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Coloring Soap Naturally

Oct
30

Yesterday, I made soap. JUST FOR FUN. A lot of times, I’m making a craft for two reasons–for fun and for a writing project. (If you can figure out how to turn crafts into a job, you can have fun all the time!) Well, as it turned out, I’m writing about it anyway, but I didn’t use a new recipe or anything. I made the soap for Christmas presents. I used the Lavender-Basil recipe that was the CITR party demonstration soap. (You can find the recipe here.)

Without meaning to or thinking about it, I did do something different with the recipe. I ground the basil more finely. The soap made at the party came out a beautiful white with basil-green flecks. This time, same recipe, the soap came out green. Very green!

I used the new soap mold I also showed in this post. These soap molds are handmade by CindyP and she gave one to me. I love it. It fits a two-pound soap recipe just right. (All the recipes I post are two-pound recipes.) I love even more that after you take the soap out of the mold (which is easy! yay!) and remove the parchment paper, then you can put it back to slice it. The mold doubles as a cutter (with a guide).

I ended up with nine 4.5-5 ounce bars and one 3 ounce bar. Once I have a chance to experiment a little more with where to place the end of the soap in the guide, I think I should be able to make ten even 4 ounce bars.

Look how green it is!

This is how the soap came out at the party:

Exact same recipe. The difference was in the more finely ground basil. Live and learn! I thought the soap was pretty just with green flecks, but I really love the green color–and it’s natural.

The accidental green got me thinking of all sorts of ways to add natural color to soaps. For browns, use tea or coffee. (Or just make your soap with milk, which also browns soap naturally.) For reds–cherries, beets, or cranberries. For blue, blueberries. For yellow, turmeric or saffron. Other spices like paprika or chili powder for orangey colors. Spinach and all sorts of other veggies or herbs would work for green. You don’t have to put fruit/veggie/herbs/spices directly into the soap as I did with the basil. Just boil the dye “source” –for vegetables and fruits, use just enough water to cover. For spices, use one tablespoon per cup of water. Simmer it down to really concentrate the color into a small amount of liquid. Let cool then strain out fruits/veggies from the liquid. (Pour it through cheesecloth to finely strain out herbs and spices.) Add just a little bit at a time till you get the color you want. (For cold process, you’d do this at trace. For hot process, you’d do it when the soap is finished cooking and right before putting in the mold.)

I can’t wait to do some experimenting!

Thank you to CindyP for the soap mold! If you’re interested in her soap molds, contact her at her website for more info: Chippewa Creek. She also has a great tutorial on using SoapCalc here.

Update to add: I’m going to try the idea of reserving a bit of the oil (1 ounce), infusing it with the natural dye source, and adding it at light trace. Will let you know how that comes out as I experiment with different colors. Thanks for all the tips!

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on October 30, 2010  

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  1. 10-30
    4:40
    pm

    The soap is beautiful – I dabble in making it now and then and have supplies on hand – I am inspired to do it again! and Homemade is so much more better. Thanks for the great info and inspiration!

  2. 10-30
    4:42
    pm

    I just finished up a batch of soap about ten minutes ago! I used hemp oil, along with coconut, olive, and castor oil, and it’s also the prettiest color of green I’ve seen.
    I’m not sure I’d actually go out and purchase hemp oil, but someone on the local freecycle group was giving it away!
    I can’t wait to see if the green stays…

  3. 10-30
    4:47
    pm

    Does she sell the soap molds??

  4. 10-30
    4:51
    pm

    Kelly A, yes, she is selling the molds! I don’t think she has them up on her page yet, though, but if you contact her from her website, she can get the info to you.

  5. 10-30
    5:15
    pm

    NO! Wait! Do some research before you spend a lot of time and money making mud-colored soap. Beets lend a nice red color to things that are dyed with acid, but turn bluish-black yuk in the strong alkaline soap batter. Cherries too. And Cranberries. Sorry, but there is no easy red for soap.

    I’ve also found that often the flakes of basil, parsley, rosemary, kelp, etc, turn brown or black over time. That’s why you see soap “purists” embracing so many shades of white, off-white, gold, cream and brown and working to make them look elegant. 99.9% of any soap you see in bright colored shades got there via oxide colorants or micas.

