aromatic melt & pour soaps

December 8, 2014

aromatic melt & pour soaps

Few DIY projects are as easy as making your own aromatic melt-and-pour soaps — just about anyone can do it, you don’t need many special supplies, and the resulting products are superior in quality and fragrance to most store-bought soaps.

You can create unique blends for individual gift recipients or make a master batch of one soap in big bars or cute, little hand soaps for the guest bathroom.

We didn’t love bar soaps in our household — they tended to be messy, drying, and smell like chemicals. Since we began making and using our own, however, we use them all the time, particularly at the various sinks around the farm.

I’m sharing the simple recipe base for our favorite melt-and-pour soap along with several essential oil combinations to inspire your own creations.

When I’m short on time, I have used the organic melt and pour base available from Brambleberry. The soap features organic coconut oil, organic palm oil, and vegetable glycerine and is made without the use of sodium lauryl sulfate. The soap is mostly clear with a slightly yellow cast, has a wonderful lather, and holds scent exceptionally well. You can get a host of other melt-and-pour soap bases from Brambleberry and other suppliers, too, if you prefer a milk, honey, goat’s milk, hemp, shea, or other base soap instead. [FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m no longer using this organic soap base, lovely though it is. Why? It contains PALM OIL. I can’t in good conscience continue to use products that leverage this unsustainable resource. These days, I make big batches of homemade soap with friends that we blend and share.]

If you’re planning on making and giving soaps as gifts this holiday season, note that your soap will need to first set completely in a mold (4 hours plus) and then cure for three days before it can be used. If you don’t allow your soap to cure properly, you’ll be disappointed to find it melts away significantly with first use, so plan time for your soaps to mature before you unmold, package, and gift them.

I have a variety of soap molds at my disposal including smaller molds for hand soaps and larger bar-style molds. By far my favorites are the silicone molds now available on the market: they are easy to use and clean and they make it much easier to “pop” the finished soaps out once they’ve hardened. While there are formal soap molds available from soap-making supply companies, you can also use some of the fun shapes available in the silicone molds from the Wilton cake- and candy-making company. They have miniature pine trees, Christmas lights, stars, and other fun shapes available and they work perfectly for soap-making (as well as candy and brownies, mmmmmmm….).

This season, I have three different kinds of homemade soap in play. The first features the delicious aroma of essential oils from pines and conifers, the second includes an indulgent blend featuring a super-premium, skin-nourishing, anti-inflammatory essential oil, and the last is designed to offer energetic and emotional support — all good things for the winter season!

Soap-making with essential oils uses a significant volume of oil — a little less than 1 ml per ounce of soap or about 15 milliliters per pound of melt-and-pour base. While you may not have a care as to the cost of the soaps you make as gifts, you might want to consider the volume of oils needed when planning to make your soaps–for both cost and conscience. In addition, it’s handy to have a large, glass graduated cylinder (like these) to measure in milliliters as opposed to drops or you’ll have to count to over 100 as you add your oil drop-by-drop….

Ready? Let’s make soap!

Aromatic Melt-and-Pour Soap – Base Recipe


  • 1 pound of melt-and-pour soap, cut into chunks for faster melting
  • 1T organic, unrefined coconut oil OR 1T organic, unrefined jojoba oil


  • a double-boiler (or heatproof glass container and a larger pot with water in which it can safely rest)
  • a spoon or glass stir rod
  • hand soap, bar soap, or other soap molds
  • graduated glass cylinder (to hold 15 ml or more)
  • a small amount of jojoba oil to coat your mold (necessary for non-silicone molds only) (optional)
  • a spray bottle of a small amount of rubbing alcohol with a fine-mist nozzle (optional)

Makes ~16 ounces of soap, enough for four 4-oz. bars, eight 2-oz. bars, or sixteen 1-oz. bars

Heat the water in bottom part of your double boiler (or the pan below your heatproof glass container). Add the soap chunks to the top portion of your double boiler or heatproof glass container; the smaller the chunks you’ve created, the faster your soap will melt. Don’t allow the soap to boil.

While the soap is melting, stir only as necessary and without disrupting the soap too much. Too much stirring will add air bubbles into the soap that you don’t want…

Once you have your soap base melted, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool slightly–it should be cool enough that you can touch it before you add your essential oils.

