Join Jo: How to Use Plant Infusions in Soapmaking

guest contributors soap science and info
a row of naturally colored soap

Great, now I have jars full of pretty plant infusions - exactly what do I do with them? I use them, that’s what!

I love clear bright colors in soap. I used to use mica many moons ago, and I really wanted to have those colors again, but this time I wanted to use plants. Weavers use plants all the time to get bright colors, I was sure there had to be a way for soapers to do the same.

A lot of research, time and ingredients later, I can share with you some ways that I have used to achieve similar colors by using plant infusions in soapmaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left: Testing Natural Colorants: Raw Soap  Right: Testing Natural Colorants: Soap in Gel

Testing Natural Colorants: Keeping Track!

Alright, grab your alkanet jar, and lets try it out! (Don't have one yet?! Get to making one with my guide on how to make infusions!)

How to Use Plant Infusions

When my infusion is ready (either 8 weeks for cold infusion or completely cold for heat infusion), I replace a percentage of my base oils in my recipe with the infused oil. Remember, I infused into an oil (olive oil pomace) that I used in my soap recipe. Well, this is why!

Lets use our infused Alkanet, as the example. Alkanet for me gives a lovely rich shade of purple. My infusion starts out a lovely rich shade of red!

 Alkanet Infused Oil is a lovely shade of red!

To achieve purple, I replace 15% of the olive oil component in my recipe with my alkanet infusion – yes, that red will give me purple, I promise.

If I use 1000 grams of olive oil in by base oils, I want to replace 15% (150 grams) with 150 grams of my alkanet infusion. My olive oil amount would now be 850 grams plain olive oil and 150 grams of alkanet infused olive oil, to make up my original total 1000 grams of olive oil in my recipe.

I pour the infusion straight out of the jar, and straight into the base oils bucket. No straining needed. The powder has settled at the bottom of the jar, and after I pour 150 grams out, I still have enough left in my jar for two more rich purple batches!

 Adding the alkanet infused oil into the rest of the base oils

Now I follow my normal recipe and procedure to make my soap. I don’t change anything else. As you can see from the photo below, the lye solution has been added and a small change is already occurring from the red to a purple grey color.

 The alkanet infused oil begins to change color due to the high pH of lye solution being added.

Just before pouring into my mold , you can still see the red from the original infusion alongside the color of the new soap batter. I love this bit of magic!

 A little bit of alkanet's magic on display!

In the photo below, a blue/grey top and edges around this bar of soap can be seen. I have found this to be really common with my plant infusions, so don’t be worried if this happens to you. Once the soap is completely removed from the mold, the centre of the soap will start to become the same as the top and sides.

 Alkanet colored soap in the mold

Alkanet can look very grey and you may feel disheartened when you first see it. Don’t be, slowly this grey will change to purple – it can take 7 days and for some people, slightly longer.

 Fresh alkanet soap may seem like a disappointment, just give it time!

After 7 days, if you have remembered to use the whitest base oils you can, soaped fairly cool, and you have gelled your soap, you should be looking at purple soap! How amazing is that! Red becomes grey becomes purple! Magic!

 The final result of using 15% of Alkanet infused oils - beautiful purple!

Other plants that you can infuse in the same way as alkanet include (however, in my experience, they all need to be gelled to achieve their full depth of color):

  • Woad - blue
  • Turmeric - orange
  • Paprika - orange
  • Yellowdock - pink
  • Rhubarb - pink
  • Annatto – yellow
  • Saffron - yellow
  • Gromwell - purple
  • Ratanjot - purple
  • Nettle - green
  • Comfrey – green

Join me next time in the series as I share how I use natural colorants in my lye solution to produce even more beautiful naturally colored soap!

Did you miss the first post in the Coloring Soap Naturally series? You can find it here!

Did you miss the second post in the Coloring Soap Naturally series about how to make infusions? Find that one right over here!

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