Natural Turmeric Soap Recipe (three different shades)
This turmeric soap recipe will give you soap that ranges from a pale pinky-yellow to deep burnt orange. Part of the Naturally Coloring Handmade Soap series
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As a natural soap maker, I’m always on the look-out for ways to color my batches using flowers, herbs, roots, and spices. One spice that’s caught my eye is turmeric — a bright yellow spice made from the dried and powdered turmeric root. Unfortunately, many of the turmeric soap recipes that I’ve come across have results that are more neutral in shade. A shame really since turmeric is such a vibrant color.
I’ve done some experimentation though and have found a way to get a much brighter color. Depending on how much turmeric you use, you can achieve natural soap colors ranging from a pale pinky-yellow to deep burnt orange. It also adds a beautiful speckled effect to your soap although the amount of speckle can be controlled.
This turmeric soap recipe is in partnership with iHerb, a supplier of high-quality natural products. The ingredients used for this tutorial come from their online shop.
Turmeric Soap Making Oils
This recipe uses a mixture of oils that are combined to complement turmeric’s color and to create a great bar of soap. Coconut oil gives fluffy lather, olive oil for conditioning and castor oil and sunflower oil for stabilizing the lather. Cocoa butter and shea butter add hardness to the bars and a creamy texture.
My recipe uses oils that are either light or yellow in color. Considering this, I’d recommend that you use a light olive oil for this recipe. It may be called ‘Pomace’ oil or you might find it under ‘Light olive oil’. Extra virgin olive oil is not only more expensive, but its darker color could affect the color of your soap.
Essential oils can also affect the color of your soap. In this recipe, I use a light-colored lemongrass essential oil that pairs beautifully with the soap color. Some essential oils are much darker so consider this when you use turmeric for naturally coloring soap.
Turmeric Soap Recipe
454g / 1lb batch — makes six bars
Measurements are in weight
This turmeric soap recipe includes three different measurements for turmeric. Choose just one amount per batch and note that the more you use, the darker and potentially more speckled your soap will be.
63g | 2.2oz Sodium hydroxide (lye)
120g | 4.2oz distilled water
For a light bar — ¼ tsp Turmeric
Medium tinted bar — ½ tsp Turmeric
For a darker orange bar — 1 tsp Turmeric
113g | 4oz refined Coconut oil (it doesn’t have a coconut scent)
68g | 2.4oz Shea butter
23g | 0.8oz Cocoa butter
181g | 6.4oz light Olive oil
45g | 1.6oz Sunflower oil
23g | 0.8oz Castor oil
4 drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract
1½ tsp Lemongrass essential oil
Special Equipment needed
- Digital thermometer
- Digital kitchen scale
- Stick (Immersion) blender
- Rubber spatula
- Measuring spoons
- 1 heatproof jug
- 2 more jugs (they don’t need to be heatproof)
- Stainless steel pan
- Fine mesh strainer and a piece of muslin
- Soap mold of your choice
Natural Soap Making for Beginners
If you’re new to making soap have a series for beginners that you’ll want to check out. It includes an introduction to the types of ingredients you’ll use, the equipment you’ll need, and the full soap making process.
I also have a piece on natural soap colorants listing different ingredients based on color. Another natural ingredient you can use to get orange soap is annatto seeds — there’s a recipe you can follow over here.
Turmeric Soap Recipe Preparations
Before you begin, first get your station set up. You want to work undistracted and completely organized — it will help you stay on course and not miss a step. Put an apron on, wear eye protection, and rubber/latex/vinyl gloves. Set your equipment out and at the ready.
The recipe is laid out in sections that will help you with each step. Pour the water into the heatproof jug. Measure the lye into one of the other jugs along with the turmeric powder. There are three measurements for how much turmeric to use in this recipe. Using smaller quantities will give you a lighter color.
Pre-measure all of the ‘Solid oils’ into a stainless steel saucepan. Measure the oils in the ‘Liquid oils’ section into a jug. You’re now ready to begin.
Step 1: Make the Turmeric-lye solution
This step is what makes my tutorial different from other recipes. Instead of infusing the turmeric in oil first or mixing it directly into the soap I infuse it into the lye solution. This really seems to make the color pop! It also creates some speckles in your soap so if you’d like an alternate idea that minimizes spots scroll to the bottom of this recipe.
There are heat and steam in this step so please be prepared. You don’t want to breathe in the steam so work in a well-ventilated area like an outdoor table or an open window.
Pour the turmeric and lye from one jug into the water. Stir it together with either your spatula or even better, a metal whisk. Turmeric has a tendency to clump and a whisk does come in handy for this step. When mixed together this solution will be hot. Place the jug in a shallow basin of water or the sink to help it to cool down.
