How to Use Essential Oils for Soap Making + Usage Rates Chart

Essential Oils for Soap Making + how much to use in a batch #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soaprecipe
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Detailed information on using essential oils for soap making. Includes information on what essential oils are, the allergens they may contain, maximum usage rates, and how much essential oil to add to soap recipes.

If you want to naturally scent handmade soap, you will likely use essential oils. These highly scented flower and plant essences are extracted directly from the plant and come in a range of scents. Lavender, peppermint, rose geranium, and black pepper to name a few. Although they are both natural and plant-based, using essential oils for soap making is a topic that requires both care and precision. That’s because they are highly concentrated plant chemicals that may cause issues if you use too much. If you use too little, then the scent may not come through and you’ll have wasted time and money. How much essential oil to use in soap is a balancing act and art that I hope to clarify for you in this piece.

I’ve listed some of the more common essential oils below along with how much of each can be used in a small batch of soap. Feel free to scale the amounts up for larger batches but note that I don’t recommend that the essential oil that you use is any more than 3% of your entire soap recipe (excluding the water amount). The information includes the maximum percentage in a recipe, the maximum amount in ounces and grams, and also how much in teaspoons can be used in a one-pound batch of soap.

Essential Oils for Soap Making + how much to use in a batch #lovelygreens #soaprecipe #soapmaking

Natural Soap Making for Beginners Series

First off, if you’re new to making your own soap have a read through this free four-part series. It includes all the basic information you need for natural soap making and even a few easy soap recipes that use essential oil for scent.

  1. Soapmaking Ingredients
  2. Soapmaking Equipment & Safety
  3. Beginner Soap Recipes
  4. How to Make Cold Process Soap

What are Essential Oils

When you think of essential oils what do you imagine? Completely natural plant-based essences or concentrated and volatile organic chemicals? They’re both and that’s why it’s important to understand what essential oils are before you begin experimenting with them in soap recipes.

Fragrance oils (left) are synthetic while essential oils (right) are natural

Some, but not all, plants have volatile oils that we can extract as essential oils. Depending on the plant, the process of extraction can happen in a number of ways including steam distillation, mechanical pressing, or solvent extraction. The liquid that results is the highly concentrated extract of that plant’s volatile oils, which does include scent. To make essential oil you need a lot of plant material and even one of the least expensive types, lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil requires three pounds of lavender flowers to make a small 0.5 fl oz (15 ml) bottle.

How does it work? Everything that we can smell is created by an aroma compound and they can be naturally occurring or synthetic. Naturally occurring aromas are extracted into essential oil. Many synthetic fragrances are created by isolating the exact compound(s) that create a scent, such as roses, and then copying the combination with synthetically-created compounds. That’s why rose fragrance oil is so much cheaper than rose absolute, a rose-scented essential oil. To make just 0.5 fl oz (15 ml) of rose absolute you’ll need 24,000 roses.

Creative ways to use plants in soap making, including those for scent, exfoliation, decoration, and natural color #soapmaking #soaprecipe #coldprocess
Essential oil soap made with various natural soap colorants to match the scent

Essential Oils Add Scent to Natural Soap

The main reason that we use essential oil in soap is its beautiful fragrance. It’s plant-based and vegan-friendly and we can even choose essential oils created from organically-grown herbs and flowers. My favorite essential oil is rose geranium, which has a rosy scent but isn’t as expensive as a true rose essential oil. I don’t grow enough of each type of plant to create my own essential oils but I do grow rose geranium, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, and more to use as botanical soap decorations.

Though we use essential oil to scent and add therapeutic properties to skincare they can range in type and safety. Although they are natural, using too much essential oil in soap and skincare causes harm. That’s why we practice care with using essential oils in soap recipes and do not exceed their recommended usage rates. Some essential oils are even dangerous to use in soap and should not make their way into your recipes.

A tiny pot of rose essential oil contains the aroma of thousands of roses

Essential Oil Contains Allergens

What many people don’t realize is that fragrances, including essential oils, contain allergens that many people can have adverse reactions to. Reactions vary and can be mild or extremely severe. They include sneezing, hives, rashes, blistering, and swelling of the eyes and face. The allergens that essential oils contain are listed on each essential oil’s MSDS sheet and include coumarin, geraniol, and linalool (see full list). There used to be just 26 allergens to be aware of but there are now 82 including both individual chemicals and pure plant extracts. Please note that the individual chemicals are naturally present in essential oil — they aren’t added ingredients.

You cannot make essential oil by infusing plants in oil or water.

Safe Essential Oil Usage Rates in Soap

For the home crafter and soapmaker, it’s a little complicated to answer the question of how much essential oil to add soap recipes. The average person may find it difficult to work through all of the documents and calculations involved and that’s why I’ve given usage rates a little further below. It’s a simpler answer if you make essential oil soap commercially, though.

To make soap commercially, you must adhere to the usage rates for fragrances and essential oils set by either your region’s governmental bodies and/or IFRA usage rates. IFRA stands for International Fragrance Association, and they are a global regulatory body that works to ensure that the amount of fragrance used in products is safe.

Each type of essential oil may have a different rate (based on their allergen content) and that may even change between brands. For example, the brand of lavender essential oil that I use in soap has a 4% usage rate in soap. Other brands have slightly higher or lower percentages. For commercial soap recipes, you must not exceed the usage rate of the exact brand and type of essential oil that you’re using.

Sweetly scented natural chamomile soap recipe with essential oil, chamomile flowers, and freshly brewed chamomile tea #soaprecipe #soapmaking #chamomile
A one-pound block of chamomile essential oil soap

Generalized Usage Rates for Essential Oils

The chart I’ve shared below includes the most common essential oils that we use in soapmaking and their usage rate in weight. If you have essential oil that doesn’t appear on the list, it may be because it’s one that we don’t use in soap. Probably because the safe usage rate is so low that it doesn’t make sense to use it. Other essential oils, such as pennyroyal, aren’t used because they’re unsafe for people, and in the case of pennyroyal, it’s especially unsafe for pregnant women. Most essential oils are toxic if ingested as well so please ignore any advice for adding them to food! There’s a lot of unsafe advice out there shared by well-meaning people.

