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Mailbag Monday - Getting Grapefruit Essential Oil to Stick Around Longer

By November 29, 2010

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Nadia writes, "I have a question pertaining to Grapefruit EO.  I LOVE the grapefruit Zum Bar from Indigo Wild and have tried to do a soap with that scent; however, I just can't get it to stick.  Do you have any sugestions on how to get a good  Grapefruit EO soap?"

When I was making soap commercially, one of my most popular "simple" scents was "Simply Grapefruit." It was (at first) scented with just pure grapefruit essential oil. But, as Nadia is also finding, citrus essential oils, and grapefruit especially, are really prone to fading quickly. I was having bars of soap with scent that lasted only a few months.

Part of that is just the nature of essential oils...and citrus essential oils. As mostly top notes, they are never going to stick in the soap as long as heavier, spice and base note essential oils are going to. That's part of their magic and delightfulness - the light, airy, bright and fleeting nature of the scents. But there are a few things to do to help ground these flighty scents and keep them in  your soap longer.

  • Blend! Even a little bit of a middle note or especially a base note will help anchor the scent. Just as much as 10-20% patchouli or clove or benzoin will help. You'll hardly notice it in the blend - and it really helps the citrus to stick better. Benzoin will give you a nice vanilla note to your grapefruit; Patchouli an earthy note; Clove a sweet and spicy note.
  • Use some litsea cubea (may chang) essential oil in the blend too. For some reason, using a bit of litsea cubea essential oil helps too. Litsea smells a little bit like lemongrass - a heavy lemony scent - so don't use too much. Use 10-20% in the blend. This too helps anchor the scent.
  • Add some clay. I've had mixed results with this one - but some soap makers swear by it. Adding clays like bentonite and kaolin to the soap seems to help anchor fleeting scents as well.

Using any (or all) of these techniques will help anchor your citrus essential oils better in the soap. As I said, no matter what you do, they're not going to last as long in soap as the heavier oils do. But you should be able to extend the scent life from just a few months to perhaps six or more. Just let your customers know that because you're using only natural essential oils that they need to use the soap soon. They'll come back for more!

For more information about Mailbag Monday - or to send me a question - visit All About Mailbag Monday.

Mailbag Monday is a feature on the site where I share readers' questions and the answers. You can ask questions about candle making, soap making, or any of the related crafts that we engage in. Just email me with "Mailbag Monday" in the subject line. You can also check out previous questions I've answered in the Mailbag Monday Archive.


November 30, 2010 at 6:17 pm
(1) Rosa says:

Well I have a couple of other ideas that may help,first off any scent “sticks” better in hot process soap.Because the soap has actually saponified and then cooled a touch less of the scent evaporates.

Another thing instead of using water/lye mixture try using a citrus juice like grapefruit(no pulp)/lye.

I have never personally tried this but you can also use a touch of orris root powder it helps to hold scents in tact with potpouri and even pomander (spiced orange balls) for ever going bad.

Hope some of this helps.

My Best,

December 1, 2010 at 10:17 am
(2) rebecca says:

I have to agree that hot process/french milled soap is the best way I’ve found to get any and all citrus scents to stick better both with essential oils and with FOs too. Cold-process is notorious to “shredding” citrus scents. I’ve even had trouble with lemongrass EO in cold process used in a insect (flea & tick) repelling blend for pets.

I routinely make all my soap unscented and then used a grater or food processor to break it down, as more goat milk or whatever liquid I’m using (water, juice, wine, whatever) to remelt it, scent and color it, pour it into the mold, then cool it in the fridge before cutting into bars. French-milling cuts down curing time, as you only have to wait for the soap to be dry enough to package, since the lye is “cooked out” by the heating process. It is also easier to incorporate natural additives like herbs or grains to French milled soap, because there is less chance these botanicals will spoil due to mold becuase of the shortened curing time (typically 3 or 4 weeks as opposed to 6-8 weeks in cold-process).

So many soapers that I know regard hot process/French Milling in the same view as melt & pour, badly. They don’t like the “extra work” involved. The two are not the same thing. In fact, the French were famous on a world-wide scale for centuries for their luxurious, gentle and fabulously scented soaps. They did major business exporting their soaps world wide since at least the 1700′s.

December 31, 2010 at 7:55 am
(3) Linda says:

Has anyone here ever tried using grapefruit juice in place of water to help the scent last longer? That’s an interesting idea . . .

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