I’m a member of a Facebook group with a bunch of other soap makers, and when I first joined the group, everyone was in the middle of a salt bar soap exchange. Salt bar? What the heck is that? So I read up on it a bit and decided that I must make some of these myself!
What Is A Salt Bar, Anyway?
Simply, it’s bar of soap that has sea salt added to it. The reason people do it, is for the properties the salt adds to the soap. Sea salt is full of minerals, and just as taking a salt bath can help to soothe pain and inflammation, it would seem that washing with a salt bar may have similar positive effects. I don’t know if I buy all of that, since you would soak in a salt bath for about 20 minutes or so, while soap is just washed away. However, the claim is also made that washing with a salt bar can regenerate and hydrate the skin, while removing toxins and impurities. I think this is more easily believed, since the salt is a bit exfoliating.
I learned a few things from my first couple of batches, and I wouldn’t make that first recipe again, for a few reasons – mainly because my superfat was too low. There is room for experimentation with these. You can use up to 100% coconut oil in a salt bar, and the same goes for the amount of salt you use – I prefer half my oil amount, but you can use up to 100% of your batter amount. The reason the coconut oil is so high, is that the salt reduces lather and coconut oil will still lather in salt water; and the reason the superfat is so high, is because the coconut oil can be drying. It’s all about balance.
The recipe below is a pretty standard salt bar recipe. Feel free to tweak it to your preference – but always run it through a soap calculator afterward, to make sure your lye amount is correct.
Grapefruit Ginger Salt Bar Soap Recipe
Yield: 1 pound
- 11.2 oz coconut oil 70%
- 4 oz olive oil 25%
- .8 oz castor oil 5%
- 2.15 oz lye (20% superfat)
- 6.05 oz oz water
- 0.65 oz grapefruit essential oil
- 0.35 oz ginger essential oil
- 8 oz of fine grain sea salt (not Epsom salt or dead sea salt)
- 1 tsp of pink colorant
You’ll want to use a mold that has individual cavities (or a slab mold with dividers), because salt bars harden very quickly; and once your soap hard, you can’t cut it into bars without them crumbling all over the place.
Add your colorant to your oils and blend a bit before adding your lye water. Once your soap reaches trace, mix in the essential oils. Now stir in the salt (at this point, you should be using a spoon instead of a stick blender). As you are pouring the batter into your mold, make sure to keep stirring, so that the salt is distributed evenly, or you’ll end up with your first bars having very little salt and your last bars having lots!
I used yellow Brazilian clay to get this color, but any kind of soap colorant would work.
Salt Bar Variations
Cucumber & Aloe – I used about 35% aloe vera juice and 65% pureed cucumber in place of my lye water and left the soap unscented. The cucumber scent came through very faintly at first in the finished bars, but it faded over time. I would use a cucumber and aloe fragrance oil next time.
Soleseife – I learned that you could make a different kind of salt bar by dissolving the salt in your water before adding lye to it. I have tried this a couple of times, and I will talk about that in a future post.
Final Thoughts on Salt Bars
Most people love salt bars. I’m not one of those people. Despite the high superfat, my skin just doesn’t like high levels of coconut in soap. I would like to try making a salt bar with one of my standard recipes and see just how much the salt kills the lather. Maybe I can achieve lather through other means instead. Have you ever tried salt bars? What did you think?