Chamomile “Almost” Castile Soap

Traditional castile soap is a gentle mild soap made with 100% olive oil, with a low creamy lather.

By adding a small amount of castor oil to the recipe, we boost the bubbles while still retaining the mildness that makes castile perfect for those with super sensitive skin.

bars of soap with chamomile flowers sprinkled on top

I chose chamomile for this recipe because it calms and soothes rashes and other irritated skin conditions.

If you don’t have chamomile flowers or tea, try using another herb such as calendula, dandelion flowers, plantain or violet leaves instead.

This is a great recipe for a beginner since it only contains two oils!

Prep Work: Make the Chamomile Tea + Oil

Chamomile Tea: Fill a heatproof jar with around 1/4 cup of dried chamomile flowers or 2 chamomile tea bags. Cover with 10 oz (284 g) of simmering hot distilled water. Steep until the water turns a pretty yellow. Strain and cool completely before using in your recipe.

Chamomile-Infused Oil: Fill a canning jar about half-way with dried chamomile flowers or several chamomile tea bags. Pour olive oil over them until completely covered by several extra inches of oil. Cover with a lid and infuse for several weeks, then strain.

For a quicker infusion, set the uncovered jar into a saucepan filled with a few inches of water. Heat the pan over low heat for 2 to 3 hours. Cool and strain. Use in place of regular olive oil in recipes.

chamomile infusing in oil

Chamomile “Almost” Castile Recipe

All measurements are by weight. You must use an accurate scale to make soap.

  • 8.75 oz (248 g) cold chamomile tea
  • 3.7 oz (105 g) *sodium hydroxide (lye)
  • 26 oz (737 g) chamomile-infused olive oil
  • 3 oz (85 g) castor oil
  • **essential oil, if desired (35 g of lavender is nice in this recipe)

Yield: 7 to 8 bars of soap, (2 lbs 10 oz of soap)

* I use ComStar & Essential Depot brands of lye (sodium hydroxide).

** See my Essential Oils for Soapmaking Chart for more essential oils ideas & usage rates.




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Before You Begin

If you’ve never made soap before, be sure you’re completely familiar with the process before proceeding.

You may also find my Handmade Natural Soaps eBook Collection helpful – it includes:

  • Handmade Natural Soaps eBook
  • All Natural Milk Soaps eBook
  • DIY Specialty Soaps eBook
  • Natural Facial Soaps eBook
  • Essential Oils in Soapmaking Guide
  • Troubleshooting Guide
  • Plus Helpful Printables and Charts

Directions to Make

Step 1: Make the Lye Solution

Wearing gloves, goggles and long sleeves, weigh the chamomile tea into a stainless steel or heavy duty plastic pitcher. I use an old Tupperware pitcher or heavy duty plastic buckets from the paint section of my local DIY store. Look for plastic with a recycle symbol number 5 on it and it should be good to use. (Never use aluminum utensils or pots when making soap as it will react adversely with lye.)

Next, weigh the lye into a small cup or container. Sprinkle the lye into the water (not the other way around or you might get a lye volcano) and gently stir with a heavy duty plastic or silicone spatula or spoon until the lye is completely dissolved. The temperature will get really hot and the chamomile tea may turn a shade of orange, but that’s normal. Work near an open window, outside or under an exhaust fan. Avoid breathing in the resulting strong fumes that linger for a few moments. (If you have sensitive lungs, breathing problems, or are concerned about the fumes, consider wearing a mask such as THIS ONE.)

Set the lye solution aside in a safe place where it won’t get disturbed and allow it to cool down for around 30 to 40 minutes, or until temperature reaches around 100 to 11o°F (38 to 43°C)

Step 2: Weigh and Heat the Oils

Weigh out the olive and castor oils and heat gently until the temperature is around 90 to 100°F (32 to 38° C).

(You don’t have to be extra fussy with temperatures. Some like to make soap at room temperature, while others prefer even hotter temperatures than I use. There’s a wide range of personal preferences that work just fine.)

soap mixed until trace

Step 3: Combine and Mix Until Trace

Pour the lye solution into the warm oils. Using a stick or immersion blender (looks like THIS and is not a handheld mixer) stir the solution with the motor off for around 30 seconds. Turn the motor on and blend for a minute or so. Stir for another 30 or so seconds with the motor off, then again with the motor on and so forth. Don’t run the stick blender continuously so you don’t risk burning out the motor and/or causing excessive air bubbles in your finished soap.

Alternate with this method until trace is reached. “Trace” is when your soap batter gets thick enough to leave an imprint or tracing, when you drizzle some of it across the surface. Above is a picture of a soap batter at trace.

Hand-stir in any essential oils, if using.

Step 4: Pour Into Mold

This is a cold process soap recipe, which means you don’t cook it or add any extra heat, so at this point it’s ready to pour into the mold.

