DIY Cedarwood & Lemongrass Soap with an ‘Etched’ Leaf Design

How to make Cedarwood & Lemongrass #soap
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Woodsy and Citrusy Soap with fresh Cedar leaves

Naturally coloured with activated charcoal and decorated with cyprus cedar leaves

Last year as I was perusing soap at the Ballard Farmers Market I came across some rather interesting ‘Man Soap’. It was chunky, scented with sage and pine, and immediately got my attention.

What I loved most about it was the shape, colour, and leaf decoration and I couldn’t wait to try making my own. This recipe is my take on it with a simple fragrance blend that both men and women will like. In fact, it’s probably my new favourite! Cedarwood and Lemongrass.

How to make Cedarwood & Lemongrass Soap

Pine & Sage Soap by Karmela Botanica at the Ballard Farmers Market


Cedarwood & Lemongrass Soap Recipe

12oz / 350g batch — makes 3 bars
5% superfatted*
Read this free 4-part natural soapmaking series

Lye Solution
56g / 1.97oz Sodium Hydroxide
88g / 3oz Water
Optional: 3/4 tsp Sodium Lactate — adding this will make your soap become harder, faster

Solid oils
100g / 3.53oz Coconut Oil, Refined
20g / 0.7oz Shea Butter
20g / 0.7oz Cocoa Butter

Liquid oils
160g / 5.64oz Olive oil
20g / 0.7oz Castor oil
80g / 2.82oz Sunflower oil
1 tsp Activated Charcoal (you can also use 7 charcoal-filled capsules)

Scenting & Decorating
1 tsp Cedarwood Atlas Essential oil
1/2 tsp Lemongrass Essential oil
Optional: 4 drops Grapefruit Seed Extract
Optional: Clean and dry cedar leaves to decorate

Special Equipment needed

Digital Thermometer
Digital Kitchen Scale
Stick (Immersion) Blender
Silicone Loaf Soap Mould

How to make Cedarwood & Lemongrass #soap

The finished bars of Cedarwood & Lemongrass soap

Made with creamy Shea and Cocoa Butters

This recipe will make three chunky bars if you pour the batch into a regular 40-44 oz silicone loaf mould. The activated charcoal that you add to the liquid oils will give the finished bars a pleasing blue-grey colour but if you want it to be darker feel free to double the amount.

After curing, the bars will be hard, the lather fluffy, and the lashings of shea and cocoa butters make the soap super moisturising.

How to Make Soap

If you’ve not made natural soap before, I highly recommend you have a read of my free 4-part natural soapmaking series. It will help you to understand the directions below a lot better.

The steps laid out are very similar to the method described in part 4 of the series, with the addition of charcoal into the liquid oils and the cyprus cedar leaves for decoration.

How to make Cedarwood & Lemongrass Soap

Activated charcoal gives the colour

Get Set Up

Safety first! Make sure to be wearing closed-toe shoes, long sleeves, eye protection (goggles), and latex or washing-up gloves. You’ll be working with Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) and splashing a bit on your skin isn’t the most pleasant of experiences. To learn more about lye and lye safety read this piece on the equipment and safety needed for soapmaking.

You also need to have all of your ingredients measured and your work surface organised. Open a window for ventilation, close doors on pets and children, and have everything you need laid out:

  • Sodium Hydroxide and water measured into heat-proof containers: glass, pyrex, or polypropelene plastic
  • Solid oils measured into a small stainless steel pan.
  • Liquid oils measured into a bowl
  • Charcoal measured out
  • Mould set out and ready. You’ll also need a light towel so have that ready too.
  • Stick blender plugged in and ready
  • Digital thermometer out
  • Utensils laid out: stainless steel spoon for stirring the lye solution, a small fine-mesh strainer, and a flexible spatula
  • Fragrance and extras at the ready: essential oil, grapefruit seed extract, and cedar leaves
  • Read all of the directions thoroughly before making your soap.

Step 1: Make the Lye Solution

Wearing eye and hand protection (goggles & gloves) and in a well-ventilated place, pour the lye crystals into the water. The water should be measured out into a heat-proof plastic jug. Stir well with a stainless steel spoon until fully dissolved, trying not to breathe in the steam.

Place the jug of lye solution in a small basin of water to cool down. The water gets super hot when you mix in the lye!  I usually fill my sink with water and place the jug in there.

