Natural Colorants for Soap Making

How to Color Soap Naturally

A mound of activated (or active) carbon powder (also called activated coal or charcoal) from a water filter.
Ken Brown/E+/Getty Images

While color may be a purely aesthetic feature of soap, it adds interest and variety, allowing you to show your crafting creativity. You can use micas, liquid dyes, and oxides, but consider these natural soap colorants instead, as they're more readily available––you might even have them on hand in your home right now. Though usually not as vibrant as synthetic colors, natural colorants can be just as lovely with their muted, pastel tones.

Natural Soap Colorants List

Nearly all of these ingredients can be found in your kitchen, local grocery store, or from soap making suppliers. Many of them are already used to color common foods and drinks. For instance, annatto is what gives macaroni and cheese its orange color, and cochineal is used to color Hawaiian Punch.

Illustration of natural soap dyes
Illustration: The Spruce / Bailey Mariner

Black and Gray

  • Activated charcoal: gray to deep black color
  • Poppy seeds: blue-gray to light black specks
  • Pumice, ground: gray

White

Brown

  • Cinnamon (can be an irritant): tan to brown
  • Cloves, ground: brown
  • Cocoa powder: brown
  • Coffee/coffee grounds: brown to black
  • Comfrey root: light milky brown
  • Cornmeal: blue, purplish-blue-brown
  • Elderberries (steep in lye solution): light brown
  • Milk (goats or cow's): tan to brown, depending on sugar and fat content
  • Olive leaf powder: warm ochre/brown color
  • Rattanjot: light lavender-brown to deep purplish chocolate brown
  • Rhassoul clay: a light speckled gray-brown
  • Rosehip seeds, ground: light tan to deep brown

Purple

Red and Pink

Green

Blue

Yellow and Orange

  • Annatto seed: steep in oil first; it makes a yellow/orange
  • Ground calendula petals: yellow, speckled throughout
  • Carrots, shredded or ground: yellow to orange
  • Ground chamomile: yellow-beige
  • Curry powder: yellow
  • Orange juice: used in place of water for lye solution; nice pastel orange/beige
  • Paprika: light orange peach to orange-brown; can be an irritant
  • Pumpkin, pureed: lovely deep orange
  • Safflower petals: yellow to deep orange
  • Saffron: yellow
  • Turmeric: golden brown to amber

How to Use Soap Colorants

Natural soap colorants can be infused into the oil or water you'll be using to make your soap, added directly to the soap before setting, or used in the lye solution. Note that the type of process you use––melt-and-pour, cold process, or hot process––as well as the ingredients in your soap will influence when and how you color it.

Unless you've used a specific colorant before, or are following someone else's recipe, it's important to do a test run before you throw a bunch of carrots or seaweed into your soap. Make a small batch of soap before jumping in and committing to a large batch made with an ingredient you've never used before.