Fil-Castile Soap: The Best of Two Worlds

The first soap I ever made was an olive oil soap with a  touch of castor oil. I messed it up because I failed to reach proper emulsion. I read too many warnings about soap turning solid or “seizing” that I didn’t dare turn on the stick blender long enough. Now that I know that olive oil takes forever to reach trace, I can simply laugh about that experience.  It has been one year and one month since that first soap.  I am making it again, this time with local virgin coconut oil, and calling it Fil-Castile. Hmmm…I feel that a new classic is born. 🙂 The name is a representation of the best of both worlds and the long history that they share. 

Fil Castile 3

Fil-Castile Soap: made with olive oil and virgin coconut oil

Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan – in the service of the king of Spain – came to our shores in 1521 and introduced the Catholic faith. It was also here where he met his death in the famous Battle of Mactan. Other Spanish explorers came after him, and by 1565, the Philippines (named after King Philip II) had become a colony of Spain, and stayed on to be for the next 333 years or until 1898 when the Americans came.  Spanish influence is thus inextricably woven into the fiber of Philippine society and culture.

The Crusaders have been credited for introducing soap to Western Europe when they brought back with them Aleppo soap  in the 11th century.  It wasn’t until the following century that soap production using locally available olive oil gained momentum throughout Italy and Spain. Of all the soap-producing regions, it was the Kingdom of Castilla (now a part of modern Spain) that became famous, hence the term Castile for soaps made with 100% olive oil. It is a mild and gentle soap that produces a low, fine, and creamy lather. It has a tendency to feel slimy, but it is wonderfully soothing for sensitive and dry skin.  It is a natural humectant and skin regenerator due to olive oil’s high oleic acid and vitamin E content.

Coconut trees abound in the Philippines and it is called the Tree of Life for good reason. Every part of the tree is usable in the form of food, fuel or shelter.  According to, these are benefits of coconut oil:


The most common form of coconut oil is extracted from sun-dried mature coconut meat, called copra. This oil is refined, bleached, and deodorized (RBD) and is yellowish in color.  On the other hand, virgin coconut oil is cold-pressed from fresh mature coconut meat and  expeller-processed to separate the water from the oil, keeping intact all the nutritional benefits. It is completely clear and colorless when liquid. Taken internally or used as a topical application, virgin coconut oil is without a doubt far more superior than the RBD kind.  But does it really make a difference after saponification?  It would be interesting to hear it from a scientific point of view.

For my Fil-Castile soap, I used 95% olive oil and 5% virgin coconut oil, and left it unscented. To make a hard bar of soap, I used a 40% lye concentration, and added a little sodium lactate and salt. I also included a small amount of sugar to help it bubble up better.

Fil Castile 2

I blended the oils and lye solution intermittently for several minutes yet it remained very thin. I poured it anyway into the mold. I wanted to try Auntie Clara’s inverted stamp technique, so while I waited for the soap batter to thicken to the right consistency, I made a masterbatch lye solution.  Batter was still too thin.  I proceeded to make 2 other batches of soap, and by then, the batter was still not thick enough to hold shape! It was only after about 75 minutes before the batter was ready, but even then, it was still on the soft side and as you can see, the marks are not very pronounced. I didn’t have wires and pliers, so I used acrylic dividers to make the lattice design.

Fil Castile 4

Inverted stamp technique

Even with the water discount, salt and sodium lactate, I expected the soap to be soft during cutting, but after 11-12 hours, I was surprised that it was perfectly hard already.  The sound that the string cutter makes as it is pulled and subsequently released by the soap as it cuts through it gives me an idea how hard the soap is.  The higher the pitch, the harder the soap is and the  closer the string is to breaking. 🙂

What surprised me the most were the pock marks. Are they air bubbles? I was careful with the way I stick blended the soap batter. I was very disappointed with the appearance so I started chopping off the bars into small cubes to be made into embeds, until I realized I was just being too fussy.  There is nothing wrong with the soap:  it is very fine and smooth to the touch, and a lovely bone white.  Despite being unscented, it smells pure and clean to me.  Luckily I was able to save 8 bars from being chopped up, but I am also loving the soaps made with the embeds – post to follow very soon!

Fil Castile 1

Cut surface has pock marks, but otherwise the texture is very smooth to the touch.














26 thoughts on “Fil-Castile Soap: The Best of Two Worlds

  1. Infusions

    It is good you stopped and saved 8 bars, Silvia! The soap looks great and the pock marks only make it look better. It is handmade after all and the best thing about handmade soap is that it is never as shiny and polished as the commercially sold one. beautiful, as always!

