How to Make Alfalfa Soap, a Natural Green Soap Recipe that Lasts

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Two methods for using alfalfa to make a naturally green soap recipe using the cold process method. Plant-based green soap colorants are usually disappointing since most initially turn soap bright green, but the color fades away quickly. Alfalfa leaf seems to be an exception to the rule! Here’s how to achieve two different shades of green from this unassuming fodder crop.

When I started making handmade soap in 2010, few natural soap colorants were available. Even today, many soapmakers use synthetic dyes and micas – both are controversial for different reasons. From the beginning, I wanted to move towards keeping the soap ingredients I use as low-impact, health-safe, and ethical as possible. That’s how I got started on my quest to find and use natural soap colorants. Over the years, I’ve found and used many, and I keep an up-to-date natural soap colorants chart for others to use. There are many wonderful and vibrant colors you can get from plants! I mean, look at how pink garden rhubarb soap is. Despite many successes, I’ve generally had poor success with plant-based greens. I’d almost given up until I tried alfalfa.

It’s been over two months since I made alfalfa soap, and I’m elated that it’s worked! Considering my experiences with other green soap colorants, I expected the bars to fade to a muddled yellow. That happens to most soaps made with avocado puree, spinach, and spirulina over time, especially if the bars are left in a bright room. To my surprise, the color of the alfalfa soap didn’t fade much and is still holding strong! The shade of green is very similar to French green clay, especially when adding alfalfa directly to the soap batter. When making alfalfa soap with infused oil, the color is deeper and perhaps closer to pea soup.

Natural Green Soap Colorants

Up until now, there were very few natural green soap colorants that I could rely on. French green clay was one of them, and laurel berry oil was another. Laurel berry oil is quite expensive, though it’s the key ingredient that makes Aleppo soap green. I’ve also tried spinach, nettle, avocado, parsley, neem oil, and cucumber – all have ended up a faded yellow over time. Then, I discovered Kiki Health liquid chlorophyll, and it changed the game. I added it at 1-2 TBSP ppo, and it produced a gorgeous blue-green that actually lasted. Liquid chlorophyll is a health supplement that’s essentially condensed leafy greens in liquid form. Some manufacturers use wheatgrass to make it, but the Kiki brand is made with alfalfa. That’s what got me thinking about using alfalfa on its own.

Benefits of Alfalfa in Soap

Alfalfa, or alfalfa grass, is one of the common names for the fodder plant Medicago sativa. It’s a leafy crop for animal feeds and health supplements and a perennial cover crop (green manure) in gardening. In Britain, alfalfa also has the name lucerne, but I was able to buy “alfalfa” seeds at my local health food shop. As a living plant, the foliage looks like other plants in the pea family, and the flowers look like red clover. I didn’t grow the alfalfa I used for this recipe, but I plan on trying it in the future. Instead, I purchased a finely ground alfalfa powder. When working with a powder in soapmaking, you can either stir it into the soap batter, add it to the lye solution, or infuse it in some or all of the liquid oils used for your soap recipe. Each can give different results.

Green alfalfa plants growing in a field. The foreground is the close-up of a single plant.
Alfalfa is a leafy and green legume feed crop. Image: Flickr

When it comes to the benefits of alfalfa in soap, I’m certain that it’s just a colorant. It doesn’t seem to affect the lather in any way, and it doesn’t have a discernable scent. I’ve seen some wild claims about the benefits of certain soap additives, including alfalfa, but they are dubious at best. Soap is a cleanser and is rinsed off seconds after you use it. It will not cure skin ailments or other health issues but can help with oily skin. Gentle soap recipes, like most good handmade soap, are better for cleansing problematic skin, though. If you’re looking for something along those lines, avoid soap that has synthetic additives, essential oils, and fragrance oils. Now, back to soap coloring!

Green Soap Recipe Using Alfalfa Powder

Alfalfa makes it very simple to achieve a soft, modern green color in cold-process soap. For the first method, all I did was mix one teaspoon of alfalfa powder in about three teaspoons of distilled water until no lumps were visible. Then, I added it to the soaping oils before pouring the lye solution in. The final texture is smooth and even, and the light green color is absolutely beautiful! It was incredibly easy to do, too. I think that if you added more than this amount of powder, you could get a darker green, but you might also get a noticeable texture. The soap below was made two months ago, and the color is the same as the week I made it.

Sliced bars of pale-green soap with a swirled top.
Alfalfa powder added directly to the soap batter gives a soft, modern green.

