Make this fragrant orange soap recipe with a special orange essential oil and tiny flecks of orange zest. Includes cold-process soap making instructions
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 the vast majority of 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 though, 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 pretty 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 10x orange essential oil. It’s a concentrated form of 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 stock with Brambleberry.
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 Soap Making for Beginners Series
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
Add at Trace
- 25 g Mango butter 0.88 oz / Melted / 5%
- 14 g 10x Orange Essential Oil* 3 tsp / This is a concentrated form of 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.
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.
- Lemongrass soap recipe
- Simple hot-process soap recipe (with grapefruit)
- Calendula soap recipe (with may chang and lemongrass)
- Carrot soap recipe (with may chang)