DIY Bergamot + Earl Grey Soap
How to make Bergamot essential oil Soap
Making handmade soap is both a useful and creative skill. You can customize your bars to be anything you’d like, from plain and unscented to swirly and fragranced. Personally, I like to make natural soap that uses herbs, roots, plants, and essential oils. My soap is simple and beautifully scented.
Bergamot is a citrusy and uplifting essential oil that’s used to flavor Earl Grey tea. I used both the oil and the tea to make this DIY Bergamot and Earl Grey soap. It’s a palm-free recipe with a scent that will please both men and women. The tiny flecks of tea that dot the bars will over time bleed into the soap around them.
Bergamot + Earl Grey Soap Recipe
Makes approx. 8 bars (120g / 40z)
Lye Water Ingredients
113g / 4oz Sodium Hydroxide
200g /7oz /200ml Water
256g / 9oz Coconut oil
Special Equipment needed
Natural Soap Making for Beginners
If you’re new to making handmade soap, you might also want to check out my four-part series on natural soap making. It gives a good introduction on what to expect from ingredients, equipment, recipes, and how to combine everything together to make soap.
For this recipe, make sure that your main oils, water, and lye are pre-measured. Wear an apron, gloves, eye-protection and work in an orderly space free from distractions. Any tools, pans, or bowls that come into contact with the lye should be soap-dedicated. It’s best to not use the same items that you’d prepare food with. Make sure that the jugs that you measure the lye and water into are heat resistant.
Step 1: Mix the lye-water
Make sure you’re wearing rubber gloves and eye protection. In a well ventilated area, preferably outdoors if you can manage it, pour the dry Sodium hydroxide (lye) crystals into the water. Hold it well away from your face and mix until the lye is dissolved. There’s steam and heat in this step so be prepared.
When mixed, set the jug of steaming lye-water in a basin of cold tap water. This will help it to cool down.
Step 2: Melting the oils
On very low heat, begin melting the coconut oil and shea butter. Move the oils around in the pan to increase its surface area and to melt it quicker. Don’t leave the oils unattended — they melts quicker than you think. As soon as there’s just a tiny amount of un-melted oil in the pan, take it off the heat and continue stirring.
When its fully melted, pour in the liquid soaping oils and stir it all together.
Step 3: Balancing temperatures
Take the oil’s temperature — you’re aiming to get it to between 100-110°F (38-43°C). Once you have a reading, take the lye-water’s temperature too. You’re going to try to bring the oil down (or up) to the right range and make sure that the lye-water is between 5-10 degrees of the oils. Getting the right temperature ensures that you won’t run into any issues that may include unwanted colour changes, cracking, or issues with the next step.
Step 4: Mixing the oils & lye-water
When the temperatures are where they need to be, pour the lye-water into the oils through a sieve (fine mesh strainer). This helps to catch any particles of undissolved lye that might still be in your solution.
Next comes the magic of saponification! You’ll need a stick blender (immersion blender) and a few minutes to transform your ingredients into soap. Without a stick blender this next step would take well over an hour of manual stirring like it did in the past.
Step 5: Blending
Dip the stick blender into your pan at an angle — this reduces the amount of air in the head and thus in your soap. Do this each time you take the stick blender out and put it back into the batter.
With it turned off, gently stir the mixture together. Now bring the stick blender to the centre of the pan and while stationary, turn it on for a couple seconds. With it off, use the stick blender to stir the batter together. Having the blender on whilst stirring can kick up splatters of soap on you and at this point it’s not safe to have on your skin. Safety first when making soap.
Step 6: ‘Trace’
Repeat the stationary blending and then stirring until the soap thickens up. It will have the consistency of warm custard and will leave a trail on the surface if drizzled from the stick blender. When you’re able to see this, pour in the essential oil and dried tea and stir it in well with a spatula.
Working quickly, pour the soap batter into your mould(s). Pop it into the fridge to keep the colour on the inside light.
Step 7: Curing your Earl Grey Soap
Leave the soap in its mould for 48 hours. After this point, saponification is finished and it’s safe to handle. That’s how long it takes for all the Sodium hydroxide (lye) to bond with the oils completely.
Next you have to cure the soap before it can be used. This is all about evaporating the excess water from your bars and allowing them to harden. For four weeks you need to leave your bars of soap in an airy place that’s not too hot or cold and out of direct sunlight. Space them out on a sheet of grease-proof (or baking) paper and let them scent the room for you while they’re finishing up.
After those four weeks are up you can use your bars or gift them. Once made, your soap can have a shelf-life of up to two years. Look on the backs of all the ingredients you use to make your batch and the best by date that’s closest is the one you need to use your handmade soap by.
To decorate your soap in the same way that I have, package with brown baking paper and tie with string. A staple on the paper tag makes it look similar to a tea bag label.
More soap recipes
If you enjoyed this earl grey soap recipe, I invite you to have a browse of my other soap ideas. If you’re interested in making another ‘herbal tea’ type soap, check out my recipe for natural chamomile soap.