Charcoal Cedarwood & Pine Tar Soap

This forest-scented charcoal and pine tar soap lathers well and washes off cleanly. It’s a favorite with the guys in my family!

2 bars of charcoal soap and fresh cedarwood and pine sprigs

Pine tar is a fantastic ingredient in soap, renowned for clearing tough-to-treat skin problems, but it can have a strong smell that’s off-putting to some.

When a relative requested a pine tar soap that needed to be appealing for a diverse group of people, I came up with this recipe, and it was a hit!

The amount of pine tar is reduced to 1% in this recipe (compared to 10% in my normal recipe), and blended with cedarwood and fir needle essential oils for a natural clean woodsy scent that won’t overwhelm.

Ground oats were added for gentle exfoliation, and bentonite clay’s purpose is to leave your skin feeling extra clean. (Both of these are optional though; feel free to leave them out if you’d like.)

Charcoal draws impurities from your pores, while sea salt helps harden the soap.

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essential oils in colored glass bottles

If you’ve never made soap before, please visit my article, Soap Making 101, and study the art of soapmaking first.

You may also find my Natural Soapmaking Ebook Collection helpful!

Ingredients

Lye Solution:

  • 8.81 oz (250 g) distilled water (2.1 to 1 water:lye ratio)
  • 1 tsp salt (mix into distilled water)
  • 4.19 oz (119 g) sodium hydroxide (lye) (5% superfat)
  • 1/2 tsp bentonite clay (mix into hot lye solution)

Oils:

  • 9 oz (255 g) olive oil (30%)
  • 7.75 oz (220 g) coconut oil (25%)
  • 4 oz (113 g) sweet almond (or sunflower) oil (13%)
  • 3 oz (85 g) cocoa butter (or lard/tallow) (10%)
  • 2 oz (57 g) avocado butter (or shea) (7%)
  • 2 oz (57 g) castor oil (7%)
  • 2 oz (57 g) mango butter (7%)
  • 0.25 oz (7 g) pine tar (1%)

Add-ins:

  • 1 tsp charcoal (blend into warm oils)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground oats (blend into warm oils)
  • Essential oils: 1.13 oz (32 g) cedarwood Himalayan + 0.37 oz (11 g) fir needle

Directions to Make

Step 1.

Stir the 1 teaspoon of salt into the distilled water. This helps the soap release from the mold easier and is especially helpful if you’re using silicone molds.

Make sure you’re wearing proper safety gear of goggles and gloves.

If you’ve never made soap before, stop and study the process before proceeding. (My Soap Making 101 article is a good starting place.)

Once the salt is stirred in, pour in the lye and mix until dissolved. This mixture gets hot fast and for a few moments will give off strong fumes that you should avoid breathing in.

Stir in the bentonite clay.

Step 2.

Set the lye solution aside to cool for 30 to 45 minutes, or until it’s under or around 100 degrees F.

Step 3.

While the lye is cooling: Prepare your mold and weigh the liquid oils in a stainless steel or heat proof plastic container.

Melt the solid fats (butters, coconut oil) until they turn liquid and combine with the liquid oils.

Set the oils aside until they’re around 100 to 110 degrees F. (The oils and lye do not have to be the same temperature.)

Blend in the charcoal and oats with an immersion blender.

Step 4.

When you’re ready to make the soap, add the pine tar to the warm oils and stir until blended.

Make sure you’re wearing gloves and safety goggles for the next step.

Step 5.

Pour the lye solution into the oils/pine tar mixture and stir by hand with a heavy duty plastic or silicone spoon or spatula for about 30 seconds.

Add the essential oils.

Since pine tar soap is prone to seizing up (thickening too fast and becoming unworkable) only use the stick blender in brief bursts, mainly mixing by hand. This also helps reduce air bubbles.

Step 6.

Once trace is reached, pour the batter into the mold. After about 15 minutes, and again at 30 minutes, I spritz with a generous layer of isopropyl alcohol to help minimize soda ash.

Cover the mold with plastic wrap or wax paper.

Step 7.

Unmold after 24 to 48 hours. When the soap is easy to handle, slice into bars and let cure for at least four to six weeks.

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27 Comments

    1. Hi Julia! Yes, that sounds like a great substitution! Just do a quick recheck with a lye calculator to make sure the lye amount won’t change. :)

  1. We love this soap! It is manly enough for the hubs, and leaves my skin feeling soft instead of all dried out during this cold winter season. It has been especially helpful to my poor heels. I think I would like to try it with a more feminine scent so I won’t have to share. LOL

    1. Yay! I’m so happy to hear that! :) It’s my current favorite too – I’m using up the last end pieces so will be making more in the next month or so. I’ll have to explore more scent ideas! :)

  2. Hi Jan,
    Thanks for another amazing recipe!! I have read that pine tar soap is great for psoriasis. Will it be good for nail psoriasis too?

