Sweet Orange Soap Recipe + Soap Making Instructions
Make this fragrant orange soap recipe with a special orange essential oil and tiny flecks of orange zest. These are truly beautiful bars, and the scent is long-lasting! Includes full cold-process soap-making instructions
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When I used to sell soap from a market stall, I’d have customers approach and ask for naturally scented soap that suits the entire family. Nothing too floral or spicy, and something that both adults and children will love. The obvious answer to me is a citrusy-scented soap, but the problem is that most citrus essential oils are volatile, meaning that they evaporate pretty quickly. That’s why most citrus-scented soaps are made with synthetic fragrances. I avoid using them, so instead of making a lemon or sweet orange soap recipe, I used to only work with essential oils like may chang or lemongrass.
To explain, if you make a batch of soap with standard lemon or sweet orange essential oil, within days of making it, the bars will smell like nothing. It’s a disappearing act that’s not only disappointing but expensive too. As we know, soap recipes call for more than just a few drops of essential oil. There’s a trick to rich citrusy scent, and we’ll use that special ingredient in this sweet orange soap recipe. The bars are also decorated with tiny pieces of orange zest that don’t add scent but give your bars a speckled orange pattern.
Sweet Orange Soap Recipe
Before we get to the orange soap recipe, let me give you an overview of what to expect. This is a natural cold-process soap recipe that you make from scratch using lye. It uses five common soapmaking base oils that include mango butter, coconut oil, and castor oil. The secret in the scent is that you use folded orange essential oil, preferably 10x but you can use 5x folded if that’s all you can find. It’s a concentrated orange essential oil and much more suitable for soapmaking than ordinary orange essential oil. If you use the latter, your soap’s lovely citrus scent will fade quickly.
At the end of the process, you’ll have about six standard-sized bars of soap. If you use small silicone molds like those above, then you can get even more. If you use the 10x orange essential oil, the scent of the bars will be sweet and orange, even after a month’s curing time. In the UK, you can get this essential oil from the Soap Kitchen. In the USA, I’ve seen it for sale with Brambleberry.
Natural Soap Making for Beginners Series
If you are new to cold-process soap making, please read through my free four-part series on making natural soap below. I also have an extensive cold-process soap-making ebook that I think you’ll find very helpful.
- Natural Soapmaking Ingredients
- Soapmaking Equipment & Safety
- Easy Soap Recipes
- The Full Cold Process Soap Making Process
Citrus Soapmaking Inspiration
If you’re a big fan of natural citrus-scented essential oils, I have several more for you to try out. May chang essential oil is my favorite citrus essential oil and features in the carrot soap recipe and the calendula soap. Grapefruit essential oil can be volatile too, but the simple hot-process soap recipe smells fresh and pleasant, especially since it also uses mango butter as the superfat. Lastly, the lemongrass soap recipe is a good one for beginners since it also includes a full DIY video.
Sweet Orange Soap Recipe + Soap Making Instructions
- Stainless steel pan for melting the solid oils
- A large bowl for measuring the liquid oils into
- Small dish or pan for melting the mango butter
- Citrus zester
- 70 g Sodium hydroxide 2.46 oz
- 126 g Distilled water 4.43 oz
- 125 g Coconut oil (refined) 4.41 oz / 25%
- 50 g Mango butter 2.12 oz / 10%
- 175 g Olive oil 6.17 oz / 35%
- 75 g Sweet almond oil 2.65 oz / 15%
- 50 g Castor oil 1.76 oz / 10%
Add at Trace
- 25 g Mango butter 0.88 oz / Melted / 5%
- 14 g Folded Orange Essential Oil 3 tsp / preferable 10x orange essential oil
- 1/2 tsp Orange zest freshly grated
- Prepare your workstation with your tools and equipment. Put on rubber gloves, eye protection, and an apron. Carefully pre-measure the ingredients. The solid oils into the pan, the liquid oils into a jug, the second portion of mango butter (for adding after trace) in a small saucepan or microwaveable dish, the water into a heat-proof jug, and the lye in another container. Keep the bottle of essential oil ready to measure from, and if it comes with a built-in dropper, carefully remove it. I use a butter knife to lever it out from the outer edge.
- Zest a small orange with a small zesting tool or grater. Measure the amount and place it in a small bowl or ramekin.
Mix the Lye Solution
- In an airy place, outdoors is best, pour the lye crystals into the distilled water and stir well. There will be a lot of heat and steam so be careful. Try not to breathe it in. Leave outside in a safe place, or in a shallow basin of water to cool. You're aiming for the final temperature of the lye solution to be bout 100-110°F / 38-43°C.
Melt the Solid Oils
- Melt the solid oils in a stainless steel pan on very low heat. When melted, remove from the heat and set on a potholder. Stir the liquid oils together in the jug and pour into the pan of melted oils. Castor oil is pretty sticky and it's easier to pour when mixed with a lighter oil.
