Salt Soaps: A Perspective from Tess

Back on May 10th, I posted my thoughts and observations about salt soaps. Following the lively discussions here on the blog and on our Facebook page, I asked a few people to help guest write a blog post about making salt soap. Tess volunteered to share her recipe and some pictures.

A lot of people seem to be curious about salt bars, and their reactions range from “Eww, salt in a soap?” to “Hmm, salt in a soap, interesting.”

I personally love salt bars, and make a lot of them. They’re fairly simple to make, and this is my current favorite recipe:

Ingredients in %

* Coconut Oil (76 degree) 93%
* Shea butter 7%
* Salt (sea salt or ordinary table salt work fine) to equal 80% of your oil weight

Since it’s such a high amount of coconut oil you want to use a large lye discount/superfat, I typically use 20%.

The exact amounts I use for a 18 bar batch in my molds are:

* 44.64 ounces Coconut Oil (76 degree)
* 3.36 ounces Shea Butter
* 38.4 ounces Salt
* 18.24 ounces water
* 6.88 ounces sodium hydroxide
* 2.7 ounces fragrance oil (this will depend on the FO you use, be sure to check the IFRA usage guidelines for your particular fragrance oil)
* small tuft (about fingertip size) of tussah silk (optional)

1. Weigh out your oils, fragrance, water, and salt. Having things neatly laid out and ready to go makes the experience so much easier and more enjoyable. Have any other additives or colorants measured out and at hand before you start.

2. Add the tuft of tussah silk(if you’re using it) to the water and carefully add the sodium hydroxide to your water, wearing the appropriate safety gear. Stir well, then set aside in a safe place to allow it to cool.

3. While the lye solution is cooling, warm your coconut oil and shea butter until just melted (I use a large stainless pot on the stove over low heat) and remove from heat, then set aside to cool.

4. Exact temperatures aren’t critical, I tend to soap with both the lye solution and butter/oil mixture at 90-100 degrees F, but precision isn’t necessary. Combine the lye solution and oils, mix to a very thin trace. Add your fragrance and colorant at this point, then continue to mix until you’re at a medium trace.

5. At medium trace, start stirring in your salt. The soap mixture will become more difficult to stir as you add the salt, so be mindful of the strain on your immersion blender if you’re using one. I typically switch to a soap spoon at this point. Continue to stir vigorously until you’re sure that the salt is adequately mixed in, then pour into your mold as usual.

**Note** Salt bars can be tricky to cut, if you wait too long, they’re cement-hard and impossible to cut. Ideally, they’re cut within hours of pouring into the mold, sometimes when they’re almost too hot to comfortably handle with thin gloves. After botching the timing and cutting too soon or late one time too many, I started using individual cavity molds for my salt bars and completely avoid the crumbling corners and assorted other pitfalls. Just be sure that your mold can withstand heat, these puppies can get hot.

6. If you’re using a traditional log or slab mold, see the note above and keep a close eye on your soap, you can’t wait until the next day to cut your bars or you’ll need a chisel and hammer and will most likely end up with a big mess. Watch for them to gel, then cut as soon as they’re cool enough to handle with gloved hands. If you’re using cavity molds, you can tuck them away and leave them until the next day, I typically leave them in the molds for about 24 hours and then pop them right out.

Salt soap in the mold. Don't be alarmed by the awful color, it'll get better, I promise.

Fresh out of the mold. See, that nasty grey-green ended up being much prettier.

Looks a bit like shaving cream.

This bar has been part of my shower lineup for quite some time, note the rounded corners and smooth surface.

7. Allow to cure just like any other CP soap. I actually like to tuck a couple bars away and leave them for a really long cure, they’re absolutely divine after 6 months.

When you use your salt bar, you’ll notice right away that the lather isn’t like your usual CP soap, you’ll get a few big bubbles here and there but the majority of the lather is more of a dense foam like consistency.

You’ll also notice the bars taking on a rounded and weathered appearance and feel with use, they eventually look and feel a bit like smooth river rocks.

A handy tip for determining your batch size and salt amount: Take the usual amount of oils required to fill your mold and multiply by .8, that’ll give you the amount of oils to use, then multiply that oil number by .8 to determine how much salt to use. As an example, the molds I used normally need 60 ounces of oils to fill all three molds.