The usage rates I share below are safe amounts to use, no matter the brand. There may be cases where you look into the brand you’re using and find out that it’s possible to use more than I recommend. That’s great news if you’d like to have a stronger scent! However, you won’t find that you will need to use less than these amounts. These are safe general usage rates that I’ve based on my own cosmetic safety assessment for commercial soapmaking in the UK and EU. I’ve added a few others manually but the vast majority are what’s considered safe based on the recommendation of an EU-certified chemist.

Essential Oils for Soap Making + how much to use in a batch #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soaprecipe
Essential oils can scent soap with a fragrant range of floral, herbal, woodsy, and spicy scents

How Much Essential Oil to Add to Soap

For large batches of soap it’s better to weight essential oil down to the gram/ounce. However, this can be difficult for small batches since most kitchen scales aren’t accurate for very small amounts and probably won’t give you decimal amounts. That’s why it’s more common to use volume measurements, namely teaspoons, for measuring essential oil in small-size soap recipes.

Because of this, I spent quite a lot of time calculating teaspoon amounts for the essential oils in the chart for your convenience. They are based on first calculating the maximum weight of a type of essential oil that can be added to one-pound soap batches. Then using the specific gravity (density) of essential oil I’ve calculate how much you can use in US teaspoons. Most people like to use teaspoons to measure essential oils but I’ve also listed weight as well.

Calculating Essential Oil Amounts (weight to volume)

Here’s how to calculate essential oils’ volume measurement from their weight. As an example, in a 1lb (454g) batch of soap, you can use a maximum of 3% lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia flower oil). The specific gravity of this oil is 0.905g/ml.

  • 3% of 454 g is 13.62 g — this is the total amount of lavender essential oil by weight that you can use in the recipe
  • 0.905g/ml describes how much lavender oil weights by volume. Dividing the weight of an essential oil by its specific gravity will give you the amount the essential oil is in mililiters. In this case, we divide 13.62 by 0.905 to work out how many ml of lavender oil you can use in the recipe. In this case, 15.05 ml.
  • One US teaspoon is equal to 4.93 ml. That makes our 15.05 ml is about 3 US tsp (3.05 tsp to be exact). UK teaspoons are slightly different in volume. One UK teaspoon is equal to 5.92 ml. That makes our 15.05 ml 2.5 teaspoons in the United Kingdom (2.54 tsp to be exact).
Essential Oils for Soap Making + how much to use in a batch #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soaprecipe
Pink clay soap recipe made with a blend floral essential oils

Creating an Essential Oil Blend

The last column of the chart gives essential oil blend recommendations. Creating blends can be a complex (yet fun!) business but the main idea is:

  • 30% of a blend should be Top Notes
  • 60% of a blend should be Middle Notes
  • 10% of a blend should be Base Notes

Please also keep in mind that the total amount of essential oils in ounces or grams should not exceed 3% of the soap recipe. Some essential oils should not exceed 1% or 2% of the total recipe so please be careful.

Essential oils will always have their Latin name listed on the bottle

Essential oils for Soap Making

The EU considers an essential oil usage rate of 3% or less to be safe in wash-off products like soap. For clarification, that’s 3% of the total amount of soaping oils in a soap recipe by weight. 3% of a one-pound batch of soap is a total of 0.48 ounces or 13.6g.

This chart includes many of the most commonly used essential oils for soap making but there are others too. Before using any essential oil, please do research on how much can be safely be used in soap. Please also ensure that the fragrance that you’re using is indeed essential oil. Unscrupulous sellers often package synthetic fragrance oil (sometimes not even skin-safe) in the same types of bottles as essential oils. Always look for the Latin name of the plant or flower on the bottle and also look to see if there’s information on if it’s been diluted in a carrier oil.

Essential Oils for Soap Making

You’ll find a few pieces of information in this chart of essential oils for soap making. The essential oil is listed by its Latin/botanical name, its maximum usage rate, information on the scent, and other types of essential oil that it blends well with.

The amounts are in US teaspoons and are rounded down to the nearest 1/4 teaspoon. You’ll also notice that the teaspoon amounts will differ between essential oils even if the oz/grams are the same. That’s because some of the oils weigh more than others. Visualization: a cup of feathers weighs less than a cup of lead. Some essential oils are heavier and thicker than others that are thin and light.

