How to Test Fragrance Oils in Soap Making

How to test Fragrance Oils in Homemade Soap

Fragrance oil can be tricky when used in handmade soaps. You must test any new ingredients before adding them to large batches. In this tutorial I show you how to test fragrant oil in homemade soaps.

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Hey, everybody. If you want to know how I go about testing all of these fragrance oils, ten of them to be exact, stick around because that's what we're going to be doing in this video.

So we did a live stream yesterday or the day before or last week. Who knows, who cares? However, we did a live stream and I was talking about the sample bottles that I get of the fragrance oils. And the reason why I started getting samples is previously, what I would do, especially when I first got started, is I would see a scent. I would think that I like the scent and then I would buy it.

And it's really large quantity, like 16oz or even 2 pounds. And unfortunately, what I would find out is some of those scents just did not behave in my soap. And in order for me to not waste as much money on the fragrances and not waste as much money on all of the oils and butters in my recipes, I've decided that I always would do a test for any of the fragrances that I get. But it can be very overwhelming because we know that typically you would use 1oz per pound of oil for your cold processed soup. That's not what we're doing.

I am making one of my signature recipes in 5 pounds. And when I do that, what's going to end up happening is I can then divide that into the various containers. So let's talk about what I use. And this may be helpful for you when you are deciding to test out your fragrances as you are buying them. So, number one, you want to have your signature recipe, which is why I have it covered because it's a secret.

It's a secret signature recipe. I'm sure yours is a secret too. Don't get mad at me. Be all in the comments. Like I would do it to speak or whatever.

Don't do that. Have your recipe and you want it to be a recipe that you're actually going to use all the time. This isn't the time to get fancy and try out some new ingredient that you've never used before. You're trying to see how this particular fragrance oil is going to behave in a recipe that you always use. And you know that works every time.

Preferably a slow moving recipe as well. Then you also are going to need a scale. The scale is going to make sure that you are as consistent as possible when you are measuring out all of your ingredients. But you know that already since you're a soap maker, you measure anything anyway or everything anyway, then you need a notebook. There is no experiment that happens in this world without you taking notes and careful notes on what you are observing happening in the pot.

And in this particular experiment, we are looking for if the fragrance causes any discoloration, so does it make the soap go darker? Does it cause the soap to move faster. So we know that this recipe has a little bit of wiggle room. So does it move faster and then does it cause any ricing or seizing, so any clumps inside of our soap? And so for every fragrance that you have, you're going to write that in your notebook, and then you're going to write out discoloration, acceleration, ricing, and seizing.

And when you write those out, as you are going through, you're going to just check off or cross out. Yes, I got discoloration, no, I didn't get acceleration, no, I didn't get ricing. Check, cross, cross. And hopefully you have more cross outs than checks. Another thing, of course, for soap making, you always need a thermometer.

You need your oils and butters measured out as well as your lye solution. And now for your fragrance testing. What I do, because I don't want to, like, if I were to try and do this, ten different fragrance oils, a pound each, I would have to make 10 pounds. So we're cutting that in half. We're doing five and a half pounds of soap for ten different fragrance oils.

And so that's why the scale is so important, because then we're going to measure out each one in its own container. So we have ten containers, but we're going to have eleven, because the number eleven is going to be for our base recipe. That base recipe has no fragrance added, no color, so that's going to be the one that we're always able to compare to. So you want to have one more than the number of fragrances that you have. So I currently have ten fragrances, ten of these individual bowls.

And then I also have one additional one that we're going to use that has nothing added to it, because that's what we're going to use to determine if we have any variables. Additionally, you're going to need some molds that are big enough to hold it. And I'm not really sure how much these molds hold, so we'll find out on the video if we actually make it. You also need some gloves, some stirring utensils, some paper tiles, pretty close, a sharpie marker. One other thing to make your life a little more saner, it's very important that if you're doing like three, you don't have to do this.

But me, I went overkill, I ordered ten sample fragrances, number them. So I put a number one on the actual fragrance bottle, and then I put a number one on the container. When I go to pour it in the mold, I'm going to use this sharpie marker to put that same number one. So I know that this particular fragrance, which is Sun, Moon and Stars, is the fragrance that we have used, and we have poured that in here, which is then in the mold. So I'll be able to come back tomorrow and say, oh, number one, discolored.