60 x .8 = 48 so I’ll use 48 ounces of oils

48 x .8 = 38.4 so there’s my salt amount to use

Feel free to experiment with the recipe, some people prefer to use less salt (I received a very nice bar as a gift that was made with 50% salt) and some use an equal amount of salt and oils. You can use milk instead of water in your lye solution, I made a lovely coconut milk batch once, just keep a close eye on them because of the heat. Salt bars tend to get hot, milk soaps then to get hot, so the combination means you’ll really need to keep a watchful eye on them and be prepared to turn a fan on or pop them in the fridge to prevent overheating.

You can omit the shea and make a 100% coconut oil batch, or you can substitute different oils and butters, just keep in mind that you’ll need a lot of coconut to produce any lather, salt is the slayer of bubbles. Be sure to run your modified recipe through a lye calculator.

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17 Comments

  • tamithornton says:

    Where can the mold be purchased? Love the shape… and ease for a salt bar.

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  • Zany says:

    On my knees, bowing, “salaam, salaam, salaam, Tess!” This is the best and most complete description I’ve ever read for Salt Bars. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this!!!

    Cee

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  • terrylynn22 says:

    What are the benefits of salt soap? I may give this a try, good thing you addressed cutting the soap quickly before it turns to cement consistency, or better yet using individual molds.

    Terry

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  • ConnieB says:

    I have been wanting to make salt bars for a long time. Thank you for posting a recipe & description about it.
    I will be trying them soon :)

    Connie

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  • Gill says:

    Read this, and made a batch – changed the the shea butter for a mix of castor and sweet almond oils (which I had), coloured with spinach powder, and scented with lavender and siberian fir essential oils. The result was lovely, definitely one for the ‘will make again’ list. Thank you!

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  • Sarah Giraffe says:

    what is that picture in the middle of? The “looks like shaving cream”? Does the bar break up like a sugar scrub or do you rub it directly on the skin? Doesn’t that scratch?

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  • Tina says:

    Sarah,

    The lather does look like this. The salt and bar do leave more chunky lather than a regular bar of soap. Salt soaps are a different beast all together. I think they scratch more than I desire in a soap but they have a loyal following. You can rub the soap directly on the skin.

    Cheers!
    Tina

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  • emebubbles says:

    I made salt bar soap, I love the soap, however it sweats. Will this sweating ever stop. Also if I shrinkwrap it will it turn into a goey mess after some time. I expect the soap to be scrubby bcos I added salt but is is extra smooth. I live in a humid climate, could that be why the soap won’t stop sweating?

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    • Taylor says:

      The humidity could be why it doesn’t seem to stop sweating.
      How long has it been since you made the soap?

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  • Sara says:

    Emebubbles: If you made your soap with dead sea salts, this may be what is causing the sweating. I’ve heard many times of people using it in salt soap and ending up with a wet mess because the dead sea salts draw moisture out of the air.

    (I know this was a few months ago, but i’ll reply just in case someone else see’s this post and wants to use dead sea salts.)

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  • Gill says:

    Emebubbles – if you are using epsom salts or dead sea salt (see Sara, above) this could be the trouble. Table and sea salt are mainly sodium chloride (97-100%), whereas epsom salts and dead sea salts are of different composition with lots of magnesium chloride.

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  • Tammy says:

    What colorant did you use for that lovely green?

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    • Andee says:

      I am not really sure what color was used. It appears, to me, to be a mixture of Blue 1 and Yellow 5.

      Andee

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  • Tiffany says:

    I made a batch of CP Sea Salt soap with 100% salt to oils. I used individual silicone molds so I wouldn’t have to cut the soap. Now that it has been 24 hours I have tried to unmold the soap and the bottom half is very crumbly. I was wondering if I could put this in the oven (at what temp) to heat it up and maybe unmold it sooner. Do you have any suggestions?

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    • Andee says:

      A crumbly soap is generally an indication of being lye heavy or too much salt. I suspect that since this is the bottom half of the soap it is an incomplete trace or mixing of the soap. Try leaving the soap for a day to see if the soap will improve in texture. If not, time to rebatch.

      Good luck!
      Andee

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  • Jodi says:

    I think I must be the only person in the world that cannot fiqure out how to use the lye calc to superfat. Can anyone help me to figure it or help with a 2 pd recipe that contains 80 % coconut, 15% Shea butter, 5% castor. I am trying to superfat at 20%. I cannot fiqure the water or the lye. The recipe also includes 80% salt.

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    • Taylor says:

      Take the 0% option and multiply by 80%. That will give you the amount of lye to use and leaves 20% excess fat.

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