Infusing oil is probably my favorite method of using natural colorants for coloring handmade soap. It works for most natural colorants but we’ll talk about the ones that do better using a different method as we go along. When you infuse oil you don’t get the grainy speckled look you get when you add spice or herb powders to traced soap.
You want to be sure to use a long shelf life oil for infusing. My favorite oil to use when infusing is olive oil. It is in all of my soap recipes.
There are two main methods of infusing oils.
Cold infusion –Add spices or herbs to the oil in a jar and allow to sit 2-6 weeks to infuse. If I’m infusing powdered spices or herbs I infuse 2 tablespoons in 5 oz oil. If I am using dry whole herbs then I’ll fill the jar with the herb and cover with oil. Never use fresh herbs in cold infusions as they contain water and will cause mold and bacteria to grow.
Heat infusion –Add spices or herbs to the oil and heat gently to kick start the infusion. Some spices and herbs infuse easily using the heat infusion method and you can even use the infusion the same day! You can heat using the crock pot turned to warm for 2-6 hours or low heat on the stove for 2-6 hours. You can use fresh herbs in a heat infusion if you plan on using the oil in soap making the same day. Don’t ever store away an infusion made with fresh herbs as they contain water and your infusion will grow bacteria and mold.
My favorite method is to use a hot water bath to gently heat the infusions. I seal the herbs and spices in heat-sealable tea bags so I don’t have to worry about straining the infusion before I use it. I just simply remove the tea bag. Here’s how I do it.
I usually infuse 2 tablespoons of any powdered herb or spice into 5 ounces of olive oil.
Step 1 – Measure out 2 tablespoons of your powdered herb into a heat-sealable tea bag.
Step 2 – Seal the edge with an iron. Make sure it is sealed and will not come open.
Step 3 – Place the sealed teabag into the canning jar and cover with 5 oz (weight) of olive oil.
Step 4 – Screw on the lid and secure tightly. If you’re doing many infusions at once make sure you label them so you don’t forget what they are. I just use a permanent marker on the lid.
Step 5 – Place your jars into a pan. Fill the pan with enough water to reach about 1” underneath the lid. You want the water to stay plenty beneath the bottom of the jar lids.
Step 6 – Turn the heat on low and let heat for about two hours. You can also do this in a crock pot. Just set the crock pot on warm.
Step 7 – Remove the jars from the pan and allow them to cool away from cool air or drafts. You don’t want the jars to break. I typically put my jars on the counter and cover with a towel to keep out the drafts or air if it kicks on. Check the color of your infusions. Some herbs and spices infuse easier than others. I noticed the alkanet, paprika, indigo, turmeric and annatto all looked nice and dark. But some of the others looked like they needed a bit more time. You can either heat for another hour or two or if you aren’t in a hurry to use them…let them sit somewhere out of the way for a week to get a darker infusion.
That’s it! Wasn’t that easy? And the best part is that since we used the tea bags to contain the spices and herbs we don’t have to bother with straining which can be a mess!
To use your infused oils simply replace a portion of olive oil in a recipe with infused olive oil. Check out this lavender soap that I made using an alkanet infusion.
– Amanda Gail
P.S. Are you looking for added help when it comes to coloring your soap using natural herbs and spices? Check out Natural Soap Color by Jo Haslauer.
Thank you for the amazing read and information.
I have three questions.
1) The Olive oil used can i use pomace olive oil?
2) Once the infusing process is done. Do you leave the bags in the oil and sit and use as you go along or do you remove them straight away once cooled and dispose them.
3) Do you put the bags in the bin or bury them in the garden? What do you do?
Many thanks for taking the time to answer the questions.
Can I used cinnamon as a colorant? I just want enough to swirl the color into a two pound mold. IF I can use it, can I infuse just enough for the one time use?
Hi Amanda, I just found this article by you and wanted to say thank you very much! Have you ever infused bay laurel (the type used in cooking) into oils for soapmaking? I’m reading about “aleppo soap” from Syria which I believe is made using bay essential oil (very expensive from the looks of things), and wondering if infusing the bay leaves in olive oil first as you suggest might work? Can you advise please?
Aleppo soap is made from olive oil and laurel berry fruit oil. Made in Syria original Aleppo soaps undergo a rigid process, and all of us copying it are making Aleppo-inspired soaps. Laurel berry fruit oil is different from bay laurel leaf used as a spice in cooking. You can look up the scientific names and find them to be different. Laurel berry fruit oil is expensive for a reason and is harder to source.
Followed the advice here for infusing indigo powder in 5 oz of olive oil. Looked great after 12 hours in a slow cooker water bath. Nice purple color. So I used all 5 oz in a 3 pound cp batch of soap. None of the color came through. I have a white loaf of soap. Very disappointing.
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Hi,I would like to know if I can infuse the powders in coconut oil instead of olive oil
You can as long as you can keep the coconut oil liquid. 🙂
I’m trying to figure out what color infused Chamomile would make? What would chamomile infused oil be used for?
Hi I think that is more for the benefits of the chamomile and not color. I don’t think you’d get much color.