Step 2: Melt the solid oils
As soon as your lye solution is mixed, turn your hob on to the lowest setting and gently melt the solid oils. They melt quickly so don’t leave the pan unattended.
When there are just a few tiny pieces of un-melted oil floating around, take the pan off the heat and stir until the pieces are melted. As soon as they are, pour the pre-measured liquid oils into the pan and make sure you scrape the bottom of the jug. Castor oil is sticky and can be difficult to pour out.
Step 3: Balancing temperatures
The next step requires some moderating of temperatures. If you’d like to get the same colors of soap shown in the pictures, you’ll need both your pan of oils and the lye solution to be within a few degrees of 100°F (43°C). Your colors may vary if they’re not at the same temperature but you can make soap if they’re within a few degrees of each other ranging from 100-130°F (38-54°C).
If the oils or lye water needs cooling down, set them in the basin of water and stir. I use a digital gun thermometer to take quick temperature measurements but a digital stick type thermometer works well too. When the temperatures are right, you can carry on to the next step.
Step 4: Mixing the oils and lye-solution
Pour the turmeric tinted lye solution through the strainer and muslin and into the pan. The more turmeric you use, the longer it will take to pass through. Don’t try to pass it through quicker than it wants though since that will cause more of the spice to go into the soap. More actual spice means more turmeric speckles.
Step 5: Blending
For the oils, spice, and lye-solution to become turmeric soap you’ll need to saponify it. This is a fancy word for blending the ingredients together so that they form a natural chemical bond. To do this you’ll need a stick (immersion) blender.
Slide the head of the blender into your pan of ingredients at an angle. This minimizes the amount of air in the head and thus air bubbles in your soap. With it turned off, use the blender like a spoon to gently stir the pan’s contents together.
Bring the blender to the center of the pan and press it against the bottom. Turn the blender on for a few seconds but try not to move it while it’s on. After those seconds, turn it off and use it as a spoon again to stir. Repeat these two steps until the soap begins to thicken up. You’ll know it’s time when drips of soap will leave a trace on the surface of the soap. This phase of the soap making ingredients is literally called ‘Trace’.
Step 6: Scent & Antioxidant
Once your soap has thickened up, you can add the essential oil and four drops of the grapefruit seed extract. The first adds a lovely natural scent to your soap and the second is an antioxidant. Your handmade soap will be loaded with lots of moisturizing free-floating oils and the GSE stops them from going rancid. Stir them in relatively quickly since your soap will thicken up fast once it’s at Trace. Move quickly to the next step.
Step 7: Molding the turmeric soap
Pour your soap batter into a mold of your choice. You can use a 6-cavity silicone mold like the one I use or something different. One of my favorite recycled soap molds is empty paper milk or juice cartons. Open one from the top and rinse and dry it out. Pour your soap from the top and in the end, you’ll have a loaf that you can cut into square-shaped bars.
Get as much of the batter into your mold (s) as possible and now leave them to harden and cool. They’ll firm up quickly but you should leave them in the mold for 48 hours. I’ve left my soap batches uncovered on a table-top but if your house is cold you might want to tuck them up inside a cardboard box. Keeping the soap warmer for longer at this stage will intensify the color but it’s totally optional.
Step 8: Curing the turmeric soap
After 48 hours have passed you can safely pop the soap out of the molds. It takes a full two days for the lye to combine with the oils and for it to disappear. However, there’s still a lot of water in your soap so you’ll need to let them ‘Cure’ for a month.
Set the bars in an airy place out of direct sunlight. Space them out on greaseproof paper to increase airflow and leave them there until your month is up. The texture will change from soft and slightly squishy to hard like parmesan cheese. The larger speckles might leak color so make sure the soap bars are on a protective surface. For full instructions on how to cure handmade soap head over here
Using turmeric soap
You can use the turmeric soap immediately after the cure time is up. The bubbles are big and fluffy and I quite like how the speckles look. The darkest bar has a lather that’s a very light yellow, the medium bar’s lather is an off-white, and the lightest bar has white bubbles. Turmeric has beneficial properties for the skin so if you wanted to harness that, you might want to go with a higher spice content in your batches.
This turmeric soap recipe creates bars that have a shelf-life of up to two years. Check the best-by dates of each ingredient you use though since the closest date tells you your soap’s shelf-life.
