Madder Root Soap Making

Madder root can create amazing colors in handmade soaps from pink to red to burgundy. Trust me... You will marvel over the truly spectacular colors produced by this natural soap colorant. Shades will range depending on which madder root soap making method is used causing this particular soap colorant to be extraordinarily versatile! Enjoy this tutorial on how to color soap with madder root and have fun looking at the many pictures I've provided of my madder root soap making results!

madder root soap

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This tutorial is meant to be a complete guide to madder root soap making. I've enclosed various inclusion methods as well as different usage strengths and more. Of course, I've also provided a ton of fun soap pictures displaying my results!

My goal is to create an informative database for as many of the natural soap colorants as I can. I hope it will be a valuable tool and reference for you. I also hope that you will decide to share this database with your soap making friends and family. We are counting on you to do that!

Here's a list of other colorant tutorials that have been completed. Please be sure to check back often as more and more are being added all the time!

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Directly beneath this paragraph is a picture of all the madder root soap making batches that I created for this tutorial. I was using the Soap Making Resource 2lb no-line acrylic soap mold. Side by side, you can really see the different shades of color that are possible to create using the assorted madder root soap making techniques and strengths. Keep reading for more pictures and a full explanation for each batch!

All Madder Root Soap Batches

I have inserted a table of contents below for this lesson. Feel free to use it to navigate through the entire madder root soap making tutorial, or better yet, just read the whole thing through! Sometimes it is better to read everything from start to finish... at least the first time through, so you can get a general feel for using the colorant in your soap.

Keep in mind that my "recommended" amounts of madder root powder can merely serve as a starting point for you if you are trying to go for a different color then what I achieved.

I think it is a great benefit to actually see the resulting hue from using a specific madder root soap making technique and specific amount of madder root. With this starting point as a base, you can easily adjust the shade, by simply adding more or less of the botanical or by increasing the infusion times. Hopefully this will take away a lot of the guess work.

Infusing Madder Root into a Liquid Oil

Infusing the botanical into one of your liquid oils is a great method for coloring your soap with madder root. This madder root soap making technique creates a soap that is void of any scratchy feeling that can sometimes be present in soaps which had botanical powders added directly to the batch.

When you infuse the madder root, you are essentially extracting the color from the herb and into one of your liquid soap making oils. You then drain out the actual natural soap colorant, in this case the madder root, from the oil. The now colored and smooth oil is then added to your soap to color your entire batch.

The infusion is accomplished by combining your liquid oil of choice and madder root together and then applying heat (usually via a crock-pot) until the color extracts into the oil. It's very easy to do! This process does take a bit more time then adding the powdered colorant to your batch at trace, but I personally like the results better! Don't worry, we will go through adding the madder root powder at trace and the results achieved with that method further down the page as well as other madder root soap making techniques that you may enjoy!

For all of our madder root soap making experiments, I will be using the following recipe:

* This recipe has a 5% super fat.
* Ingredients are available to purchase at the online store.

This batch is made up of 21 ounces of oils. After all the other ingredients are added... namely the lye and water, the batch will total 2 pounds. I am using the 2lb Soap Making Resource no-line acrylic soap mold. Our 2lb wooden soap mold will also work for this tutorial.

First, we must create our madder root infused oil. For our infusion, we will be using the rate of 2 tablespoons madder root powder to 1 cup of liquid oil. So... for every 1 cup of oil that you want to infuse, simply add 2 tablespoons of madder root powder.

Let's say I want to infuse 32 ounces of oil. How many tablespoons of madder root powder should I add for the infusion? That's right... 8! You got it! Of course, if you want to create a stronger infusion for a darker hue, you can always do this by increasing your madder root to liquid oil infusion rate. I will be using Soap Making Resource's grade A olive oil as my liquid oil.

I strongly recommend creating your infused oil independently from the rest of your soap batch. You can then store any excess infused oil and use it the next time you need to color your soap with madder root. Don't worry... It won't go to waste as I am sure you will love the infused madder root soap making method for coloring your soap and will probably use it often!

