Handmade Soap for the Gardener

AKA: Everything but the kitchen sink soap! When we were shooting the photos for my upcoming book Soap Crafting, the artistic director for Storey Publishing wanted a great shot of some soap batter with multiple additives. Of course I obliged, splitting a batch into 5 oddly-sized parts and adding anything I happened to have on hand. The result was a crazy herbed-up super exfoliating soap worthy of cleaning the Hulk himself, but not being one to keep a recipe to myself I just had to share. I was too happy with the scrubby results not to!

Handmade Soap for the Gardener


13.2 oz Palm Oil

13.2 oz Coconut Oil

13.2 oz Canola Oil

4.4 oz Sunflower Seed Oil

6.3 oz Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)

14.5 oz Distilled Water

Rose Clay

Lavender Grade 1

Coffee Grounds


Kelp Powder

Diluted Fuschia LabColor

Titanium Dioxide

0.5 oz Jasmine Absolute Essential Oil

0.5 oz Litsea Essential Oil

2.0 oz Hungarian Lavender Essential Oil

Condiment Squirt Bottle

4 lb Wood Mold with Wingnuts

Click here to add everything you need for this project to your Bramble Berry shopping cart!

Soap for the Gardener

COLOR PREP: Disperse 1/2 teaspoon Titanium Dioxide in 1/2 Tablespoon Sunflower Seed Oil (or any liquid oil). Mix in well using a mini-mixer, but before to saturate the powder in the oil before turning on the mixer or you’ll get a messy pouf of pigment! Once the Titanium Dioxide is fully dispersed, measure 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture into the condiment squirt bottle and set aside.

MOLD PREP: Line the 4 lb Wood Mold with freezer paper, shiny side up.

ESSENTIAL OIL BLEND: In a separate container, combine the Jasmine Absolute, Litsea, and Hungarian Lavender Essential Oils. Looking for a more economical blend? Try 2 parts Lavender 40/42 Essential Oil with 1/2 part Orange 10x Essential Oil and 1/2 part Rosehip Jasmine Fragrance oil.

SAFETY FIRST: Suit up for safe handling practices! That means goggles, gloves and long sleeves. Make sure kids, pets, and other distractions and tripping hazards are out of the house or don’t have access to your soaping space. Always soap in a well-ventilated area.

If you’ve never made Cold Process soap before, this is a great recipe for getting your feet wet! However, I still highly recommend checking out our FREE four part SoapQueen.tv series on Cold Process Soapmaking, especially the episode on lye safety. And if you’d rather do some reading, Bramble Berry carries a wide range of books on the topic, as well as digital downloads for that instant gratification factor.

ONE: Slowly and carefully add the lye to the water, and stir until clear. Set aside to cool.

TWO: Melt and combine the Palm, Coconut, Canola, and Sunflower Seed Oils. Once the lye water and the oils have cooled to 130 degrees or below (and are ideally within 10 degrees of each other), add the lye water to the oils and stick blend until thin trace.

THREE: Pour soap batter into the condiment bottle until the bottle is about 1/3 full. With your finger over the tip of the bottle, shake until the color is  mixed in and set aside.

FOUR: Split the remaining soap into 5 parts, two parts measuring about 1 cup each, another part measuring 2 cups, the fourth about 1/2 cup, and the fifth being the remainder.

FIVE: To one of the parts measuring 1 cup, add 1 Tablespoon Rose Clay and 3 mL Diluted Fuchsia LabColor. To the other 1 cup part, add 1 Tablespoon Lavender buds.To the part measuring 2 cups, add 1 Tablespoon Coffee Grounds.  To the part measuring 1/2 cup, add 1 Tablespoon Kelp Powder. And to the remaining soap, add 1 pinch Calendula. Stir each colorant or additive in with a whisk or spoon.

SIX: Add the essential oil blend to each split part. I poured the Calendula layer into the mold first, so after I added the essential oil blend I used a stick blender to simultaneously mix in the essential oils and bring the soap to a thick trace. This will chop the Calendula petals a bit, which was my intention. Pour the soap into the mold and tamp the mold on the table to remove any air bubbles. 

SEVEN: Next, bring the lavender layer to thick trace using your stick blender. Pour this layer into the mold as well, but this time pour the soap over a spatula so not to break through the first layer. Tamp the mold on the table to remove air bubbles.

EIGHT: After the Lavender layer, in went the soap with the Coffee Grounds. Bring the soap to a thick trace and pour into the mold over a spatula so not to break the layers. Tamp the mold on the table to eliminate air bubbles.

