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.
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.
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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)
** See my Essential Oils for Soapmaking Chart for more essential oils ideas & usage rates.
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 Natural Soap Making package helpful – it includes:
- my Natural Soap Making ebook
- companion guides on Milk Soap Making and Shampoo Bars
- helpful printables and charts
- plus a small private Facebook group where you can ask me your soapmaking questions!
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.)
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.
If you enjoyed this tutorial on making Chamomile “Almost” Castile Soap from scratch, let’s keep in touch!
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