After pouring, cover gently with a sheet of freezer or parchment paper, then a light blanket or towel to help hold in the heat.

Peek at your soap every so often. If you see a crack developing down the middle, it’s getting too hot, so move the mold to a cooler place in your house.

You might see the soap change from darker to lighter colors in spots and even take on a translucent, jelly type texture, especially in the middle. That’s all perfectly normal – it just means your soap is going through gel phase.

After 24 hours, remove the freezer paper and blanket/towel, then let your soap stay uncovered in the mold for 2 to 3 days or until it’s firm enough to release fairly easily. If needed, you can pop the mold in the freezer for 4 to 6 hours until completely solid, then try removing.

Step 5: Cure and Enjoy!

After unmolding the your soap, allow it to cure in the open air for a few days and then slice into bars.

Castile and “almost” castile soaps need lots of cure time in order to harden and develop a better lather. Cure this soap at least 6 to 8 weeks before using, though an even longer time is recommended.

Store your finished soap in a cool area away from excess heat, sunlight and humidity.

If you’d like to ensure that your soap has a longer shelf life, add about 20 to 30 drops of Rosemary Antioxidants to the oils, before stirring in the lye solution.

You can buy Rosemary Antioxidants from Mountain Rose Herbs. Since you only need a tiny bit per batch of soap, one bottle will last for ages and is well worth the extended shelf life it provides.

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  1. I love all your recipes and I try them all. With this one can you use Rosemary essential oil? Would it also help with a longer shelve time?

    1. Hi Deborah! I’m happy that you enjoy the recipes! That’s a great question about using rosemary essential oil instead of rosemary extract (ROE).
      Over at the Swift Crafty Monkey blog, I read this:
      “Just know you can get a rosemary essential oil, and you can use this at 0.5% to 1% in your creations for the great anti-oxidant and other benefits.”
      Then in the comments:
      “Yulia said…
      So if you want to get anti-oxidant properties of rosemary, say in soap, you can either add rosemary essential oil to the oils, or ROE or rosemary extract (powdered) to some water and the effect is the same?
      February 15, 2010 at 2:45 PM
      Susan Barclay-Nichols said…
      Hi Yulia! Love your picture! I don’t make soap, so I can’t comment on it, but you could use the essential oil, extract, or ROE in your products and get similar effects. I guess it depends what you are formulating.”
      The Swift Crafty Monkey blog has all sorts of solid information, so based on that, I’m prone to trust that rosemary essential oil will have some effect in extending shelf life. You just want to be careful to use rosemary essential oil within safe limits and not so it overpowers the scent more than you’d like.
      I’m fairly conservative with rosemary essential oil in soap & use maybe around 20 grams for a 2.5 lb batch of soap, though I’ve seen others use more. It blends really well with lavender, so you could also use part lavender & part rosemary! :)

  2. Dear Jan: I’m loving your blog. I’m learning a lot of new things with you. Its simplicity is contagious. Hugs from your new fan from Brazil.

  3. I love the simplicity of this recipe and how creamy it looks in the end! I also really love the suggestion for using violet leaf when chamomile flowers aren’t available. It’s one of my favorites for skin. =) <3 Thank you for sharing the recipe!

  4. I ordered the Ebook package, was charged $24.99 for it on my charge card but the downloads did not work. I can’t get back to the download page. What do I need to do to get my purchases. If I can’t get this resolved soon I will have to call my card company and file a dispute.

    1. Hi Renea, I’m so sorry that happened! I just sent you an email from honeybeehillfarm @ with links to the files. If those don’t work or you run into any questions, just let me know & I’m happy to help!

  5. Hi Jan,I have just had the chance to see your blog for the first time,your recipes are amazing and I am still reading them ?

  6. I love your ebook and have been using the recipes as inspiration. I do have a couple of questions: 1).A shop owner mentioned that with some of the soaps she carries (not mine) the oils seem to kind of come to the surface, then get dusty. Ugh! Do you think it’s the essential oils, the base oils, or maybe lower quality fragrance oils? 2.) Since olive oil and others have a shelf life, do my soaps or does the saponification process lengthen shelf life? Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Janet! So glad you enjoy the ebook! The beading up or oozing out of oils/glycerin is somewhat of a mystery. I don’t use fragrance oils (though it’s very possible a few types could cause similar problems in soap) & have still had it happen a couple of times to me over the years. Each time, I noted the weather was extremely humid and hot & I’d also used tap water instead of distilled, so I feel those are two potential factors. Are the soaps exposed to air bursts from heating/cooling vents or perhaps some direct sun during the day? If so, that could be making the problem worse.
      For shelf life, that will depend on the quality of the oils you start with. You want the freshest oils so they stay fresh in the soap longer. You can also significantly increase shelf life by including rosemary antioxidants into each batch. (I use 1 gram or about 40 drops for a 2.5 lb recipe.)
      and also keeping them stored in even temperatures & out of direct sunlight & humid areas.