It is just so much easier to take the exact amount of infused oil you need for your batch from your pre-made supply then trying to create the exact amount of infused oil that you need for your recipe. For instance, let's say you need 2.5 ounces of infused oil for your madder root soap making recipe. It is a real pain to try and figure out how much madder root you would need to infuse into 2.5 ounces of oil to stick with your desired rate... in my case 2 tablespoons per cup of liquid oil. Plus, if you only infuse a small amount of oil, like 2.5 ounces, it won't even be enough to cover the bottom of your crock-pot! It's just better to create the infused oil separately.

For our demonstration, I've measured out 2 cups of olive oil and added exactly 4 tablespoons madder root powder to it, keeping with my 2 tablepoons madder root per cup of oil ratio. I've placed this madder root powder and olive oil mixuture into my crockpot and set it at a low heat setting. This added heat will help the color to extract from the madder root into your oil. Keep the heat on low though as you don't want to scorch the madder root powder or the olive oil! I will be infusing this oil for exactly 2 hours!

Madder Root in Crock-pot Before Infusion

If you don't have a crock-pot, you can always place the olive oil madder root combination into a regular pot and accomplish your infusion on your stove top. Just keep the heat as low as possible!

Alternately, you can do what's called a cold infusion. With this infusion method, you simply add the madder root and liquid oil of choice into a mason jar and let it soak for a few weeks. Every couple of days, give the jar a good shake! Eventually, the madder root color will extract into your oil. I personally prefer adding heat though as it is quicker and more consistent for madder root soap making!

Madder Root in Mason Jar Cold Infusion

So it has been exactly 2 hours and as you can see our madder root infusion is complete! Below is a picture of what it looks like... Pretty right!

madder root infused in crock-pot

We are now going to start our first madder root soap making test. For this first experiment, we will be using our infused oil at the rate of 5% of our total oils producing a light pink hue in our soap. This means that we will allow 5% of our total soap making oils to be made up of madder root infused oil.

So... let's say you are making a batch with 100 ounces of oils total. If you are using infused oil at the rate of 5% of your total oils, you would allow 5 ounces of those 100 total ounces to be madder root infused oil because 5% of 100 equals 5.

Want another example? Let's say your batch is made up of 62 ounces of oils total. If 5% of your 62 ounces of oil is madder root infused oil then 3.1 ounces of oil would be madder root infused because 5% of 62 equals 3.1. Very easy, right?

Remember, the higher the percentage of infused oil the darker the color will be in your madder root soap making batch!

My 2 pound recipe as described in the beginning of this tutorial has 21 ounces of total oil in it. So for our 5% madder root infused oil experiment, I will be allowing 1.05 ounces of oil to be madder root infused. Since my recipe already has 10.5 ounces of olive oil in it, I will be adding 1.05 ounces madder root infused olive oil and the remaining 9.45 ounces will be regular olive oil.

Here's a picture of the madder root infused and non madder root infused oil portions side by side:

Madder Root Infused Oil Next to Non-infused Oil

I am now going to make my soap with 5% of the oil in my batch being madder root infused. For this test, I used the cold process method.

I personally prefer to add the infused oil portion to my batch after initially mixing in the non-infused oils with the lye. I don't wait till trace to add the madder root infused oil, but instead add it just 30 seconds or so after I initially mix together the lye and other oils. This method allows me to see the transformation in color brought on by adding the madder root infused oil. It's really a marvel to see your soap turn a beautiful purplish crimson color.

Pouring Madder Infused Oil into Rest of Batch
By the way, if you never made soap before, or just want a chance to refresh your memory, please check out my soap recipe library. I think you will find it useful as I explain step by step how to make soap using a specific formula in a way that you can follow a long! Then come back to this tutorial and try your hand at madder root soap making.

