Calculating and Using Percentages to Formulate

August 26, 2014

AuswertungenUnderstanding how percentages work when calculating a recipe is very important.  It’s one of the biggest questions I get asked from new soap makers.  How important is it?  The HSCG has questions on their certification exam on this topic!  That should tell you just how important it is.

It’s a question I’ve answered enough times that I figured it was worth taking the time to write a blog post about it.  This way I can refer questions back to it and potentially help those who don’t know who to ask for help.

I’m sure you’ve seen recipes that look like this:

20% Coconut Oil
20% Palm Oil
50% Olive Oil
10% Shea Butter

What does this mean though if you want to convert the percentages into ounces so you can make soap?  First step is to convert  the percentage into a decimal.

So you take the percentage and divide it by the total percentage of all items.

In this case: 20 + 50 + 20 + 10 = 100

20 / 100 = .20
50 / 100 = .50
20/ 100 = .20
10/ 100 = .10

Once you’ve converted the percentages you can then determine the amount of oil you’ll need. You simply take the weight of the batch and multiply it by the converted percentage.

With that in mind let’s go back to the problem on hand.  Let’s say we have a total weight of oils of 28oz.  We take that and multiply it by each percentage.

.50 x 28 = 14.0
.20 x 28 = 5.6
.20 x 28 = 5.6
.10 x 28 = 2.8

If we did our math right then 14 + 5.6 + 5.6 + 2.8 should add up to 28.  Woohoo! We did our math right.  Now you can take the ounces and plug them into a soap calculator to calculate the amount of water/lye you’ll need.

Part 2

Now if you understand this then you can calculate recipes even if you just know the weight of one of the oils! So we know that olive oil makes up 14oz of the recipe and we know that olive oil is 50% of the recipe. Before you can proceed you have to determine the total weight of oils this recipe will make.

If olive oil is 50% then we need to account for another 50% in oils. Simple math tells us that if half is 14oz then just add another 14oz (or double 14) to it and the total weight if the recipe is 28oz.  Now that we know this we can apply the same method as above:

.20 x 28 = 5.6
.20 x 28 = 5.6
.10 x 28 = 2.8

Part 3

Okay, now that you understand that I’m going to make it harder!  What if it’s not “simple math” and you can’t go oh I know 50% is half?  Then just set up your problem as an algebraic equation: Let’s look at a NEW recipe.

An oil blend is to contain 50% olive, 20% palm, and 30% coconut.  How many pounds of olive oil should be used with 8 pounds of coconut oil?

What your recipe has: (converted to decimal)
50% olive oil (.50)
20% palm oil (.20)
30% coconut oil (.30)

What we KNOW for actual weights of oils:

50% olive oil = ?
20% palm oil = ?
30% coconut oil = 8lb

Let’s set it up as an algebraic formula:
You need to determine: 8lb is 30% of what (x)?

So, 30% = .30

8lb = .3x (x represents the total weight of the batch)

Then just solve the formula: (to get “x” on its own you have to divide each side by .3)

8/.3 = .3x / .3

(the .3 cancels out leaving you with just “x”)

x = 8/.3

x = 26.6

Now that you know the TOTAL weight of the recipe you can calculate 50% olive oil.

50% x 26.6

(convert the 50%)
.5 x 26.6 = 13.3lb

If you’re studying to take the Certification Test you’ll see questions like this:

An oil blend is to contain 50% olive, 20% palm, 20% coconut, and 10% Shea Butter.  How many pounds of palm oil should be used with 6 pounds of Shea butter?

You can answer this question by doing the above math.  Figure out the TOTAL WEIGHT OF THE OILS in that recipe.  Then once you know that you can CALCULATE the percentage of whatever oil they’re asking for!

Learn to understand percentages! It’s really important and will be an invaluable skill for you in your soap making career.  I offer an advance class on Formulating a Recipe that goes over percentages.  If you’re local to Massachusetts and are interested in it watch my calendar page ( I offer the class once or twice a year.

So, give it a shot?  What’s the answer to the above question?  how many pounds of palm oil should be used?

Side Note

Most molds hold either 2lb, 2.5lb, 3lb, 5lb or 10lb of oils.  Part of the total weight of a batch will be made up of the lye/water solution.  So, a 2.5lb batch of soap doesn’t have 40oz of oils total.  Only a percentage of that will be oils. The rest will be your lye/water.  To help you get started with your own recipe calculations I’ve calculated the amount of oils needed for each mold weight and am sharing it with you.  Here’s a little “cheat sheet”:

Oil Cheat Sheet
2.5lb Batch  = 28oz oil
3lb Batch    = 34oz oil
5lb Batch    = 55oz oil
10lb Batch   = 110oz oil

Dusted Mica Top

February 22, 2014

I’ve seen soaps that have dusted their tops with a thin layer of mica.  I’ve tried multiple times to mimic the look and I’ve never quite been able to and in the process I make a massive mess (because it always involved me blowing…and blowing on mica…not the smartest idea!)

