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My Handcraft Cosmetics Books!

Smart Soapmaking
The Simple Guide to Making Traditional Handmade Soap Quickly, Safely, and Reliably

Milk Soapmaking
The Smart and Simple Guide to Making Lovely Milk Soap From Any Animal or Plant Milk

Smart Lotionmaking
The Simple Guide to Making Luxurious Lotions

Castile Soapmaking
The Smart and Simple Guide to Making Lovely Castile Soap

Cool Soapmaking
The Smart and Simple Guide to Low-Temp Tricks for Making Soap with Special Ingredients



Oatmeal Soaps

Selecting Vendors

Projects, Experiments, and Investigations

(and a couple of small mysteries)


For soapmaking directions, if needed, please see one of my books, Smart Soapmaking or Milk Soapmaking. Or use another reputable source of soapmaking directions. The recipes make a 30 ounce batch.


Oatmeal in Soapmaking--Why?

Rolled Oats and Oat Flour

Honey and Beeswax

Liquids--Oat Milk, Milk, and Cream

Cinnamon and Other Spices

Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey Fragrance Oils

Basic Recipe and Variations

Oatmeal, Wheat Germ, and Buttermilk Soap

What Would I Do?

Selecting Vendors

Oatmeal in Soapmaking--Why?

Oatmeal soap is very popular at markets and craft fairs. My friends who sell soap report that this one does well year after year.

But exactly what is oatmeal soap, and why do we use oatmeal in soap?

First of all, many "oatmeal" soaps aren't actually made with oatmeal. They may be decorated with a light sprinkling of rolled oats, but basically, they're plain soap with an "Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey" fragrance, sometimes with an added touch of cinnamon fragrance. It's very appealing. But it's not oatmeal soap.

Soaps have been made with oatmeal or oat milk for a long time, though, and the belief is that it's good for the skin. It's variously said to be good for oily skin, for dry skin, for skin irritations, for the skin's acid mantle, exfoliant, antibiotic, good for shingles, anti-acne, and so on. Since I'm not a dermatologist, I can't say what oatmeal does for skin. Based on my own experience, I found oatmeal soaps to be rather drying.

But if you're selling soap, be careful not to make claims that violate labeling regulations (Marie Gale's excellent book on Soap and Cosmetic Labeling can help here.)

In any event, oatmeal is very popular as a soap ingredient and scent.





Rolled Oats and Oat Flour

I've read recommendations to use hydrolyzed oats, baby oatmeal, instant oatmeal, and ordinary rolled oats in soap. When I checked the labels on hydrolyzed oats and baby oatmeal, the brands that were available to me had too many wild-card additives. I used rolled oats to make my oat milk, and bought oat flour to incorporate in soap as an exfoliant.

I wouldn't exceed one tablespoon of oat flour per pound of base oils. Soap can get soft and doughy if it has too much oatmeal in it. Oat flour didn't make my soaps "scrubby," the way some other additions will.

Some soapmakers soak dry ingredients like rolled oats and oat flour in some of the base oil for several hours before making soap. I tried it, and didn't find that it made much difference in my batches.

Unlike most granular additives, oat flour doesn't seem to add much "scrub" to a soap.

It's a good idea to be aware of temperature when using rolled oats or oat flour in soap. Depending on the size and shape of the mold, the soap may overheat as it's curing, to the point of forming a bullseye. Especially the first time you use a particular recipe in a particular mold, monitor the temperature, and if the soap seems to be getting hot, refrigerate it to slow it down.

Or, if you're fairly sure you're likely to get a soap that heats quickly--for example, if you're using a log mold, put the mold in the freezer after pouring. I freeze it for two hours for a two pound (oils) batch. A larger batch might require more chilling.

Honey and Beeswax

Honey, like all sugars, accelerates trace. It can also make soap turn brown.

When I use honey, I add it to the liquid, mix very well, and freeze them together. This helps to prevent browning and slows trace somewhat--but don't count on it. Any time you use an accelerant of any kind, be prepared to move quickly.

Keep honey amounts fairly low, too, to prevent stickiness and veins or blobs of honey in the finished soap. About 5% of the base oil weight is about as high as I'd go.

Keep an eye on soap with any fragile ingredient like honey in it. Sugars will contribute to overheating, so monitor your soap carefully.

Oatmeal soap may tend to be on the soft side, so you may choose to add a little beeswax. Beeswax melts at a higher temperature than most fats, and it's flammable. It has to be handled with care. It's also difficult to clean off things. Buy the pastilles and fill a half-pint mason jar a quarter full. Start several hours in advance--put about two inches of water into the crock of a slow cooker and set it on low. Cover the jar of beeswax and put it in the crock. Cover the crock. When you're ready to make soap, the beeswax is melted, and it's easy to remove the amount you want with a spoon. Don't try to clean out the jar, just keep it for the next time, adding more beeswax pastilles as needed.


Liquids--Oat Milk, Milk, and Cream

I've never figured the fat content of milk in my lye calculation. I don't even figure cream. If that means I have a little extra superfatting, so be it. I've never had a problem doing it this way, but if you do want to include it, you have to determine how many grams of milkfat are in your liquid. Ordinary milk is about 4% fat. Cream varies by brand and type, but the package should say. I don't use cream over 30% milkfat.

Then you do the math to see how much milkfat to list in your lye calculator.

You can easily make oat milk, and I prefer that to the commercial product, that may have additives such as sugar and stabilizers.

Both oat and dairy milk should be used frozen. With dairy products, expect odd colors and odors while mixing. With higher fat products, the lye mixture may be thick. This is normal.

I haven't detected any odd odors with oat milk, but as it melts and combines with the lye, gelatinous blobs form. I ignore them. They seem to be smoothed out by the stick blender. Anyway, they disappear.

