Infusing Oils

Infusions are simply an herb, dried or fresh, that’s steeped in a slightly warmed oil, capped, then left to steep for a while until the potency of the botanicals are achieved to the level you prefer.  Some leave them for a couple of weeks, some for a couple of months, and other will leave them for half a year or more.  It all depends on what you want to do with them.

Many of us have used infusions without even realizing that’s what we’re using.  A good cup of tea is an infusion.  It’s sped up a bit, but it is still an infusion.  It’s infused into water which is then sweetened and the “ah” factor is achieved.

Oil infusions are often employed for soaps to do 1, 2, or more things.  We’ll infuse a botanical into an oil to bring the various benefits that herb can offer to a formulation in our bath & body care items.  If you plan to use these for CP or HP or CPHP soaps, however, the benefits may be lost in the heat of CPHP or HP processing and then the alkalinity of all of them will also alter the benefits to be pretty null and void.  The infusions would be best served into lotions, balms, butters, if you hope to leave all the antioxidants, Vitamins, etc intact in your final product.  Just bear in mind that though there’s no high pH in lotions, and balms production, there is heat and that may destroy/alter some or all the nutrients you hoped to add.

Another reason we use infusions is for colour, natural colour in a soap that we’re hoping to keep as natural as possible for a particular line of product we’re developing, or for a particular sector of our customer base.  Perhaps we have customers with sensitive skin, allergies, personal preferences for naturally-derived colours, for which these would be a perfect fit.  Maybe vegan and vegetarian followers want this option as well.    That’s well and good, but please know your additives and realize that they might not all be ideal, even for those select groups either.  Annatto seeds are found in many items that are a deep yellow-orange, such as some cheeses, but they can also be the cause of allergic reactions to some individuals.  Know what your sensitivities are and those of your customers before you try out an additive.  Be aware of these when labeling and your customers will be able to fully enjoy your products without any bad side effects.

So, that said, these are the ones I did this weekend.

Refined Olive Oil infusions

Refined Olive Oil infusions


From left to right they are -

Camu Camu Fruit Powder

Orange Peel Powder

Lemon Peel Powder

Hibiscus Flower Powder

Annatto Seeds

All powders were sealed into tea bags then covered with Refined Olive Oil, which is a Golden colour that was slightly warmed, and once the oil was cooled sufficiently, they all were capped and placed in a safe location to prevent breakage.  I give them a shake occasionally to see if the colours are beginning to show, then walk away.  That’s the hard part!

These will all be filtered through either an unbleached coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth once their infusion stage is complete.  That should clear out any small particles that escaped the bags during this submerging or shaking.

The benefits that these might bring to a lotions or balm are typically those of antioxidant or Vitamins our skin needs in order to remain happy & healthy. Annatto seeds, while often used to colour certain foods, are also know to cause certain allergies, so label any product made with these with a note of caution for sensitive individuals.,  They contain high levels of carotenoids which are beneficial to the eyes.  While I wouldn’t recommend putting anything you make in or on your eyes, know that the bixins that contain these carotenoids can get through to your system by way of your skin to benefit the eyes anyway.  The antioxidants contained in anything containing carotenoids has the ability to fight off free radicals that lead to premature aging as well as fight off chronic illness and prolong life.

You can buy Annatto seeds here and read more in-depth material here.

Camu Camu Fruit Powder was called a superfood for a time when its benefits first hit the spotlight.  It’s since become a well-known source of Vitamin C and antioxidants and is great for supplying us with other vitamins such as B1 B2, B3, beta-carotene, bioflavenoids, phytochemicals, phosphorus, potassium, iron, and calcium.  It’s also been found to be helpful with weight loss, premature aging, reducing dark spots on the skin, and is great for shine for the hair. You can buy camu camu fruit powder here and read more about this superfood here.

Lemon Peel and Orange Peel powders are both excellent for lightening those dark spots we get from being outdoors whether it’s for recreational purposes or necessary tasks like gardening or lawn care, shooting hoops with the kids, or shooting the breeze with friends.

Orange peel powder is loaded with Vitamin C, Folic Acid, Beta-carotene, Vitamin B1, and thanks to the high levels of flavonoids contained within, it’s also a terrific anti-bacterial and anti-microbial agent.  That said, do NOT presume it’s safe to do without a preservative.  It’s is never a good idea to do without a preservative in any formulation which goes into a jar, tub or tube then is sold to the general public. The scent of orange is believed to be uplifting and much loved in aromatherapy formulations.

It can be bought here or here and more information can be read on this juicy addition here.

Lemon Peel Powder can be bought here.

Hibiscus Flower Powder is the dried petals of the beautiful flowers of the hibiscus plant, ground to a fine powdery form.  This powder will give your infusions a red colour that varies according to the length of time the infusion is allowed to continue.  The flowers are often used in hair care products as they have properties known to thicken hair or reduce hair loss and for dandruff control.  Being a gentle addition, they’re often found in baby care products.  They also even out skin tone and texture.  It also is known to cleanse, soothe, protect against acne, and soften the skin.

Buy it here.