Essential oilMax usage rate in %, weight, and tsp PPO* InformationBlends with
Amyris Amyris balsamifera 3%
0.48oz / 13.6g / 2.75 tsp
West Indian Rosewood has a soft resinous aroma similar to Benzoin. It’s used as an alternative to Sandalwood and is useful in helping to ‘fix’ soap scents. Base note.Cedarwood, Geranium, Lavender, Rose, Sandalwood
Bergamot Citrus bergamia3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
Clean and refreshing citrus scent that’s used not only in soap making but also in Earl Grey Tea. One of the few top-note essential oils that can be used on its own in soap making. Top note.Citronella, Eucalyptus, Geranium, Neroli, Palmarosa, Ylang Ylang
Black Pepper
Piper nigrum
3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
A warm and peppery scent that should be used sparingly. Permitted usage rates are higher than most people will enjoy as a soap scent. Start with just a few drops and blend with another essential oil(s). Middle to top note.Basil, Bergamot, Cedarwood, Clary Sage, Lavender, Peppermint
Cardamom Elettaria cardamomum3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
Sweet and spicy essential oil that works best as a blend. Works well with most other oils but especially citrus, spice, and woodsy scents. Middle note.Bergamot, Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Orange, Ylang Ylang
Cedarwood Cedrus atlantica3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
Warm and woodsy aroma that blends well with floral, spice, and wood oils. Base note.Bergamot, Frankincense, Juniper, Lavender, Rose, Rosemary
Chamomile (Roman) Anthemis nobilis and Chamomile (German/Blue) Matricaria Recutita3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
Roman chamomile is sweet and floral and blends well with other floral and citrus oils. You might come across German Chamomile oil too — it’s more expensive and used mainly in leave-on skincare products. Middle note.
Clary Sage Salvia sclarea3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
A deeply earthy and slightly floral scent that does better in blends than on its own. Middle to top note.Cedarwood, Geranium, Lavender, Lime, Sandalwood, Vetiver
Eucalyptus Eucalyptus globulus3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
Sharp and powerful resinous scent associated with medicinal products. Does well in blends, especially with citrusy oil. Top note.Citronella, Juniper, Lavender, Lemongrass, May Chang, Pine
Geranium Pelargonium graveolens3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
Floral, earthy, and deep, Rose Geranium is one of the most beloved essential oils. It’s often used to replace Rose Absolute as it’s less expensive. Use on its own or blended. Middle note.Bergamot, Clary Sage, Grapefruit, Lavender, Sandalwood
Ginger Zingiber officinalis3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
Spicy and warming but may smell completely different from fresh ginger. Use in blends with other deep-scented oils. Top note.Eucalyptus, Frankincense, Geranium, Rosemary, Vetiver
Grapefruit Citrus grandis3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
A fresh and sweet citrus aroma that blends well with floral and citrus essential oils. Top note.Bergamot, Chamomile, Geranium, Lavender, May Chang, Rose
Juniper Juniperus communis3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
A crisp, sweet, and woodsy aroma that blends well with citrus oils. Middle note.Bergamot, Geranium, Lemongrass, Orange, Sandalwood
Lavender Lavandula augustifolia3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
Long used in the perfume industry, lavender oil is sweet and floral and blends well with many other essential oils. Middle note.Basil, Clary Sage, Geranium, Lemon, Patchouli, Rosemary
Lemongrass Cymbopogon schoenanthus3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
Lush and green citrus scent that does well on its own in soap and when blended. Can cause soap to trace quickly. Top note.Basil, Black Pepper, Clary Sage, Lavender, Patchouli, Thyme
Lemon Citrus limonum3%
0.48oz / 13.6g / 3.25 tsp
The scent of ordinary lemon essential oil does not last well in soap. Try looking for 10x (10-fold) lemon essential oil for a long-lasting scent. Top note.Chamomile, Orange, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Lavender, May Chang
Lime Citrus aurantifolia (distilled only)3%
0.48oz / 13.6g / 3.25 tsp
Lime essential oil can be irritating so only use distilled oil when making soap. Like other citrus oils, the scent may not be strong after the first couple of weeks. Top note.Basil, Geranium, May Chang, Palmarosa, Ylang Ylang
May Chang Litsea cubeba3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
A sweetly citrusy essential oil that smells like lemon sherbert candy. Middle to top note.Cedarwood, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Grapefruit, Palmarosa
Neroli Citrus aurantium3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
Neroli is the floral honey scent produced by the bitter orange tree. Depending on what it’s blended with, it can make up any of the notes in a fragrance. Top, middle, and base notes.Geranium, Lavender, Lime, Palmarosa, Rose, Ylang Ylang
Orange Citrus aurantium dulcis3%
0.48oz / 13.6g / 3.25 tsp
Sweet orange essential oil does not leave a lasting fragrance in soap. Instead use 5x (5-fold) or 10x (10-fold) orange essential oil. Top note.Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, May Chang, Peppermint, Rosemary
Palmarosa Cymbopogon martini3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
Palmarosa is also called Gingergrass and its scent is like a musky grassy rose. Top note.Bergamot, Geranium, Lavender, May Chang, Rose, Sandalwood
Patchouli Pogostemon cablin3%
0.48oz / 13.6g / 2.75 tsp
Though it can be used on its own, Patchouli has broader appeal when it’s blended with other oils. It’s earthy and dark and very powerful. Base note.Clary Sage, Geranium, Lavender, Lemongrass, Neroli
Peppermint Mentha piperita2%
0.32 oz /
9g /
2 tsp
Sharp and filled with herbal menthol, Peppermint can be used on its own or blended with other herbal essential oils. Middle to top note.
Petitgrain Citrus aurantium3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
Like Neroli and Bergamot, Petitgrain comes from the Bitter Orange tree. It’s extracted from the bark and has a woodsy, floral, and slightly bitter scent. Best expressed in a blend. Middle to top note.Cedarwood, Geranium, Lavender, Orange, Palmarosa, Ylang Ylang
Rose Absolute Rosa damascena0.1%
0.016 oz /
0.45g /
1/8 tsp
Rose Absolute is overwhelmingly scented of roses. Mainly sold in dilutions (with carrier oil), its usage in soaps is restricted due to its Methyl eugenol content. Middle to base note.Clary Sage, Geranium, Lavender, Neroli, Patchouli, Sandalwood
Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
Sharp and herbal rosemary blends well with other herbal scents as well as citrus.Citronella, Geranium, Ginger, Grapefruit, Lime, Tea Tree
Rosewood Aniba rosaeodora3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
Spicy, woodsy, and floral, Rosewood is used in blends with other wood and floral scents. Middle to top note.Cedarwood, Frankincense, Geranium, Rose, Rosemary, Sandalwood
Sandalwood Santalum album3%
0.48 oz / 13.6g / 2.75 tsp
Soft, warm, and woodsy, Sandalwood is a gorgeous base for many citrus and floral oils. Base note.Frankincense, Geranium, Lavender, Lemon, Palmarosa, Rose, Ylang Ylang
Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
Sharp and herbal, Pine blends with other herbal, woodsy, and citrus oils. Middle to top note. Scent can be short-lasting in soap recipes.Cedarwood, Eucalyptus, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree
Spearmint Mentha viridis
0.25%
0.04oz / 1g / 1/4 tsp
Sweet and fresh mint scent without as much natural menthol as Peppermint. Use in blends with other herbal oils. Top note. Low usage rate due to carvone content.Basil, Rosemary, Peppermint, Tea Tree, Vetiver
Sweet Marjoram Origanum marjorana3%
0.48oz / 13.6g /
3 tsp
Scent similar to basil and oregano and can be blended with other herbal, citrus, and floral oils. Middle note.Bergamot, Chamomile, Rosemary, Vetiver, Ylang Ylang
Tea Tree Melaleuca alternifolia1%
0.16 oz / 4.5g /
1 tsp
Sweet, sharp, camphorous, and medicinal scent. A little goes a long way. Top note.Citronella, Lavender, Lemon, May Chang, Rosemary
Vetiver Vetiveria zizanoides3%
0.48 oz / 13.6g / 2.75 tsp
Green and earthy and related to lemongrass. Blend with floral oils and other deep scents. Base note.Clary Sage, Ginger, Lavender, Patchouli, Ylang Ylang
Ylang Ylang (Extra I, II, and III) Cananga odorata3%
0.48 oz / 13.6g / 3 tsp
Called the ‘Flower of Flowers’, this oil is sweet and tropically floral. Use in blends with citrus, floral, and woodsy oils. Base note.Grapefruit, Lavender, Rose, Patchouli, Sandalwood
  • Percentage Amount is the total percentage that this essential oil can be added to any soap recipe by weight.
  • Weight Amount is the total amount that an essential oil can be added to a a 1-lb (454 g) soap recipe in grams or ounces.
  • Max tsp PPO* is the maximum amount in US teaspoons that this essential oil can be added to a 1-lb (454 g) recipe.
Essential Oils for Soap Making + how much to use in a batch #lovelygreens #soapmaking #soaprecipe
You add essential oils to soap when the soap has emulsified