Milk, oat milk, and cream may also be likely to overheat. So treat the same as recommended for honey, above.

Make oat milk by combining 1 part rolled oats with 8 parts of room temperature distilled water (that would be half a cup of oats to 1 quart of water.) Let this mixture sit for fifteen or twenty minutes. Process in a blender or with your stick blender. Strain. (I used a "nut milk bag," but a clean floursack towelor a fine strainer would do.) Or, if you prefer to use steel cut oats, use one part of oats to three parts of water, and proceed exactly the same way.

Not everyone reacts to the fumes of milk soap, but if you do, they'll give you a sore throat. Use good ventilation--which you should with all soapmaking, but if milk soap is a problem for you, use even better ventilation.


Cinnamon and Other Spices

Spices are delightful. Fragrant, warming, comforting. It's easy to see why the "Silk Road" of early days was also the "Spice Road." Almost everyone loves spices.

But the real thing is a skin irritant. Use ground spices very sparingly, no more than 1/2 teaspoon per pound of base oils, if that. Use cinnamon essential oil in accordance with the vendor's recommendations. Or use a fragrance oil instead of an essential oil or ground spices.

Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey Fragrance Oils

These vary a lot from different vendors. Some smell lovely, others are reminiscent of Play-Doh. All the OMH fragrance oils I've tried contain vanilla, and thus will turn the soap brown.


Basic Recipe and Variations

The sprinking of oats on the top is nice-looking, but they are very scrubby. Use Cool Technique for mixing.

21 ounces (595 grams) olive oil
9 ounces (255 grams) coconut oil
9 ounces (255 grams) liquid--milk, oat milk, chocolate milk, buttermilk, diluted yogurt, cream, or water, frozen
4.2 ounces (121 grams) lye

If you use yogurt, dilute 50/50 with distilled water. I use natural whole milk yogurt, not lowfat. Don't use flavored yogurt--it has too much sugar, and is likely to make the soap overheat


Add up to 20 grams (3/4 ounce) of honey to the milk before freezing. Make sure it's very well mixed.
.Add up to 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon to the oil before adding the lye. Mix well with your stick blender.
Add up to 1 1/2 tablespoon of oat flour or coarsely chopped rolled oats just before trace.
If desired, decorate the top with a light sprinkling of rolled oats.

Chocolate milk variation with no added coloring.The chocolate contributes very little color. The soap has excellent creamy lather

Basic recipe decorated with rolled oats. While the topping is attractive, the oats don't wash off quickly, and they tend to become hardened as the soap is used. I have heard complaints that toppings such as this can attract insects to the soap as it's stored.


Oatmeal, Wheat Germ, and Buttermilk Soap

This soap has a very rich lather. Use refined wheat germ oil to prevent a "vitamin pill" odor in your soap.

1.5 ounces (43 grams) refined wheat germ oil
16.2 ounces (459 grams) olive oil
3 ounces (85 grams) almond oil
.3 ounces (8 grams) beeswax
9 ounces (255 grams) coconut oil
1 tablespoon oat flour or rolled oats
9 ounces (255 grams) buttermilk, frozen
4.2 ounces (120 grams) lye

Freeze buttermilk. Melt coconut oil and beeswax and combine with wheat germ oil, olive oil, and almond oil.

Proceed as for any Cool Technique soap. Cover and set in freezer for about two hours for a block mold, 45 minutes to an hour for a tray or individual molds.

Refrigerate a log mold overnight, a tray mold for several hours. Remove from refrigerator when spontaneous heat buildup stops.

Set in freezer again briefly before unmolding.


What Would I Do?

For my own use, I'd go fairly easy on oatmeal as an additive. It's noticeably drying. Of course, if you want that, it would be perfect.

I would not care to use any OMH fragrance I've ever tried. I think I'd use a cinnamon fragrance instead, or no fragrance.

Although I love the texture of butter soap, I'd select my fragrance carefully and use it rather liberally if I used butter or ghee again as a soapmaking fat.


Selecting Vendors

I get many, many questions about selecting vendors, and about the vendors I use personally.

I have a sort of "yellow pages" guide to soapmaking supply vendors on this site, and I always give that link.

However, there really is a little more to it than that.

Internet Vendors

One thing to consider is that you want to choose a vendor who's as close to you as possible, all other things being equal. Soapmaking supplies are often heavy and expensive to ship.

Compare prices. AND compare quality.

Some vendors are better sources for smaller quantities. Others have much lower unit prices, but larger minimum quantities. Buy for your needs--oils and butters don't last indefinitely.

Pay attention to "blends." Especially with the more expensive butters, some vendors sell blends of the named butter with other fats. They label them honestly, but it's still easy to get confused.

Soapmaking supply vendors are by far the best source for fragrance oils and essential oils. The quality is better than what you get in a health food store or craft store, the price is far lower, and fragrance oils are more likely to be skin safe and appropriate for soap and lotion use.

I get pH strips and some soap molds from Amazon. They do tend to have everything.

"Brick and Mortar" stores

Some supplies are easily available locally. Check big box stores, chain grocery stores, and restaurant supply stores for common fats such as olive oil, shortening, coconut oil, and lard. Depending on shipping costs, less common oils such as almond, hazelnut, and walnut may still be cheaper in local markets, health food stores, or gourmet stores than they would be if bought online and shipped.

In some states, you can get lye in hardware stores.

Restaurant supply stores and hardware stores are often good sources for cheap stainless steel cookware and utensils. And you do want the cheap pots--expensive ones are made to retain and distribute heat in cooking, and you need the opposite in soapmaking. Click here for more ideas about equipment.


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