The other day I wanted to try and dust layers of mica on a batch I was making and couldn’t find the sifter tool I typically used.  So in a pinch I grabbed a bottle I had sitting around and filled it with some mica hoping it might work in a pinch.

It didn’t quite do what I wanted for the layers in the soap, but oh my word it gave me that shimmery mica top finished I’d tried and failed to do soooooo many times before!!

Find a bottle like this: (sorry picture is awful!)

Mica Squirt Bottle

I get my bottles at US Plastic (if you’re interested).

Fill it with some mica.  Gently squeeze puffs out of it over your wet soap and you will get a nice coating like this!  So simple! So pretty!  I love it when I randomly stumble upon ways to do things!

TIP: Do this outside (if you can).  I’m still cleaning up pink mica!  It gets in the air and it settles all over the place!

mica dust top


Dusted Embed Soap Tutorial

February 6, 2014

This is really an easy technique.  It just requires two days to do it because you need to create embeds the day before.  What I’m loving about this is there are so many different ways you can use this technique!  I’ve played around with a couple options and will post pictures of them at the end.

Let’s begin!

Step 1: Make your embeds.  You can really use any recipe you want for this.  So, pull out your favorite one and whip up a batch of embeds.  I typically use either of these molds (CUBE or SQUARE) from Bramble Berry, but really it doesn’t matter what mold you use because you’ll be chopping them up.

ready to go

You’ll notice that this aren’t cut up in to small chunks.  I was experimenting with bigger pieces when I was making this batch for the tutorial.  I have pictures coming though of the typical size chucks I use in a few steps.

Step 2: Once the embeds are made you’ll need a large plastic sandwich/storage bag and about 1 tsp of mica.  I love mica because of 1) the ease in which it coats the soap and 2) it’s got that sparkle/shimmer to it but I love.  You can use any colorant you want though.  I’ve tried using activated charcoal and Bramble Berry’s neon colors so far and the technique has worked the same.  Some times it’s a bit more work (and colorant) to cover the pieces, but you still get the same end results.

I find that for about 1-2lbs worth of embeds I need around 1 tsp of mica.  A little bit really does go a long way–with micas!  Other colorants you’re going to have to play around with.  I’m finding that some will need more than a teaspoon, but I always start with about that much and then add if needed.

mica usage

Add the mica and the embeds to the bag.  Make sure you capture some air in the bag and then twist the top shut and shake the embeds around making sure they all get coated in the mica.

air in bag shake

The pink/black embeds were from the first batch I did.  You can see I used way more mica than I needed! (Especially activated charcoal…it goes a long way!)

examples 2

This is what my embeds look like after I’ve coated them.

dusted embeds

examples 1

These were from a different batch I made.  You can see these pieces are probably a fourth of the size of the purple ones. I like this size best.  I think it creates a prettier soap (you get more embeds and hence more of the dusted effect).

TIP: Removing the pieces from the bag can make the BIGGEST mess.  If you have a set of BBQ Tongs they make removing the pieces soooo much easier and less messier.


Step 3: Once you’ve done that set aside your embeds and make a new batch of soap for these to go in.  I recommend picking a relatively SLOW moving fragrance/essential oil.  I was trying to use a free sample floral fragrance when I was making this small batch to create a tutorial out of.  Florals are not slow movers ha!  You need to have time to pour layers, get the embeds in, and repeat.  So, yeah!  Use a slow moving fragrance!

I pour about a quarter to three-quarters of the batch into my mold.  Again, this all depends on what you’re going for image wise.  If you’re doing one solid color batch and embeding the color embeds in this ratio works.  You’ll see one I did with three different layers/colors so obviously I did a third for that…just play around.

first layer of soap

Next put your first layer of embeds in.  Then add more soap, and repeat with adding more embeds, and repeat again if necessary.

place embeds in soap

This batch I did much larger embeds than I recommend.  I like the result the smaller embeds give, but I was experimenting myself here.

Step 4: Once all the soap is used and the embeds in, put your soap to bed.  And cut it the next day!



This soap I used pink and black embeds in a white batch.


This one I really like the idea:  Three layers, three colors.  Next time I might try and do the embeds a little lighter than the layer they’re going in. I think it would have helped make everything pop a bit more.