There’s a solution for if you like the color of these soap bars but would like to reduce the speckles. At the beginning of this recipe I instruct you to place the turmeric powder with the lye crystals and then mix it with water. Instead, follow these steps:
- Place the turmeric in a sealed paper tea bag
- Infuse the tea bag with 150g (5.3oz) of scalding water
- Leave the spice in the water for at least an hour and until the water is room temperature. Discard the turmeric tea bag.
- Strain the tinted water and measure the 120g (4.2oz) that you’ll need for this recipe.
- Mix the tinted water with the lye crystals and continue with the rest of the steps for this turmeric soap recipe
Turmeric Soap Recipe Ingredients
One place that you can get the majority of your soap making ingredients is iHerb. I ordered most of the ingredients from their online shop and they had it in my hands in no time flat. iHerb supplies high-quality natural supplements and oils and has over 400 different products from Nature’s Way alone. I’ve ordered from them several times now and their service is excellent and their delivery prompt.
iHerb also ships to over 160 countries and has support in ten different languages. I’m based on the Isle of Man and it literally took less than a week for the ingredients to arrive from the USA. If you’ve not ordered from them before, iHerb also offers a discount to new customers. New customers can get a discount off their Nature’s Way Order plus get an additional $5 off their order of $40 or more over here.
iHerb’s oils are high quality and in many cases food grade. That means that you can use whatever’s left of the refined coconut oil for sautéeing, for example. You can of course use the oils to make even more soap and other beauty items — I have a lot of free recipes you can check out over here.
Turmeric in natural skincare
The Nature’s Way Turmeric Powder I use for coloring soap is a fine powder and of dietary supplement grade. That means that anything you have leftover can be used to make other beauty products. Aside from its use in natural coloring soap, turmeric also supports skin health. A relative of ginger, turmeric roots contain the natural healing compound curcumin. It gives turmeric its color but also helps speed up the healing of wounds and skin infections. It can also give your skin a healthy glow.
To get the most benefit from turmeric you can use it in handmade soap or add it to facial masks. Mix half a teaspoon with yogurt and honey and leave it on your skin for 10-15 minutes. Rinse off with warm water and gently pat your skin dry. It’s best not to use turmeric in bath bombs or other bath products though. That’s because it has a tendency to collect in porous surfaces so might stain your tub.
I wondered if you could suggest what is the best way sell handmade soaps in the UK? I’m not sure what the requirements are and if I have to register with anyone?
Soapmaking, even on a small level, is highly controlled in the UK. You cannot sell to the public if you don’t have cosmetic public liability insurance. You can’t get that without having product safety assessments for each of your recipes. You also need to keep detailed records of your batches, PIFs (product information files) and register every product to the UK cosmetic database. There’s a lot of paperwork/time/money involved in getting set up.
I like recipe. One I will definitely try. I would like to make more volume, what’s your lye to water ratio and what super fat % did you use?
Hi Tamar, most of my recipes include this information, but this is an oldie. In any case, this is information that you can work out pretty easily on your own. If you run this or any recipe through the soap calc, it will tell you the superfat. As far as the lye-to-water ratio, all you need to do is divide the lye amount by the water amount.
Hi Lovely Greens, I am wondering if tumeric can be added to the oils and not strained through muslin. What would the result be?
Hi Karen, turmeric powder in soap can create a light texture or, if not dispersed evenly, can create dark speckles in the bars.
Can we replace cocoa butter and it is expensive instead of it what to use and how much lye we need to add
Hi Sushama, the soap recipe here is a stand-in. You can use turmeric to naturally color most cold process soap recipes including this eco-friendly soap recipe.
Hi, can I use fresh shredded turmeric? Instead of powder? Thanks
You could use pureed turmeric but not shredded. Shredded pieces of turmeric would likely rot in your bars.
Can you use goats milk in this recipe?
Hi Heather, goats milk is an additive that you can add to many soap recipes including this one. This goats milk soap recipe shows you how you can replace part of the water needed for the lye solution with goats milk. The technique is one that ensures that your soap will not discolor from the milk.
I have eczema and hyperpigmentation and heard that turmeric soap is great for that. Will this help with that or would I need to make adjustments?
If you’d like to get the best benefit from turmeric, I’d recommend going with a higher amount in your soaps. You could also make turmeric packs for your skin, though it can leave a temporary color.
Can you substitute more olive oil for the sunflower oil (their SAP values are only 0.01 off)? I’m going to try to also go off of a recipe I found that calls for palm oil as well (this is the recipe, and I was thinking to just use 33% olive oil instead and I was wondering if I need to change the amount of lye to use)? Thanks in advance if you respond, I’ve only made one batch of CP soap before and I used a pre-made oil mix so I’m a total beginner at making it with my own oils and I’m struggling to figure out lye calculators.
