An experimental daffodil soap recipe using real daffodil petals to naturally tint soap yellow. The color is a sunny shade that lasts a very long time.
While researching natural colors that can be used in soap making I came across an obscure reference to using daffodils. Though the bulbs and sap of these flowers are toxic, they’re used in natural dyeing, and compounds derived from the plant are sometimes found in beauty products. This intrigued me enough to try using daffodils in handmade soap. The outcome is a lovely buttery yellow soap that lasts a long time. It’s just as bright and cheerful as the flowers themselves and perfect for a fresh spring fragrance.
Though this has been a fun experiment, I’d advise caution in making daffodil soap. Especially if you were thinking to give it to loved ones or to sell to customers. There are a lot of soap-making ingredients that can irritate the skin including some essential oils, benzoin, orris root, and cinnamon to name a few. Daffodils are still an unknown and so I’m sharing this recipe more out of interest and fun than anything else. I’m sure enough of this recipe to share it with you but it’s important that you read about my skin patch test towards the end of this piece before you begin.
Calcium Oxalate in Daffodils
I’ve literally gone out on a limb to share this recipe with you. The trouble with using daffodils in skincare is that they’re toxic if eaten and the sap is known to cause skin irritation. Both are reasons that I think no one has actually tried using daffodils to tint soap. I wanted to learn more and to investigate whether the yellow flower petals are as dangerous as the sap and the bulb.
All parts of the daffodil contain alkaloids that can cause stomach upset. These include lycorine, galantamine, and glycoside scilliaine. They can make you ill if you eat them but they can enter through your skin if it’s been irritated with another compound. Plants can be clever but dangerous things. In daffodils, this compound is called calcium oxalate and you can find it in its sap. If you pick the stems and get sap on your skin it can cause something called ‘Daffodil Picker’s Rash’ — this is the effect of both the calcium oxalate and the alkaloids working together.
Testing Daffodil Flowers on my Skin
As a gardener, I know that parts of some plants can cause toxicity but that other parts can be edible. Rhubarb for one — the stems are a delicious springtime treat but if you eat the leaves you’re in serious trouble. So I scoured the internet looking for scientific references to calcium oxalate in the actual petals of daffodil flowers. I couldn’t find any that gave assurance.
Without any trusted sources, I decided to conduct my own test. Not only did I try this soap recipe on my own skin before sharing it, but I also placed chopped daffodil flowers on the inside of my arm to see if I’d have a reaction. The way I did this was by placing the daffodil flower petals in two spots on the sensitive skin of my left arm. One spot I left the flowers on for just a minute and the other spot I left it on for five minutes. I rinsed both spots off with water but no soap afterward.
The Results of my Skin Test
There was no irritation while the flowers were on my skin or even afterward. Now what this says to me is that daffodil flowers don’t irritate MY skin. This could be different for people who have more sensitive skin so I’d advise that this recipe not be used for any commercially sold soap. I also recommend that you test your own reaction before using this recipe for your own use.
I’m not a scientist so cannot give you a definitive answer on the matter. Treat this recipe as an experiment and if you have any further information or experiences to give please share them as a comment. And if you’d like to try more conventional yellow-colored soap recipes, try my natural carrot soap recipe or calendula soap recipe.
Daffodil Soap Recipe
454g / 1 lb batch — 7% superfat
all measurements are based on weight, not volume
62g / 2.2oz Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)
172g / 6oz Daffodil Infused Water – see method below
8 Daffodil flowers – yellow flower parts only
7.5g / 0.25oz (2tsp) May Chang (litsea cubeba) essential oil (optional)
Step 1: Make the Daffodil Infusion
Pour 300g of scalding water over eight clean daffodil heads. Make sure that you only have the yellow parts of the petals and you discard the base and any green parts. Allow to steep until the water reaches room temperature and then puree the flowers and water until there are no large bits. Strain this mixture through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer and measure out 172g/6oz of the liquid for use in the recipe.
Step 2: Mix your Lye Solution
Wearing gloves and eye protection and in an area with good ventilation mix your lye and daffodil infusion together. Pour all of the lye into the liquid and then mix with a stainless steel spoon until the lye crystals are dissolved. Now set the lye solution aside to cool — I like to set the jug into a basin of water to speed up the process.
Step 3: Melt your Solid oils
Some oils are solid at room temperature and need to be melted. Just after you mix your lye solution begin heating your solid oils in a pan on very low heat. They will fully liquefy in around ten minutes but it’s better to take the oils off the heat when there are a few small pieces of solid oil still floating around. They’ll melt with a few stirs of your spoon/spatula.
Step 4: Check the Lye Solution
Take the lye-daffodil-solution’s temperature with a digital thermometer. You’re aiming for it to be within ten degrees of 120°F / 49°C. If it’s close to that take it out of the water so it stops cooling as quickly.
Step 5: Add your Liquid oils to the Melted oils
Add the olive oil to the pan of melted oil and stir together well. Take the oil’s temperature — you’re aiming for it to be within 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) of the temperature of the lye solution.
Step 6: Bring to ‘Trace’
When your temperatures are right, pour the lye-daffodil-water into the pan of oils. Next, place your stick blender into the pan at an angle to minimize the air getting into your soap batter. Stir the contents of the pan gently, using the stick blender as a spoon. Then bring it into the center of the pan and while it’s at a standstill, pulse for a couple of seconds. Then gently stir. Repeat this pulse then stir process again and again until the soap thickens up to a ‘Medium Trace’ — the thickness of warm custard.
Step 7: Add the Essential oil
At medium trace add the essential oil. Stir well but work quickly. The soap will begin to thicken and set and you need it in the mold as quickly as possible.
Step 8: Pour into the Mold
Pour your steadily thickening daffodil soap into your mold, cover, and wrap with a towel. Leave for 24 hours before taking the soap out of the mold, cutting it into bars, and allowing it to cure for four weeks before using. Curing means you leave it in a place that’s cool, airy, and out of direct sunlight. For full instructions on how to cure handmade soap head over here
More ideas for naturally coloring soap
If you enjoyed learning about using daffodils to naturally color soap, check out this list of dozens of other natural soap colorants. Everything from spinach, alkanet, to cochineal. There are also a few links to recipes you can try out too.