How to Add Essential oils to Soap Recipes

Adding essential oil to soap usually happens after the soap emulsifies and/or thickens to a light to medium ‘trace’. This happens after you add the lye solution to your soaping oils and you begin mixing. You can add them earlier but there is some concern that you will lose some of the scent. Despite this, I sometimes add essential oils that accelerate trace, such as lemongrass or rose geranium essential oil, just before adding the lye solution. It helps to control how quickly the soap batter thickens up.

If you’re interested in trying to make essential oil soap, I have loads of recipes for you. Browse through all Lovely Greens soap recipes or these that I recommend:

133 Comments

  1. I have made 2 batches of goat’s milk soap. The 1st one i did ot use any wtger and just followed the recipe without checking it on soapcalc.net (I was too new to know better). On my 2nd batch of goat’s milk soap I used a different recipe and checked it on soapcalc.net and noticed they only dealt with water to add the lye to (NOT FROZEN GOAT’S MILK) so I figured I would just substitute the goat’s milk for the water in the recipe. Then I noticed my recipe used quite a bit more goat’s milk than the calculation the website specified for water. Unsure what to do I followed my recipe’s amount rather than the grams of water it said to use. Well, I’ll never do that again – the soap never did trace (wouldn’t thicken that much), so I poured it into the molds anyway and they seem to be coming out OK. (I’m 2 days into curing). I know there are a lot of questions in my retelling my confused exeriences… I guess my first is can you just substitute goat’s milk for the amount of water the lye calulator sites specify?

    1. Hi Jill, you can partially or fully replace the water called for in a soap recipe with goat’s milk. Milks should be frozen though to avoid the sugars in the milk scorching when the lye is added (here are my tips on making goat milk soap). As for water/milk amount in a soap recipe — this is variable based on the preferences of the soapmaker. For my recipes, I recommend 2x the lye amount by weight as the water amount because it’s simple, works well, and helps avoid common soapmaking issues such as soda ash. I’d advise you to stick with water/milk amounts in a recipe rather than what the SoapCalc tells you. The default setting for water amount in the SoapCalc is WAY too much for cold process recipes. Full water amount is meant for hot process soapmaking, not cold process. That’s because, in hot process, some of the water evaporates off during the cook. I suspect that you used the full water amount for your recipe and you’re experiencing what happens when a bit too much water is used in cp. It can take a long time to trace and to harden up. CP sap made with full water is also prone to developing a powdery residue on the surface called soda ash. Harmless but unattractive. Lastly, as your bars cure you will notice bar shrinkage (and sometimes warping) a lot more than if using less water.

  2. Thank you for this chart :). Has your recommendation changed at all for Spearmint EO? In the US we are down to around 0.25% with the new IFRA. I was also wondering if you had a safe usage rate for Allspice Essential Oil in CP soap. Thank you again for all you share with the soaping community!

    1. Hi Laura, and yes, that’s right — spearmint has recently been restricted due to high levels of carvone, a potential skin irritant. I’ll update the chart, and thank you for pointing this out :) Allspice is not an essential oil that’s used in soapmaking due to its high risk to causing skin allergy.

  3. I’m sorry if you already answered and I did not see this but in soap making is it best to use food grade essential oils for safety on skin???

    1. Hi Amy, the idea of ‘food grade’ essential oil is a marketing term. Essential oils are not monitored by the FDA and the terms ‘therapeutic grade’ and ‘food grade’ essential oil are unregulated inventions of MLM companies such as Young Living. Ignore any reference to these terms and avoid ingesting essential oil too. Again, it’s unregulated territory and despite the claims by profit-making companies, no essential oil is safe to eat. To answer your question, you can use any pure essential oil to make soap :)

  4. Hi,
    May I ask if we can use essential oils for Liquid hand soap and Fabric Conditioner? How can we make a water base fragrance oil out of the essential oils?… Thank you so much.

  5. Lovely post – thank you for sharing. When you say 3% of the total weight, is that the oils and butters? Or do you include the water and lye in this total weight?

  6. Please, I have to ask. You are using PPO (per pound of oil) and EO Calc uses per ounce of oil, which calculates much differently and the final outcome is different. I am confused.

    1. They’re just different units of measurement, Ennyl, and you’d have to work out the math if you wanted to switch between the two (there are 16oz in a pound). You only need to use one source to calculate your essential oil amount though :)

      1. Hey im really confused and bad at calculations lol but if I have 128.20 ounces of soap how much essential oil is safe to use? Thanks so much

  7. Thank you so much for this awesome blog post, such a help! I make soap a lot and am wondering if you have any information about Copaiba Balsam Essential oil? It seems to be one of the more affordable ones and sounds like it would smell nice. Would I simply follow the 3% rule and calculate 3% of my total batch weight?
    Thank you!
    Corie :)

    1. Hi Corie and copaiba balsam essential oil is one that I’ve not used before. It seems to be a base-note essential oil when it comes to use in fragrance and is used as a fixative in perfumery. I’d recommend that you get in touch with the manufacturer you have in mind and as them for the IFRA usage rate for that particular type of copaiba balsam essential oil for category 9. Category 9 includes handmade soap.