    Want to get really artsy? Make two half-batches, one with plain oil and one with oil that has been infused with calendula leaves or has a tiny pinch of turmeric added. Cold process, bring both batches to light trace; Drizzle, alternating, into your mold, then take a long-tined fork, insert all the way to the bottom and drag it zig-zagging up and down and back and forth a couple of times. Watch with wonder when you cut the bars, each one will have its own unique swirl pattern. :sheep:

    Oh — OH! Almost forgot to add that you can make a white batch scented with peppermint, divide in half at extremely light trace and add 1/4 to 1/2 oz melted unsweetened chocolate to half the batch. Swirl in the mold. Warn recipients that it’s peppermint patty SOAP, NOT EDIBLE!! Heavenly in the shower.

  6. 10-30
    5:49
    pm

    Thanks for the tips, Susan! I’ll be experimenting. I do hot process soap, so it’s a little different since I don’t add the color at trace.

  7. 10-30
    9:52
    pm

    That’s a lovely shade of green, very pretty. How about red cabbage for blue? And annetto/anchiote gives an orangey red. The green hulls from walnuts give a great dark brown (but also stain your hands). But I haven’t tried them on soap, so I don’t know how the lye would effect the colors.

  8. 10-30
    10:22
    pm

    What a pretty shade of green! It will make a lovely Christmas gift. Accidents always make a project even more fun when it turns out so well. Good luck when trying other colors.

  9. 10-30
    10:38
    pm

    Echoing what Susan said. I’ve done many an experiment with fruits and herbs and, in cold processed soap at least, it usually just ends up being brown.

  10. 10-31
    2:32
    am

    If I ever make my own soap, I might try birch leaves. I love their smell in sauna anyway, so…

  11. 10-31
    5:58
    am

    Minna, there’s a great Swedish birch soap I buy from time to time, so that would work.

  12. 10-31
    4:56
    pm

    that soap is gorgeous! :happyflower:
    I just started to learn about soap making and have made on HP batch and will try CP next week. In the meantime I am playing around with Melt and Pour.

  13. 10-31
    9:40
    pm

    You can use pulverized avocado pits as well… a great coloring agent. You can also pulverize dried mint leaves to get the same effect with the green. We have used cumin.. I think.. for a yellowish color. Soap making is great fun!
    Thanks for this post!

  14. 10-31
    10:28
    pm

    I just made some honey almond soap this past weekend. I had some soap colorant but couldn’t get that brown honey and almond look I wanted. I mixed a few colors and got a brown then added a tiny bit of cocoa mix to give it the right tint. I tried a new swirly tutorial I had seen and it turned out very pretty!

  15. 10-31
    10:46
    pm

    One of my favorite natural coloring agents is one you mentioned – paprike. I got a gorgeous peach color that didn’t fade or change colors. I also liked to put just a dab of the actual paprika grains in the soap. It made interesting little russet flecks in it.

  16. 11-1
    1:37
    am

    How do you keep the coloring agents – especially the stronger ones – from coloring your skin? I tried making an avacado pit facial scrub one time, and stained my face a lovely reddish orange color…

  17. 11-2
    1:13
    pm

    I like the green, it’s beautiful.

  18. 11-2
    9:18
    pm

    It is just like you to find the gold nugget in a piece of coal. You are so smart. I like the green, too. I finally made some of the soap from your recipe. It turned out wonderful. The smell was awsome, too. This is something that I did with my daughter. She had a blast except I would not let her touch the lye. I think that she needs to watch me do it a little longer. We are going to mix another few batches to give away for Christmas. This is something I wanted to do my whole life. Now I can. Happy holidays to you and your family.

  19. 11-17
    8:43
    pm

    Did you meaure out the tablespoon of basil first, then chop it finer? Or did you chop it super fine, then measure? Just want to make sure I get it right. The green is beautiful.

  20. 11-17
    8:47
    pm

    Kristen, I ground the basil first THEN measured!

  21. 2-18
    5:39
    pm

    I love the “organic” look of homemade soaps, and LOVE your green soap with the flecks. Beautiful! I much prefer the natural look over “colored”. Milk or goat’s milk gives a really nice creamy brown look to cold processed soap. I also got an interesting orangy-brown color from using steeped tea for my liquid–the lye turns it much darker! Hemp oil gives an interesting green. I also like adding a little white clay, green French clay ( usually turns more brown in the soap) and brown Rhassoul clay when making a face bar–the clay helps with facial oils.

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