    1. soapjam Post author

      Thank you, Maya. I am glad I was able to save some bars. I’ve tried using a sliver and even if it’s just a few days old, it feels great so I can only imagine how much better it would be after cure. It lathers if you really work it up with your hands. If you don’t, it’s kinda like lotion, and there is that slime when you slowly lift your finger from the wet soap.

  2. jo

    I agree – it looks beautiful. Pure, unadulterated….simply gorgeous. (I’ve had soaps with pock marks – once using demerara sugar and another with salt. I put it down to the size of the sugar / salt particles …taking up space in the initial batter and then ‘dissolving’ and leaving a little hole. I suspect I am wrong, but I felt better about the soap!!!) I love your soaps and thank you for the time you take to write this blog – it is really appreciated

    1. soapjam Post author

      Hi JM! Thank you for visiting my blog and for your comment. I dissolved the salt and sugar in water, so that’s why I’m thinking the pock marks must be air bubbles.

  3. mijnzeep1

    Silvia, I am impressed by the white color you achieved using 95% olive oil. Delicate, again, as most of your soaps, and the inverted stamp technique looks so great on the top.

    1. soapjam Post author

      I was surprised too at how white the soap is. There is no TD, not even kaolin clay. I looked at pictures of Castile soaps and many of them are quite white too, so I guess it’s really how Castile soaps are. The virgin coconut oil probably helped too.

  4. Jenny

    Gorgeous, Silvia! Castile soap is so nice. And I love the inverted stamp technique! I hadn’t seen that before – what a cool idea!

  5. soapsudsations

    I’m so glad you managed to save these 8 bars because they look wonderful! I love the inverted stamp technique, that is so neat and gives such a unique top.

    Thanks for the history lesson too, I didn’t know that was how castile soap got its name. Actually I didn’t know about it being 100% olive oil either, so that’s was cool.

    Lucky you for having so much coconut. It’s very costly here and so I use it sparingly in my cooking although I’d love to slather it on everything. 😉

    1. soapjam Post author

      True Castile soap is made with 100% olive oil, but nowadays people use the term very loosely. I am a stickler though for accurate labelling.:)
      Coconut oil prices have gone up by more 30% since last year’s Typhoon Haiyan destroyed more than 30 million coconut trees. I suppose it’s still a lot cheaper here than it is in Canada. Virgin coconut oil is quite expensive, even for us here, so I use it sparingly too. 🙂

      1. soapsudsations

        I’m glad you’re sticking to using the term in its strictest form and hopefully it will become a more widespread phenomenon.

        Hopefully the coconut trees weren’t completely destroyed and have some hopes of making a comeback. Only the best ingredients for you, right? 😉

  6. Kerry Lamb

    These soaps are very beautiful. Your work continues to be an inspiration to me. I just LOVE how you share information so freely. THANK YOU!!

  7. DivaSoap

    You really chopped off this beauty? Thank God you stopped! And I’ve never see this white olive oil soap, it’s amazingly white! What is the colour of your o.o?

    1. soapjam Post author

      The colour of the olive oil is yellow, while the virgin coconut oil is crystal clear.
      I felt bad after chopping off 7 bars, but I am quite happy with the way they resurrected as embeds. 🙂

  8. Pingback: Fil-Castile Soap Embeds | SoapJam

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  10. soapinthecity

    Thank you Silvia for a wonderful blog post. Your research is fantastic. Your soap is beautiful and the story behind it is beautifully told. May I suggest that the pock marks you saw in your Fil-Castille is from the salt you added. Whenever I make a Marseille soap which has added salt I find I get those little salty pock marks too. I leave out the salt and no pock marks. I hope this helps. I will be making this Fil Castille today and will blog about it with full credit given to you. Thank you again !

    1. soapjam Post author

      Hi Sus! Thank you for your kind words! I am glad your comment led me to your wonderful blog. I am so curious now to try soy wax in soap! I have made Fil-Castile many times since that first batch and the succeeding ones don’t have pockmarks. The recipe remains the same with the salt and sugar, so I guess it was probably the way I mixed it? The only difference I’ve made is to warm the oils to about 105-110F to hasten trace. I hope you like the results of your spirulina Fil-Castile. 🙂

      1. soapinthecity

        Hi Silvia, I love the Fil Castile and have already used it. The water discount and the addition of the coconut made such a big difference. Glad those pock marks were only in the first batch. Soy wax is fun to work with and makes a fine soap. Enjoy my blog and please comment anytime !!!
        Susi @ SoYummy Soap Adelaide South Australia

  11. Pingback: Success with your Milky Way Moulds : Part 4 : Individual Moulds | soapinthecity2

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