Many other suppliers might also be checked out for these and many other beneficial additives to your formulations of creams, lotions, balms, butters, etc. Virtually anything you can dream up is possible so long as you bear in mind the ‘scratch’ factor of these when determining whether to use them or not.  Many might be too abrasive to use in a lotion or oil, but might be perfect for your scrubs which requires a certain amount of scratchiness in order to do its job properly.

I’ve checked in several of my own favorite suppliers when providing the above information, but you might also want to visit the following web sites to see what they offer as well. They’re all reliable sources of information and are excellent supplies resources.

Soapmaking Resource, above, offers the convenience of a Kit to give you more natural colourant bang for your buck.  All the most widely used, popular natural colourants are sent to you to try out at your convenience and determine which ones you like best for future orders.  A real bargain!

Liquid gold

Liquid soap, glycerin method

Liquid soap. It’s lush, convenient, versatile, can be coloured or not, can be fragranced or not, can be made several different ways, can be made for hands & body, for the hair, for everything.  It’s just that flexible.  But – and isn’t there always one of those when things are clicking along so nicely – it can be a beast to make.  Well, I guess that depends largely on the recipe used.  If the wrong oils are used, it can be drying, stripping, too thick, too thin, too greasy.  Too everything. The glycerin method is a hugely popular method of creating a rich, bubbly, high-emollient liquid soap and if you’ve yet to try your first batch, you’re certainly in for an eye-opening, horizon-broadening treat.

There’s nothing difficult about crafting a liquid soap with glycerin rather than water.  It’s a simple substitution step.  You’re replacing all of the water you’d normally use to dissolve the KOH (potassium hydroxide) with glycerin.  Clear, vegetable glycerin.  There’s no secret mumbo-jumbo to it.  Just that.  The tricky part might be in the heat used to dissolve the KOH in the glycerin.  Yes, you have to have the glycerin hot otherwise the KOH will just sit there.

Heat it carefully, nowhere near boiling though or you’ll scorch the glycerin, among other hazards.  Once the glycerin is warm enough, s-l-o-w-l-y add the KOH in teaspoonfuls to the heated glycerin.  As each spoonful hits the hot glycerin, it will fizz up,  If it gets too close to the top of the pot, simply pick up the pot from the heat source and the bubbling will go down instantly.  The other important thing is to stir.  Stir, stir, stir!  It will help dissolve the KOH in small portions, preventing it from clumping into one huge, hard lump in the bottom of the pot.  A 3 qt or so sized pot is fine for the lye portion of this recipe as it’s going to be added to the oils, NOT the other way around.

Never add oils to lye, always add lye to oils!

Once all of the KOH has been added, stir until it’s all dissolved completely.  This is now ready to add to your oils pot.  I’ve found that it’s a good idea to have two large stainless steel pots, 2 canning-sized pots, for this type of soap crafting.  The reasons will become clear (no pun intended) as we go through the process.  The oils, if any are solid and need to be melted, so use one of your large canning sized pots for the oils. Keep the other nearby as it will be needed soon. Melt the oils then allow them to cool a bit.  So now you’re ready to add the KOH/glycerin to your oils which are now liquid and melted but NOT HOT! Remove the pots from the heat source.  Okay, let’s move forward.

The KOH/glycerin can be added, stirring as you go with a long handled spoon for now all at once, but don’t just dump it because it’s very caustic right now.  It will burn your skin! Once all of the glycerin/KOH is incorporated into the oils, grab that stick blender and start blending.  Watch the phases the soap paste passes through as you blend as they occur very quickly! If your soap is too hot, it will not thicken, so let it set for a bit, then go back and try again.   This is not the time to burn out your stick blender (unless you have a backup blender) trying to get the paste to thicken when it’s too hot to get there.

The paste will quickly get to a salt-water-taffy-like stage and that’s your goal.  Now that it’s there, it’s time to put it back on the heat for just a bit.  Not too much because the more heat you put on it, the darker it will become and as you can see in the picture, it’s IS possible to have a nearly colourless liquid soap. It will turn a deep amber if it gets too much heat, and then there’s the issue of it not thickening up when you try to stick blend it as well.  So cook the soap until it tests out as fully saponified.  This batch pictured took about 40-45 minutes.  I used phenolphthalein to test a small bit of the paste on a paper towel. If it turns vivid pinkish purple, it’s not ready.  If it remains clear, it’s ready.

So now you have a fully saponified paste.  Congratulations! You’re almost there.  Didn’t hurt a bit, did it! So now it’s off the heat source again, and leave it off.  It won’t be going back.  Here’s where that second canning pot comes in handy.  The other large pot needs distilled water, heated and held, covered to prevent evaporation, until this paste is ready for it. You might want to start at a ratio of 1 part soap paste to 1 1/2 parts water.  More can be added later if you want it, but if you add too much at this phase, it’s impossible to take it out. Err on the side of caution and no regrets will follow.

