How to use Essential oils to scent Handmade Soap

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Essential oils are used to scent natural soap

If you’re making handmade soap and want to scent it naturally, you will probably use essential oils. Essential oils are natural extracts from plants and flowers and are used in aromatherapy and natural skincare. They can be confused with ‘Fragrance oils’ which are not completely natural but can also be used to scent soap.

Below is a list of essential oils listed along with their INCI names and how much of each can be used in a batch of soap. The percentage provided should always be calculated by weight and not by volume. If you’re making a 1lb batch of soap with 4% fragrance then you may use up to 0.64 oz (18 g) of essential oil. When calculating how much essential oil to use, you multiply the total amount of your soaping oils by the percentage of essential oil you’ll be using. Once you know how much essential oil you need, you can convert the units to ml, teaspoons, and fluid ounces for your own convenience.

To keep your recipe completely natural, make sure that your scent is Essential oil rather than Fragrance oil.

To keep your recipe completely natural, make sure that your scent is Essential oil rather than Fragrance oil.

How to add essential oils to soap

When using essential oils in soap making, you generally add them to your batch after the soap thickens into a light to medium ‘Trace’. This happens after you add the lye-water to your soaping oils and you begin mixing. A light ‘Trace’ means the soap is the consistency of runny honey, medium is the consistency of custard, and a thick trace is so stiff that it will hold its form. If you add essential oils too late, you risk having streaks in your soap.


What percentage of essential oil can be used?

This list includes each oil’s common name, its INCI and/or Latin name, and the total percentage of each oil that you can use in a soap recipe. The percentages are the ones that I have to adhere to when making soap to sell through Lovely Greens Handmade. If you wish to blend two or more essential oils together, the total percentage of oils used should not exceed 4% of your soaping oils.

The Essential oils

Most of the oils below can be used at 3% though some are set at lower amounts. These ones are generally more sensitizing and can cause irritation if more than the permitted amount is used. Some, like Cinnamon, will even give you a headache if you smell it from the bottle. It does to me and I have to be very careful when using it.


For more information on getting started with making your own soap here is the free four-part series from Lovely Greens.

Natural Soapmaking for Beginners Series

1. Ingredients
2. Equipment & Safety
3. Basic Recipes and Formulating Your Own
4. The Soap Making Process: Make, Mould, and Cure

How to naturally scent handmade soap using essential oils. Includes usage percentages of many common oils and how to add them to your soap batches.


6 Discussion to this post

  1. Helen says:

    Thanks for your extensive post today. I have to admire your beautiful soap colours. I am a soapmaker, and have tried several methods to get those bright clear colours. Including infusions, adding color straight to lye water and using the whitest oils possible. Any suggestions?

    • lovelygreens says:

      Hi Helen! The method for using each natural colour is different and variations will occur based on how much you use, temperature, introduction method, introduction sequence, whether the soap gels or not, colour of oils, colour of essential oils or fragrance oils, and quality of the substance used. It’s all about trial and error to get the right shade.

  2. Lana says:

    Hi Tanya, thank you for this valuable lesson on essential oil percentages. I’m new to soap making and I always wonder should I let me soap gel or not!!!! which method is better??? please help 🙂

    • lovelygreens says:

      To Gel just means to intensify the color and make the soap a shinier, less opaque tone. If you don’t gel it will be opaque and much more toned down in shade. Both can be beautiful!

  3. Arian says:

    You are an angel! Thank you so much for the specificity of your directions as well as sharing helpful hints. As someone who has scoured the internet and books for clear direction, it has to be said, you are the Harvard of teachers in soaping. Bless you!

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