It's tempting when dreaming up your soap recipes to mix in dried flower petals. Crushed rose petals, lavender buds, and bluebonnets—there are so many to choose from. Adding flowers works just fine in melt and pour soap, but unfortunately, very few flowers retain their color in cold process soap. Exposure to the lye in the saponification process turns flowers brown or black as the soap cures. That doesn’t prevent you from using them; just realize that red rose petals become black rose petals, and lavender buds become little brown buds.
Adding Flowers to Cold Process Soap Making
About the only commonly available flowers that retain their original color in cold process soaps are dried calendula blooms, also known as pot marigolds.
To add flowers to cold process soap:
- Lightly shred dried calendula flower petals
- Add the flower petals to the soap right at trace during the soap making process
They retain their color beautifully and add a lovely texture to the soap.
Adding Flowers to Melt and Pour Soap Making
If you are determined to make soap with dried flowers, you'll have better luck with the melt and pour soap making method. When you work with a clear base, you can see the flowers embedded in the soap. The selection of usable flowers is much greater with melt and pour soap than with cold process soap. In addition to calendula, try dried rose petals, lavender buds, bachelor button or cornflower petals.
To add flowers to melt and pour soap:
- Shred the dried flowers.
- Place the flowers in the mold and then pour in the liquid soap, leaving a little space at the top of the mold.
- Use a toothpick or similar tool to position the flowers in the liquid. They may float to the top as the soap hardens.
- About 20 minutes later, pour a little more liquid soap on top of the initial pour to provide a smooth surface.
You can also use a layering technique. Add a small amount of the liquid soap base and some flowers to the mold every 20 minutes. Repeat this as many times as the mold allows for an even distribution of flowers throughout the soap. This method is best used with flowers that tend to sink to the bottom of the liquid (unless that's the effect you are after). You also use the layering technique when you are adding pressed flowers, rather than shredded dried flowers.
Although the flowers add a beautiful touch to the soaps you make, they don't replace the necessity for essential oils. The dried flowers are too small in quantity to add any fragrance to the soap.
How to Dry Flowers for Soap Making
If you are using flowers from your garden in your soaps, you'll need to dry them first. Choose blooms that are not fully open, because the flower will continue to open after you cut it. Flowers that are fully open when you dry them tend to drop their petals. If you are not in a hurry, you can air dry the flowers. If you are in a hurry, adding silica gel and a microwave can speed the process.