Last, but not least (as you’ll be seeing more of this technique from me I’m sure) are my hearts!  I was playing around with embedding dusted hearts and trying to do a drop swirl (which didn’t quite go as plan because the fragrance thickened up on me faster than I expected).  But I think it’s still a cool looking soap.


Embedded Heart Tutorial

May 2, 2013

This really isn’t a hard soap to make.  It just takes two days to do.  I love embeds.  I have a patience for them that not everyone does.  I plan out my soaps in advance and then make the “parts” I’ll need to create the whole.

STEP 1: The first step in this soap is making the heart embeds.  I use this heart mold from Wholesale Supplies Plus: Heart Mold.


If you fill all 8 of the small hearts it takes about 12-14 ounces.  This mold can be a pain to unmold.  I have a recipe I love to use for embeds because the bulk of the rcipe are solid oils/butters and so it makes for harder embeds, which in turn makes it easier to unmold.  I usually leave the hearts in the mold for a full 24 hours and then before I try unmolding them I stick them in the freezer for about an hour or so.

Oil(s) Selected

2lb Batch

Castor Oil

2.25 oz

Shea Butter

9 oz

Coconut Oil (76 Degrees)

6.75 oz

Olive Oil

9 oz

Palm Oil

9 oz

5% Lye Amount

4.90 oz


11.88 oz


36 oz

This is a 2lb recipe.  You can shrink it to a 1lb batch if you’re just going to do heart embeds.  I am always making embeds so I use the 2lb batch.   I’ll use the leftover soap to create embeds for another project.  It just saves me time in the long run.

I don’t add a fragrance to these hearts and I use titanium dioxide to color them.  Not adding fragrance doesn’t affect the overall batch.  By not adding fragrance it ensures that I don’t get any discoloration in my nice white hearts.  Feel free though to add fragrance if you’d like.

STEP 2: Unmold hearts!


STEP 3: After I’ve made and unmolded these soaps I’m ready to make the actual loaf.  I use a five pound mold and I need four and a half hearts to get them to go the entire length.

I use this recipe for the loaf.  It’s one of my favorite moisturizing recipes, but you can use any recipe you want.  This is for a five pound batch of soap (you’ll need 4 and half hearts to fill the loaf).  In this tutorial just did a 2.5 lb batch (where I only needed two hearts).

Oil(s) Selected


Avocado Oil

5.4 oz

Meadowfoam Oil

1.35 oz

Coconut Oil (76 Degrees)

10.75 oz

Olive Oil

21.50 oz

Palm Oil

10.75 oz

Shea Butter

5.4 oz

5% Lye Amount

7.5 oz


18.15 oz


80.65 oz

STEP 4: Once you’ve mixed the oils and lye and the batch has reached a very light trace it’s time to split the batch up.  I split about a quarter of the batter out and set it aside for the top.

TIP: Unless I know I’m working with a slow moving fragrance I do not add it to the soap before I split the batch.  I’ve found by not adding the fragrance to the part I set aside it gives me more time to work with it and it makes for a more fluid soap which in return makes it easier to create nice crisp and clean lines between the two layers.

STEP 5: In the bottom layer (which should be about three-quarters of your soap) mix your color and fragrance together.  Pour it into your mold.

first layer

(I did a side view, instead of a top view) so you could see that you’ll fill approximately 3/4 of the mold.)

You can use any color you want.  The first batch I did I used a teal and gray.  I love this soap!  I didn’t have any more blackberry-sage fragrance oil on hand though so the batch you’re seeing pictures of is Orange & Amber.  I went with orange as the base color and black as the top (a little Halloween-y, but hey I like it!)

STEP 6: I let this set up a bit before I add my hearts in (unless it’s setting up fast then I put them in right away).  Next I go back to my top layer and add my fragrance and color.  Once it’s mixed together I go back to the base and add the hearts and then pour the second layer over them.

hearts embedded

I used Orange Peel in this batch.  First time I’ve used it.  If you want a slowwwwww moving fragrance this one’s for you.  I had to wait and wait and wait (despite a lot of stick blending) for this soap to set up enough to hold the heart embeds on top!

poured soap

STEP 7: If you want you can add a mica top.  I love the look of the mica tops with these soaps.  My mica top didn’t quite work out as planned.

TIP: Here’s some free advice from my trial and errors!  Don’t spritz your soap with alcohol right after doing your mica top.  And don’t spritz your top and then try and do your mica top!  The first time I tried the mica top I had a lovely swirl pattern.  Out of habit I spritzed the top and it caused the micas to migrate and mix together.  The second time I made soap with a mica top I did my mica top and then came back about 30 minutes later AFTER the oil had absorbed into the soap and spritzed.  Worked great.  No smudging…but I did get a small amount of ash on one of my tops.