- Measure the temperatures of the lye-water and the oils. You should aim to cool them both to be about 100-110°F / 38-43°C.
- While the oils and lye solution are cooling, you need to melt the mango butter to a fully liquid consistency. You can do this easily by microwaving for short bursts and stirring. My preferred method is to put it into a small saucepan, then float this saucepan in another pan of hot water. It's a gentler way to melt it, but either way, make sure the mango butter is fully melted before moving to the next step.
Make Sweet Orange Soap
- Now it's time to make your fragrant sweet orange soap. You begin by adding the orange zest. Adding it early in the process means it will get pulsed by the next step and that the long curls of zest get chopped into small pieces.
- Next, pour the lye solution into the pan of oils. I recommend pouring the liquid through a sieve to catch any potential undissolved lye.
- Dip your immersion blender into the pan and with it turned off, stir the mixture. Next, bring it to the center of the pan, and with both your hands, hold it on the bottom of the pan and blitz it for just a couple of seconds. Turn it off and stir the soap batter, using the blender as a spoon. Repeat until the mixture thickens up to 'Trace'. This is when the batter leaves a distinguishable trail on the surface. The consistency will be like thin custard.
- Next, pour the melted mango butter in and stir thoroughly.
- Pour in the essential oil and stir it quickly but gently.
Molding and Curing
- Working quickly, pour the soap into the mold. Give it a jiggle to settle it in the cavities.
- Next step, option 1: For a light-colored soap, cover the exposed soap in the mold with cling film and place the soap in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, take the soap out of the fridge and set someplace to rest for another day. Once 48 hours have passed, you can take the soap out of the molds. Doing this will ensure the base soap stays pale and makes the orange zest specks stand out.
- Next step, option 2: leave the mold on a kitchen countertop to cool and harden, and depending on the room temperature, it may turn out a slightly creamier color. Leave for 48 hours before taking the soap out of the molds.
- Cure it for 28 days. Curing means leaving the bars spaced out on a protected surface out of direct sunlight and in an airy place. This allows the extra water content to fully evaporate out. Here are full instructions on how to cure soap.
- Once made, your soap will have a shelf-life of the closest best-by date of the specific ingredients you used.
How do l make this with normal orange essential oil?
You can but after a week the scent will almost completely disappear.
If I were to also include a base note in this soap, what eo would you recommend?
Hi Lyndy, I might try ginger, lavender, and/or patchouli but that’s just a personal preference. Other base notes that work with orange include black pepper and sandalwood.
can i change the fo to blood orange fragrance oil?
You could, but the scent of your soap would probably disappear after about a week. Orange and lemon essential oils don’t last long unless they’re folded varieties — such as the 10x orange I recommend for this recipe.
Thank you for this lovely recipe. Just a quick question I can’t source the 10 x orange EO. But have May Chang can I use this instead.
Yes, of course! It won’t smell like oranges but it will smell lovely and citrusy :)
HI TANYA PLEASE GIVE ME SOME SUGGESTIONS REGARDING THE SWEATING OF SOAPS DURING MONSOON. THIS IS A MAJOR PROBLEM IN INDIA.
Hi Arefa, sweating can happen when the ambient temperature is hot and/or humid. That pretty much sums up the monsoon! The moisture in the air pulls the natural glycerine out of the bars and that’s what you see beading up. You could use a dehumidifier to help with the moisture levels in the room where you keep your soap. I’d even go so far as to create a special cupboard for the soap with a few vents at the top and a dehumidifier running inside too.
I’m getting ready to make this sweet orange soap and realized that I do not have sweet almond oil. Can I replace with Avocado Oil?
Hi Tammy and check out this piece on how to change and customize a soap recipe :)
How long will orange 5x last, I’ve tried getting the 10x from brambleberry but they can’t ship that product to Canada for some reason. I’m not sure why.
It’s not as strong as 10x but is far better than standard sweet orange essential oil in soapmaking. I suggest getting a small bottle, trying it in a small soap recipe like this, and see what you think. For some people, it will have a strong enough scent, but for others, it might not be strong enough. It’s a personal preference :)
Hello Tanya, it’s such a pleasure to write you. You are very inspiring! Love your flower gardens and how industrious you are.
I successfully made the lemongrass soap the other day! I added more yellow than green mineral powder to make the soaps more yellow than green. Thank you– I’m very happy with it.
I have a question about your orange soap; why do you separate the mango butter and add the last 25g of it at trace with the essential oil? May I just add all 75g of mango butter at the beginning?
Also on the day that I made the soap, it smelled heavenly of oranges, but I noticed that the soap had a weird, almost nauseating smell, and much less orange scent, on the day I pulled it out of the mold. Do you have an idea why? Will this go away after curing the soaps and smell more like oranges?
