Recipe and instructions on how to make honey and beeswax soap. Includes tips on how much beeswax to use in a soap recipe, and how to use honey to tint soap caramel-brown.
When I first taught myself to make soap I was determined to make some with my own honey and beeswax. With two hives of honeybees, I had buckets of the stuff to use and I thought it would be a wonderful idea to create products for Lovely Greens Handmade. I won’t lie — it was a difficult process. Batch after batch was either cracked or crumbly and I couldn’t work out what I was doing wrong. After a lot of trial and error, I finally mastered using honey to make soap. It’s all down to the amount you use and your soaping temperature.
This honey and beeswax soap recipe will make you six creamy yet cleansing bars. Although it’s an advanced soap recipe, you can make it as a beginner if you stick to the recipe.
Benefits of Honey and Beeswax Soap
Aside from wanting to use my own produce, both honey and beeswax have some incredible soap properties. Honey is used to add moisture and a sweet scent. It also increases lather which comes in useful if you’re making soap with beeswax too.
If you’re after natural color, you can also use honey in a technique that tints your soap a warm brown.
Beeswax is mainly used in soap to harden it. At small amounts, it can add firmness and silky texture to your bars while not affecting lather. It also has quite a high melting temperature which means you have to make soap at a slightly higher temperature too.
Using beeswax in soap
Beeswax is a tricky one since up to 50% of the amount used in a soap recipe will not actually change into soap. If you use too much beeswax, this “un-unsaponifiable” portion of beeswax can stop your bars from lathering and give them a waxy feel. That’s why I don’t use any more than 1-2% beeswax in soap recipes.
That small percentage is more than enough to harden up the bars and give them a good texture. Even at just 1-2% beeswax in soap, it will also speed up the tracing time — I’m talking less than a minute. Using more would dramatically speed things up and I imagine it would be liquid to thick gloop in a matter of seconds.
Using honey in soap
Honey is just as tricky to use in soap as beeswax can be and you need to be careful about amount and temperature. Honey is a sugar, and just like all sugars will heat up your soap after it’s poured into the mold. This can cause all kinds of things, from changing the color to causing cracks and making the soap go crumbly. The color change can make your bars turn brown because the sugars are heated and caramelize. Sometimes they can scorch through, and the color is very dark and the scent isn’t great. When this happens the bars usually crack too.
Another issue is that if you use too much, or if the honey isn’t fully liquid, you can also get honey oozing from your bars.
The key to using honey in soap is to be moderate in the amount used and conscious of heat. I use no more than 15g (1.5 tsp) of honey per 454g (1 lb) batch of soap. When trying to make a light-colored soap I’ll keep the soaping temperature as low as possible, add the honey at trace, and potentially refrigerate the soap after it’s poured. The first two are problematic when you’re also working with beeswax since it needs a warmer soaping temperature and traces so quickly. You barely have enough time to stir anything in at the end. I share my work-around in the recipe below.
Sustainable Palm oil
You’ll notice that I’ve included Sustainable Palm oil in this recipe. After a LONG hiatus of not using palm at all, I’m back. It’s one of the best oils for the job but is very controversial. It stems mainly from the way it’s grown and how it has utterly destroyed rainforests in south-east Asia. We’re talking about an area the size of New Zealand folks. It’s a devastating blow to our environment which is why we should all avoid dirty palm oil. This is ALL palm oil that hasn’t been certified by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm oil (RSPO). It’s used in a lot of things including prepared cookies, bread, and Crisco, not to mention soap.
So why am I using palm at all? It’s complicated and I encourage you to read my piece on How avoiding Palm Oil in soap making could INCREASE deforestation. I am now a staunch supporter of the RSPO’s efforts and in helping whichever way I can. Please ensure that the palm oil you use for this recipe is sustainable. If you can’t find it, then please make one of my palm-oil-free recipes. You can also adjust this recipe to not use palm oil with these directions.
Making this Honey and Beeswax soap recipe
This is an advanced soap recipe. Both honey and beeswax are amazing ingredients to use in soap making but both can cause so many issues. If you stick diligently to the recipe you should be fine though.
Another issue with making soap with honey is its potential to turn a bit crumbly. This can happen at the corners and edges and is a nightmare. It’s especially a pain if you’ve poured the soap into a loaf mold, only to find that each bar you cut is crumbly. To avoid any issues with heat, cracking, or crumbling, follow this recipe to a T and pour your soap into a 6-cavity silicone soap mold. You’ll thank me for it later.
Soap Making Equipment
Much of the soap making equipment you need could already be in your kitchen. Rubber washing-up gloves, bowls, and even silicone molds. If you don’t have everything, you can purchase it online relatively inexpensively. Also, make sure to check out second-hand shops for pots and other items. A list of needed soap-making equipment will be a little further below.
To protect yourself from the lye solution you should always wear eye protection (goggles) and rubber gloves.
Now on to the recipe…
Honey and Beeswax Soap Recipe
- Stainless steel pan for melting the solid oils
- A large bowl for measuring the liquid oils into
Add to Melted Oils
- 10 g Real Honey 1 tsp
Add after Trace
- 8 g Oatmeal Optional/ 1 TBSP
- 2.5 g Oatmeal or rolled oats Optional / ¼ tsp
- Time to suit and boot. Make sure you're wearing a long-sleeved shirt, pants or a long skirt, and closed-toe shoes. Put on eye protection (goggles) and rubber gloves.
- Dissolve the lye (Sodium hydroxide) crystals in water. In an airy place, outdoors is best, pour the lye crystals into the water and stir well. There will be a lot of heat and steam so be careful. Try not to breathe it in. Leave outside in a safe place, or in a shallow basin of water, or sink, to cool.
- Melt the solid oils in a stainless steel pan on very low heat. When melted, remove from the heat and set on a potholder. Pour in the liquid oils and stir.
- Measure the temperatures of the lye solution and the oils. You should aim to cool them both to be about 130°F / 54°C for light-brown colored soap. If you want your bars darker and the honey scent stronger, then mix your soap at 150°F / 66°C. For the darker color, it's better to pour the soap into a loaf mold too. If you're a beginner, stick to the temperature and mold for the lighter soap.
- Pour first the honey then the lye solution into the pan of oils. I tend to pour the lye through a sieve to catch any potential undissolved lye or other bits.
- Dip your immersion blender into the pan and with it turned off, stir the mixture. Next, bring it to the center of the pan, and with both your hands, hold it on the bottom of the pan and blitz it for just a couple of seconds. Turn it off and stir the soap batter, using the blender as a spoon. Repeat until the mixture thickens up to 'Trace'. This is when the batter leaves a distinguishable trail on the surface. The consistency will be like thin custard at first but it will thicken quickly thanks to the beeswax.
- Working quickly, stir in the oatmeal and pour the soap into the mold(s). Use a skewer to create a texture on the top. For these, I dipped the end of the skewer in one corner then made tiny circles all the way to the other side. Four columns of this and each bar is complete. Sprinkle the top with just the smallest amount of oatmeal or rolled oats.
- Set the mold on a heat-proof surface and leave uncovered for two days. Alternatively, you can pop the mold in the fridge overnight. This will ensure a light color.
- Once 48 hours have passed, you can pop the soap out. Cure it for 28 days. Curing means leaving the bars spaced out on a protected surface out of direct sunlight and in an airy place. This allows the extra water content to fully evaporate out.
- Once made, your soap will have a shelf-life of up to two years. Check the oil bottles that you're using though — the closest best-by date is the best-by date of your soap.
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