  8. Hello
    I have never made soap before and so I an=m very excited to try it out however I am going to start with the Stephensons melt and pour soap and I would like to try the Rose Absolute drops but Im so confused about the amount to add. Could you please tell me how many drops would work for 1 KG of soap.
    Thank you.

    JJ

    1. The recommended amount for 100% pure rose absolute is 1g PPO (per pound oil) when it comes to cold process soap. Most rose absolutes are not pure though and usually diluted in a carrier oil. Check the IFRA documentation for the specific essential oil you’re using to understand how much you can use in soap. The percentage will be a percentage by weight, not volume though. You never calculate how much essential oil to use in soap by drops.

      1. I am also going to try stephenson melt and pour and wanted to combine either patchuli neroli and argan oil. Or sandalwood neroli and argan. With max usage rates i think three essential oils is about as many as you can use without the scent becoming too indistinguishable. If using these oils how many tsps per 450g would you use of each to get balance right so all scents come through?

    2. The essential oils I bought recently, says to dilute in carrier.
      Please explain what this means when making CP soap.
      Thanks!

      1. When you use essential oil in soap recipes, it becomes diluted in the soap. The important thing with essential oils is to not use them neat (direct) on the skin. Diluting in a carrier oil is what you’d do if you wanted to use essential oils in aromatherapy massage.

  9. Hi Lovely Greens,
    Newbie here, as I’m a little confused. Just wondering if I can away with a synergy blend of Black Pepper, Cedarwood, Orange, Sandalwood and Ylang ylang already bottled? Is this a no-no?
    Would you suggest it be measured and done individually? I plan on doing a tallow, olive oil and coconut oil recipe?

    1. Hi Katie, pre-mixed essential oil blends are tricky because the bottle often does not tell you the exact ratio of each. Therefore, you don’t know the quantities in each and you can’t safely work out their usage rate in soap.

  10. I entered information into the EO Calc and for example peppermint was safe up to 5% … I never use 5% but the 3% calculation is higher than what you have mentioned above. For example if I have 5 lbs of oils is it 9g per pound equalling 45g peppermint correct? but if I enter into EO Calc its different. Is this not a trusted resource (EO Calc)

    Thanks

    1. Hi Michelle, I am conservative when it comes to essential oil rates and the amount reflected in the peppermint essential oil recommendation on this page is 2%. I’ve been making peppermint soap for a long time for retail and this is plenty! As for other guides, such as the EO Calc, they’re a good place to start but ALWAYS check the IFRA document for the exact essential oil that you’re using. Depending on the manufacturer and the process, the allergen levels may be higher than others. Some IFRA docs for some peppermint EOs say up to 5%, some say up to 3.6%, and others have differing usage rates. That’s why I’m conservative in the recommendations in this guide.

  11. Hello, thank you for creating this resource, I have been feverishly reading and plan to make some of your beginner soaps soon. Where do you recommend purchasing the clays for coloring? I live in the US and would love a good source
    Rachel

  12. Any thoughts on Basil essential oil? I was hoping it was in this chart as I have used this for other scents. I have the NOW Foods Basil Essential Oil and would love to try it if it is not an irratant.

  13. Hi, Can I please confirm if the Max figures provided are in relation to the totals of all essential oils or is it per essential oil? For example if I’m blending 3 different essential oils does this mean I can add 3% of each of them (making the total 9% of the oils’ weight)? Thanks,Mary

  14. Hi Tanya,
    I’m Gabi, and I’m about to make a lavender soap. I got a lavender fragrance, but I’m not sure if there’s any alcohol in it, or it’s made with distilled water only. How much should I give to a batch of soap? I have a mould that makes about 900-1000 g of soap. Do I have to adjust the amount of lye and oils, when adding the fragrance? I also want to add essential lavender oil to it. I know it has to be added at the trace, but what about the fragrance? Thank you, Gabi

    1. Hi Gabi, if you don’t know what’s in the fragrance, I’d advise not using it in soapmaking. There are fragrance oils that are meant for diffusers only and that can cause skin irritation and rashes. I’d advise using a pure lavender essential oil instead, and the usage rates for soap are listed in this piece.

  15. Hi do you have a uk company that does pure essential oils for your soaps,? as im progressing in creating my hemp soaps and getting the safety certs, but unsure the brand ive used for yrs,for aromatherapy are the best , so was thinking of finding vegan/cruelty free, as it will go with my ethics ..and also getting thru legal stuff too.
    any recomondations greatly welcomed, so i can research further…thanks for your work :) love your site, has helped me so much x

  16. Due to sensitivities, I can’t use essential oils. When I leave them out of a formula, do I need to increase one of the other oils to keep the formula balanced? Thanks!

  17. Hi. Thanks for all the great info. I tried essential oils in my cold process soap and it seized like a brick. Which oils tend to accelerate trace in soap recipes?

  18. Hey Tanya,

    Thanks for the great information. Where did you find all these maximum percentages set by the EU?
    I tried looking it up online myself, but I can’t find anything. I found the ‘cosing’ database where you can look up essential oils. This will give you the CAS number and some other limited information, but when it comes to the cosmetic regulation, it just says to look it up in cosmetic regulation 1223/2009. I can’t find any essential oils in that regulation, however. Could you help me out please?

    1. Hi Filip, the information on cosmetic production for the EU, including these figures, can be found here. However, exact essential oils are not listed, only their allergens. The figures in this piece have maximum percentages worked out based on the particular allergens in each (such as geraniol, eugenol, coumarin, etc.) that must be controlled in both leave-on and wash-off cosmetic products.

