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Organic Coconut Oil: Meet Your Ingredient

An image of organic coconut oil and coconut fruit on a blue table.

Ingredients are the cornerstone of our products and our business. We strive to use ingredients and formulas that are safer for people and the environment. We consider the entire ingredient lifecycle, from sourcing and manufacturing to use and disposal. Third-party certifications from MADE SAFE® and Leaping Bunny hold us accountable and help us identify ingredients that align with our standards. We list every ingredient we use on the label of each product and on our website. 

Our Meet Your Ingredient series is our effort to provide additional information about our products so you can make informed decisions. This entry is all about organic coconut oil, which we use to make our laundry and cleaning powders, soap tablets, and bar soaps.

What is organic coconut oil?

Organic coconut oil is a plant-based oil that has a wide range of uses including cooking, cleaning, and making cosmetics and cleaning products.

What is cocos nucifera oil?

Cocos nucifera oil is the technical name of coconut oil according to the International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI) naming system. INCI names are considered best practice for listing ingredients in personal care and home cleaning products. On our labels, you will see organic coconut oil listed as “organic cocos nucifera (coconut) oil” to represent both the INCI name and the common name so that it can be easily recognized.

How is organic coconut oil made?

Coconut oil comes from the fruit of the coconut tree. It can be extracted from either fresh coconut meat or dried coconut meat, also known as copra. The Philippines is the largest producer of coconut oil, followed by Indonesia and India.

Virgin coconut oil (VGO) is made from fresh coconut meat. Unlike olive oil, the terms “virgin” and “extra virgin” are not regulated when it comes to coconut oil and there is no distinction between them. There are many methods for extracting virgin coconut oil from fresh coconut meat. Common processes include hot extraction (expeller-pressed) and cold extraction (cold-pressed). Virgin coconut oil produced through these methods is considered unrefined, as it undergoes minimal processing after extraction.

Coconut oil produced from copra is considered refined, as it undergoes additional processing after extraction to be made suitable for consumption. This may include bleaching and deodorizing, resulting in RBD (refined, bleached, and deodorized) oil.

While refined and unrefined coconut oils may differ in terms of flavor and odor, both are suitable for making soap. 

We use organic, RBD coconut oil sourced from the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

What is organic coconut oil used for?

Organic coconut oil is a highly effective fat for making soap. At Meliora Cleaning Products, we use organic coconut oil to make our Laundry Powder, Soap Stick, All-Purpose Home Cleaner, Gentle Home Cleaning Scrub, Dish Soap, Foaming Hand Soap, and Bath & Body Soap Bars

On the labels for these products, you will see organic cocos nucifera (coconut) oil listed alongside sodium cocoate, potassium cocoate, water, and glycerin as components of “vegetable soap.”

What are sodium cocoate and potassium cocoate?

Sodium cocoate and potassium cocoate are the chemical names for coconut oil that is saponified, or ‘made into soap.’  During the soapmaking process, coconut oil reacts with lye to form fatty acid salts known as soap, as well as glycerin byproduct. We ensure that no lye remains in our products by leaving a very small amount of excess oil, which is why you see coconut oil listed as a separate ingredient on our product labels.

The lye used may be either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide lye produces sodium cocoate, a harder type of soap used in our Laundry Powder, Soap Stick, Gentle Home Cleaning Scrub, Dish Soap, and Bath & Body Soap Bars. Potassium hydroxide produces potassium cocoate, which is softer and dissolves more easily and is used in our All-Purpose Home Cleaner and Foaming Hand Soap refill tablets.

Health impact of organic coconut oil-based soap

Coconut oil-based lye soaps, such as sodium cocoate and potassium cocoate, are safer alternatives to synthetic, petroleum-based detergents. Many synthetic detergents contain harmful surfactants such as sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) that may cause skin and respiratory irritation, reproductive issues, and cancer. They also frequently include ethoxylated ingredients, such as polyethylene glycol (PEG), that produce the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane as a manufacturing byproduct.

Conventional cleaning and personal care products also tend to contain additional toxic ingredients, such as preservatives and synthetic fragrances. Moreover, they may not fully disclose their ingredients. For instance, the word “fragrance” on an ingredient label can represent any number of potentially harmful chemicals.

Unlike many petroleum-derived ingredients, sodium cocoate and potassium cocoate are graded “A” in the EWG Guide to Healthy Cleaning. Both ingredients are approved by MADE SAFE®, a human health and ecosystem-focused certification for household products.

Environmental impact of organic coconut oil-based soap

The environmental impact of soap made from coconut oil is closely tied to the production and sourcing of coconut oil. Potential environmental concerns associated with coconut oil include deforestation, harvesting, extraction, and transportation. Coconut cultivation compares favorably with palm oil, a well-known cause of deforestation and habitat loss. Unlike palm oil trees, coconut trees can be grown alongside other crops and are harvested by hand instead of with machinery. 

We use only organic coconut oil to make our products. The term “organic” refers to a set of agricultural standards that promote sustainability and minimize synthetic practices. The USDA organic standards, for example, “foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity” while restricting the use of synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering.

So why don’t we include an organic seal on our products? Only agricultural products, including plant-derived oils, can be considered organic. This means that cleaning products that use both organic ingredients and non-agricultural ingredients (such as baking soda and washing soda) may be labeled as “made with organic ingredients” or list specific organic ingredients, but cannot be labeled (or certified) as organic or 100 percent organic.

Finally, while producing and transporting coconut oil requires the use of industrial machinery and fossil fuels, the same is true of the alternatives. We prefer to accept that fossil fuels are used throughout the supply chain than to put petroleum-derived ingredients directly into our products.

Organic Coconut Oil

Also known as: Cocos Nucifera Oil

INCI Name: Organic Cocos Nucifera Oil

CAS Number: 8001-31-8

Products with Organic Coconut Oil: