How to Make Desert Sage Soap

Brew a natural fragrance to scent your own soap with these step-by-step instructions.

Note: Each segment of the soap-making process requires different tools and materials, so each segment is accompanied by its own equipment list.



Materials and Tools:

clippings from the desert sage (Salvia eremostachya) bush (about 2 ounces)
jojoba oil (about 20 oz.)
heavy pot to put the oil and clippings in
heat diffuser, if available
large jar
funnel and cheesecloth or coffee filter


1. Clip and wash a couple of ounces of desert sage. It's an oily plant, so it will be quite dusty.

2. Dry the clippings thoroughly (using a salad spinner helps). If time permits, place clippings in a paper bag and let them sit for a day to dry completely.

3. Put sage into a heavy pot and cover with about 20 ounces of jojoba oil. If a heat diffuser is available to place between the burner and the pot, use it. If not, just watch the pot carefully. Use a very low flame or heat setting.

4. Set the pot on the stove and let the oil/sage warm up. Don't let it boil. Warm the oil this way for an hour or so.

6. Transfer the sage to a large glass jar and pour the oil on top. Cover tightly and let sit for several weeks.

7. Pour the now-infused oil through cheesecloth or a coffee filter into a clean jar.


Materials and Tools:

6.38 ounces chaparral-infused jojoba oil
3.82 ounces almond oil
4.25 ounces castor oil
14.02 ounces coconut oil
17 ounces olive oil
10.62 ounces palm oil
10.62 ounces palm-kernel oil
10.62 ounces rice-bran oil
3.82 ounces cocoa butter
3.82 ounces shea butter
4.48 ounces aloe-vera juice
27.20 ounces water
ice cubes
sodium hydroxide (lye) (about 11.4 ounces)
0.32 oz. sodium lactate
mica, for colorant
vitamin E


pencil and paper


1. Line the wooden mold with the Mylar strips. It helps to spread a bit of petroleum jelly inside the mold to keep the Mylar in place.

2. Line up the ingredients on the counter. Note:

3. Put a few ice cubes and about half the water into the pitcher.

4. Add the sodium lactate.

6. Put the pitcher in the sink. Add the lye to the pitcher. Stir until thoroughly dissolved.

7. Add the aloe-vera juice and set aside.

8. Put the liquid oils in the pot, reserving a bit of the castor oil. Add the reserved castor oil to a pitcher containing the fragrance. The castor will help the fragrance "stick." Note: It's helpful to write down each type of oil as it's added and, when finished, check that against the recipe to make sure no ingredient has been forgotten.

9. Remove a bit of the liquid oils and put in a small glass pitcher. Add the mica and stir well.

10. Put the hard oils (except the shea butter) in a large glass pitcher and melt in the microwave.

11. Add the shea butter and let it melt from the heat of the surrounding oils.

12. Combine the melted hard oils with the liquid oils in the pot.

13. Add the vitamin E and stir well with an immersion blender.

14. Check the temperature of the lye. If it's still fairly hot, add 13.6 ounces of ice cubes. If it's cooled off enough, just add the remaining water.

15. Slowly pour the lye water into the melted oils, stirring and stick-blending all the while.

16. When the lye water is all combined, add the aloe juice.

17. Scoop out about a half-cup of the soap and put it into the mica-oil mixture. Whisk together well.

18. Pour back into the soap pot.

19. Whisk together the castor/fragrance oils and slowly add them to the soap, stirring by hand.

20. When the soap becomes "trace" (viscous), pour it into the mold. Bang the mold on the counter to release any air bubbles that might have formed.

21. Cover with plastic wrap and wrap in towels.

22. Wipe down the countertop and the floor with vinegar to neutralize any lye or raw soap that may have splashed.

23. Leave the soap for about 24 hours.


Materials and Tools:

pencil and paper
goggles or safety glasses
rubber gloves
wooden molds lined with cut-to-fit quilter's Mylar
immersion blender
large stainless-steel pot
various glass or plastic pitchers
mini wire whisks
large plastic pitcher for the lye water
stainless-steel spoon for stirring the lye water
plastic wrap
soap cutter
potato peeler
soap stamps
alcohol and old socks for polishing cured soap
wax paper


1. Remove the Mylar-covered soap log from the mold. It may have to be loosened slightly with a thin spatula.

2. Remove the Mylar strips and cut the soap into slices.

3. Gently bevel the edges of the soap with a potato peeler. (Soap that's been beveled has a more pleasing feel than soap that hasn't.)

4. Let dry on a rack for about a day.

5. Pour a bit of mica onto a piece of wax paper.

6. Dip the soap stamp into the mica and press it gently onto the soap.

7. Let the soap cure and harden for about four weeks.

8. Polish the soap bars with an old clean sock moistened with a bit of alcohol.

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