  19. This is by far the most comprehensive site I have found for using essential oils. Thank you very much for compiling all this info in one place. I am a new fan!

    1. Hi Rachelle. There isn’t such a thing as calendula essential oil, but you can use calendula-infused carrier oils in soap making. If the variety of calendula is orange, you can harness this color to tint your bars light to bright orange. More on using plants and natural ingredients to color handmade soap is over here.

  20. Hi Tanya,
    Thanks for a really useful & informative site. I recently made some gorgeous smelling soaps, but now they have cured, the fragrances have already faded, so I am concerned that the EOs I bought weren’t as good quality as I had hoped.
    Do you have any recommendations on suppliers? Like you, I am based in the UK.
    Many thanks,
    Carole

    1. Hi Carole, some essential oils last longer than others. Many citrus types don’t last very long, and others will naturally fade over time. Still, many of them smell great for months or longer! Which ones did you use and which brand?

      1. Wow, thank you for your speedy reply! I made Verbena & Sandalwood using Verbena from Mystic Moments & Sandalwood from Aura. I also made a batch with just Sandalwood, and also a Eucalyptus & Peppermint batch, using oils from Anjou. I can’t smell any of those now – I was going to give them as Christmas gifts but because of lockdown I still have them.
        I made a Grapefruit & Bergamot a couple of days ago using Anjou oils, hoping they won’t fade as quickly.
        I love that table you provide – amazed I didn’t find it sooner TBH!

  21. Hi. Thank you for very detailed blog about the essential oils. I’m a beginner so this is important for me to learn and not ruin my skin of my loved ones once i handed them my soap.
    My question is, where do you buy your oils? Can you maybe post a link where I can get them and i hope you get some percent off from my purchase! I am not sure if the ones on google are good for the skin.
    have a good day and be safe.

  22. Hi Tanya
    Thank you for your information and passion for product making. Can I please ask this, I want to make a Rose & Geranium salve but I am very confused about the amounts of Rose that I can use. I want to make 50ml pots. Can you please help?
    Kind regards
    Sandie

    1. Hi Sandie, salves are a leave-on product so you cannot use as much essential oil in them as you can in wash-off products, such as soap. I recommend no more than 2% essential oil (by weight) in any leave-on skincare product recipe. That 2% can be completely geranium essential oil, or up to 0.05% rose absolute essential oil.

  23. Hi, I have a question, hope that you can help me.
    Does the 3% essential oil (to put in my cold process soap ) includes carrier oil or should I just use pure essential oil that I bought from the store?

    Many thanks.

  24. Thank you for this post, very very useful! I just wanted to ask a question on the ‘fixing’ of citrus scents for CP soaps. I’m new to soap making, I’ve just made a sweet orange and patchouli soap. It smelt great when I made it and for several days after but is now starting to wear off. It says about using may chang to fix the scent in. Could you explain for me, how does this work and would it change the overall scent I was going for by using this extra EO? Thank you :)

    1. Hi George, I personally don’t use orange, lemon, or tangerine essential oils in soap for that very reason — they fade quickly. It’s the nature of the essential oil, unfortunately, and even with fixers the scent will never be as great as when you first made it. May chang is a gorgeous citrus essential oil that lasts though, as is bergamot.

      1. Using Litsea (a Japanese citrus) will hold other citrus scents very nice. I use it all the time with grapefruit, orange, etc. Give it a try.
        RC

  25. Hello. Thank you for this site. It is very informative! Question…. If I do a soap, say spearmint eucalyptus, and both are 3 t for a pound of soap…..if I do 2 pound soap recipes, can I just use 3 t of one and 3t of the other oil and call it a day??

      1. Hi! I haven’t been able to find anything online that can answer this question and your blog is the closest I’ve gotten. If I add essential oils or colorants to a soap recipe do I need to adjust the oils and the lye to account for it or can I just add them in?

        1. Essential oils and colorants are not considered in the formulation of base soap recipes — they’re just extras. So no, the oils and lye amount don’t need adjusting. The amount of essential oil you use is based on how much is safe for your skin and that can vary based on the essential oil.

  26. Hell,

    I’ve just discovered your website and it is super helpful! thank you soo much for all those info!

    I have been looking for few days now but can’t find anything: is there a calculator, or a website that indicates the quantity of each EO that is advised to use together?

    for example, if I want to make a cold process soap with lemongrass and rosemary EO, is there any tool to tell/advice me what is the best combination in %?

    I found calculator that give me the total amount of EO to use according to the amount of oil, but can’t find anything regarding how each EO is to be calculated separately..

    or maybe there is a website/list with the most known combinations of EO and their %?

    Also, can you please explain step by step how to use the toothpick test? I’m not sure to understand properly if I should dip one end in all EO I want to use or each end in separate EO then place all toothpicks in the sealed bag, even though the last option makes more sense..

    1. As far as I’m aware, there’s no essential oil calculator like that. It would be handy though! You have to work it out manually until that time.

      Toothpick test: use a separate toothpick for each ‘part’ of essential oil. For example, if your blend would be two parts lavender and one part rosemary, you’d have two toothpicks of lavender and one of rosemary.

  27. Thanks for this really helpful article – my brain was fried before reading it!

    I have settled on a blend of 3 Eos for a cp soap batch of the following:
    Rose Maroc absolute
    Neroli
    Patchouli
    Using your suggestion of 30, 60, 10% it brings the Rose to 0.09% which is too high. How could I rectify this? By lowering the percentage of the top note and adding to middle/base notes? Diluting the top note between rose and AN Other EO?
    I love the blend I’ve put together so I’d rather not add another EO to the mix!

    Thank you so much for your help; it’s very much appreciated.

      1. Good morning….. I was thinking about using a ‘fixer’ like arrowroot to help keep the smell of the essential oils from fading I haven’t found where in the process in soap making to add the fixer? Thanks so much and I’ve read your articles for soap making for beginners and they’re great

  28. Hi! First of all, thank you very much for all the instructions – fantastic job!
    And before I will make my first soap I have a question. You commented the lemongrass oil as follow: Lush and green citrus scent that does well on its own in soap and when blended. Also, the lemongrass is recommended as the top oil, not the middle. But on your video on the Youtube about lemongrass soap (great!) you listed lemongrass oil as the basic one. Is it correct?