NINE: The Rose Clay layer is next. Bring the soap to a thick trace as well, but instead of pouring all of the soap in at once, start building the foundation for the swirled top. Pour the soap in thin lines down the length of the mold, curving back up and around when you reach the end, creating “S” curves. Build on those “S” curves until all of the soap is in the mold.

TEN: Follow the Rose Clay “S” curves with the Kelp Powder soap. Bring the soap to thick trace and pour right next to the lines created by the Rose Clay soap, until all of the soap is in the mold. Finally, repeat with the Titanium Dioxide-colored soap in the squirt bottle, giving it a good shake before you start to pour.

ELEVEN: Time to swirl! Using a chopstick or dowel inserted into just the top 1/4″ of the soap, drag perpendicularly through the lines created by the three different colors of soap, curving back up when you reach the end of the mold. You’re creating “S” curves again! Go back and forth down the mold until you reach the end.

TWELVE: Without removing your chopstick or dowel from the soap, start the next phase of the swirl by dragging down the length of the mold, perpendicular to the “S” curves you just created. When you reach the end of the mold, swoop around and start heading down the length of the mold in the opposite direction. Finally, create a looping pattern with your chopstick across the linear swirl you just created, looping down the length of the mold and then swooping back. Repeat until the entire surface of the soap is swirled.

THIRTEEN: Spray with 91% Isopropyl (Rubbing) Alcohol to prevent soda ash. Cover and insulate for 24 hours, and unmold after 1-3 days. Cut the loaf and allow to cure for 4-6 weeks. Enjoy!

Gardener Soap

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  1. Tommie Sue Reeves says

    this looks like a really cool soap and I would like to give it a try but I am a little confused. there are 3 layers, the calendula, lavender and coffee and then three different stripes on top, rose clay, kelp and white. however, the instructions say to split the batter into 5 portions. did I miss a step somewhere?

    • Kelsey says

      Hi there!

      The first part of the soap is poured into a squeeze bottle and mixed with Titanium Dioxide (step three). Then, the soap is split into five containers. So, there should be three layers and three stripes on top. Sorry for any confusion! If you have any other questions let me know. :)

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  2. Katie Kelly says

    I recently made this soap, however I substituted Olive oil for Canola oil. Later, I realized I had misread the recipe and had used Palm Kernel flakes instead of Palm oil. So my recipe really was:
    30% Palm Kernel Flakes
    30% Coconut Oil
    30% Olive Oil
    10% Sunflower Oil

    The soap came out of the mold and is beautiful, and set up well. My question is this going to be a super harsh soap? My intention was for this to be a hand soap for family members, but I’m worried it might not be safe.

    • Kelsey says

      Hi Katie!

      I’m so glad your soap came out well! Palm kernel flakes add some great firmness to your bar, and we typically use it up to 15% in our recipes. Because your recipe has 30%, that soap will be harder than usual. I would recommend trying out one of your bars to see how it feels. :)

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  3. akila says


    Need a clarification in soap making.
    Can cold process soap be prepared with neem oil as one of the ingredient? Is soap prepared with neem oil safe for kids (3 year old)


    • Kelsey says

      Hi Akila!

      We didn’t use neem oil in this recipe, but I believe that it would work just fine! When you make a substitution, make sure to run that recipe through the Lye Calculator so you can get the correct lye and liquid amounts: http://www.brambleberry.com/Pages/Lye-Calculator.aspx

      Also, a small test batch may be helpful for you. :)

      Neem oil should be skin safe. However, I would recommend contacting the manufacturer to make sure. :)

      -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  4. sandra baird says

    When making this soap…. do you use fresh coffee grounds or used grounds….??

    • says

      Hi Sandra!

      You could use either! The one thing I would keep in mind is how course your grind is will effect how much exfoliation your soap has :) I hope you give this recipe a try and if you do, we would love to see photos on our Facebook page! :)


      -Amanda with Bramble Berry

    • Christi says

      You certainly COULD use either…however, there is less caffein and scrubbing action in used grounds….aaaand that’s the point of using it right? “In a 2008 study performed at the University of São Paulo, researchers found that an application of skin cream containing caffeine to cellulite reduced the size of cellulite fat cells by 17 percent. In addition, a 2007 study performed at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro found that caffeine cream applied to cellulite decreased the hip’s diameter in almost 70 percent of participants.” Use fresh,finely ground coffee!!!

      • Kelsey says

        Hi Christi!

        Thanks so much for your comment! We’ve actually found that both fresh and used coffee grounds add some great exfoliation to this recipe. However, fresh coffee grounds may “bleed” and form a small halo of color around them.

