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Olive Oil for Making Soap

In ancient times olive oil was known as the “oil of the gods”, to mind that was only because the Ancients, hadn’t been to Australia and found macadamias (but then I might be slightly biased).

Olive oil is the base of all Castile soaps, indeed for a soap to be a Castile soap it must be made entirely of olive oil.

Why Castile? Castile is in Spain and was one of the places where the production of soap started about 500 years ago.  The other places were Marseilles in France, and Aleppo in Syria. The process developed all those years ago is basically the same process we use today.

So to olive oil.

The great thing about olive oil, is that you can buy it pretty much anywhere and if all you want to do is dabble in a bit of soap making it is a great, cost effective oil to experiment with.

Olive oil is rich in oleic acid, which is a mono unsaturated fat, however the percentage of oleic acid varies from 55% to 85% depending on the conditions (soil and climate) in which the olives are grown.

Oleic Acid (Octadec-9-enoic acid) 


Also present are:

Palmitic acid (a saturated fat) in the range of 8% to 20%, and linoleic acid (poly-unsaturated fat) in the range of 4% to 21% well as a number of fatty acids such as palmitoleic acid to 4% and stearic acid at around 2%.

Palmitic Acid  (Hexadecanoic acid)


Linoleic Acid (Octadeca-9,12-dienoic acid)



The difference in these percentages of fatty acids does mean that olive oil is more variable in delivery than say macadamia oil where growing conditions have little impact on the oil composition.

Now just to complicate matters even more!

Olive oil is produced in three basic grades, Extra Virgin, Virgin and Refined all of which are come from cold pressing.  The basic difference is in the mix of trigycerides to free fatty acids and non-saponifiables. 

The only olive derived oil that can be treated with solvents are pomace oils.  Pomace oils cannot be called olive oil by law.

To my mind refined olive oil (“Light’ or “Classic”) is the best for soap making because it contain the lowest level of un-saponifiables, which means any soap you make will have a lower residual odour and the lowest chance of the soap “going off”. 

Aside all that olive oil makes a lovely gentle soap however if you live in a hard water area (unusual in Australia) it may not foam desperately well so it might be prudent to include some coconut oil in your mix to help. 

We like to keep things simple so we chose to fragrance each of our soaps with a single essential oil. All of the essential oils we have chosen have some antiseptic properties.

We only use 100% pure essential oils. Some people do occasionally find their skin reacts to some essential oils, so if you think you might be sensitive to any of our fragrances l you should test the soap on a small area of skin before use.