    1. Citrus essential oils are generally top notes — these are scents that you smell right away in a blend. Lemongrass can be used on its own in a soap recipe or blended with other essential oils though.

  29. So you dont have to dilute essential oils when making cold press or melt and pour soaps? Im new to soap making and trying to do my research before trying my first batch.

  30. Hi, is there a reason you don’t list thyme essential oil? I just used it today and it caused almost immediate ricing! Is this why it’s not on your list? Are there any others to avoid from your experience?

    Many Thanks

    1. Thyme is an essential oil that you need to be very cautious with. At the maximum usage rate of 0.5-1% in soap it can still cause skin irritation and the scent might not even come through. It naturally contains high levels of Thymol, and some types also contain Geraniol, both of which are known skin allergens.

  31. Hi, thank you for the information about using essential oils in cold press soap.
    My question is are all essential oils made equal? If not do the quantities change with quality of essential oil? Thank you

    1. Not all essential oils are equal but the amount specified in this piece are standard for the type. Better quality essential oils are made from higher quality plant material and better processing methods.

  32. Thank you for sharing this chart and explaining the process. I am a candle maker by trade and now dipping my toes into cold process soap. I have looked at fragrance calculators online (US ones) and from my experience of candle making I know not to necessarily follow what makers do in other countries. The calculators I have come across seem to base the amount of essential oil (or fragrance oil) on the weight of the oils in the soap and not the total weight for the soap batter. My question is, do I calculate the 3% from the weight of the oils, or the total batter weight (including the lye/water weight.) Many thanks!

    1. It should be calculated as the percentage of all the ingredients in the recipe except the water. Most of the water evaporates out of your soap after you make it but before you use it.

  33. hi – i am hoping you can help me – i am starting to make some blends for my cp soaps – i have a mix that has nutmeg essential oil in it but i cannot for the life of me find the safe % of nutmeg to use – is there somewhere you can advise me to look
    thanks
    liz

    1. In the EU you may use Nutmeg essential oil in up to 0.12% by weight in handmade soap made for retail. Providing you have the proper cosmetic assessments, cosmetic insurance, and have submitted the product to the EU cosmetic database. I generally use the EU guidelines for all my handmade soap, regardless of whether they are destined to be sold or not.

  34. Thank you for this very useful and informative article.

    Question, if you use photosensitive oils (i.e. bergamot, lemon, citrus oils) as ingredients in soap or facial wash, etc… does the rule on non-exposure to direct sunlight after use apply? Or does this only apply to roller blends?

    1. It’s not the same as in leave-on products. Unless you have VERY sensitive skin, ou’re perfectly fine to go out in the sun after using a soap made with citrus oils. Most of it washes off in the bath or shower.

      1. I’m interested in making Soap. I read everything in this article but for some reason I can’t see the chart. Can you email a copy of it to me?

    1. I’d say the standard amounts are fine for kids but choose essential oils that are more sensitive. Lavender for one. It might actually be better to make unscented soap for kids though anyway.

  35. Thanks for sharing such a important information. This is really useful and helps a lot. I want to say Thank You again.

  36. Thank you for this informative article.

    In my experience, some essential oil scents are difficult to maintain in soap especially citrus oils. Do you prefer to CP or HP your soaps and do you add clays to help fix them?

    Thanks

    1. There are a few things that can help fix the scent of essential oils — clays, orris root powder, and even oatmeal pieces in my experience. Some essential oils are more tricky though — lemon, orange, and tangerine can fade quickly. I don’t tend to use them in cold-process soap unless they’re fixed with another essential oil like Litsea cubeba. Even then, they do fade a bit.

  37. Hi,
    I have never made soap before and am wondering how do you go about getting your soaps seen by a chemist and what sort of charges would they be .
    Many thanks and a wonderfull website on the many different things you do.
    Ralph

    1. The way it works in the UK is that you send your recipes to a chemist who offers the service. They look over them and certify that they’re safe and within regulations. After that, you’re able to get insurance and to legally sell your handmade soap (and other bath/cosmetic products) to the public. Legally you cannot sell soap or personal care products to anyone in the UK and European Union without a Cosmetic Safety Assessment by a EU certified chemist.

  38. Hi Sarah ,
    I am having little confusion in soap making if I want to try some essential oil blends in soap making ,for example lye,water, coconut and olive oil all together if I trace and weight for small batch 100 gm to test the essential blends how much I should measure it , in drops or tsp or in gram ,plz guide me and also natural clay how much I should add for 100 gram I can multiply for big batches. Past 1 year l am learning and reading kindle books and watching YouTube still little clarification needed.
    Sorry for to big text
    Thanks
    Jaya

    1. Hi Jaya — Tanya here (no Sarah :). When calculating a recipe technically, you should always measure by weight, not volume. However, it’s easier to measure out essential oils in teaspoons and Tablespoons while making soap. If you want to make a perfect 3% essential oil recipe, pre-measure the oils on a micro-scale and then afterwards measure the volume amount. Different essential oils will have a different volume measurement for the same weight.

  39. Hi Helen. Thank you for the info. But which EU law are you applying? (‘The EU considers an essential oil usage rate of 3% or less to be safe in wash-off products like soap’). I am looking at the EU regulation at the moment and couldn’t find it. Would you mind share the link with us? I used more than 3% EO on my soap.

    1. Who’s Helen? As for the 3% rule that’s regulated by the chemists who create safety assessments. You cannot legally sell handmade soap to customers in the EU without having your recipes certified by a chemist. This 3% rule comes from my own chemist.

      1. Hi Tanya. Sorry about that I got your name wrong. I need more help here. Where can I find the regulation saying that ”we are not allowed to sell soaps without having a chemist certification” under EU laws? So are you saying that all the handmade soaps in the market without chemist certification is illegal?