        Whichever you use, they work great in this recipe. :)

        -Kelsey with Bramble Berry

  5. says

    It is іn reality a nice and helpful piece of
    info. I am glad that you shared this useful info with us.
    Ρleae sttay us informed like this. Tɦanks foг sharinɡ.

  6. Maridel says

    I just started to make soap for my family and to share as gifts and I just love this website. My first customer experience was excellent and surely I will keep making my soap supplies purchases from you.
    I have a question, do you have a recipe that you could share with me for a CP soap that has oatmeal, honey and goat milk in it? or something similar with Oatmeal oats in it?
    Thank you.

  7. Nita says

    Hi Becky, thank you for responding.
    The mixture that was separating and clumpy in the bowl I put it in an empty vegetable oil container and froze it, because I was not sure what to do with it. It is still in the freezer.
    Do you have any suggestions as to what I can do with it? Can I thaw it out and do anything with it or do I just throw it out?

  8. Nita says

    What a gorgeous soap. And I just love your personality and all of your helpful videos!

    I am a beginner and I was making a cold process soap yesterday and I used about 1 1/2 tsp of apricot kearnel oil in a bowl and added about 3/4 tsp of bergundy oxide and mixed it. I separated my mixture into 2 batches because i was going for a swirl, I also poured in 2tbsp of pomegranate fo and 4 tbsp of vanilla stabilizer. ( i was making a 32 oz.batch) I added the bergundy oxided oil mix to the one batch and hand stirred then used my hand mixer and oh my!…. it all separated, and looked like curdled milk. I kept mixing and the more I mixed the more watery & curdled it became. So the remaining bowl was ok, being that I didn’t add the colorant/apricot oil to it. So i had an empty bottle and poured the separated clumpy mess into it and froze it. I was able to pour the remaining mixture into a mold. I put it into a preheated oven to do a cpop, and it set up over night but it came out with oils on the top and sides and bottom. I have done 3 other cpop and never had this problem.
    Please help! Do I have to throw out the frozen curdled mixture or can I defrost it and cook it or hp it? Thanks so much for your help and sorry for such a long post. =)

  9. Jessica says

    This might be a dumb question, but are the coffee grounds fresh? Or do you used ones that have been used already.

    • says

      Hi Jessica!

      Not a dumb question at all. In this particular recipe, the coffee grounds were already used before adding them to the soap batch. They are a great exfoliant and I love using them in my cold process soaps as well. If you use spent (used) coffee grounds, make sure they are nice and dry before you add them in. Instant coffee will not work for this type of project and if you want them be super scrubby (more exfoliating), you can use fresh coffee grounds. I hope this helps!:)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  10. says

    Love it! What a fun soap to look at and to use. I love how you can just “throw together” a soap as beautiful and functional as this. Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      Hi Jean!

      Thanks for stopping by, we are so happy that you were able to check this project out and you’ll have to let us know if you try it out. :)

      Happy Soaping!
      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  11. says

    The soap came up so gorgeous looking!
    I was wondering how do make that clean and neat cut if it contain lavender buds? Mine with lavender buds usually have dragged lines which are not as nice.
    Also, where I can get that jumbo glass pitcher? I wondering also if it’s not too much weight to hold by one hand…

  12. Hailey says

    This just might make me take the plunge into soap making. I have been scared of the lye but this is so awesome looking I have to make it.

  13. Sly says

    Sounds & looks like a really yummy soap.

    Question: In the directions, under ESSENTIAL OIL BLEND, it says to combine the different EO’s. Then is starts out with…. “Looking for something a….” and is incomplete. I am guessing that there was a list of some EO’s that were less expensive, as I know that the Hungarian Lavender is up there in price.

    Do you know what the rest of that sentence is?

    Thank you!

  14. Talia says

    This is going to sound strange but this soap makes me think of a mug I made in pottery class years ago. To be honest it was an ugly mug, but it had a certain charming quality to it that won me over. The many layers of scrubby exfoliants in this soap gives it similar rustic charm. Also, the swirled top is gorgeous!

    • says

      Hi Talia!

      That is so neat that it reminds you of that mug, it really is such a fun soap to make and super scrubby on top of that! Let us know if you try it out, we’d love your feedback. =)

      -Becky with Bramble Berry

  15. says

    WOW!! A-M! Everything but the kitchen sink is correct!
    Funny how brainstorms like this can help come up with a real popular soap.. LOVE IT!!

    • says

      Good morning, Laurelle!

      Isn’t brainstorming and experimenting with soap just so much fun? I just love this super scrubby recipe and can’t wait for everyone else to try it out. Happy Soaping!

      -Becky with Bramble Berry


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