Fresh Patchouli Soap

Stacked soap bars with red and white stripes

Try this fresh patchouli soap recipe at home. This is a layered soap, the first one I present in my blog. The result was a pretty red and cream layered soap, scented with patchouli and rose fragrance oil.

Patchouli!

Patchouli essential oil comes from the leaves of the patchouli plant, a type of aromatic herb originated from the tropical climates in South Asia. It became popular along with incense in the 60’s and 70’s due to the indie movement, in the USA.

Patchouli has a strong, sweet scent that falls into the musky-earthy category. It is a base note in perfumes, meaning that it’s the fragrance you smell after the top and mid notes have melted away.)While it’s part of the mint family, patchouli doesn’t smell fresh and cool the way typical mint varieties in the grocery store do. Instead, it smells sweet, spicy and musky.

Much of the evidence for the benefits of patchouli oil is anecdotal, but research is beginning to show that it does have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and pain-relieving properties.

In my experience, patchouli results greatly with rose fragrance.

Why a Rose Fragrance Oil?

Well, because rose absolute essential oil is quite expensive, making any soap batch (1 Kg) you make at home go from costing 5€ to 50€! I’ve first started to use a so-called “rose essential oil” for 6€ per 20 ml, which scent is quite good, but it’s not really an essential oil – it’s too cheap to be an authentic rose oil, so it must be adulterated. I now use a rose fragrance oil, which smells wonderful and, well, I know what I am buying. 

I still have nothing against essential oils, I do buy a lot of them, but after a lot of reading and some research, I am more and more convinced that essential oils and – good – fragrance oils are not that different for the purpose you want them in soap -scent. One of these days, I’ll write an article about frangrance oil vs essential oil.

Soap Makers Always Want to Try For Soap Swirling and Layers

When you make handmade soap by cold process, you have the opportunity to use diffenret colorants, and while the soap batter is still liquid/paste, you can make swirl designs or a layered soap with different colored layers. There are several techniques for this, with spoons, metal wires (stainless steel!), pouring soap in certain sequences, and using large soap molds. 

Handmade Soap Bars at Etsy

It’s unavoidable. You see the beautiful handmade soaps pictures flooding the net and you want to make one just like that. At least, you want to try. You get so excited-girly-style with a pretty soap you made yourself!! I was no exception, after successfully making soap at home on my own, I wanted to make a pretty soap!

My Experiences

I’ve started with my soap making hobby in September 2019. Since the early 2020 – a perfect year to practice a hobby due to the COVID pandemic – I have been trying to make a layered soap, or a soap with swirls. My very first experiment was in late 2019 with a coconut soap base, but I believe it worked by chance – I simply mixed (only a little bit) blue and whitish soap batter still inside the pitcher, while the soap batter must have been paste-like.

Since then, I was either trying natural colorants or soap bases, and how to use herbs and plants on soap, and swirls/layers experiments were postponed. When I simply focus on making a layered soap or swirl soap, I ended up with soap batter accelerating and setting (= getting solid) before I could separate it into several pitchers and use different colorants.

One of those experiments was another batch of coconut soap that I didn’t have time to even put any colorant, much less make layers….  

My last almost-failed-but-still-made-it soap was this blue and violet soap I made for gifts for Christmas, it set quite fast and I had to madly rush to get my colorful layers. It was too stressful, so I the meantime I did change the recipe 🙂

Tips to Make Soap Design

So… Experience taught me that, if you want to make swirls and layers, use a soap base with a good percentage of liquid oils, around 70% or more. 

100% olive oil soap is great for these sort of design techniques, but be careful with soda ash: I still can’t completely avoid soda ash in olive oil soaps, and the white can cover all your nice colorful designs.

For layers, the soap batter should be at a medium to heavy trace, for swirlings should be more liquid.

Other tips are to use low temperatures (38ºC-35ºC) to mix the lye water into the oils, use a low lye concentration, meaning basically more water for the same ammount of oils and soda (but beware of soda ash…), and avoid stick blending at a maximum. Keep mixing the soap batter with a spoon only to avoid it to set.

Some essencial oils and fragrance oils, due to its chemical composition, may also accelerate the soap batter into solidifying. You should know what fragrance/essential oils accelerate your soap base before experimenting these design techniques. 

Unfortunatelly, essential oils may differ in composition even if they come from same supplier/brand. Fragrance oils, it depends on the chemical formula each manufacturer uses. So it’s dificult to setup a list and say that this essential oil accelerates while that doesn’t. 

The Recipe

So, I’ve setup this recipe to be able to make a layered soap – and I suppose it’s workable. Although I remember I did have to work quickly while making the layers, I didn’t have to spoon it out of the pitcher as with other (failed) recipes. Still, I consider this as an advanced recipe, and you should have some experience with soap making before jumping into this one. I used red mica as colorant for the red part, the cream-white is the natural color of the soap base.

In this recipe, you need to use a 2 lb (1 kg) bar soap mold, and cut the soap into small bars after 48 hours. It won’t work with individual soap molds (or you will have a differetn design from the picture, which is possible of course). 

While pouring soap for the layers, I really didn’t care how much I’ve put of each color. Just pour the soap and let gravity do its job, the more uneven the layers the prettier the soap 🙂 It’s a test to your patience to wait 48 hours to see how it looks like, but then it’s a very exciting moment, to unmold and cut your soap with pretty hidden designs inside.

Have fun making this soap, and enjoy your soaps at home!!!

