Essential Oils for Soap Making + how much to use in a batch

Essential Oils for Soap Making + how much to use in a batch
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How to use essential oils to scent handmade soap

Detailed information on using essential oils for soap making. Includes max usage rates and how many teaspoons of essential oil can be used in a soap recipe.

If you want to naturally scent handmade soap, you need to use essential oils. These highly scented flower and plant essences are natural but in such high concentrations that you need to be careful with them. If you use too much you’ll not only waste money but your soaps could cause skin irritation.

There’s some confusion as to which essential oils can be used in soap making and how much of each you can use. I’ve listed some of the more common essential oils below along with how much of each can be used in a batch of soap. The information includes maximum percentage in a recipe, maximum amount in ounce 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

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How much essential oil can be used?

It’s tricky to answer just how much essential oil can be used in soap recipes. I’ve seen different recommendations but base my own soap recipes on what the stricter European Union outlines.

Remember that just because essential oils are ‘natural’ does not mean that they are always safe. Using too much in soap can cause all kinds of issues including skin irritation and photo sensitivity. You can’t be too careful if you’re making natural soaps to give to loved ones or the public.

All the naturally scented soaps I make through Lovely Greens Handmade use less essential oil than outlined below. In my opinion, there is no need to exceed the 3% maximum usage rate.

Essential Oils for Soap Making + how much to use in a batch

Teaspoon Measurements

I spent quite a lot of time calculating teaspoon amounts for the essential oils in the chart. Using volume measurements (tsp, Tbsp, cups) is not recommended in making soap or other beauty products because it’s not exact. However, measuring small amounts of essential oil on the average kitchen scale can also be inaccurate.

The amounts in teaspoons listed 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.

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. As explained above, a soap recipe is based on the total amount of soaping oils (coconut, olive, sunflower, castor, etc.). 3% of a one pound batch of soap is a total of 0.48 ounces or 13.6g.

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 3% of the total amount of soaping oils in a soap recipe.

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.