  7. Hi Jan, I am just venturing into soap making. I have been researching this for months, ordered tons of soap-making supplies from Amazon and still fairly intimidated by the process. I always find myself overwhelmed with information on the Internet – but find myself back to your Website and recipes so often .. like a homing pigeon I fly back here. I live in Newfoundland, CA so I really have to order everything by mail – it’s so expensive for shipping and customs costs. Two questions: 1. What can I substitute for meadowfoam seed oil and 2. What is the shelf life of handcrafted soaps with essential oils? I love your Website, recipes, and e-book … it has become my security blanket LOL!

    1. Hi Lynda! I’m so glad that you enjoy the site & recipes! :) Instead of meadowfoam seed oil in recipes (which I use in fairly small amounts in my recipes), you could probably try something like sweet almond or sunflower oil, or perhaps hemp or avocado. If the recipe doesn’t have castor oil, then that’s always a nice addition to help increase bubbles & can be used instead. (I like to use castor oil around 5 to 7% of the oils in a recipe, or up to 15% for shampoo bars.) Just run those changes through a lye calculator, but if the meadowfoam makes up just a small portion of the recipe, it likely won’t be a significant change in lye.
      Shelf life of soap, with and without essential oils, can vary, depending on the freshness of the oils you start with. (Old oils = soap that goes rancid more quickly.) In general though, many soapmakers give an estimated shelf life of around 1 year. I’ve had some soaps last much longer though, and other times if I used an oil that was going off, the soap ended up with DOS (dreaded orange spots – that indicate it’s going rancid) much too early. (Which is always a sad thing!) You can add Rosemary Antioxidants to your soaps (For a 2.5 pound recipe, add 1 gram, which is about 1/4 tsp or around 40 drops, to the oils portion) to extend shelf life.

    1. Hi Lilliana! It’s a super gentle soap, but it’s hard to tell from person to person exactly how their skin will react. However, handmade soaps like this one, without fragrance oils or the drying effect of coconut oil are usually extremely well tolerated by those with super sensitive skin.

  8. I plan on making soap for the first time this year, and have been looking around for recipes. I really like your site. It looks like it will be a great resource for my new project and I plan on getting your ebook too. This chamomile soap will be one of my first projects. :)

  9. hello, i love the simplicity in your recipe. AM sure going to try it out soonest. Many thanks… like to get your ebook too.

  10. This looks lovely! Can I use goats milk instead and if so would I use 8oz? And not insulate it? Also would this work in a silicone mold like the ones you have that say 100% Hand made? I have such a problem with details showing and air pockets. I also use sodium lactate. I like the simplicity of the mold for this soap. I just made a batch with one of you recipes, honey milk soap and tried to pour at a less thick trace to see if that helps with details in the mold. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you I just love your site!

    1. Hi KP! Yes, you can use goat’s milk instead – I think that would make a lovely soap. If you use frozen goat’s milk, I would weigh it so it’s 8.75 ounces, just like the water amount. You don’t have to insulate goat’s milk soap because it will heat up naturally on its own. Many people like to prevent gel in milk soaps by putting them in the fridge or freezer after pouring.
      Here’s some information on making soap with milk that might be helpful:
      The soap would be wonderful in the 100% handmade soap molds! Mixing to a lighter trace will definitely help fill in the mold better and eliminate air pockets. You could try mostly hand stirring and only use the stick blender in brief very short bursts.

  11. Hi Jan
    I’m a newbie and loving your Simple and Natural Soapmaking :)
    I was wondering what ingredients you would recommend for making an antibacterial soap … would be a great seller these days !!

    Many thanks

    Teresa F.

    1. Hi Teresa! So happy to hear you like the book! :) That probably would be a good seller, though it might be a challenge to make – I’m not sure of anything natural and also non-damaging to water & eco-systems, that would also survive the soapmaking process. Regular soap itself is a great cleanser as long as you wash your hands long enough! :)

  12. Would halving this recipe be safe? I know precise measurements are important in soap making and want to be sure. Thanks!

    1. Hi Lenora! Yes, you can exactly halve and exactly double a recipe, if you don’t make changes to the oils.
      You’re 100% correct that the smaller the recipe, the more careful you need to be about measurements since small changes have bigger effect in small recipes.
      In this case, when I plug the recipe in a lye calculator (I used Soapee) to get the half batch amount, it says:
      4.36 oz (124 g) water
      1.86 oz (52.6 g) lye
      13 oz (368 g) olive oil
      1.5 oz (46 g) castor oil

    2. I should also mention this recipe has a water discount (reduced amount of water – which helps the soap sets up faster in the mold) and is about a 2.35 : 1 water to lye ratio (which is a setting on the lye calculator). Using the standard full amount of water/liquid makes a softer soap that takes longer to firm up.

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