Castor Oil (3%)
Cocoa Butter (4%)
Coconut Oil (30%)
Olive Oil (13%)
Palm Oil (25%)
Sunflower Oil (20%)
Shea Butter (5%)
Sodium Hydroxide Lye
Distilled Water (10% water discount)
hi,if u make the loaf soap instead or the bars should you cut it after 48 hours?
Hi Tyrah and yes, cut your soap into bars after 48 hours :)
Made the soap ( ran recipe in soap cal) it called for less lye and water. Making another batch with your exact measurement. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Jan, water and lye amounts are variable in soap recipes based on the superfat percentage and lye concentration. Good luck with the recipe :)
Hi Tanya. Your blog is fantastic and your natural soap recipes have inspired me with my own soap making. I have made one batch successfully, I think – still to cure!
I’m already thinking ahead to my next batch. With this recipe do you think I can use non-refined coconut oil that does have a scent of coconut?
Hi Freya, you can use unrefined/virgin coconut oil if you wish but the scent does not survive the soapmaking process. In fact, it can sometimes leave an unpleasant smell. I’d advise you to save your luscious and delicious virgin coconut oil for cooking and desserts and use odor-less and far cheaper refined coconut oil for soapmaking. Refined coconut oil is also fantastic for cooking with and if you bought more than you plan on using for soapmaking, you could use the rest for healthier frying and roasting.
I can’t get hold of cocoa butter, what can i replace it with? I have shea and cocunut and the other oils on hand though.
PS I also don’t want to use palm oil as its not eco.
Thanks in advance
Hi Rayna, I recommend that you look through my palm-free soap recipes and choose a base recipe from one of those. You can add the same amount of turmeric to most any 1-lb soap recipe.
Hi Tanya, I have made this soap but I made a mistake. I forgot to put the sunflower oil, so my soap now is missing one important ingredient. Can I still use my soap? Or I should throw it away.
It’s not safe to use on your skin as it will be lye-heavy. The best thing to do is grate up the soap and re-batch it in a slow cooker with the missing sunflower oil :)
hello, exactly 4 pieces of this recipe? Is it a problem if I measure twice as much? 126 Gr sodium hydroxide seemed a little too much
Yes, you can double this recipe by doubling the amount of every ingredient.
Good day! Can i add turmeric powder to melt and pour. If yes, how many grams for 1 lb. Thank you and God bless!
Yes you can add turmeric powder to melt and pour soap. Go easy on it though, and no more than half a teaspoon for a 1-lb batch. Mix it with an equal amount of rubbing alcohol before you add it into your soap base.
Will the tumeric stain my skin?
No, the turmeric will not stain your skin or your shower/tub.
Hi Tanya think I’m trying this recipe next. Quick question can I use a regular turmeric if I can’t find the brand you use. I have the Trader Joe’s one. So looking forward to making this soap for my personal use. Love how turmeric have my skin glowing all the time.
Any turmeric will do :)
hi, thank you for this wonderful recipe. i absolutely love turmeric soap. been using it for sometime now and ive always wanted to make my own. however, the soap that im using now has sandalwood in it too. so i was wondering how can i incorporate sandalwood powder in this recipe. would appreciate your feedback. thank you
Hi there! Sandalwood powder gives a reddish-purple colour so adding it will give you different hue results. I’ve not made a combination of turmeric and sandalwood before but if you end up experimenting I’d love to hear how they mix!
Thanks I’m always looking for more natural colour ideas!
This one is a goodie Liz :)
Hi Tanya, I used turmeric a few times. The soaps had medium yellow colour and I was happy with that very much. But after some time using the soaps the colour faded away and the soaps became white. Maybe you know something about this? Also, I use lard instead of cocoa or shea butter. All other four oils are the same as in your recipes. Can be lard the reason of changed colours? I am saying colours, because it happened to a soap with alkanet root also.
Hi Virginia — over months some natural colors do fade, especially if they’re stored in an area that’s quite bright. I don’t think it has anything to do with your using lard (a white oil) but it could have to do with the amounts of colorants you’re using, how they’re stored, and how old they are.
Thank you for your reply. I read another article of yours where you are saying about the expiry date on the bottles. I am going to be very careful about that. I also used pigment colours like green and blue in my soaps and they were fine, never faded. Thank you for your Lovely Greens and wish you a lovely day!
Holly of Kapia Mera suggests adding some kaolin clay to prevent/retard fading. I’m going to try that with my next batch and put away a bar in a cool dark place checking for fading over time.
My suspicion is that it will be the dark place that stops fading rather than the clay. UV light is what breaks down a lot of natural pigments and causes colors to fade.