Alfalfa-Infused Oil Method

The second method gives a more vibrant green but takes more time. Instead of adding alfalfa powder to the soap batter, you infuse the powder in the liquid soaping oils in your recipe. Olive oil, rice bran oil, etc. I did this over two weeks with the olive oil in the recipe you’ll find further below. During this time, the oil turned very dark green, and I strained and used it to make soap. The resulting soap batter and color of the bars were initially a vivid garden green. Over the past two months, that brighter green has faded to a more muted but still beautiful green. The batch of soap I made was far from perfect, and you can see a slight circle of partial gel and stearic spots in the photo below. It’s useful in this case to see the shades of green, though. What you can achieve by gelling or not gelling the soap.

Two stacks of green soap - the one on the top are darker green than the pale green below.
Alfalfa soap made using the oil-infusion method (top) and by adding the powder directly to the soap batter (bottom).

More Green Soap Recipes

Alfalfa Soap Recipe

Lovely Greens
This natural green soap recipe uses alfalfa as a natural soap colorant, which we introduce as a homemade infused oil. The oils in the recipe are deliberately light in color so as to not interphere with the natural color of alfalfa. The essential oils used are non-staining but can be left out if you wish. This cold process soap recipe makes 4-6 bars and is gelled to amplify the color. Technical information: 1lb / 454g batch — 5% superfat — 33% lye concentration.
Author Lovely Greens
Cost 10

Equipment

Materials
  

Alfalfa Infused Oil

Lye solution

Solid oils

Liquid oils

  • 227 g Alfalfa-infused olive oil 8.01 oz (50%)
  • 23 g Castor oil 0.8 oz (5%)

After Trace

Instructions
 

Make Alfalfa-infused oil

  • Make the alfalfa-infused oil at least two weeks before making the soap. Place the olive oil and alfalfa powder in a glass jar, seal it, and give it a shake. Leave the jar in a dim but warm place, shaking it when you remember. Every few days is enough.
  • At the end of the two weeks, strain the oil through a cheesecloth and sieve. The oil will be a dark army green, and the alfalfa may form a thick sludge at the bottom of the jar. Don't squeeze the cheesecloth – let the oil drip through until it stops. At the end, you should have enough alfalfa-infused oil to make at least two 1-lb (454 g) batches of soap. Store it in a clean Mason jar in a dim place until needed. Discard the alfalfa.

Prepare Your Workspace

  • To make soap, first prepare your workstation with your tools, equipment, and safety gear. Wear long sleeves and rubber gloves, eye protection, and an apron. Carefully pre-measure the ingredients. The solid oils into the pan, the liquid oils into a jug, the water in a heat-proof jug, and the lye in another container. Measure the essential oil into a small glass or ceramic container.
  • Set out the mold and ensure you have everything else you need laid out. Being organized at this stage will help you to make soap successfully. Also, to gel soap, it's easier to use a loaf mold, but you can also force gel in the oven if you want to use cavity molds. If you plan on using your oven as instructed below, make sure that it's clean and ready to use.

Make Alfalfa Soap

  • The first step is to dissolve the lye (sodium hydroxide) crystals in the distilled water. In an airy place, either by an open window or outdoors, 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 the lye solution to cool. I tend to set it in cold water in the sink.
  • Melt the solid oils on low heat in a stainless steel pan on the stovetop. Leave it on the heat until all the oils are fully melted.
  • When melted, remove from the heat and set on a potholder. Pour in the liquid oils. If you have the olive and castor oils in the same container, stir them together before pouring them into the pan. Castor oil is thick and sticky, and it's easier to pour when mixed with a lighter consistency oil.
  • Measure the temperatures of the lye solution and the oils. Aim to cool them both to around 100°F (38°C). Preheat the oven at this point to 175°F (80°C).
  • When the temperatures of both are around that point, pour the lye solution into the pan of oils.
  • Dip the 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 stick blend 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 and look of it will be like thin custard. The soap batter will look like pea soup!
  • Stir in the essential oil if you're using it. Mix thoroughly but quickly. Essential oil adds scent to your soap, but it's an optional ingredient and you can leave it out if you'd like.
  • Still working quickly, pour the soap into the mold(s). Give it a tap to settle it and release air bubbles.
  • To deepen the green color of your soap, you need to force gel phase. The way I do it is to place the soap in an oven that's been pre-warmed to about 175°F (80°C) and then turned off once the soap is inside. Leave the soap inside, undisturbed, overnight. The next day, take it out and leave the soap on the counter.
  • Once 48 hours have passed, take the soap out of the mold and cut it into bars using a soap cutter or kitchen knife.
  • Cure it for at least 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. Here are full instructions on how to cure soap.

Notes

Once made, your soap will have a shelf-life of up to two years. Check the oil bottles that you’re using — the closest best-by date is the best-by date of your soap.
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3 Comments

  1. Jean Newsome says:

    I have just bought Alfalfa powder and can’t wait to try the recipe. Could I also use this as a colorant in peppermint lip balm?

      1. Jean Newsome says:

        Thank you, i’ll give it a try.
        Kind
        Kind regards