technical explanation

a little chemistry

Fats and oils are substances composed of triglycerides; triglycerides contain glycerol and fatty acids combined together in such a way that the oil or fat will not mix with water, although the parent components will.

The chemistry formula looks like this:

The "R" denotes the different fatty acid chains with varying numbers of carbon and hydrogen atoms. For example a Palmitic Acid looks like


Fat is also known as a triglyceride. It is made up of a molecule known as glycerol which is connected to three fatty acids. Glycerol is the basis of all fats, made up of a three carbon chain. It connects the fatty acids together.

A FATTY ACID is a long chain of carbon atoms connected to each other.

saturated & unsaturated fats

unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats have at least one double bond in one of the fatty acids. They are generally liquid at room temperature.

A double bond occurs where four electrons are shared between adjacent carbon atoms.

When used in soapmaking, unsaturated fats make a mild soap with good cleaning ability, but generally don't lather as profusely as soaps made from saturated fats.

Monounsaturated fats eg olive oil have only one double carbon bond along their carbon chain (they have one double carbon bond that is not fully saturated with hydrogen). They have a longer shelf life than polyunsaturated fats and are less prone to oxidisation.

Polyunsaturated fats eg sunflower oil have more than one double bond along their carbon chain (they have more than one double carbon bond that is not fully saturated with hydrogen). They have a shorter shelf life than mononsaturated fats and are more prone to oxidisation.

saturated fats

Saturated fats (eg animal fats, coconut oil) have no double bonds in their chain (all of the carbon bonds in the carbon chain are saturated by hydrogen atoms).

They are generally solid at room temperature. In soapmaking, they usually contribute good cleaning and lathering ability.