Below is a picture of the soap produced when 5% of the oil is madder root infused:

5% Infused Oil Madder Root Soap

Now, we are going to produce more of a medium-strength color with our madder root infused oil. To do this, we are going to allow 15% of our oils to be madder root infused. With a 2lb recipe made up of 21 ounces of oils, 15% of our total oils would be 3.15 ounces. So... we will include 3.15 ounces of madder root infused oil in our recipe. Here's a picture of the resulting soap using 15% madder root infused oil:

15% Infused Oil Madder Root Soap

Finally, let's create a very dark hued soap with infused madder root! For this madder root soap making test, we are going to allow 35% of our oil to be madder root infused. Will the color bleed at such a high percentage? All colorants, including natural botanical colorants have the potential to bleed if used in too high of a percentage in soap. I thought with this 35% experiment it would be fun to see the color produced and whether or not color bleeding occurs. Here is a picture of the resulting soap using 35% madder root infused oil:

35% Infused Oil Madder Root Soap

As you can see, the soap did not bleed! So I guess 35% infused oil is not too much:

washing hands with madder root soap

Adding Madder Root Powder to Soap at Trace

Now we are going to take a look at adding madder root powder to your soap at trace. This is definitely a simpler madder root soap making method I suppose than infusing the madder root into one of your liquid oils. Unfortunately though, adding the powder at trace will possibly give your soap a slight scratchy feel to it depending on how much madder root powder you use. Some people really don't mind this scratchiness in their soap while others want to avoid it at all costs. I would recommend experimenting to find out your likes and dislikes when it comes to your products texture.

For our first test, we will be adding 1 teaspoon of madder root powder for this 2lb batch producing a light pink color in our soap. This means we are adding madder root powder at the rate of 1/2 teaspoon per pound of soap! I will be using the same recipe that I have been using throughout this madder root soap making tutorial as described above.

I strongly recommend when adding botanical powders to your soap that you remove a small portion of lightly traced soap from your batch and initially mix your powder into this small portion. Sometimes, if you throw a powdered botanical into your entire batch all at once, it is very difficult to break up all the clumps and blend it in smoothly as there is only so much time before you have to pour your soap into the mold before it solidifies. This will cause your soap to have a speckled look.

So... take out 2 or 3 ounces of lightly traced soap and mix your madder root powder into this small portion thoroughly, eliminating all clumps.

Mixing Madder Root into Small Portion of Soap

Once finished, add this colored portion of soap back into the main madder root soap making batch to color your entire product.

Pouring Colored Portion into Rest of Batch

Below is a picture of the soap produced from adding 1 teaspoons madder root powder for color:

Soap Colored with 1 Teaspoon Madder Root Powder

Next, we are going to increase the amount of madder root powder we use in our batch to 2 teaspoons for our 2lb batch. This is double the proportion of our prior experiment. 2 teaspoons for a 2lb batch is a rate of 1 teaspoon per pound of soap.

Here is the resulting soap from our 2 teaspoon madder root batch:

Soap Colored with 2 Teaspoon Madder Root Powder

Finally, we shall increase the amount of madder root powder for our 2lb batch to 4 teaspoons. This, again, is double our prior experiment. 4 teaspoons per 2lbs batch is a rate of 2 teaspoons per pound of soap.

Here is the soap produced by adding 4 teaspoons madder root powder to a 2lb batch of soap:

Soap Colored with 4 Teaspoon Madder Root Powder

After testing these soaps, colored by adding madder root powder directly at trace I didn't notice much of a scratchiness to them!

Adding Madder Root Powder to your Lye Solution

A third madder root soap making method for coloring your product is to add the madder root powder to your lye solution. With this method, you simply add the madder root powder to your lye and water mixture, allow it to soak long enough for the madder root color to extract into the lye, drain out the madder root and then add the now colored lye solution to your batch to make soap.

It is best to add the madder root powder to the lye solution immediately after the solution is created. This is because the heat naturally produced from combining water and sodium hydroxide will help the red madder root color be extracted more quickly.

Below, is a picture of the madder root powder soaking in the lye solution. The color extracts very quickly and produces a beautiful crimson shade!

Madder Root Soaking in Lye Solution

The powder is then strained out of the lye solution using a very fine stainless steel strainer and the colored lye is then used in your batch to produce a red hue.

You can either filter out the powder while pouring your lye into a separate container, or you can filter out the powder as you pour the lye into your batch of soap. I personally prefer that later. You can see me accomplishing this step below:

Pouring Madder Root Colored Lye into Soap

Below, you will find a soap that I colored with the above method of soaking the madder root in the lye solution. For this test batch, I added 1 tablespoon madder root powder to my lye solution and allowed it to soak for 3.5 hours. Again, keep in mind that this is just a starting point! If you are using this particular madder root soap making technique and want a darker color, use more madder root and allow it to soak for a longer period of time.

