Natural Colorants Used in Soap Making

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Paprika and Cayenne Pepper Powder

There are many options when it comes to coloring your soaps with natural ingredients. Though usually not as vibrant as synthetic colors, natural colorants can be just as lovely.

Many of the ingredients can be found in your kitchen, your grocery, or from soap making suppliers. Many of them are already used to color common foods and drugs. (Annatto is what gives macaroni and cheese its orange color. Cochineal is used to color Hawaiian Punch.)

Here are some of my favorite options, and the color they impart:

  • Activated Charcoal – usually made from bamboo, gives a gray to deep black color depending on use. Great for dramatic contrast, or subtle lines
  • Alfalfa – medium green
  • Alkanet – steep in oil first – deep purple to muted blue

Colorant: Alkanet Powder
Amount per pound of oils: 1/2 tsp.
When added: Added in at light trace
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold Process

  • Annatto Seed – steep in oil first – yellow orange – it’s the color of “macaroni and cheese”Annatto and Poppy Seed
  • Beet Root – muted pinkish beige to muted pinkish dull brown

Colorant: Beet Root
Amount per pound of oils: 2 tsp
When added: added at light trace
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold ProcessBeet Root Soap

  • Bentonite Clay – off white to a light ivory-green * I use about 2 teaspoons of clay for every pound of oil.Benonite Clay

 

  • Black Walnut Hull – speckled purple-brown

Colorant: Black Walnut Hull
Amount per pound of oils: 1/4 tsp.
When added: Added at trace
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palmBlack Walnut Hull Soap

  • Ground Calendula Petals – yellow – speckled throughout

Colorant: Calendula Flower Petals
Amount per pound of oils: 2 tsp. of calendula, ground in a coffee mill
When added: Added at to the warmed oils
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold ProcessCalendula Soap

  • Carrots, shredded or ground – yellow to orange
  • Carrot Juice (black) – light pinkish brown

Colorant: Black Carrot Juice
Amount per pound of oils: 1 Tbs.
When added: Added to warm oils
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold ProcessBlack Carrot Juice Soap

  • Ground Chamomile – yellow-beige
  • Chamomile (German) Essential Oil – light pastel green

Colorant: German Chamomile Essential Oil
Amount per pound of oils: 1/8 tsp.
When added: Added at trace
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold Process

Chamomile Soap

  • Chlorophyll – medium greens
  • Cinnamon – tan to brown – can be an irritant

Colorant: Cinnamon Powder
Amount per pound of oils: 1/4 tsp.
When added: Added at trace
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold ProcessCinnamon Soap

  • Cloves, Ground – brown
  • Cochineal Powder – light to deep red depending on amount used

Colorant: Cochineal
Amount per pound of oils: 1 Tbs.
When added: Added to lye water
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold ProcessCochineal Soap

  • Cocoa Powder – brown
  • Coffee/Coffee Grounds – brown to black
  • Comfrey Root – light milky brown
  • Cornmeal, Blue – purplish-blue-brown

Colorant: Blue Cornmeal
Amount per pound of oils: 1 cup
When added: Added at trace
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palmBlue Corn Meal Soap

  • Cucumber – bright to pale green – peel can be used in a more speckled way
  • Curry Powder – yellow
  • Elderberries – steep in lye solution – light brown
  • Green Tea Powder – brownish-greenish – speckled

Colorant: Green Tea Powder
Amount per pound of oils: 1 tsp.
When added: Added at trace
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palmGreen Tea Powder Soap

  • Henna, Ground – olive to deep drab green – brown
  • Indigo Root – deep blues – caution, can stain

Colorant: Indigo Powder
Amount per pound of oils: 4 tiny level spoons (approx. 1/16 tsp. each)
When added: Added to warmed oils – let steep over night, stirring regularly. Added the colored oil to the other oils before adding lye.
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold ProcessIndigo Soap

  • Jojoba Beads – come in many colors, and add exfoliation too

You’ll love the way that the jojoba beads scrub a bit, but, because they are round, don’t scratch.

Note: This bar here was part of a two layer soap that I did with the ingredients from a Bramble Berry Stocking Stuffer Kit – but with the variety of colors available, both in soap and in jojoba beads, you can create many different varieties and color combinations!Jojoba Beads 2 Layer Soap

  • Kaolin Clay – white to off white * I use about 2 teaspoons of clay for every pound of oil.Kaolin Clay Soap
  • Kelp/Seaweed – green
  • Madder Root – rosy red – purple
  • Milk (goats or cow’s) – tan to brown, depending upon sugar & fat content
  • Morrocan Red Clay – Brick Red
  • Olive Leaf Powder – warm ochre/brown color

Colorant: Olive Leaf Powder
Amount per pound of oils: 2 tsp.
When added: Added at trace
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold ProcessOlive Leaf Soap

  • Orange Juice – used in place of water for lye solution – nice pastel orange/beige

Colorant: Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
Amount per pound of oils: Substituted for water in recipe
When added: Used to make lye-water solution
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold ProcessOrange Juice Soap

  • Paprika – light orange peach to orange-brown – can be an irritant

Colorant: Paprika Powder
Amount per pound of oils: 1 Tbs.
When added: Added at trace
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold ProcessPaprika Soap