    Btw, I purchased your Simple and natural soap making book. It’s beautiful. I wish, I should have purchased it long before. Thank you…
    Seetha

    1. Hi Seetha! Pine tar is good for so many skin conditions, it very well might do well for nail psoriasis too! I hope it is helpful!
      So happy to hear that you’re enjoying the book! Thank you for buying a copy! :)

  3. Hi Jan,

    I assume this is 2.5 lb soap. I have 3lb mild and was trying to run through soapcalc on bramble berry. For 2.5 lb recipe it says i need to use 9.30 oz liquid. Do you usually reduce you water amount?

    1. Hi Julia!
      This is a 42.75 ounce (2.67 lb) recipe. (You can find that number by adding the lye weight + water weight + oil weight.)
      For most soaps, I don’t use the default water amount. I tend to favor a 2.1 part water to 1 part lye amount, or somewhere around that amount, depending on the recipe.
      So you’d take the amount of lye and multiply it by 2.1. I suggest checking out the Soapee calculator, it has an easy to use spot where you can change the water:lye ratio. (But it only works on some browsers, such as Chrome.) :)

      1. Hi Jan,
        When I add your numbers in soapcalc.net I get different amounts of oils and lye/water amount for a 42.75 oz mold. The amounts I’ve gotten were more.

        Total oil weight 2.67 lb
        Water as percent of oil weight 29.06 %
        Super Fat/Discount 5 %
        Lye Concentration 32.258 %
        Water : Lye Ratio 2.1000:1
        Sat : Unsat Ratio 39 : 61
        Iodine 56
        INS 150
        Fragrance Ratio 0.75
        Fragrance Weight 2.00 oz
        Pounds Ounces Grams
        Water 0.776 12.41 351.92
        Lye – NaOH 0.369 5.91 167.58
        Oils 2.670 42.72 1,211.09
        Fragrance 0.125 2.00 56.79
        Soap weight before CP cure or HP cookMore info 3.940 63.05 1,787.37
        # √ Oil/Fat % Pounds Ounces Grams
        1 Castor Oil 7.00 0.187 2.99 84.78
        2 Coconut Oil, 76 deg 25.00 0.668 10.68 302.77
        3 Mango Seed Butter 7.00 0.187 2.99 84.78
        4 Olive Oil pomace 30.00 0.801 12.82 363.33
        5 Pine Tar, lye calc only no FA 1.00 0.027 0.43 12.11
        6 Avocado butter 7.00 0.187 2.99 84.78
        7 Sunflower Oil, high oleic 13.00 0.347 5.55 157.44
        8 Cocoa Butter 10.00 0.267 4.27 121.11
        Totals 100.00 2.670 42.72 1,211.09

        1. Hi Mario, Thanks for writing! I think I see the problem – you have 2.67 pounds of total oil weight. That’s 42.72 ounces of oil.
          If you want to make a recipe for a 42.75 ounce mold, it won’t be all oil – there will also be lye and water weight to account for too.
          If you look in SoapCalc at the “Soap weight before CP cure or HP cook” that usually ballparks around what your mold can hold. Your version looks like it would fit into almost a 4 pound mold.
          Here’s an article I recently wrote on resizing a recipe for your soap mold, that you might find helpful too:
          https://thenerdyfarmwife.com/resize-soap-recipes/

  4. Hi Jan! I’m a new soap maker and you have been such an inspiration for me. I have purchased 1 book and 2 ebooks of yours and they are so so helpful!

    I have a question. This is my first time making cold press soap I would like to know if for this recipe I can add more pine tar without changing anything else in the recipe. I wanted to do 10% pine tar with this recipe. Would that work? Or would it be best to keep this recipe as is. I only want to up the percentage because I read in order for pine tar to really be effective you need at least 10% pine tar. What is your advice on this? Thank you! :)

    1. Hi Goldie, I’m so happy the book and ebooks are helpful! 😊
      Yes, you could add more pine tar, but it will change the amount of lye used in the recipe. (Which is fine as long as you run the new amounts through a lye calculator.)
      Or instead, you may want to make my other pine tar soap recipe which has 10% pine tar in it already:
      https://thenerdyfarmwife.com/pine-tar-soap-recipe/
      and just add the clay, charcoal, oats, and/or essential oil amounts from this recipe. (Small additives such as colorants, clays, oats, essential oils don’t require you to change the primary oils, lye, water amounts.)
      10% pine tar is very effective, though I’ve found that this smaller amount 1% is still great for milder skin conditions.
      If you have something like a really tough case of psoriasis though, and don’t mind the stronger smell, then 10% would probably be good to start with. 😊

  5. Hi! At the risk of sounding like a total idiot, is this pine tar oil or actual pine tar in this recipe? I’m using rosin for making wraps. It’s dried and on bits. Will this work.

