BLEACHING SOAP MAKING OILS Common soap making oils such as Palm Oil, Beef Tallow, are generally fairly highly coloured and for aesthetic reasons require bleaching before they can be used in soap-making.  This phenomenon usually presents a true nightmare for small to medium soap manufacturers here in Kenya and other East African countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda.

In our consultancy experience, we have had many people enquire about making their soaps white or simply removing the “offending” colour of palm oil and odor from beef tallow so that their soaps can be appealing to their customers.

First let us start by a small brief about the history and process of bleaching tallow and palm oil. Some commercially significant vegetable oils are highly coloured owing to the presence of chromophoric impurities: one which is particularly highly coloured is palm oil, which has been estimated to contain up to about 0.2% of the red pigment beta-carotene.
Oils and fats can be successfully bleached with milder, aqueous bleaching agents such as hypochlorite and peroxide, in the presence of a phase transfer catalyst. The action of polar bleaching agents such as hypochlorite on these oils in the absence of a catalyst is slow and incomplete because of the hydrophobic nature of the oils. The reaction (oxidation or reduction of the coloured impurity) probably takes place in the organic phase and the bleaching agent in the aqueous phase cannot easily penetrate the organic phase to reach the reaction site.
What is a phase transfer catalyst?
A phase transfer catalyst is a charged compound which also possesses significant oil solubility. Such a material can assist in a reaction between a charged species and a hydrophobic substrate in an organic phase by carrying the charged species, for example, as an ion pair, into the organic phase.
Do we sound very technical and confusing?
Now, we can tell you that you don’t have to get worried over the colour of your soap anymore. Bleaching palm oil, beef tallow is a simple process which has been kept secret by the big oil refinery corporations world over. (This ensures that they have no competitors for their soap business whose monopoly they control). As you know, soap manufacturing, whose market is the biggest in the world, is a business controlled and enjoyed by the few.  Many would-be manufacturers’ dreams of venturing into soap making business are curtailed by the fact that they cannot produce “world class” products devoid of “offending” odor/smell and colour. Take heart, visit us today and we will guide you into making soap which is white and odorless.

Article By Herman Koome & Betty Kithinji
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  1. Hi, thanks for the info, pls this is a serious issue for me. I’m about to start a homemade soap business but my oil had odor and not white pls what should I do.

  2. please i just started a small scale soap production,but am having a challange in geting the right color i can i bleach my palm oil to get a groundunt oil color after bleaching

    • You can order a video or E-book with procedure for bleaching and coloring the soap. We accept PayPal Payments for Services and Videos and Books. Reach us on Tel. No. +254 723 424240. You can WhatsApp us any time

  3. I have a plodder which needs more technical rebuilding the soap doesn’t come out soap stamp. Water system .please can I get any assistance.
    Secondly if I want training can have more information I’m in Uganda

  4. Thanks for useful tips but i have few questions:
    I used to help my elder sister in soap making when I was less than 15yr, morethan 20yrs ago. We usually bleach the palm and mix it with caustic soda solution. The soap use to look good, but is very harsh. It was mostly for dish washing and few times for laundry depending on the cloth because it can damage cloth when used it regularly.

    Please i want to know why that soap is harsh and reactive. I want to go into soap making for laundry but not the type i am used to. The one i buy and use today are not harsh like my type, so i want to know what i can do. Before now, I was thinking that of the removes what softens the soap and makes it corrosive to the hand and body, until i read your post and discovered that bleaching oil in soap making is not bad.

    please i need your help

    • Hello Steve. Caustic Soda, also known as sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) is a base, very alkaline with a pH above 12. Naturally, it is corrosive. This is what made your soap harsh and reactive. Ideally, there is certain amount you should have used at certain limits, technically known as Saponification Value. It seems you used too much of the Caustic Soda.

      On the other hand, bleaching the oils is not for improving chemical properties of the soap but to remove the yellow pigmentation in the oils. It also permits whitening the soap by use of titanium dioxide.

  5. For the first time I have come across a promising viable solution for vegetable oil bleaching without the complex technical setups.
    Please, give me this knowledge now and I be ever grateful to you. I am also going to pay the price.
    Thank you

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