 Now it’s reached that point so let’s use that water.  Spoon or cut the paste into small portions into that hot water.  You’ll find that if the paste is in small bits, it will dissolve in the hot water much quicker and evenly. Once all of it is in there, gently stir to distribute.  Bubbles might occur, and make it difficult to see what’s dissolved and what hasn’t.  If the bubbles interfere with your ability to observe progress, have a small sprayer bottle nearby with alcohol nearby (70% is fine) and spritz the top lightly with a fine mist of the alcohol. The bubbles burst instantly. Very cool.  Let this solution rest for at least 8 hours to dissolve. Check it after 8 hours and look for any remaining lumps.  The first pot can be washed as set aside in case you find lumps.  After this pictured batch set overnight, I still had a few lumps, so I used that first large pot with a strainer on the top,  poured the mostly dissolved soap through the strainer to remove the lumps and dissolved the lumps separately with a bit more distilled water that was heated and held (it kills any possible contaminants to heat and hold) in a quart sized Mason jar.  After they’ve dissolved completely it can be added to your large pot.

Now the last and very important step.  Allow the soap to cool to below 130°F if it isn’t already.  Once there, add your preferred preservative according to manufacturer’s directions.  Rosemary EO or Vitamin E WIll NOT act as preservatives for your liquid soap.  They will extend the shelf life of certain oils, but REO and Vitamin E are not preservatives! Do not depend on them to prevent nasties from growing on your lovely soap. And after spending two days on your soap, you don’t want it ruined by lack of appropriate preservative!  Some of you may be aiming towards a totally natural liquid soap, but without a sturdy preservative in place, it will become cloudy, contaminated, and moldy, which you don’t want to happen when your customer takes it home.

Now if you make this soap and leave the entire batch unscented, you can add your preferred fragrance to individual bottles with a bit of soap in the bottom, swirl it in, then add the remaining soap, rolling the bottle to blend.  It will thicken and cloud up initially, but leave it for several hours or overnight to wait for it to clear up.  If it remains too thick, add a bit more  of your distilled hot water to the top of the soap, leave it alone for a while and see if that gets it to the consistency you prefer.

Since starting my journey into soapcrafting, over 7 years ago, I’ve come to realize that while making a loaf of cold processed soap with all kinds of glorious additives to make your skin sigh with relief and pure joy, the creation of a light golden liquid soap that slides along your skin, lathers to a towering richness on a pouf in the shower is  a hugely rewarding experience to top everything else I’ve done thus far.  I absolutely love making liquid soap even if it is a long journey toward the grand reward.  I use it everywhere.  I carry it with me in my purse when we go out, take a bottle to work to use to wash my hands, removing the grime of the shipping boxes I have to contend with on a daily basis, the germy magazines that are displayed in public serials shelves, the sticky books that require repairs before returning to circulation.  Working in a library has its rewards, but it’s a dirty job, despite what many may think.  Making my own soap is definitely helping to nullify the effects of that job, and the best part is, I learned soap crafting in the very same library I work in now.

Learning, traveling, and time off

The Saloon (1280x722)

So I’ve been home for about a week and a half and finally getting a minute to finally write about the Tucson conference, flying on a plane for the first (second, third, then fourth) times, and what it was all like.  It’s been hectic since we got back home to say the least. A few […]

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Time Flies

Joshua in 2012

Does it seem that as we grow older time speeds up?  Is it our imaginations or is it a harsh reality of working so hard to get to the next day?  Sometimes I feel like I’m missing or already have missed out on too many things that could’ve been savored just a bit longer, watched […]

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An (almost) all coconut soap

Coconut soap, as yet unnamed

I’d seen and read about others all-coconut soaps, how they loved how wonderful the soap feels, like a lotions was applied right after use, and my curiosity really would not leave me alone about this until i tried it.  I had to do this, so on to the great Research & Development department to see […]

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How could anyone stay grumpy when confronted by such a happy face?                   Don’t they just make you smile without even thinking about it?  Sort of the way pansies do, too.  Such sweet little faces they have, like little freckle-faced boys and doe-eyed girls looking for permission […]

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Emerald Isle

Emerald Isle

My oh my oh my oh my!   This fragrance is sooooo seductively clean, just flat out sexy that I can’t stop going back to the soap in the mold and sniffing it.  Every time I do, I just moan!  It’s unbelievably fresh & clean, a true green-blue fragrance if it had a colour to […]

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Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t

Coconut & Palm Free Sweet Tea soap.

And if you’re hoping to be reading about candy bars, I’m sorry to disappoint.  Maybe next time.   This time it’s about coconut oil, palm oil, and the problems some may have with them. Now, first of all, i will not get into the politics of using palm oil,  though it’s been posted everywhere, making […]

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Fresh new batch of Fresh Lime Fizz

Fresh Lime Fizz #2

Man oh man does the fragrance oil for this soap send your senses reeling!  It can literally make you salivary glands start to tingle, like it senses you’re about to take a sip of a tart, zingy lime margarita.  Maybe I should have saved a bit of the one I cracked open to cook down […]

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Fresh Air!

Fresh Air in the mold

You’re probably thinking this will be about either air pollution and the toxins in the air, or vacation plans.  Wrong on both counts.  I’m a soapmaker, so this post is about a batch called Fresh Air.  This is without a doubt one of my favorite fragrances of all time.  It’s a mind-blowing, sophisticated blend of […]

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