How to use natural colorants in soaps
Using plant material is different from using chemical or mineral based colorants in that organic material decays and the dye portion of the plant has to be extracted before using. Plant materials give up their dyes in different mediums. Mediums used to extract colorants are:
• Water and lye mixture
• Oil mixture
• Added at trace with the oil/lye mixture
Information for this article was obtained with help from Julia at Emporium Naturals, a premium supplier of an amazing array of natural soap colorants and colorant sets. See link at bottom of page for more info and to order natural soap colorants from her at Emporium Naturals.
Image used courtesy of Emorium Naturals
For colors not listed here, check out link to Emporium Naturals at bottom of page for more information about other colors.
Plant dyes can be extracted from the plant during different phases of the soap making process. And if plant does not release the colorant in one medium then try another medium to extract the dye. Remember that some dye material are more soluble in water than in oil and likewise some plant dyes release dyes in a solution that is more alkaline.
Natural dyes may be used in melt and pour soap also. It is important though when extracting dye material from the plant for melt and pour soaps that the mixture be as concentrated as possible with as little liquid as possible. Melt and pour soaps are notorious for degrading when more than 1/2 - 1 ounce excess liquid is added in addition to the maximum fragrance load per pound of 1 ounce.
So, if you add 1/2 ounce of liquid colorant then decrease the fragrance by 1/2 ounce. Anything beyond that point and the soap will degrade in suds, in hardness, in moldabily, etc.
Please note: Lye water as a dilutant should never be used in extracting plant dye material for melt and pour soaps.
Produces a red/purple to blue/purple depending on the ph of the final bar of soap. The higher the lye discount, the redder the purple color. Oils with more yellow such as mango butter and essential oils with a high orange color will mute the final color of the soap. So, to produce a deeper red, try to use oils that are devoid of a yellowish tinge e.g. coconut oil, soybean shortening, lard, and mango refined mango butter.
Place one cup of the root in a quart jar and add oil of your choice to fill. Deduct a portion of oil used in soap recipe to use to steep herbs in
Let steep for a couple of days shaking or stirring every so often to macerate. When ready to use, pour off a small portion such as 4 ounces of same oil in your formula. For example if the formula calls for 8 ounces of olive oil, use 4 ounces of the steeped oil added to 4 ounces of fresh olive oil and so on.
The greater the portion of alkanet oil, the darker the color will be. Keep good notes so it will be easy to repeat the color in future batches. To darken the color, use wheatgerm oil as a portion of the base oils used.
Steep in warm oil first. Produces a strong yellow/orange color.
Beet Root powder
Beautiful red beetroot powder fades and become a light yellow muted color in cold process soap. To produce a deeper red, use beet powder in rebatched soaps. Start with about 1-2 TBSP in a 5 pound batch. Beet powder has a strong odor that can be camoflaged by essential or fragrance oils.
Black walnut hulls
The hull produces a rich brown with a purple/black undertone. The leaf is used for the brown dye. Use just a touch to produce a brown that is rich and enduring.
Substitute some of the water in the recipe with carrot juice. Trace as usual. Produces a really nice pumpkin color. Add water soluble titanium dioxide to lighten the hue to a more peachy kind of color.
Chlorophyll produces a beautiful medium natural green which fades somewhat in time. Nevertheless, it is worth using chlorophyll which can be obtained from fresh juice or in powdered form. Try layering with other colors for a festive, unusual bar.
Cinnamon powder produces flecks of brown in soap. Makes a nice exfoliant. Add very small amounts to begin with as too much in the soap makes for an abrasive cleaner.
Dilute in water and add to soap mixture at trace. Soap as usual. Start with a ½ tsp and increase amounts.
Coffee powder and brewed coffee
Brewed coffee can be added at trace along with coffee grounds as an exfoliant.
This root will give color in a water environment only. Color produced is orange/red to red. If using the root pieces place the root in 1/3 cup in a stainless steel or glass pan with a portion of distilled water from the soap recipe. Heat to boiling and simmer on low heat for no less than ½ hour. Then strain root and cool liquid to use in soap recipe.
You may use ground madder root at trace, try 1 TBSP to an 8 pound batch (5lb oil) and make good notes so you will know how to adjust the color in the future. To brighten the red, add a portion of wheat germ oil to the formula. This produces an orange red.
Produces a beautiful pastel yellow in soap. Add only a touch at trace. Suggested amount is about ½ tsp to 5 pounds of oil. In addition, to produce a more opaque baby yellow color, add water soluble titanium dioxide to water.
Spirulina is excellent when used in seaweed soaps and soaps fragranced with an oceany type scent due to its ocean typ scent. Used to produce a dark green color. Suggested use in cold process soap is ½ tsp to 1 tsp in a 5 pound batch. Add at trace.
Turmeric powder is one of my favorite powders for cooking with and it produces a beautiful peach to orange color. Add in lye water in amounts of ½ tsp per 8 Oz. water. As with most colors, to make a more pastel, opaque peach, add water dispersible titanium dioxide to lighten into a baby-type shade.
To buy natural colorants
Emporium Naturals -- premium supplier of natural colorants. For first time users of natural colorants, it is suggested that the begininer start with the 401 starter kit. Click Here for Website.
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