You can experiment… cham. leaves gives light green; cham. flowers gives a light beige-yellow; cham. EO gives a pastel green
What if you Str using melt and pour soap, how much oil would you add so it doesn’t hamper the soap setting
Saffron is a good natural colorant too.
What color would this make?
I am Astha from India. I wanna learn how to make exotic and herbal soaps
Plz help me with the procedure and the recipes.
Hi Amanda, thank you for the information. I’ve read this back when I started making soaps and learned how to infuse my natural colors from it as this is the best one I’ve found. Now that I’ve been doing this for almost a year, I’ve come back to this article and read it again. I’m having some difficulty with the brightness of color so my question is- do you use both the infused water with lye and the oil in trace to achieve more bold colors? And do you calculate that oil at trace in your original recipe and use a good amount? I tried it but I keep coming out with pale yellow soap with slight purple swirls. I’ve also read that using a greenish olive oil can affect my color. Thank you for your time.
Thank you very much for shedding some light on this process. I am a beginner, but I would like to make my soap all-natural. I have a recipe for carrier oils that is composed of canola oil, coconut oil, olive oil, castor oil, sustainable palm oil and Shea butter. Are there any other oils that I am using that I can infuse with herbs and spices? Or would you recommend making infused olive oil with a particularly strong, bold colour? What’s a better approach in your experience? Also, I would love to know if there’s a suggested way of mixing colours to create layered or marbled effects with natural colorants. I’ve used non-natural colorants at trace and just separated the soap into different portions and added the colorants separately to combine them, but because these herbs and spices aren’t added at trace, I’m not sure how to achieve this. Any advice you can recommend would be very appreciated. Thanks again for your help!
Hi. Love this idea. Am new to soaping and have done a few batches now but eager to try colouring naturally. If I infuse 5oz olive oil with 2 tbsp of powder then when I come to use the unfused oil do you use the whole amount of this infused oil as part of your soft oil amount in your recipe. for example I actually work in grams so I would infuse my 2tbsps with 140g of oil then deduct this 140g from the olive oil in my recipe i.e. 330g so would add 190g. Thanks
Hi , Amanda, how can I buy your ebook? It looks like only for US, I live in Canada ?? and there is no where for me to fill out the blank for Canada address.
Can I put the tea bags into my already mixed varieties of 5 oils to infuse? It will be according to the proportion of 2tsp per 5 oz oil. Also, if I need a more concentrated infusion, can I add more powder per 5 oz oil?
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How much of the infused oil do you use per pound of soap?
I’m a beginner in this world…?. I would like to know if I can use this method (oil infused herb) in the melt and pour and if yes, when do I add them in the recipe? Thank you very much.
You’re like an angel sent for me..?
Hi! I’m new at infusing spices and teas for color and we were recently in St. Augustine and I passed a spice and tea store. I know this is a long list, but I would be so grateful for your help. Some (most) of what I bought was powdered except for the Annoato seeds. Do I leave theme as seeds or smash/ground them? I will admit I went a little over board but these are the ones I bought.
Powdered: Cocoa, mustard yellow, cumin, sandalwood red, ginger, dill wood ground leaves, fenugreek whole ground, sumac ground that includes salt.
I also bought honey granulated, lemon sugar, salted caramel sugar, raspberry sugar which contains organic cane sugar and raspberries.
Yes, went overboard and have no idea if I can even use any of these, but would greatly appreciate any knowledge you have on in infusing these!
I would also love to know where you get the tea bags!!!!!! And ironing them will keep them together?
Thank you so much in advance!
Small world! I used to live in that town and it’s good to hear that neat little shop is still there. Not sure except that you’re probably better off not infusing the sugar in oil. I’ve heard of adding sugar to the lye solution to help with bubbles but I would probably just use it to decorate shortbread, ice cream, macarons, icing, etc… Yum! Haven’t used whole annatto but your fenugreek seeds can be put in a coffee grinder. Maybe make a strong tea with them whole (turns golden) and use that for your lye but I don’t know how it will work… I have some and will try it though! This link might be helpful: http://www.mullerslanefarm.com/soapcolors.html#sandalwoodcolor
will infused oils be good as soap fragrant too? I’m curious. And how long will it take before it’ll lose its fragrance. Thanks! 🙂
The fragrance really doesn’t come through the soap.
PLEASEEE REPLYY!! I want to make bath bombs with tea infused oil. What is the shelf-life will it go moldy.? What is the shelf life for your spice infused oil because I want to use that too?Thanks
The shelf life of your infused oil is the shelf life of the oil that you infuse. So if your olive oil is good for 1 year, your infused oil will be good for one year. Same for tea-infused. As long as you are not introducing water, your tea infused oil is is good for as long as the shelf life of your oil that you are infusing.
OMG THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! <3
Hi, what did you use to make the red infusion? Thank you for this post!
Ok, I have a question, do the infused oil get the herbs properties too????
What size is the tea bag? What brand do you use?
When infusing these herbs to the oils does the oil take on the scent of the herb also?
Thanks. This is just what I needed.