Step 2: Melt the Solid Oils

Place all of the solid oils into a pan and place it on the stove. Begin melting them at the lowest heat setting.

Step 3: Blend the Charcoal into the Liquid Oils

Blend the charcoal powder into a little of the sunflower oil with a milk frother or spoon. When there are no lumps left, pour it into the rest of the liquid oils and stir well.

Step 4: Mix the Melted Oil with the Liquid

When the solid oils have just finished melting, take the pan off the heat and mix in the charcoal tinted liquid oil. Pour the tinted oil through a mesh strainer to ensure you catch any chunks of charcoal that weren’t completely mixed in.

Stir and take the oil’s temperature — I mixed my soap at 125°F / 52°C. You can comfortably mix yours when the oils are between 110°F and 130°F. The warmer the oils, the more intense the colour will be though.

Step 5: Mix the Lye Solution into the Oils

When the oils are at the temperature you want, it’s time to mix in the lye solution. You need to take its temperature too and it should be within ten degrees (plus or minus) of the temperature of the oil. If you’re adding the optional Sodium Lactate (to make the soap harder) then stir it into the lye solution when it’s below 130°F / 54°C.

Pour the lye solution through the mesh strainer and into the pan of oils.

Step 6: Bring the Soap to ‘Trace’

When the lye and oils combine properly, they ‘Saponify’ and become soap. You use a stick (immersion) blender to help this process and you know you’ve succeeded when your oils and lye solution begin to thicken up like in the photo below. You do this by alternating stirring with gentle pulsing, always keeping the head of the blender submerged in the soap batter.

I made a video showing the technique I teach in my soap making lessons in this video on how to make Lemongrass soap. While you’re over there on YouTube, make sure to subscribe to my channel.

How to make Cedarwood & Lemongrass Soap

Trace is when the soap batter thickens to the consistency of warm custard

Step 7: Mix in the Fragrance & Pour

When your soap has hit ‘Trace’, stir in the essential oils and optional Grapefruit Seed Extract. The former is your fragrance and the GSE helps to prolong shelf-life in a natural way — it’s an antioxidant rather than a preservative.

When fully mixed in, pour your soap batter into moulds, place your optional cedar leaves on top. Wherever the leaves touch the soap, the leaves will darken to almost black. If you want the leaves to stay green you’ll need to press them into the soap after it’s been chopped into bars.

Now cover the soap lightly with a towel. The towel shouldn’t touch the soap and its purpose is to keep the soap warm which helps with creating a consistent colour.

How to make Cedarwood & Lemongrass Soap

Decorate the top with cedar leaves

Step 8: Unmould, Cut, & Cure

You leave your soap in the mould for at least 24 hours and if you used Sodium Lactate the soap will be hard after that time. If you didn’t, the soap will have hardened but it will still be soft around the edges — the soap might stick to the mould when you try to push it out. Best wait a few days before trying and/or pop the mould into the freezer for half an hour beforehand.

Once out of the mould, cut the loaf into bars, and cure for 4-6 weeks before using. All this means is to set the soap in an airy place out of the way, and out of direct sunlight. It needs the time for allowing the water content to evaporate out and for the bars to fully harden.

I’m sure that you and any of the recipients of this soap will be pleased with end product. It smells woodsy yet fresh and has a natural blue-grey tint. Best of all, you’ve made it all by yourself!

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12 Discussion to this post

  1. Linda Raedisch says:

    I’m eager to try the cedar leaves on top of my soap. What other leaves do you think would work well. It’s winter now, so are there leaves I can find in the supermarket that would do?

  2. Lisa Mitchell says:

    Tanya, can I use just cedarwood eo? I don’t have cw atlas…..

  3. Camille says:

    This sounds like a great recipe! Can it be made by hot process?

  4. Claudia. Mazurkiewicz says:

    So if you use the melt and pour , you don’t use the lye?

  5. Pauline says:

    Love the sound of this one, it will make a nice change from the usual florally scents. Thank you for the great recipes.
    You seem to use quite a low amount of EO’s, do you find that the fragrance is still good after the cure?

    • lovelygreens says:

      It’s a very good amount and yes, the scent is great. You really don’t need any more essential oil than 2-3% of a recipe and you actually cannot sell soaps in the European Union that contain more.


    thank you for your tutorials i enjoy watching and learning from you i am a new soaper

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