Thanks for your reply!
Hi Tomoko, you can of course add it all from the beginning. However, if you add it after trace, it has a higher chance of being the majority of the superfat. As for the scent — did you use ordinary orange essential oil or the more concentrated 10x type?
I used the 10x orange EO from Bramble Berry. So I guess it should smell more like oranges than anything else? I’ll have to experiment some more. Thanks for your reply! Cheers!
You’re welcome, and if the eo doesn’t smell like oranges from the bottle, get in touch with the company who sold it to you. Good luck :)
Hello, wondering if I could make this without using the lye? With a goats milk soap.
Hi Monica, this is a ‘from scratch’ soap recipe. You could use the essential oil and zest with a melt-and-pour soap base though. The amounts listed here would be for 500g of your chosen soap base.
Tanya, sounds like a very nice soap to make. Can the coconut oil be substituted for another ingredient??? I read that one should not substitute Mango for Shea or Cocoa butter, but what about the Coconut???
Hi Terri, swapping out any oils in a soap recipe is not as easy as it sounds. Though you could use babassu oil instead of coconut oil, the amount of lye would change so you would need to recalculate the recipe. That’s because every oil has a different saponification value, meaning every oil needs a different amount of lye per gram to turn into soap.
Hello Tanya, Thank you for sharing this recipe and all the thought and research that has gone into it. May I ask if using a brine would work with this recipe? I’ve read your soleseife recipe which looks intriguing. I have a complex silicone mould to work with so I’m in need of a harder soap that I can successfully unmould. Many thanks. Erica.
Hi Erica, and yes, you could use a salt brine in this recipe. What might be better for you is sodium lactate, though. You add it to the lye solution after it cools a bit and it gives consistently firm bars.
Hi, This soap intrigues me. BUT will the Sweet Orange Scent prevail since citrus usually doesn’t. Is this combination different?
Hi Mary Jean, as explained in the piece, the essential oil used is a special type of orange essential oil. It’s called Orange 10x (or 10-fold) and is MUCH more intense than ordinary sweet orange essential oil. It also smells amazing and actually lasts in handmade soap.
Hi there! New soap maker here. I just made your recipe here, and it has turned out gorgeous so far. Thank you so much for sending this out into the world. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
Hello, I am having trouble finding olive pomace oil and was wondering if I could substitute for regular olive oil. I am not farmiliar with the soap calculators and usually use the recipes as they are provided. Please help!!! Mille merci!!
Yes you can use both extra virgin olive oil or better yet, the olive oil sold as light or light-colored olive oil. This lighter stuff tends to be Pomace olive oil and is a little cheaper.
I am keen to try this recipe. Do you think I could use normal olive oil rather than pomace oil? Would it affect the final colour ? Thank you
You can and yes it will affect the color depending on how virgin the oil is. It will be more creamy to pale yellowy-green but should look perfectly fine.
Just finished making this soap and realised I forgot to add the extra mango butter at trace. Will the soap still be ok to use?
Hi i was wondering if i could use normal olive oil instead of pomace oil? Will it change the soap much?
See the reply to Maria’s question :)
This is Rekha from India. I have been following your recipes for sometime now and I really love them. My question is can I replace mango butter with Shea/cocoa butter. I would be much obliged if you reply.
I’m very sorry Rekha, but neither of those oils is a direct replacement for mango butter. There are few oils that can directly replace any others in soap recipes. If you’re not able to source mango butter, and you are a beginner soapmaker, please use a different soap recipe. You can add the orange zest and orange essential oil in this one to any other 1-lb soap recipe, such as this one.
Thank you for your quick response. Will try to get Mango butter.
Great recipe you shared about making an orange soap, all the 10 steps are interesting and looks natural, definitely gonna try out this, we are from the city of oranges.
I love your site. Being a beginner it really helps me a lot. I want to make this bit have only citrus fragrance. I don’t have other additives. Can I just make it using orange zest and this fragrance?
Thank you so much
What type of citrus fragrance do you have?
Will the fresh orange peel mold or turn brown? I love this soap! So lovely!
It stays orange for a long time — months and months!
Oh that sounds beautiful, thanks for the tip, I’ve had no success with orange on its own.
The trick is in using 10x orange essential oil. It actually lasts in soap recipes!
Thank you, Tanya! I have just made this soap – it smells amazing. If half the scent remains after curing I still will be happy with it. I used tangerine zest as I didn’t have any oranges. Unfortunately my trace was too thick again – for me this is the most difficult part of soap making, to hit the right trace. So my soaps will look ugly .. err .. I mean rustic. ;-)
Rustic can be pretty too :) Pleased you like the soap and good luck with your trace next time. It helps to only do short pulses with the stick blender and to stir it for longer intervals between pulses.