Will alfalfa leaf powder opacify oils and , in turn liquid soap? I want a deep green clear soap. BTW, can I also increase the powder without any adverse impacts on clarity and other qualities?
Great post; thank you. Since I milk goats I am set up with filters and funnels – it would be a breeze to filter and you wouldn’t be limited to the size of a tea bag. What do you think?
Hi Marcie! That’s a great idea. I just do little batches so the tea bag works great. But you can definately use filters and funnels.
Help – I don’t know if I should be worried or not. I just infused 13 jars with the tea bag method, boiled for 2 hours and only 1 of them has changed color. I used 2 tsp of spice to 1 cup olive oil. I have removed them from the water bath already but will they progress over time? When I filled them in the tea bags they were quite full. The tea bags are floating as well – they haven’t ever sank. Is there something else I should be doing?
Hi Crystal! The colors in the last pic above is what I got after about 2 hours. How are your colors looking now? I wonder if your tea bags were alot thicker than mine? I would let sit a couple of days and see how they do.
Also, what were the herbs you infused?
Let me know how it comes out,
So it has been just under 5 hours and the tea bags are still floating and only the one has color – alkanet. I did annato, paprika, cayenne, turmeric, chamomile, rose hip, beet root, madder root, spiralina, alkanet, cinnamon, kelp & safflower.
If I unseal them, break open the tea bags, and do the water bath again for another 2 hours – do you think this would be bad for the olive oil? It would mean straining them however, at least I would have the colors.
Yes, you could break them open. If the tea bags are still floating then that means that the olive oil isn’t penetrating the tea bags. You might want to try a different brand. Email me your address ([email protected]) and I can drop some of the ones I use in the mail to you if you’d like to try them. I have a ton. I believe they are from Wholesale Supplies Plus. That way you could give them a try and make sure it’s the tea bag.
Like bonin even I tried to infuse strawberry powder and beet root powder it didn’t work pls tell the name of the oil brand so that I’ll try them.
You say you used 2 teaspoons to 1 cup. The article says to use 2 tablespoons to 5 ounces (a cup is 8 ounces) If that’s not a typo, that could be your problem.
Liquid ounces is a volume measurement. Ounces by weight would be dependent on the type of oil being used.
Another great post! I also infuse for color and beneficial properties and it just makes me feel better to know that I understood the books and am doing it right. 😀
I looove this post, Amanda. Thanks so much, I am really looking forward to infusing some indigo and trying out some new things!
This is great advice! I’ve been doing mine the hard way like a previous poster. I need to get myself some of those tea bags!
i really have to thank you for this post ,im so happy to find it cause i heard that minerals as mica aren’t so good for it thanks again
Thanks Amanda, this is a great post!! Where do you get your indigo? I had never heard of it until I started reading on natural colorants and have yet to find it locally.
I’ve gotten indigo from http://bebecollection.com/herbandbotanicals/Natural-Indigo
It was not as blue as in the picture and didn’t seem to work that well. I am currently looking for another source. It’s hard to find!
you can get it at:http://www.soap-making-resource.com/natural-soap-colorants.html
Thanks, Inbal! I’ll have to give them a try.
some INDIAN FOOD STORES sell indigo
Great blog, I love using natural colourants too.. I never thought of the teabag method. I will have to get some.
thanks for this.
Thank you for all the great tips on infusing oil. Could you please share the color that you get with mustard? Do you used powdered mustard or the seeds directly?
Hi Nitya – I will be posting galleries soon. I used mustard powder added at trace and didn’t get much of a color. I might try using more but I think annatto gives such a better yellow and will probably stick with that.
This is great! Can’t wait till more!
PS. I didn’t want to spend $ to buy tea bags, cheap me always just use coffee filters to wrap the herbs tight.
wat colors do you get from sage,musterd,bee pollenn?
Hi Inbal – I’ll be posting galleries of natural colorants soon. But just off the top of my head – sage gave a warm tan/gray, mustard seed gave a cream slightly yellow tinted and I haven’t soaped the bee pollen. I will soon.
I typically use an old sheet for my infusions. Rip off a large square and put all the herbs in the middle, draw up the corners and rubberband it closed. Then I squeeze all the oil out with my rubber gloves on. 🙂
A sheet is a great idea! Thanks for sharing!
Excellent post! Thanks for sharing your techniques and results. I’ll have to try infusing with tea bags.
Sometimes when I use whole herbs for infusions I will tie them up in a bundle of cheesecloth. It sort of works the same way as using a tea bag.
You could try the powder in tea bags and see how you like it! Good luck!
This is a great post! I never use tea bags and my infusions are always messy at the end… Just made a water infusion last night, I could have used the tea bags. Now I have to strain… But I often don’t use powder plants though.
For example Chamomile and Calendula flowers are so bulky that you can’t fit much at all in a tea bag… And they require so much oil to be infused compared to other ones! Maybe that I should switch to the powder versions with the tea bags then?
Very cool posting! Thanks so much for doing it.
What a great post! I need to get some tea bags – right now I’m straining through cheesecloth which is so messy. I’m lovin’ your blog! 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to experiment and share.