Honey soap with lemongrass and ginger

Today’s melt-and-pour soap recipe takes inspiration from one of my all-time favourite hot drinks: lemongrass, ginger and honey. Refreshing, warming and uplifting, this drink always manages to perk me right up whenever I’m feeling a little under the weather. So why not try to encapsulate this lovely feeling in a bar of soap?

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The making of a squidgy soap

One thing I particularly love about this soap creation is that it has a lovely squidgy feel to it, thanks to the honey in the recipe – something I discovered by accident! The story goes like this: My friend Katie and I were soap-crafting for the very first time; we were experimenting with all sorts of additives, from dried botanicals to whole peppercorns. And so into one of the batches we added honey (quite generously too – I knew nothing about ingredient ratios then!); we both loved the idea of a golden soap that oozes moisture and sweetness, but had no expectations as to how the finished soap should behave.

A couple of hours later, all our other soaps were hardening in their moulds, apart from the honey soap which still looked kind of liquid (the base of the mould was soft to touch and a ripple would develop along the surface whenever we shook the mould, suggesting that only the top layer had set). Thinking that perhaps we’d spoilt the soap base by putting too much honey in and that the soap was now ruined, I flipped the mould over and pressed down on it tentatively to get the soap out when, with a soft thud, the soap fell out in one piece. Okay, Katie and I looked at each other, slightly surprised that it hadn’t come as one gloopy mess. A bigger surprise awaited: Katie picked up the soap from the table and a smile slowly formed across her face. “It’s squidgy!” She exclaimed, before handing it over to me for inspection. Squeezing it in my hand, I realised what we’d made was pretty incredible after all: a sweet-smelling, jelly-like soap!! Immediately, we took the soap over to the sink and washed our hands with it, and it was just lovely: moisturising but not sticky; squidgy but firm. I continued using the soap for the next three months and was pleased to note that it remained stable the whole time. There we have it: an accidental success!

Balancing squidginess, sweetness and scent

Eventually, through more trial and error, I calculated the ideal proportions for making squidgy soap to be 85-90% clear M&P soap base, 10-15% honey. This is why, for my recipe, I am going with a ratio of 87% soap base and 12% honey. The remaining 1% goes to essential oils (for scent) and dried herbs (for decoration). Now, when it comes to essential oil concentrations in body and skincare, the majority of sources I’ve come across suggest a “safe rate” as somewhere in between 0.5-3% of the total batch weight, depending on the oil(s) you’re using, the product you’re making and who you’re making it for. For this particular recipe, I’m using very little essential oils (less than 1% of total batch weight) as I find that lemongrass and ginger oils can be quite overpowering, and I don’t want them to mask the sweetness of the honey.

One final, friendly word of advice: the idea of using fresh lemongrass may seem appealing, but I know from past experience that fresh herbs and botanicals have a tendency to misshapen more easily, discolour and stain the soap over time – so it’s safer to use the dried variety! (I’ve never seen dried ginger shreds in shops though, so I made my own by drying them using a kitchen towel).

Anyway, here is the recipe – have a go and let me know what you think!

Ingredients

  • 170g clear SLS-free melt and pour soap
  • 23g honey
  • 1.2g (approx. 25 drops) lemongrass essential oil
  • 0.3g (approx. 6 drops) ginger essential oil
  • a small handful of dried lemongrass
  • a small handful of finely shredded ginger (patted dry using kitchen towel)

The above will make 3 square soaps of around 65g each (using a square cavity mould, with each cavity measuring 5cm x 5cm x 2cm).

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Steps

  1. Cut the M&P soap into cubes. Place them in a measuring jug and melt in a microwave (in two 15-second bursts).
  2. Take the jug out of the microwave, and carefully place it in a saucepan filled one-third with hot water simmering over a stove on low heat.
  3. Gently stir the mixture, taking care to ensure it doesn’t boil or start to bubble (if it does, turn off the heat or take the jug out of the saucepan until it looks like the mixture has cooled a little).
  4. Add in the honey and essential oils. Stir to mix everything together – making sure your mixture does not start to solidify.
  5. Carefully but quickly, pour the mixture into your moulds.
  6. Spray rubbing alcohol on top of each soap to burst any bubbles forming inside the soap.
  7. Gently, sprinkle the dried lemongrass and ginger shreds onto the soaps. If it looks like everything is just floating on top, you may use a small spoon and gently stir the mixture in the mould to help some of the bits sink. Spray some more rubbing alcohol on each soap.
  8. Leave the soap to set in the moulds for 4 hours. Be patient! (If you have a food cover, you can use it to cover the moulds, to prevent dust from sticking to the soaps while they’re setting.)
  9. Carefully, pop the soaps out by inverting the moulds. Wrap them in clingfilm straight away to keep them fresh.
  10. Because these soaps contain honey, they will not harden completely; instead, they will be squidgy (like a hard jelly).
Step 1: Cutting the soap into small cubes
Step 1: Cutting the soap into small cubes.
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Step 3: It takes a while for the soap to melt completely, so to save time it’s better to first give it a quick blast in the microwave.
Step x: Don't mix the dried herbs into the jug - they'll only get stuck to the bottom of the jug! Better to sprinkle them once you have poured the mixture into the moulds.
Step 7: Don’t mix the dried herbs into the jug – they’ll only get stuck to the bottom of the jug! Better to sprinkle them once you have poured the mixture into the moulds.
Step X: Voila!
Step 10: Voila!

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