        1. It is really shocking that so many people are unaware of the law. As well as having to get each and every recipe safety assessed, you also have to use “stamped for trade” scales to check the weight of your end product. Kitchen scales, however accurate, just won’t do. It’s an expensive business getting started, that’s for sure, even more so if you want a variety of different products in your range, as each must be separately assessed. There are also strict laws about labelling and declaring ingredients. Try the Guild of Craft Soap and Toiletry Makers for more advice.

  40. So if you only use two essential oils like cedarwood and vanilla what would the percent be ? I’ve been told vanilla is a very strong scent is that true. should I use less vanilla. Any thoughts. I like the tooth pick idea. Thanks Cheri

    1. Vanilla is a fragrance oil rather than an essential oil. As for mixing, the top, middle, and base ratios are a guide but not a rule. Use the toothpick method to create a blend that you and others like and then go for it :)

  41. Hello.
    I love your site. It is wonderful. I am trying to mix my own essential oils. Can I mix just two flavours? Or must it be top, middle and base?

    1. When it comes to mixing your own oils, it’s completely up to you! The top, middle, and base recommendations are purely a guide. There are many middle-top and middle-base blends that work well.

    2. Hi, first of all let me just say thanks! I love your website and all the info you provide.?. I have been following recipes at the moment to make soap, but I’m finding that the sent from the essential oils I am adding don’t seem to last through the curing process. You mentioned adding clays and/or orris root powder. Any more info on this, e.g.. when to add and what quantities?
      Thanks

    3. Hi Tanya,
      Can rosewood be used in CP soap making?
      If so what can it be mixed with and what % can be used please?
      Many thanks
      Wendy

  42. I just came across your website and new to soap making, this list has really helped me out with my blends but I wanted to make a soap with Pink Grapefruit, Lavander, Rosemary and sweet orange. 2 of theses EO are top notes and 2 of these EO are middle notes. How would I work out the 100% total? Would i devide the 2 top notes and devide the 2 middle notes

    15% Grapefruit 0.24 =0.8
    15% Sweet Orange 0.24 =0.8
    30% Rosemary 0.24 = 0.24.5
    30% Lavender 0.24= 0.24.5

    I have probably done this all wrong. Please could you give me some advice. Also are these percentages based on grams? Example 30% lavander is 0.24= 0.24.5 grams or Oz. Sorry confused maybe a soap recipe of yours would be ideal as an example .

    1. Hi Becky! Have you ever tried the toothpick test before? It’s a way of testing an essential oil blend before making an entire batch of soap. In your case, get five toothpicks. Each toothpick has two ends which you’ll dip into essential oil and then place in a sealed bag. Seal it up and then in a minute or so, have a smell to see if you like the blend. If you don’t like it, try again.

      As for making up the last 10% of your recipe, it’s completely up to you. You can choose a base note like cedar or ginger, or bulk up your middle note essential oils to cover the difference.

  43. Thank you for posting this information! I’ve been trying to find something like this forever and i’m glad I stumbled across it over on Pinterest! I’m going to tuck this info away for the next soap making day!!

  44. ‘m a little confused. If I used three different essential oils in one pound of soap, the combined EO should not exceed 3% of 16oz or each EO should not exceed 3%?

    Also, the note chart doesn’t equal 100%, so that’s confusing to me too?
    30% of a blend should be Top Notes
    80% of a blend should be Middle Notes
    10% of a blend should be Base Note

    Thanks

    1. Hope this helps: 3% of 16oz is 0.48oz — that’s the total amount in weight of essential oils you’d use in this particular recipe.

      30% of 0.48oz = 0.14
      60% of 0.48oz = 0.29
      10% of 0.48oz = 0.05

      1. Further to this, I would like to clarify. My mold makes 3 lbs of soap. Hence the total amount of melt and pour soap base would be 48oz . 3% of 48 oz is 1.44
        Using the example above
        30% of 1.44 oz= 0.43oz
        60% of 1.44oz= 0.86Oz
        10% of 1.44oz = 0.14oz
        Would I convert ounces to teaspoons or drops for measuring the essential oils ?
        Do I need to dilute the essential oil blend in a carrier oil like sweet almond oil before adding to the melt and pour base?
        Also would I add this blend evenly to each layer of soap or it doesn’t matter?

        1. I’d stick with the weights at first. If you want to use teaspoons for subsequent batches, work out how many teaspoons equate to those particular weights when you make the first batch.

          No need to dilute essential oils in carrier oils before adding to soap. Carrier oils are meant to dilute essential oils before you put them directly on your skin (think massage oils).

          The essential oil should ideally be consistent right through your soap.

  45. Hello! I just discovered your site and love it!!! I am brand new at this soap making craft and am very excited! The Essential Oil for Soap Making Chart is great, is there a way to print this chart? I tried to simply copy and paste, but it did not work.

    I appreciate your information and time that you have put in for this site. I look forward to hearing from you.

  46. Hi Tanya/ I am Lyuda/ I would like ask about essential oils for soap. I saw in your video a big bottle of them/ What is the oils and where i can buy them/ . I have read a lot about them and i saw a very expensive and less what you advice about them/ Thank you

  47. You are an angel! Thank you so much for the specificity of your directions as well as sharing helpful hints. As someone who has scoured the internet and books for clear direction, it has to be said, you are the Harvard of teachers in soaping. Bless you!

  48. Hi Tanya, thank you for this valuable lesson on essential oil percentages. I’m new to soap making and I always wonder should I let me soap gel or not!!!! which method is better??? please help :)

    1. To Gel just means to intensify the color and make the soap a shinier, less opaque tone. If you don’t gel it will be opaque and much more toned down in shade. Both can be beautiful!

  49. Thanks for your extensive post today. I have to admire your beautiful soap colours. I am a soapmaker, and have tried several methods to get those bright clear colours. Including infusions, adding color straight to lye water and using the whitest oils possible. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Helen! The method for using each natural colour is different and variations will occur based on how much you use, temperature, introduction method, introduction sequence, whether the soap gels or not, colour of oils, colour of essential oils or fragrance oils, and quality of the substance used. It’s all about trial and error to get the right shade.

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