How to Make Winter Rose Soap

When the landscape is brown and you're looking forward to signs of spring, treat yourself to something that reminds you of the garden.

by Jan Berry
PHOTO: Jan Berry/

Spring is right around the corner, and I can’t wait! To help brighten the dreary grayness of this final month of winter, I’ve been pulling out my dried flowers from last summer and making pretty things with them, such as this winter rose soap.

To make your own, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried rose petals, divided
  • 2 cups water
  • 4.3 ounces lye (sodium hydroxide)
  • 3 ounces avocado oil
  • 8 ounces coconut oil
  • 12 ounces olive oil
  • 2 ounces shea butter
  • 6 ounces sunflower oil
  • rose clay (optional for color)
  • essential oils (optional for scent): rose absolute, palmarosa, and/or rose geranium

I sized this recipe to fit a wooden mold that my husband made for me. If you’d like to make your own, its internal measurements are 8 x 3.5 x 3.5 inches. It yields about seven bars. You don’t have to have a special soap mold, though, to enjoy this recipe. Use plastic containers or paper milk cartons as serviceable substitutes.

Please note: This is an overview of the steps needed to make this soap and not a complete guide. Check out my Soap Making 101 post for a cold-process soap tutorial.

Step 1: Make Rose Tea

How to Make Winter Rose Soap - Photo by Jan Berry/ (
Jan Berry/

To make a rose tea, pour two cups of simmering water over 1/2 cup dried rose petals. Let this steep until it’s cool, then strain and measure out 11 ounces.

Step 2: Add Lye

Wearing the proper soap-making safety gear (gloves, goggles, long sleeves), measure out 4.3 ounces of lye (sodium hydroxide). I buy my lye at the local farm-supply store, but you can also find vendors online.

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Carefully, pour the lye into the cooled rose tea. I do this all in my kitchen sink so it will catch any spills and because it has a window right above it that I can open for ventilation. Even so, I turn my head to avoid breathing in the lye fumes directly.

Place the lye solution in a safe spot, high away from pets, children and husbands who might think it’s a drink.

Step 3: Prepare Oils

While the lye is cooling, weigh out your oils and place them in a stainless steel or enamel-lined pot. (Never use aluminum when making soap.) Heat the oils gently until the shea butter has melted.

Step 4: Prepare Clay & Rose Petals (optional)

How to Make Winter Rose Soap - Photo by Jan Berry/ (
Jan Berry/

While the oils are heating, take a mini coffee grinder and pulverize 1/2 cup of dried rose petals until they are reduced to a fine powder. Add 1/2 tablespoon rose clay to the ground rose petals and set aside. The rose clay will color your soap pink and the ground rose petals will add pinkish-brown speckles. Both ingredients are optional.

Step 5: Line Your Mold

At this time, you’ll also want to prep your mold by lining it with parchment paper. Place a sheet of waxed paper on the table next to your mold, in order to have a safe spot to lay down your raw-soap-covered immersion blender and spatula when you’re ready to pour.

Step 6: Combine Ingredients

Check the temperature of your lye. There’s a lot of personal preference between soap makers when it comes to the temperature at which you should start mixing. I like to have my lye mixture and my oils roughly the same temperature, in a range between 90 to 125 degrees before proceeding.

Carefully, drizzle the lye mixture into the oils and stir gently a few times. Making sure your immersion blender is completely submerged, turn it on and mix for about a minute.

How to Make Winter Rose Soap - Photo by Jan Berry/ (
Jan Berry/

Once you’ve reached a light trace, you may wish to add a tablespoon or two of essential oils for scent. Rose  absolute can be quite expensive, so I like to stretch the amount out with rose geranium and palmarosa essential oils.Dump in the rose powder and rose clay from step 4, and continue mixing, stopping to stir by hand and check consistency every 30 to 45 seconds. It usually takes only a few minutes for my soaps to reach trace. (“Trace” means the mixture is thick enough so that when you lift up the immersion blender and drizzle some back into the pot, it will leave a definite pattern or “trace” before sinking back in.)

Step 7: Pour Into Mold

How to Make Winter Rose Soap - Photo by Jan Berry/ (
Jan Berry/

Now, you’re ready to pour into your prepared mold. Remember, the soap is still caustic at this point, so keep your gloves on.

Working quickly, pour your soap into the mold, smoothing the top with a plastic spatula or spoon.

You can gently press whole dried rose buds into the top of your soap, sprinkle with crumbled rose petals, or leave the top plain.

Step 8: Cure Soap

Cover your mold with a layer of parchment paper, then insulate with a towel or blanket. After 24 hours, you can unmold, slice and admire your beautiful soap. However, it needs to cure for four to six weeks before using. This amount of time ensures a long lasting, gentle bar.

Step 9: Decorate

After curing, you can use strips of scrapbook paper or ribbon to decorate. Homemade soap is always a well received gift.

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