Essential Oils for Soap Making Chart

Essential oilMax% recipe*Max tsp PPO*Max PPO*NoteInformationBlends with
Amyris Amyris balsamifera3%2.75 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gBaseWest 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 scentsCedarwood, Geranium, Lavender, Rose, Sandalwood
Bergamot Citrus bergamia3%3 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gTopClean 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.Citronella, Eucalyptus, Geranium, Neroli, Palmarosa, Ylang Ylang
Black Pepper
Piper nigrum
3%3 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gMiddle to Top 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).Basil, Bergamot, Cedarwood, Clary Sage, Lavender, Peppermint,
Cardamom Elettaria cardamomum3%3 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gMiddleSweet and spicy essential oil that works best as a blend. Works well with most other oils but especially citrus, spice, and woodsy scents. Bergamot, Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Orange, Ylang Ylang
Cedarwood Cedrus atlantica3%3 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gBaseWarm and woodsy aroma that blends well with floral, spice, and wood oils.Bergamot, Frankincense, Juniper, Lavender, Rose, Rosemary
Chamomile (Roman) Anthemis nobilis3%3 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gMiddleRoman 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.Geranium, May Chang, Neroli, Palmarosa, Rose, Ylang Ylang
Clary Sage Salvia sclarea3%3 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gMiddle to TopDeeply earthy and slightly floral scent that does better in blends than on its own.Cedarwood, Geranium, Lavender, Lime, Sandalwood, Vetiver
Eucalyptus Eucalyptus globulus3%3 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gTopSharp and powerful resinous scent associated with medicinal products. Does well in blends, especially with citrusy oil.Citronella, Juniper, Lavender, Lemongrass, May Chang, Pine
Frankincense Boswellia carterii3%3.25 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gMiddle to BaseWoodsy and earthy and faintly sweet. Frankincense oil smells different from the pure resin and is best used in blends.Geranium, Grapefruit, Lavender, Patchouli, Sandalwood
Geranium Pelargonium graveolens3%3 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gMiddleFloral, 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.Bergamot, Clary Sage, Grapefruit, Lavender, Sandalwood
Ginger Zingiber officinalis3%3 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gTopSpicy and warming but may smell completely different from fresh ginger. Use in blends with other deep scented oils.Eucalyptus, Frankincense, Geranium, Rosemary, Vetiver
Grapefruit Citrus grandis3%3.25 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gTopA fresh and sweet citrus aroma that blends well with floral and citrus essential oils.Bergamot, Chamomile, Geranium, Lavender, May Chang, Rose
Juniper Juniperus communis3%3 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gMiddleCrisp, sweet, and woodsy aroma that blends well with citrus oils.Bergamot, Geranium, Lemongrass, Orange, Sandalwood
Lemongrass Cymbopogon schoenanthus3%3 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gTopLush and green citrus scent that does well on its own in soap and when blended.Basil, Black Pepper, Clary Sage, Lavender, Patchouli, Thyme
Lavender Lavandula augustifolia3%3 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gMiddleLong used in the perfume industry, lavender oil is sweet and floral and blends well with many other essential oils.Basil, Clary Sage, Geranium, Lemon, Patchouli, Rosemary
Lemon Citrus limonum3%3.25 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gTopLemon essential oil unfortunately does not last well in soap. If you're trying to use it, try 'fixing' it with the stronger scented May ChangChamomile, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Lavender, May Chang
Lime Citrus aurantifolia3%3.25 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gTopLime 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. 'Fix' the scent by using May Chang essential oil.Basil, Geranium, May Chang, Palmarosa, Ylang Ylang
May Chang Litsea cubeba3%3 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gTopMay Chang, known officially as Litsea cubeba is another top note oil that can be used on its own. It's sweetly citrusy and smells like Lemon Sherbert candy.Cedarwood, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Grapefruit, Palmarosa
Neroli Citrus aurantium3%3 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gTop, Middle, and BaseNeroli 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.Geranium, Lavender, Lime, Palmarosa, Rose, Ylang Ylang
Palmarosa Cymbopogon martini3%3 tsp0.48oz / 13.6gTopPalmarosa is also called Gingergrass and its scent is like a musky grassy rose.Bergamot, Geranium, Lavender, May Chang, Rose, Sandalwood
Patchouli Pogostemon cablin3%2.75 tsp0.48 oz / 13.6gBaseThough 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.Clary Sage, Geranium, Lavender, Lemongrass, Neroli
Peppermint Mentha piperita2%2 tsp0.32 oz / 9gMiddle to TopSharp and filled with herbal menthol, Peppermint can be used on its own or blended with other herbal essential oilsLavender, Marjoram, Rosemary, Pine, Spearmint
Petitgrain Citrus aurantium3%3 tsp0.48 oz / 13.6gMiddle to TopLike 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.Cedarwood, Geranium, Lavender, Orange, Palmarosa, Ylang Ylang
Rose Absolute Rosa damascena1%1 tsp0.16 oz / 4.54 gMiddle to BaseRose Absolute is overwhelmingly scented of roses. Mainly sold in dilutions, its usage in soaps is restricted due to its Methyl eugenol content.Clary Sage, Geranium, Lavender, Neroli, Patchouli, Sandalwood
Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis3%3 tsp0.48 oz / 13.6gMiddleSharp and herbal rosemary blends well with other herbal scents as well as citrus.Citronella, Geranium, Ginger, Grapefruit, Lime, Tea Tree
Rosewood Aniba rosaeodora3%3 tsp0.48 oz / 13.6gMiddle to TopSpicy, woodsy, and floral, Rosewood is used in blends with other wood and floral scents.Cedarwood, Frankincense, Geranium, Rose, Rosemary, Sandalwood
Sandalwood Santalum album3%2.75 tsp0.48 oz / 13.6gBaseSoft, warm, and woodsy, Sandalwood is a gorgeous base for many citrus and floral oils.Frankincense, Geranium, Lavender, Lemon, Palmarosa, Rose, Ylang Ylang
Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris3%3 tsp0.48 oz / 13.6gMiddle to TopSharp and herbal, Pine blends with other herbal, woodsy, and citrus oils.Cedarwood, Eucalyptus, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Tea Tree
Spearmint Mentha viridis3%3 tsp0.48 oz / 13.6gTopSweet and fresh mint scent without as much natural menthol as Peppermint. Use in blends with other herbal oils.Basil, Rosemary, Peppermint, Tea Tree, Vetiver
Sweet Marjoram Origanum marjorana3%3 tsp0.48 oz / 13.6gMiddleScent similar to basil and oregano and can be blended with other herbal, citrus, and floral oilsBergamot, Chamomile, Rosemary, Vetiver, Ylang Ylang
Sweet Orange Citrus sinensis3%3.25 tsp0.48 oz / 13.6gTopLike some of the other citrus oils, sweet orange doesn't last well in soaps. Blend with May Chang to 'fix' the scentGeranium, Juniper, Lavender, May Chang, Neroli, Rosewood
Tea Tree Melaleuca alternifolia1%1 tsp0.16 oz / 4.54 gTopSharp, camphorous, and medicinal scent. Use sparingly -- 10-20 drops in a blend is usually more than enough Citronella, Lavender, Lemon, May Chang, Rosemary
Vetiver Vetiveria zizanoides3%2.75 tsp0.48 oz / 13.6gBaseGreen and earthy and related to lemongrass. Blend with floral oils and other deep scentsClary Sage, Ginger, Lavender, Patchouli, Ylang Ylang
Ylang Ylang Cananga odorata3%3 tsp0.48 oz / 13.6gBaseCalled the 'Flower of Flowers', this oil is sweet and tropically floral. Use in blends with citrus, floral, and woodsy oilsGrapefruit, Lavender, Rose, Patchouli, Sandalwood

Max% recipe* — this is the total percentage that this essential oil can be added to any soap recipe.
Max tsp PPO* — this is the maximum amount in teaspoons that this essential oil can be added to a one pound (454g) recipe.
Max PPO* — this is the maximum amount in ounces and grams that this essential oil can be added to a one pound (454g) recipe.

Essential Oils for Soap Making + how much to use in a batch

You add essential oils to soap when it hits ‘Trace’

How to add essential oils to soap

You stir essential oils into your soap after it thickens to a light to medium ‘Trace’. This happens after you add the lye-water to your soaping oils and you begin mixing. You can add them earlier but some say that some of the scent doesn’t make it through the process.

A light ‘Trace’ means the soap is the consistency of runny honey, medium is the consistency of custard, and a thick trace is so stiff that it will hold its form. Watch this video to see what Trace looks like.

Natural Soap Making for Beginners Series

For more information on getting started with making your own soap read through this free four-part series from Lovely Greens.

1. Ingredients
2. Equipment & Safety
3. Basic Recipes and Formulating Your Own
4. The Soap Making Process: Make, Mould, and Cure

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19 Discussion to this post

  1. Cheri says:

    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

    • lovelygreens says:

      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 🙂

  2. Sarah says:

    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?

    • lovelygreens says:

      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.

  3. Becky says:

    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 .

    • lovelygreens says:

      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.

  4. Leen says:

    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!!

  5. JQ says:

    ‘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

    • lovelygreens says:

      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

  6. Angel Allen says:

    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.

  7. Liydmila says:

    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

  8. Arian says:

    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!

  9. Lana says:

    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 🙂

    • lovelygreens says:

      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!

  10. Helen says:

    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?

    • lovelygreens says:

      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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