This post was originally published on May 8th, 2018 and updated on January 23rd, 2019. I’ve added an update an how the colors and scent have fared over time. So, scroll down to the bottom to see what this soap looks like after 9 months.
I’ve been playing around with botanicals and design ideas lately. I kept wanting to throw stuff (clays, dried flowers, etc) into my lye water, just to see what would happen.
Why – you may ask – would I want to put them into the lye solution rather than the more traditional approach to infuse them in oil? Well, cold oil infusion takes 6-8 weeks and even heat oil infusion takes 2-4 hours on the stove – Mama ain’t got time for that. I also thought this could be an easy way for beginners to get a good color result.
So, the first experiment I did was with Brazilian pink clay. I added 1 tsp to my hot lye solution, soaped as I would normally, and gelled the soap. The result didn’t necessarily blow me away at first, but after a while the muted pink shade really grew on me.
For my second project, I wanted to achieve a bright yellow color to contrast with the blue cornflowers I was going to deck the soap out with. What I did was add dried calendula petals straight into my hot lye solution. Well, what I got was a brownish orange. That’s not what I wanted!
But why did this happen? To help solve the mystery, I asked around in an amazing facebook group I’m part of and one very helpful member gave me the answer: calendula flowers turn into a brown color when added to hot lye or even hot water, but when added to your warm oils they will stay yellow. Aha, who knew?
So, that’s what I did and boy what a difference it made.
Want to give it a go yourself? Let’s get started.
Before we start with the recipe, here are some general things to keep in mind in order for you to achieve the best color result when using natural colorants:
- Choose a soap recipe that produces a white bar of soap. For that reason I’m choosing a high percentage of canola oil in this recipe, but tallow, lard, palm and I’m guessing babassu oil works well, too.
- Gell your soap! The color will pop a whole lot more if you do.
- Keep in mind that the color might change over time or even fade as the soap cures. That’s what makes using natural colorants so annoying, ahem… interesting, of course 😉
This recipe is sized for a standard Crafter’s Choice loaf mold which holds around 44 oz. of soap. (I made a 1 lb test batch which you can see in the pictures). You can resize the recipe to your heart’s desire using soapcalc.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you will I earn a commission if you decide to click through and make a purchase.
- Canola oil (43%): 18.9 oz. / 536g
- Coconut oil (30%): 13.2 oz. / 374g
- Shea butter (20%): 8.8 oz. / 250g
- Castor oil (7%): 3 oz / 87g
- Lye: 6.1 oz. / 173g
- Distilled water: 10 oz. / 283g
I superfatted this recipe at 5% and I’m using a lye concentration of 38% which I find greatly helps reduce soda ash.
Additives / Fragrances:
- Lemongrass essential oil: 53g
- Finely ground calendula petals: 5 tsp (I used a coffee grinder to grind them up)
- Sodium lactate: 3 tsp (I chose to use it here since it helps the soap release out of the silicone mold)
- Cornflower petals for the top
- Bring water and lye together and create lye solution by carefully stirring until lye is fully dissolved
- Let cool to below 130 degrees F and add sodium lactate
- In the meantime measure out and melt base oils
- Add the calendula powder straight into your oils while they’re melting
- Add essential oil to base oils
- Using a stick blender mix until thin pudding consistency is achieved
- Pour batter into mold
- Deck out the top (I used a skewer to draw some pretty swirls)
- Make sure your batter has a very thick consistency before gently pressing cornflower petals down the middle of your soap. This will prevent your cornflowers from going brown after the saponification process.
- Insulate your soap well with a thick towel
- Unmold after 24-36 hours and cut lemongrass calendula soap into bars (Turn your soap to the side or upside down while you cut to avoid drag marks from the cornflowers)
9 Months Lemongrass Calendula Soap Update:
We all know that natural colorants, botanicals and essential oils can change over time. This is why I wanted to show you how this Lemongrass Calendula Soap has faired since it was first poured more than 9 months ago.
First up, let’s talk about the color that was achieved by adding ground calendula petals to the warm base oils. As you can see the color is not as bright and the specks are less prominent. The day when the update picture was taken was super cloudy, so the colors may appear a little more muted than in real life. I really still like the soft yellow – orange hue, I think it’s pretty 🙂
Some of the conrflower petals on top have sadly lost their blue color and turned yellow. They stayed nice and colorful though for the first 4 – 5 months.
Now to the scent: To be honest I never had any type of lemongrass essential oil fade on me before – ever. So, no big surprise here: the scent is still going strong and it’s really nice.
I think this little soaplet is a keeper! How about you?
What more awesome natural soap recipes? Try:
Until next time. Happy Tinkering!