Soapmaking brings immense creativity and satisfaction, though working with tricky oils like palm and coconut poses some challenges. Balancing their cleansing and moisturizing properties takes thoughtfulness, while their saturated fats can increase hardness and affect texture. The right oil blend and superfatting can temper these issues. Furthermore, the unsaponifiables in these tropical oils, along with their propensity towards soda ash, require testing and tweaking to perfect. This article explores palm and coconut’s impacts in cold-process soap and offers tips for managing their tricky qualities for ideal, low-sodium ash bars with abundant creamy lather.

Balancing Cleansing and Moisturizing Properties

Palm Oil

Palm oil contains palmitic and oleic acids, which offer a balanced cleansing and moisturizing profile. The palmitic acid helps boost bubbly lather but can be drying. Meanwhile, oleic acid conditions the skin but reduces suds. Using palm oil, as over 20% of oils can increase cleanse and decrease creaminess,.

Coconut Oil

With very high lauric and myristic acids, coconut oil provides exceptional cleansing power. This causes quick, abundant sudsy lather, removing oils and dirt. However, high-lauric and myristic soaps can be overly stripping without extra moisturizers. Using over 30% coconut oil makes for a very cleansing bar.

Finding the Right Blend

Blending palm oil at 10–15% with coconut oil at 15–25% creates a bar with a solid yet caring cleanse. Adding moisturizing oils like olive, avocado, or shea balances the tropical oils’ cleansing effects. Superfatting up to 8% further counteracts any stripping qualities. Testing lather, bubbleness, longevity, and skin feel allows fine-tuning the oil ratios and superfatting for ideal cleansing and moisture balance.

Managing Saturated Fats

Lauric, Myristic, Palmitic, and Stearic Acids

The saturated fats in palm and coconut oils mainly comprise lauric, myristic, palmitic, and stearic acids. Lauric and myristic oils offer exceptional cleansing and bubbly lather due to their solubility and quick saponification. Palmitic also boosts abundant fluffy foam, while stearic increases hardness and creamy bubbles.

Impacts on Hardness, Cleaning, Bubbles, and Lather

High lauric and myristic contents above 25% create soft, pliable soaps that lather strongly. Palm oil’s palmitic acid causes firmer bars, balanced with oleic acid for a long-lasting, low-melting soap. Too much stearic from these oils makes a bar so hard that it gets wax-like and cleans poorly. Overall, abundant saturated fats increase cleansing at the cost of creaminess.

Modifying with Other Oils

Adding 20–30% soft yet conditioning oils like olive, sweet almond, or avocado reduces the tropical oils’ cleansing intensity. Increasing moisturizing, slower-to-saponify oils like shea or high-oleic also tempers hardness while improving lather creaminess. Finally, ensuring over 8% superfatting counterbalances excess saturated fats for ideal hardness and gentle, effective cleansing with creamy, bubbly lather.

Dealing with Unsaponifiables

Reducing Unsaponifiables

Palm and coconut oils contain unsaponifiables—compounds that don’t react with lye and remain intact in soap. Though beneficial for skin nourishment, excess unsaponifiables from these tricky oils can result in sticky, soft, or slimy bars. Capping total unsaponifiables to under 5% helps prevent textural issues.

Impacts on Texture and Cleaning

Since unsaponifables are emollients, too high amounts make bars mushy and poorly soluble during use. This prevents proper lathering and rinsing. However, some unsaponifiables enhance bubbles and provide skin care. Finding the right balance reduces undesirable texture while retaining beneficial properties. For bubbly yet hard bars that wash cleanly, aim for under 3% unsaponifiables in the oil batch. Start testing at 5%, then gradually reduce if needed for an ideal texture and lather.

Controlling Soda Ash

Formation of Soda Ash

Soda ash forms from lye reacting with carbon dioxide during the trace and gel phases. Excess sodium hydroxide turns into sodium carbonate, the white soda ash powder. Palm and coconut’s saturated fats trigger more soda ash than other oils.

Palm Oil and Soda Ash

Palm oil’s balanced fat content makes it mildly prone to ash. Using over 25% palm oil can risk more soda ash, though proper blending and technique prevent excess.

Coconut Oil and Soda Ash

With very high cleansing fats, coconut oil is extremely ash-prone. Its lauric and myristic acids quickly react with lye, releasing more heat and carbon dioxide to form abundant soda ash in amounts over 20%.

Preventing and Reducing Soda Ash

Blending coconut oil under 20% with at least 50% soft oils like olive or sweet almond lowers the ash risk. Adding 5-8% castor oil also helps curb soda ash due to its unique chemistry. Mixing lye with very cold liquids and then soaping at room temperature also minimizes ash. Further, reducing water content slows the release of CO2. Finally, spraying bottles with vinegar lightly neutralizes and prevents surface ash deposition.

Optimizing for Low Soda Ash and Good Lather

Blending Ratios

An ideal blend for low-soda ash soap with abundant lather contains 10-15% palm oil, 15-20% coconut oil, and the remainder divided between conditioning oils like olive, sweet almond, and avocado. Shea or cocoa butter under 10% also provides creamy bubbles. Using over 50% soft yet cleansing oils is key for reducing ash while enabling excellent foam.


Superfatting counteracts the cleansing fatty acids in palm and coconut oils, allowing more lather-enhancing yet gentle fats to remain. This preserves bubbles while minimizing ash and irritation. A superfat between 5-8% works well when using over 30% tropical oils. Going over 10% superfat may excessively reduce cleansing.

Testing and Tweaking

Getting the best soap requires carefully testing palm and coconut oil combinations. Start with 50% soft oils, then tweak coconut from 10–20% to find ideal cleansing bubbles without excess ash or drying. Adjust palm oil from 5 to 15% to optimize hardness and creamy lather. Modify superfatting up or down to balance cleansing and conditioning. Keeping detailed notes on how formula variations perform allows for expertly crafting the perfect personalized low-sodium ash soap with optimized stabilization, lather, and care.

Creating low-sodium ash soap with palm and coconut oils that lathers abundantly without over-cleansing requires meticulous balancing. Choosing quality complementary oils, modifying superfatting, and carefully testing combinations enables customizing the ultimate personalized bars with ideal hardness, bubbleness, and care for one’s special skin needs.

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