    1. Hi Rose, That’s a great question! Pine tar is a thick black liquid that’s created when you expose pine wood to really high heat in a kiln. Pine resin is different – it’s pine sap that oozes from trees when they’re damaged, and it comes in hard little dried pieces – which sounds like what you might have. To make soap with pine resin, check out this recipe: https://thenerdyfarmwife.com/pine-resin-soap/

  6. Hi I have a 3.23 lb mold can you let me know the numbers for this mold.

    Thx,

    Mark

    1. Hi Mark, I’m happy to help! I’m actually just writing up an article on resizing soap recipes, so your question is perfect timing!
      Can you write back here and let me know the dimensions of the mold (length, height, width)?
      I can use those numbers to resize the recipe to better fit your mold. Thanks!

    1. Hi Chase! I wrote up an article to help soapers figure out how to resize a soap recipe to fit different molds:
      https://thenerdyfarmwife.com/resize-soap-recipes/

      but the formula is length x width x height x 0.4 = how many oz of oil the mold will hold (not how many ounces of soap batter total, just the oil portion)

      Then you take that amount to a soap calculator and input the percentages of the recipe.

      For your mold:

      16 inches long x 3.375 inches wide x 3.5 height x 0.4 = your mold will hold about 75.6 oz of oil. (Or about 2 1/2 times the recipe size I have listed above, which requires 30 oz of oil.)

      Check step 3 of this article: https://thenerdyfarmwife.com/resize-soap-recipes/
      and it will show you step by step how to enter in the amounts.

      Let me know if you need further help with it though & I’m happy to help!

  7. HeyJan!
    I bought your simple and natural soap making book and I’m loving it! The pine tar soap recipe is different in this book and I would like to try this one instead. I would like to know if there are modifications I should do for hot process.
    Thank you,
    Angela

    1. Hi Angela! So happy to hear that you’re enjoying the book! I haven’t tried hot processing this recipe, so can’t be positive how it behaves, but I notice on this site (excellent for hot process information):
      https://www.ultimatehpsoap.com/post/grandma-s-pine-tar-10-minute-hot-process-soap
      they add the pine tar after cooking the soap. I like the idea & will definitely have to try that some time. So, you may want to check out the advice in their article/video!

      1. I’m really bummed. I really wanted to try this recipe. I looked at this (link) recipe and watched the video and really didn’t care for either. I didn’t think it was very informative and the ingredients for your recipe is definitely more my style. Your book says that all the recipes in it can be used for hot process just increase the water amount to 10 oz., so I figure I will try it instead. You didn’t say that the pine tar recipe in your book was an exception. Is it?

        1. Hi Angela! Yes, almost all cold process recipes can be made hot process by adding extra water. (That’s the very basic rudimentary method though, for the ‘rustic style’ hot process.)
          Pine tar is one of those ingredients that can be really fussy though.
          My area of expertise is in cold process soapmaking, so that’s the method I use to design and test my recipes. I just don’t usually make hot process soap, so am not the best source of advice for that technique.
          I feel like I’ve seen hot process pine tar soaps when browsing YouTube so I’m sure it can be done! I just can’t be sure how well this recipe will behave in hot process! 😊
          Sometimes people come through and comment if they give a recipe a try using hot process, so hopefully someone will chime in here if they give it a try!

  8. Hi Jan,
    A year later I see this receipe. I just bought my first bottle of Stockhold tar. I hope I will hold using your recipe here. Tell me, what can I substitute for mango butter and the fir needle eo – both of which I don’t have.

    Thanks Es.

    1. Hi Es! Mango butter can be substituted with shea butter, or more cocoa butter – or you could also use kokum butter, lard, or tallow.
      Fir needle could be replaced with cypress or juniper essential oil, or if you don’t have either of those, you could also use more cedarwood EO in its place. Happy soapmaking with your new bottle of pine tar! ❤

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