The above is a rate of 1 tablespoon per 2 pounds of soap. So, for similar results to mine, just stick with that proportion. I also used the same recipe as communicated in the beginning of this tutorial.

You can see from the picture below that this soap turned out a beautiful bright shade of pinkish red from using this madder root soap making method...

Madder Root Soap from Soaking Madder Root in Lye Solution

How will the Super-fat Percentage Affect your Madder Root Colored Soap?

Now let's see if the color produced by madder root is different in soaps with a higher super-fat percentage. If you are not familiar with the term super-fat or lye discount, please click here for a helpful article.

Many soap makers believe that the super-fat percentage (or lye discount percentage) of a recipe has an affect on the soap's PH levels. There are natural colorants out there that are very sensitive to PH levels and will produce different colors depending on if the soap's PH is high or low.

We are going to experiment with madder root to see whether or not a higher super-fat percentage in the soap will drastically alter the color outcome. We have increased the super-fat percentage from 5% all the way up to 12%. Other then the change in super-fat levels, our madder root soap making recipe is exactly the same as the one described above.

Here is the recipe with a 12% super-fat. As you can see below, the only ingredient that has changed in amount is our lye. We have decreased the lye to 76 grams as is required to raise the super-fat percentage to 12%.

We will be comparing two soaps below; one with a 5% super-fat and one with a 12% super-fat. All else is completely equal between the two batches. Both are using the same recipe as described previously. Also, both will have 15% of the total oils being made up of the same strength madder root infused oil.

Here are the resulting soaps displayed side by side.

Madder Root Soap 12% SuperfatMadder Root Soap 5% Superfat

You can see from the pictures above that the soap with a 12% super-fat has more of a light pinkish tone while the soap with a 5% super-fat has a darker pink tone. Both are very pretty colors! The color difference is not an overtly obvious one, but it is there all the same!

How will the Gel Phase Affect the Color Produced by Madder Root

Through the insulation of your molded soap during the initial 12 - 24 hours of curing, you can promote what's commonly referred to as the "gel phase". This phase is caused by the building of heat in your soap.

If your soap is allowed or forced to go through the gel phase, it can have a drastic affect on the color produced by some natural colorants. So far, in my experience, madder root is one of the most affected by the gel phase!

Below is a picture of my soap colored with madder root as it was going through gel:

Madder Root Soap going through Gel Phase

So what type of color changes will you see in soap colored with madder root that are caused by the gel phase compared with madder root soap that does not go through gel? Well, it appears that gelled madder root soap has a much more dark, almost brick red hue to it rather then the typical lighter bubble-gum pink colors that seems to accompany un-gelled madder root soap. The color is really very different... like night and day almost! The gelled soap is a deep, dark burgundy red. A very beautiful color indeed. In fact, it is one of my favorite colors that we produced with madder root!

Below is a picture of the final madder root soap that did go through the gel phase so that you can see it for your self. It has 15% of its oils made up of madder root infused oil.

Gelled Madder Root Soap

So that you can compare the results from madder root soap that did go through gel with madder root soap that did not go through gel, I have included below a picture of non-gelled madder root soap. The following soap had literally, the exact same ingredient makeup and identical 15% infused madder root oil portion as the gelled soap that is picture above. We used the same recipe as described at the top of this tutorial for both madder root soap making batches. The only difference between the two soaps is that the above soap did go through gel while the following soap did not!

Madder Root Soap that did not go through Gel

As you can see from comparing the hue of the two soaps, the gel phase will drastically alter your soap's color when using madder root in soap making! You can now know with confidence that one of the keys to producing a dark red soap with madder root is to allow it to go through the gel phase.

Closing Statement...

As always, when storing your soap colored with madder root, you should keep it out of the light as much as possible to avoid color fading. It would be an absolute shame for the beautifully madder root shade to prematurely fade due to improper storage!

I truly do hope that this tutorial has helped you in your madder root soap making quest! If it has, and you think it may help others, please feel free to tell your friends, family and the soap making community about this tutorial. It's always nice to pay it forward by spreading the word.

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