So this time I decided to try spritzing it before I did the mica top in hopes of no ash.  Well, the alcohol kind creates a layer over the soap and while I was able to pour the mica on top (see pic below) when I went to swirl it it did not work!  Moral of all this, if you’re going to spritz do so only after the oil has absorbed into the soap.

mica top

Here’s the kind of sort of salvaged top.  It’s not an elegant one, but I think it kind of actually works for the orange/black theme I’ve got going!


STEP 8: I insulate my soaps. I like them to go through gel phase, but you don’t have to.  After 24 hours I unmold and cut and admire the pretty bars!

orange (1)

orange (2)

Removing Soap from PVC

September 4, 2012

I’ve been doing a lot of embedding of soaps lately that I made in PVC pipe.  I’ve been asked quite often how I remove the soap from the pipe.  Here’s my trick:

First I let the soap cure for 48 hours in the tube.  It needs the longer cure time.  Then I preheat the oven to 200 and then leave my soap in there for 9-10 minutes.  If it’s a small diameter tube (3/4″) I usually do about 9 minutes.  If it’s a larger 1″-3″ tube I do ten minutes.  Then I have a couple different “objects” that will fit inside the diameter of the tube which I use to help push it out.”

You REALLY need to have something that will evenly distribute the pressure over the soap.  Or example: A pencil would fit in my small 3/4″ diameter tube, but it’s too think and just punches through the soap.  I create cardboard discs which I then wrap in a small bit of wax paper. That helps distribute the weight.

If you cook it too long it will get a little tacky…if you can’t get the soap out fairly easy then you haven’t cooked it long enough.  I’ve tried all sorts of ways.  Freezing has never worked for me.  The plastic bags (instead of PVC are cool and definitely easy to unmold, but they don’t work well for the really small diameters I find and you need a contraption of some sort to attach them to so they can hang.

I’ve also tried the oven at 170 which is what most everything you read says to do but I found that for some reason that temperature just never worked.  I had to leave the soap in the oven for a good long time.  Yes, sometimes the ends get a little melty-squished.  I always plan for that and know I’ll trim off a certain amount.  But for the most part this method works really well for me.

Apples n’ Oak Embeds

August 9, 2012

I like to create designs with embeds (which translates to: I like to create extra work for myself when making soap). :D

When I got the Apples n’ Oak fragrance I thought it’d be cool to try and create an apple inside a loaf. Thought about it a bit and decided I could create the apples with PVC tubes.

I poured a batch of green soap into a 1/2″ tube. Then in one of my loaf molds poured a flat batch of brown which I then cut into stems.


In a larger PVC tube I pour red for the apple.

The round red soaps for the apples and the leafs (one cut, one not yet). I cut the small green tube soap in half to create a half circle for the leaf.

The base loaf I swirled pink and white, but it ended up with the white mixing in a bit more than planned and lightening up the pink…I actually really like it (even if it wasn’t how I’d planned for it to turn out).

Apples in my soap!

I had a little red left over so I poured it into one of my cube molds from Bramble Berry. It actually made for a really cool abstract apple that I almost like more than the round apples!

The “Abstract Apples” :)

I had a little extra green and it went in with some of the red soap hence this funky looking apple!

Green apple anyone?

Pie Soap Tutorial

June 21, 2012

I’ve had so many people ask exactly how I did my pie soap I decided to just put together a quick picture tutorial to show everyone the process.  It’s really quite simple…just a little time consuming…but totally worth the effort.

Step 1: Two days before I made the soap I poured a small amount of soap (10 oz.) into a 1 1/2″ PVC tube.  Unmolded it about 2 days later.  Then I cut it into slices and cut the slices in half so it sort of looked like peach slice.

Step 2: Once they were ready I mixed up a batch of soap.  I set about 1.5 cups aside for the crust then split the rest into two colors.  Then I proceeded to in the pot swirl the two.

Step 3: Once that was poured I embedded all the peach soaps I’d cut up.

Step 4: Next I mixed up my pie crust soap.  This one didn’t want to thicken.  It finally got thick enough to pipe, but not as thick I I’d have liked it to be.

Step 5: For piping the soap I used a #47 tip for the lattice and a #17 or #18 for the edge.

Step 6: I pip the crisscross lattice first.  I find it works best if you keep your tip as close to the soap as you can.  Once you get the crisscross pattern then go around your soap to create the edge crust.

Finally I sprinkled some glitter on top and after 18-24 hours it’s ready to cut!



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