Saturday, May 8, 2010

Madder root - pink perfection

Like most girls I like pink!  I don't know what it is about pink that makes it so special that all little girls seem to like it.   Naturally pink soap is on the top of my list of "must" colours.  I did find a synthetic colour that produced a decent pink.  It's a nice enough colour, but I haven't ever used the soap myself.  I just dislike it a bit.  The colourant is sold as a soap colour and is supposed to produce a lilac and probably does in melt and pour bases, but in CP it is pink.  The label doesn't say anything about what is in it!  Maybe I'm a control freak, but I need to know exactly what goes into my soaps and there is no ingredients list on this colourant.  So my preference for a natural alternative drove me on in my search for alternatives.  And I found it in Madder root, Rubia tinctorium.

I found this great little website:  It's not a soap supply page, they sell some really neat natural things like antlers, sheepskin, beeswax and natural dyes.  Their prices are very reasonable and the service is excellent.  I ordered some dyes and a bit of mordant (that's to use in fabric dyeing should I get bored with soaps - fat chance) and one of them was madder root.

Madder root is soluble in water and although I had seen somewhere a suggestion to use madder root powder infused in oil, I had more coarse chunks and put them into the lye solution.  It turned a lovely purplish red.  I saw somewhere that it was smart to steep it in the lye solution overnight, but I was in a hurry.

Madder root has very many colouring agents ranging from orange to blue-red.  That is the pretty Alizarin which will only show up in a fairly alkaline environment, like lye.  When Madder root is put in water it turns an orangey sort of colour, but add a bit of lye - magic!

I probably should have steeped it overnight because the result was a VERY delicate pink.  But pretty all the same.  I put some madder in a jar with some lye and put it in the fridge for using next time.  Maybe I'll get a darker pink.

I made up a new recipe that I thought would be gentle and suitable for a pink soap:

Coconut oil            -   175 g / 6.2 oz
Lard                        -   175 g / 6.2 oz
Grapeseed oil         -   104 g / 3.7 oz
Almond oil             -   102 g / 3.6 oz
Apricot kernel oil   -     74 g / 2.6 oz
Sunflower oil          -     70 g 2.5 oz
Lye      -   98 g / 3.5 oz
Water   - 266 g /9.4 oz
That should be about 5% SF, but as always check in a lye calculator.

So about 1 tbsp madder root into the hot lye solution which is then strained into the oils.
For fragrance I used a blend of clary sage, geranium and lemongrass EO.  Smells wonderful.  The resulting soap was a nice consistency, fairly hard for me and it cut nicely.  It's still curing, so I'll have to wait a little while to test it.

Update:  The colour faded and was gone after about 9 months.  But this is still one of my favorite soaps.

The photo: More doilies.  These will end up on my daughters wedding dress. The rubber gloves were a gift from the happy couple, the wooden box stores my seeds and the pressed glass bowl is part of a matching set that I use in the guest bathroom.


  1. Love it! Thank you for the tip on Madder Root! I have never tried it, never even knew where to get it so I may try the supplier you suggest! I love the delicate look to the beautiful pink soap you made and the scent sounds scrumptious! xoxo Jen

  2. Wow that's a beauty I truly love the colour so delicate and thanks for sharing your tips well done x

  3. Thank for you comments. A small correction: I wrote 1 tbs, but only used 1 tsp in this recipe, I've corrected that now. Edith, next time I would up it to 2 tsp to get a bit stronger colour. The shade is wonderful though. And Jen, you should try it. The little bag for 2 GBP should last quite a while. Apparently one can use the madder again, maybe crushing it with a pestle in a mortel to get all the colour out. And I should have ordered some Brazilwood. I saw somewhere that one can use that as a soap colour. Not all dyes used for fabric are, I'm told.


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