Color Soap Naturally – Infusing oil with herbs and spices

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Infusing oil is probably my favorite method of using natural colorants. 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. The top three are fractionated coconut oil, jojoba oil and olive oil. I usually stick with olive oil as all of my soap recipes contain olive oil.

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.  We’ll go into more detail later on in the series. 

Happy Soaping!

Amanda

 

30 Responses

  1. 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.

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  2. Stacey

    Very cool posting! Thanks so much for doing it.

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  3. Stephanie Bismuth

    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?

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  4. Author

    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!

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  5. Excellent post! Thanks for sharing your techniques and results. I’ll have to try infusing with tea bags.

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  6. 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. :)

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  7. inbal

    wat colors do you get from sage,musterd,bee pollenn?

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    • Author

      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.

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  8. 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.

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  9. 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?

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    • Author

      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.

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  10. Great blog, I love using natural colourants too.. I never thought of the teabag method. I will have to get some.

    thanks for this.

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  11. Jennifer

    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.

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  12. angyana

    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

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  13. tasha

    I looove this post, Amanda. Thanks so much, I am really looking forward to infusing some indigo and trying out some new things!

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  14. Laura@3113 Soap

    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. :D

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  15. 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?

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    • Author

      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,
      Amanda

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      • 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.

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        • Author

          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 (amanda@lovinsoap.com) 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.

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  16. marcie

    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?

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    • Author

      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.

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