More Design Soaps


Watch this video for Soap Making Safety instruction

Video in portuguese
Video in english

Watch this video for the Cold Process Soap Making tutorial

Video in portuguese
Video in english

Homemade Patchouli Soap Recipe

Sofia Matias
This is the first recipe with layers that I present in my blog. It was also my first successful layered soap! The result was a pretty red and cream layered soap, scented with patchouli and rose fragrance oil. The scent is pleasant but it doesn't resemble roses, therefore, as simple as that, it became a patchouli soap.
Difficulty: Medium /Advanced
Weight: 800g
Lye Concentration: 35,8%
Superfat: 5%
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Total Time1 hour 10 minutes
MethodCold Process
ProductSoap Bar
Servings10 soap bars
Cost$10 – $30 / 8 – 25€

Equipment

  • Immersion blender
  • Pyrex or stainless steel bowl
  • Heat-proof jug for lye solution
  • Digital scale
  • Digital thermometer
  • Rubber spatula(s)
  • Small strainer
  • Cup / bottle for after trace ingredients
  • Soap mold
  • Safety goggles, gloves and mask

Ingredients
 

Lye Water

  • 202 g distilled water
  • 113 g lye (100% sodium hydroxide)
  • 1 tsp sodium lactate or fine salt

Oils

  • 400 g extra virgin olive oil
  • 200 g refined or organic coconut oil
  • 150 g RSPO palm oil
  • 50 g castor oil

After Trace

  • 10 drops grapefruit seed extract (GSE) or rosemary extract (RSO) (anti-oxidant)
  • 1 tsp red mica (CI 77491 – optional) red iron oxide
  • 22 ml essential oils blend (optional)

Essential Oils Blend

  • 1 tbps rose fragrance oil
  • 3 tsp essential oil patchouli

Decoration

  • Dried calendula petals (optional)

Instructions

Get Ready!

  • Wear goggles and gloves! Look at “Safety Recommendations” in How to Make Soap From Scratch
  • Watch the video above or read the post How To Make Soap by Cold Process Step-by-Step for instructions on cold process. These are generic steps for all recipes.
  • Assemble everything: ingredients, equipment, safety equipment. Prepare your workstations. Measure all the ingredients. Don’t start the recipe without having everything ready!
  • Measure the red mica and add a teaspoon of oil (you can use a teaspoon of the measured olive oil). Mix well to avoid clumps of mica.

Heat the Oils

  • Heat the oils until the solid oils are completely melted (it is not necessary to heat all the time). Up to around 60ºC.

Make The Lye Water

  • Make the lye solution according to How To Make Lye Water. Add the sodium lactate to the water and mix. Add the lye and mix well until the vapors start to dissipate. Strain the lye water to avoid any lye crystals in your soap.

Make The Soap Batter

  • Use as a target temperature 38ºC for the oil-solution mixture. If necessary, you can reheat the oils, but not the lye solution. Reach light trace with the immersion blender.

Add After Trace Ingredients

  • Add after trace ingredients: essential oils blend and grapefruit extract. Mix well the batter only with a spoon / spatula. THe fragrance can accelerate trace, so be quick from now on.

Make The Layers and Mold The Soap

  • Pour half the soap batter into one pitcher and half of the batter to another pitcher.
  • Pour the red mica with the oil into one of the pitchers and mix well with a spoon or spatula, until the soap is homogeneous. Mix also the white soap batter. By now the soap batter should be like medium/heavy trace.
  • Using a loaf soap mold, pour first a layer of the white soap batter covering the soap mold bottom completely.
  • Pour a layer of red soap, then another layer of white soap, and proceed like that until you finish all your soap batter.

Decorating The Soap

  • Make some effects on the top of the dough with a spoon, spatula or fork (see video). Sprinkle the top of your soap with alcohol or witch hazel. Add some calendula petals to the top.
  • Now you need to insulate the loaf mold, so that the soap gels uniformly. You can cover it all around with a blanket or a thick towel. You can also use your oven: pre-heat the oven with 40ºC. Turn it off then place the loaf mold inside.

Unmolding and Curing

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

4 Comments

  1. This is a very helpful post on making layered soap and I can imagine that the patchouli oil had a beautiful, distinct fragrance. I attended a soap making workshop many years ago, and I cannot quite remember all the ingredients. But we had to leave all the windows and doors open because of some very strong fumes that was dangerous. 

    Looking at your instructions, I think it is the sodium hydroxide, so is there an alternative ingredient that can substitute the sodium hydroxide that is safer?

    1. Hello LineCowley and thanks for your comment 🙂

      Nope, if you want to make soap from scratch, there’s no way around lye water and sodium hydroxide. It’s a critical ingredient to create soap salts (i.e., natural soap). The biggest danger is to inhale the fumes or have some drops falling on your skin. it gives you a chemical burn :/ But if you avoid that, with a mask, goggles, gloves and clothes that fully cover your skin you’re ready to go. Besides, the vapours are just there for a minute or two, and the lye water, actually is as dangerous as pure bleach. 

      I make soap since September 2019 and although I felt some itches with a bit of water hitting my skin, I’ve never ever got burned. The best thing you can do is, if you feel your skin itchy and irritated (or if you know a drop of lye water fell on your skin) don’t wait: immediately wash the area with abundant running cold water.

      But….

      …if you feel intimidated with lye anyway…

      …you have melt and pour!! 😀 

      Just buy 1 kg of soap base and have fun with your first soaps! I have one recipe with melt and pour: https://herbalcochete.com/how-

      Cheers and stay safe!

      Sofia

  2. 5 stars
    Hello, I really like the way this soap looks. It’s not that hard to make. Thanks for posting!

    1. Hello and thanks for your comment and rating.

      I am glad the recipe works!

      Cheers,
      Sofia

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