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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Jan
 

Jan Berry is a writer, herbalist, soapmaker, and bestselling author of The Big Book of Homemade Products, Simple & Natural Soapmaking, and Easy Homemade Melt & Pour Soaps. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her family and a menagerie of animals, where she enjoys brainstorming creative things to make with the flowers and weeds that grow around her.

  • Julia says:

    Jan,

    For this recipe, can I sub tallow for all the butters?

  • Crazy Aunt says:

    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

    • Jan says:

      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! :)

  • Seetha says:

    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

    • Jan says:

      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! :)

  • Julia says:

    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?

    • Jan says:

      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.) :)

  • Goldie C says:

    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! :)

    • Jan says:

      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. 😊

  • Rose says:

    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.

    • Jan says:

      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/

  • Julie says:

    Hi! Where can I find pine tar to purchase? Thanks!

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