Why Does My Homemade Soap Not Lather?

Most people associate the amount of lather with the cleansing power of soap. And most of the home-based soap makers face the challenge of a soap that does not lather. The result? They become frustrated and think their soap has failed, but in reality, it didn’t. 

The oils present in the homemade soap are directly related to the type and amount of lather produced by your soap. Some oils make light, bubbly lather, while some do not lather up as much as your expectation. Using hard water is another reason the soap will not lather.

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Most commercial soaps are loaded with chemicals that make the soap lather really well. However, if you want to have the same lather with homemade soap, things might be a little more complicated.

Why Does My Homemade Soap Not Lather?

Soap naturally creates lather as it acts as a surfactant. If it does not lather, check out the following probable causes:

You May Have Hard Water:

If you are using hard water and not using a chelating agent, your soap will most likely not lather. This happens due to the minerals present in hard water. It forms a soapy scum, which makes it hard to lather. Obviously, natural homemade soaps do not contain chelating agents such as EDTA.

So the best thing you can do is to test with a small amount of distilled water first, and if your soap does not lather well, you most likely need to install a water softener.

Check your Recipe:

An improper ratio of fat or lye will not mix well in your soap. An excessive amount of fatty acids cannot saponify, which again causes your soap not to lather well. 

If you don’t mix your batter well, this also may create the same issue. So the next time when you add your lye into the mixture, remember to stir well.

Fix the Ratio:

Check (in case you are not using someone else’s recipe) for various fats and oils to make sure you use the right amount of lye. You can do this by using a reliable online lye calculator to design your recipes. Balance the lather forming fats and oils with the moisturizing fats and oils and measure your ingredients using an accurate measuring scale.

Is soap lather important?

Lather by itself is not that important. However, while washing your hands, lather might help create friction, which helps clean microbes, dirt, and grease. However, this does not mean that soap that does not lather doesn’t clean. It will still clean even without lather. 

Does lather make soap clean better?

Most people perceive that the more lather produced by a soap, the cleaner it will make your skin. And the use of chemical foaming agents added to commercial soaps has created this perception even more. 

Most of the commercial soaps contain cocamide DEA, TEA, or MEA in their formulation. These additives have nothing to do with the actual cleaning ability of the soap. These chemicals are inexpensive, and they are used to produce (unnecessary) lather, just to make the customers believe that the product is effective.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is yet another chemical additive very commonly used in skin and hair care products. Instead of having any benefit, these chemicals increase the toxin build-up in our bodies slowly and gradually. 

Natural, homemade, organic soaps are a better choice than these chemical-laden harsh stuff you buy in shops. So first, you cannot compare their lather with natural soap and think that their lather is a cleaning agent. 

Your homemade soap has enough capacity to cleanse your body thoroughly, whether it lathers or not!

How Do You Make Homemade Soap Lather?

Suppose you want your soap to lather well because your customers are not satisfied and you’re getting complaints. You might need to change some ingredients you are using in your recipe. 

It is essential to research the foaming abilities of the ingredients you intend to use in a soap batch, along with their relative proportions. This will help you tremendously when formulating your recipe.

Though olive oil has excellent skin healing capabilities, it cuts down lather if used in excess quantities. On the other hand, castor oil can help make it Lather and can be used up to 7% in a soap formulation.

Reducing the super-fat oils is also an effective way of increasing lather. Free oils that remain intact in the soap after the saponification are good for skin moisturizing, but they significantly reduce soap lathering. 

When you increase the percentage of coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and babassu oil, they contribute to lather, but they may affect the soap’s skin-drying effects. 

As a soap manufacturer, you have to set your priorities according to what your customers demand. If they prefer moisturizing and conditioning soaps, then you should not worry about the lather.

But this is easier said than done. I know that without lather, soap does not feel like soap. 

What Ingredient In Soap Makes It Lather?

By now, you’ve probably understood that it’s the fatty acids within your recipe that will make your soap lather. These fatty acids react with the lye in a saponification process to produce surfactant. 

I think it’s crucial that before you dive into soap making business, you should familiarize yourself with the characteristics of fatty acids present in different oils and butter and how they affect your soap lather quality.

But here is a list of acids that helps your soap lather. Most of these acids can be found in oils you’re most likely using.

Lauric Acid: 

It is a saturated fatty acid that is found abundantly in coconut and palm kernel oil. It makes a rich, foamy lather, which is ideal for cleansing and contributes to soap’s hardness.

Myristic Acid:

Myristic acid is found in coconut oil, palm oil, and butterfat. It is a saturated fatty acid that helps produce stable creamy lather and contributes to soap hardness.

Palmitic Acid:

Palmitic acid is a versatile ingredient in soapmaking that contributes to soap hardness. It makes a durable, creamy lather that helps the skin retain its moisture and keeps it soft. It has excellent emulsification and surfactant properties. It is found in various plant and animal fats.

Stearic Acid:

Saturated fatty acids give a smooth and stable lather in soap making. It washes away excess oil, grime, and sweat with its strong cleansing ability.

Oleic Acid:

Oleic acid is an unsaturated fatty acid that penetrates the skin’s deep layers and replenishes its natural moisture. It increases the moisturizing and conditioning abilities of a soap. It is naturally found in olives and sunflower seed oils.

Linoleic Acid:

It is an unsaturated fatty acid that increases the silkiness of lather. It also gives conditioning and moisturizing properties to the soap.

Linolenic Acid:

Linolenic acids are used in significantly fewer amounts in soap. It contributes to the soap’s moisturizing and conditioning properties.

Ricinoleic Acid:

This unsaturated fatty acid promotes the stability of lather while adding to the conditioning properties of soap.

Any Alternative Ways to Increase Lather on Your Homemade Soap?

To increase the amount of lather on your homemade soap, try the following simple tips and tricks:

  • Research out to find oils and their combinations that create, stabilize, and increase the lather. Cut down the fats that decrease lather, such as olive oil.
  • Decrease the amount of superfat in your formulations because free oils do not let the soap lather.
  • Add a minimal quantity of sugar or syrup to the lye.
  • If natural/ organic is not on your label, you can add chemical additives such as sodium citrate or sodium lactate in your formulation.
  • Only 5 – 10 % castor oil in a recipe stabilizes lather.


Handmade soaps may have a different lather form and characteristics. However, they still clean even without lathering. While trying to make your handmade soap lather more, be conscious that you might end up with a formulation that might dry the skin in the process with each change. 

You can substitute 15-40% of canola oil for olive oil with a significant difference in a lather. Hard oils such as cocoa butter, shea butter, palm oil, sunflower oil, and fat give good lather.

Almond and castor oils, when used in small proportions, stabilize the lather so it does not wash away instantly. It is a soap maker’s talent to balance the foaming oils with moisturizing oils in a single bar so that the bar does not turn out too bubbly but harsh on the skin.

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