  • Poppy Seeds – Blue-grey to light black specksAnnatto and Poppy Seed
  • Pumice, Ground – grey
  • Pumpkin, Pureed – lovely deep orangePumpkin Puree Soap
  • Rattanjot – light lavender-brown to deep purplish chocolate brown

Colorant: Rattanjot Powder
Amount per pound of oils: 1 Tbs.
When added: Added to lye water
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold ProcessRattanjot Soap

  • Rhassoul Clay – a light speckled gray-brown
  • Rose Pink Clay – Brick red * I use about 2 teaspoons of clay for every pound of oil.Rose Pink Clay
  • Rosehip Seeds, Ground – light tan to deep brown
  • Safflower Petals- yellow to deep orange
  • Saffron – yellows
  • Sage – green

Colorant: Sage Powder
Amount per pound of oils: 1 1/2 Tbs. infused into olive oil
When added: Infused into oils used in soap
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Hot ProcessSage Soap

  • Sandalwood Powder (red) – deep purplish brown – nice speckles

Colorant: Red Sandalwood Powder
Amount per pound of oils: 1 level tsp.
When added: Added to cold water before lye was poured in – stirred well and let steep in lye-water solution overnight – stirring occasionally
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold ProcessSandalwood Soap

  • Spearmint – greenish brown

Colorant: Dried Spearmint Leaves
Amount per pound of oils: 1 tsp.
When added: Added to the warm oils prior to adding the lye
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold ProcessSpearmint Soap TwoSpearmint Soap One

  • Spinach – light green
  • Spirulina/Blue-Green Algae – light pastel green to blue-green

Colorant: Spirulina Powder
Amount per pound of oils: 1/2 tsp
When added: Added at light trace
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold ProcessSpirulina Soap

  • Titanium Dioxide – bright white
  • Tree Lichen – nice light pinkish beige – varies on type of lichen

Colorant: Tree Lichen
Amount per pound of oils: Equivalent of 1 Tbs. ground
When added: Added to lye water and strained out
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold ProcessTree Lichen Soap

  • Turmeric – golden brown to amber

Colorant: Turmeric Powder
Amount per pound of oils: 1 Tbsp.
When added: Added at light trace
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold ProcessTurmeric Soap

  • Wheatgrass Powder – lovely deep green

Colorant: Wheatgrass Powder
Amount per pound of oils: 1 Tbs. per 16 lb. of oils
When added: Added to warm oils
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Cold ProcessWheatgrass Soap

  • Woad Powder – bluish green

Colorant: Woad Powder
Amount per pound of oils: 1/2 tsp. infused into olive oil
When added: Infused into oils used in soap
Recipe: 33% coconut, 33% olive, 33% palm
Hot ProcessWoad Soap

 

How to Test Natural Colorants for Use in Soap Making

Soap makers have been using natural colorants in soap for years. But unless you’ve used a particular colorant before, or are following some one else’s recipe, it’s a very good idea to test them out for yourself. Yes, it takes a bit of time, but you’ll be spared of any surprises. Natural colors can sometimes do very odd things!

There are three tests for natural colorants:

  1. A lye test
  2. An oil test
  3. A final test in a small batch of soap

The Lye Test
To test how your colorant will react to the lye, dissolve about a tablespoon of lye into a half cup of water. Stir until the lye is completely dissolved and let it cool. Slowly add some of the plant material. You don’t need to use much – perhaps ¼ teaspoon of powdered colorant, or a few leaves of a fresh. TAKE NOTES!! In your notebook, jot down the amount of plant material used, and what color it turned. Check the solution again in a few hours. Then let it sit for about 24 hours and check again.

The Oil Test
Heat up about 4 ounces of oil. (I prefer to use coconut oil or lard so that I know that the oil is not imparting any color to the final results.) Add your colorant as before, and let it steep. Check back in a few hours and again after about 24. Again, TAKE NOTES!!

The Soap Test
After you’ve tested the colorant in both the lye and oil, you should be ready to try it in a small batch of soap. Depending on whether the colorant acted better in the lye or the oil will determine when you add it to the mix. Some plant materials work better when steeped in the lye solution, others work better when added at trace.

Unfortunately there is no hard and fast rule for how much of each colorant to add to your soap. Different plants have stronger coloring abilities, as well as each person’s tastes are different. When I’m testing out a recipe, I usually start with 1 tsp. of colorant for each pound of oils in my recipe. Then, based on those results, I’ll adjust the amount from there. If you’re going to steep the colorant in the lye water, mix your lye-water first, then add the color. Let it steep for a few minutes – or a few hours if necessary. Then using this colored lye-water, make your soap.

If you’re going to add the color to the oil, you can either add it at the beginning to the oils, or at the end, at trace. Either way seems to work about the same. As before, TAKE NOTES – how much of the colorant you used, when you added it, how it reacted in the soap. Your memory may be good now, but several months from now, when you want to duplicate your wonderful results, you’ll be grateful for those notes.

 

Lighthouse Food Farm & Backwoods Country Soaps

 

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Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Backwoods.Country.Soap

Order handmade Soap here:
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Farmer Jim Bonham

 

Source: http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/soapmakingbasics/a/natcolors.htm

Pictures: http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/projectgalleries/ig/Lone-Star-Natural-Colors/

 

 

 

 

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