Add your chosen essential oils to the soap base and stir gently to mix , being careful not to stir in too much air.

Pour your blended soap into your molds. If air bubbles appear on the surface of your soap after pouring and you prefer a perfect surface, spray each soap once with rubbing alcohol and they auto-magically disappear!

Allow soap to cool for at least four hours before unmolding. (I wait 24!) Allow to cure for another 72 hours before using.

Christmas Conifer Soap

Few things hearken to winter like the scent of fresh pine and conifers. For this soap, we’re looking to essential oils from pines and conifers high in the chemical components δ-limonene and α-pinene to deliver not only exquisite aroma, but also antiviral, antibacterial, and immune supportive properties — perfect for little hand soaps in the winter season! I make them using a silicone mold from Wilton shaped like little Christmas trees for added charm.

IMG_2688There are a host of essential oils available from pines and conifers. Since we have a “personal relationship” with several varieties having lived in their midst in both the Pacific Northwest and New Mexico, we are partial to several specific varieties. To wit, my base blend features those varieties: Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine, and Piñon Pine.

To make the Christmas Conifer essential blend, combine the following oils into your large (20 ml or more) graduated cylinder:

  • 8 ml (about 160 drops) Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menzies)
  • 5 ml (about 100 drops) Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa)
  • 2 ml (about 40 drops) Piñon Pine (Pinus edulis)

Add the blended oils as outlined above, stirring gently so as not to introduce too much air. Pour into molds and allow to set. Allow to cure for 72 hours before using.

Balsam Poplar, Sweet Orange, and Palmarosa Soap

Good people, if you haven’t yet experienced Balsam Poplar, get yourself some yesterday! Balsam Poplar (Populus balsamifera) has a rich, sweet, and exotic fragrance and extraordinary anti-inflammatory effect thanks to its unusually high α-bisabolol content. The α-bisabolol content makes blends featuring Balsam Poplar powerful anti-inflammatory agents with antifungal, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, and antioxidant properties. It has strong skin and wound healing properties as well.

While Balsam Poplar is quite pricey, I love it in blends for those who can benefit from its anti-inflammatory and skin-nourishing properties; its wonderful aroma is delicious and belies its powerful therapeutic properties.

I like it with Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) and a little Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini var. motia) for added antibacterial, antiseptic, and antiviral effect and skin nourishing properties.

IMG_2689Note that there are far more effective ways to leverage Balsam Poplar than in a soap in the shower, where it rinses off and down the drain quickly! A luscious cream or body butter featuring Balsam Poplar would be more economical and more effective to be sure. I just couldn’t resist making a sweet soap from it for the people on my list who use bar soap in the tub (and therefore have a chance to soak in the goodness!) or could benefit from an extra indulgent hand soap.

To make a blend for the one pound melt-and-pour base recipe above, pour into a large graduated cylinder:

  • 8 ml (about 160 drops) Balsam Poplar (Populus balsamifera)
  • 5 ml (about 100 drops) Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)
  • 2 ml (about 40 drops) Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini var. motia)

Add the blended oils as outlined above, stirring gently so as not to introduce too much air. Pour into molds and allow to set for at least four hours before removing from the mold. Allow to cure for 72 hours before using.

Ray of Light Soap

lavenderThis has been a favorite at Untamed Alchemy since I made my very first test batch a few years back. The fragrance is uplifting, bright, refreshing, and energetically clearing. It’s particularly wonderful for early morning showers, when you’re up before it’s light outside. Frankincense and Sandalwood Are grounding, clearing, and strengthening oils; they promote healthy, contemplative engagement with life and quiet a “chattering” mind. Sweet Orange encourages positive energy flow and encourages optimism; Lavender encourages balance and calm and eases anxieties and fears. In combination, these oils provide a strong energetic foundation upon which to begin the day.

  • 4 ml (about 80 drops) Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)
  • 4 ml (about 80 drops) Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • 4 ml (about 80 drops) Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)
  • 3 ml (about 60 drops) Hawaiian Sandalwood (Santalum paniculatum)

Note: For extra loveliness, add ground frankincense resin to your soap! It will settle in the bars, serving as an exfoliant with delicious aroma.

Add the blended oils as outlined above, stirring gently so as not to introduce too much air. Pour into molds and allow to set for at least four hours before removing from the mold. Allow to cure for 72 hours before using.

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