What gives canola oil its versatility for making home soap comes down to its unique fatty acid profile and inherent chemical attributes. Getting familiar with the various components within this plant-based oil will enable crafters to choose it confidently when formulating their own custom bars.

Fatty Acid Profile

The fatty acid composition determines many of the key qualities canola oil contributes to cold-process and hot-process soaps. The three most relevant ones to examine are:

  • Oleic acid Abundant at over 60% in canola oil, oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega-9 fat that offers excellent moisturizing properties to soaps. It supports stable lather while leaving skin smooth.
  • Linoleic acid Found around 20% in canola, linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fat that boosts the cleansing power of soap. By helping lift dirt and oils, it complements oleic’s gentleness.  
  • Erucic acidTraditionally a concern in rapeseed oils, modern canola varietals now contain barely trace amounts of this monounsaturated fat. The low erucic content makes the oil safer for skin contact.

Other Relevant Properties

Beyond just fatty acids, canola possesses other attributes that improve its functionality in handmade bars:

  • Iodine value With a moderately high iodine value of around 115, canola contains decent levels of unsaturated fats to make milder soaps that don’t dry skin.
  • Saponification value Ranging from 185 to 194, canola’s saponification value means it converts moderately fast into soap through a chemical reaction with lye.
  • Shelf life Thanks to a balanced composition, canola oil makes soap bars that resist turning rancid or deteriorating quickly when stored properly.

Comparing to Other Soap Oils

Choosing the right base oils and butter for home soapmaking means understanding how their qualities compare and complement each other. Canola oil stands on its own merits against other popular soap fats like olive, coconut, palm, shea, and more.

Cleansing Power

With a balanced fatty acid profile, canola cleans moderately without stripping away too much moisture, thanks to its mix of oleic and linoleic acids. Its oleic level lends it more emollient properties than sunflower or soybean oils but less cleansing action than coconut or palm kernel oils when used as the main fat. This makes canola a mild yet effective cleaner.

Lather and Creaminess

The presence of lauric acids means coconut oil can whip up profuse, bubbly lather, while canola’s mono- and polyunsaturated fats allow it to cultivate stable, creamy foam perfect for shaving bars. Combining the two creates a fusion of frothy and emollient lathers. Canola also makes translucent soap bases that lather transparently.

Nourishing Effects

With no real natural moisturizing compounds on its own, canola must rely on its innate gentle, unsaturated fatty acid profile to nourish skin. It lacks the vitamin E found in olive and wheatgerm oils but does reinforce the conditioning effects of shea or cocoa butters nicely when used in the oil blend.

Easy to Use

As a liquid at room temperature, canola combines smoothly into soap recipes without needing to first melt solid fats. Its relatively balanced fatty acid profile allows it to blend seamlessly with a myriad of other oils. The moderately fast saponification value also makes canola amenable as a simple beginner oil for soap crafting.

Canola Oil Soap Recipes and Tips

Ready to start crafting canola oil soap? Follow these tips for selecting the right oil type, balancing recipes properly, avoiding pitfalls, and tailoring the bars to your desired qualities.

Choosing Types of Canola

Not all canola oils behave the same in home soap making. Consider these factors when purchasing:

  • Refined vs. Unrefined: Refined oils remove impurities for longer shelf life but may use harsh solvents during processing. Unrefined (virgin or cold-pressed) foods retain nutrients but can turn rancid quicker.
  • Organic vs. Conventional: Organic oils come from non-GMO seeds and soil but usually cost more. Conventional oils may utilize pesticides yet still make quality soap.
  • High vs. Regular Oleic: High-oleic canola contains 70% or more oleic acid for enhanced moisturizing. The higher monounsaturated fat content also boosts lather creaminess.

Formulation Guidelines

Follow these tips when formulating canola soap recipes:

  • Usage Rates: Use canola oil at 15–40% of total oils in most formulas, or up to 100% for an all-canola castile-type soap bar.
  • Complementary Oils: Balance canola with lauric oils like coconut or babassu for bubbly lather, or olive and avocado for extra skin conditioning.
  • Superfatting: A 5-7% superfat ensures a smooth bar that retains moisture without excess unsaponified oils.

Preventing Issues

Troublesome soap issues can arise when making bars with canola if certain precautions aren’t taken:

  • Saponification: Getting the lye-to-water ratio right ensures proper emulsion without separation or grains.
  • Orange Spots: Overheating canola during saponification causes dreaded orange spots. Soap cooler!
  • Rancidity/DOS: Prevent premature rancidity by adding an antioxidant like rosemary extract or vitamin E oils.

Boosting Benefits

Further tailor canola soap with additives that augment its natural fatty acid advantages:

  • Skin Nourishment: Mix in skin-loving oils like avocado or evening primrose for extra dry skin relief.
  • Creamier Lather: Incorporate luscious lathering oils like castor or fractions of coconut oil.
  • Harder/Softer Bars: Balance with palm oil, tallow or butters for hardness, or more olive oil to make gentler melt-and-pour bases.

With its signature oleic, linoleic, and erucic fatty acid profiles, canola oil imparts mild cleansing and substantial skin moisturization to handmade soaps. Following tips for choosing quality oil types, balancing recipes, and preventing issues will help artisans fully leverage canola’s nurturing, stable-lathering strengths in their own custom soap-making creations.

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