Which one was it? Number one. Sun, moon and stars I have a feeling I'm going to say sun, moon and stars behave beautifully. All right, so we're ready to make some stuff. Don't forget your gloves.

Don't forget your goggles. And I'll switch it over right here. Thank you.

Why should you test your soap making scents?

The short answer is to save time and money. By testing your scents in small batches you can be confident that you will get exactly what you are expecting when making a larger batch of perhaps 5, 10 or 30 pounds at a time. Fragrance oils can be very unpredictable especially when they are new so save yourself some heartache and test in a small batch before committing to larger batches.

What are the most common problems with Fragrance oils in Soap Making?

Fragrance oils can cause ricing, seizing, acceleration and/or discoloration. Have you ever heard the term soap on a stick? Well that comes from seizing. In the blink of an eye your soap batter is nice and creamy to almost rock hard in a matter of seconds. This is usually caused by some kind of reaction to the fragrance oil you are using.

Acceleration is used to describe when your soap batter starts to get pretty thick faster than normal. This typically leaves you less time for fancy designs. Ricing describes when little beads appear in your soap. It is called ricing because it looks like rice. Discoloration is the sleeper of fragrance problems. Your soap appears to come out exactly as you had hoped but during the curing process it tends to discolor or even go brown.

Hopefully you don’t have a scent that causes all of these but if you are trying new scents it is highly likely you may run into one of these issues with your homemade soap. To learn more about problems and how to overcome them, checkout my book How to Make and Sell Soap. There is a whole chapter dedicated to troubleshooting pesky batches.

Until next time…

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  1. Marie Lefebvre

    What an amazing job! As a chemist, I really appreciate how you had a control for the experiment. This was a very good scientific approach.

  2. Din Mohammad Sadiq

    Hello mam
    Will you please let me know how to make my own fregnance oil for soap . I want to make my own fregnance oil.

  3. Zakia Ringgold

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting

  4. Vynah Bae

    it is amazing

  5. cheli ortiz

    Great video! I loved how you explained everything in detail and step by step. You were very professional. I would like to see your eyes though… lol I was very engaged and now I cannot find the follow up from this video. The results?

    • Liz Burn

      i cant find it neither

  6. ASMR with Jung

    Help!? I hope you can help me? I’ve been looking at the regulation percentages and was confused on how to calculate them, and I’m having a hard time finding the info. If safety % are set per oil; and it’s 14% to put into soap. And it’s 100% in candles, what do you do? Do you cut it with something?

    • Zakia Ringgold

      I can speak more so to soap as I don’t make a lot of candles. With soap you would multiply the safety percentage by the amount of oil in your recipe. If you had 20 ounces of oil you could use a maximum of 2.8 ounces in your recipe which is 14%.

  7. Tominiquemylifemyway

    Hello, can you use designer fragrance oils in soaps?

  8. Cya1124

    Zakiaaaa love this. Thanks for sharing

    • Zakia Ringgold

      MarCya X you are welcome it was fun to make.

  9. Zakia Ringgold

    You have some truly talented soap makers in Philippines. One of our speakers at the virtual soap summit joined us from the Philippines her name is Emily Bonife.

  10. Joshua Bryant

    What soap base is this? And does it make suds well?

    • Zakia Ringgold

      Hi Joshua I don’t use a soap base this is a recipe made up of olive, coconut, palm and castor oil. Yes it lathers well

    • Jaya Ganesh

      Zakia Ringgold Hi, you are mentioned here oil what is the % pls list out thanks.

    • Ladylocs Asia

      @Zakia Ringgold I make soaps too. I use those same oils. I just hate the curing period.

  11. B Punzel

    Such a helpful video! Thank you!

  12. Formulation Teacher

    Hi I am imtiaz Khattak from pakistan are you help me some fragrance recipes for soap and Detergents powder

    • Zakia Ringgold

      What type of ingredients do you have available? Fragrance oils or essential oils

    • Olubukola Adebiyi

      @Zakia Ringgold please which fragrance oil can I use for black soap pls

  13. Just Blaze Trucking

    I would love to start a soap business but I’m bout to open clothing store in February. I like to add homemade candles and soap to the store

    • Zakia Ringgold

      Congratulations on the opening of your store! You can always do private label or wholesale from a soap maker to offer the soap in your shop. Have a few bars at the counter . As your customers are checking out, encourage them to get a bar of handmade natural goodness.

  14. Zakia Ringgold

    How do you test new scents in your soap?