Manuka soap

Manuka honey has been on an upward trend the past few years and not without reason. The medicinal properties of honey have been recorded since ancient times, and manuka honey has one of the highest anti-microbial activity, inhibiting growth of over 60 species of bacteria (Mandal & Mandal, 2011). It is used to assist in wound healing, in skin care, prevent and heal infections and stimulate growth of new skin cells. The importance of natural remedies, such as honey, has increased in importance “as resistant pathogens develop and spread, the effectiveness of the antibiotics is diminished”. The quoted paper ‘Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity‘ is a good read and accessible to the public.

Manuka Honey

Honey soaps, especially soaps containing Manuka honey and Manuka essential oil, are particular effective cleansers in that they contain anti-microbial properties yet remain mild and gentle on the skin. However, honey soaps can be tricky to make, because the additional sugar increases the temperature of the saponification process, which can cause the soap to overheat and burn. The higher temperature is difficult to work with, but if you follow a few tricks it is possible to create a beautiful creamy bar of soap with all the benefits that honey will add to it.


  1. soap at cool temperatures
  2. do not insulate your soap
  3. do not discount your water
  4. place the soap in the fridge for the first 2 hours after pouring

The Manuka soap that I am making uses Manuka honey, Manuka essential oils and Manuka beeswax, to maximise the benefits of Manuka properties in the soap. The Manuka essential oil is from Pure Nature, but alternatively you can use another essential oil for a less expensive option. I bought the Manuka honey from my local supermarket, and the Manuka beeswax I had left over from a beekeeping friend. You can use normal honey and normal beeswax as substitutes if you can’t get hold of the Manuka honey and beeswax.

Often, soap makers tend to add the honey dissolved in water to the emulsified soap (at trace), but I found that this method sometimes ends up with the soap ‘sweating’ honey if it hasn’t been mixed in properly, but also the soap is then more prone to DOS (dreaded orange spots) and oxidation for some inexplicable reason. So now I like to dissolve the honey into the cooled lye, which not only eliminates said problems, but also leaves you with a beautiful cream-coloured bar of soap! However, this does make it into an advanced method, because you really need to watch your temperatures!

Before starting, please read the safety and precautions post, especially since this tutorial requires the handling of caustic soda!

If you have never made cold-process soap before, I strongly recommend you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first.

ONE: Prepare your lye as usual and leave to cool down to room temperature.


TWO: Weigh out the coconut oil and beeswax, and heat in the microwave or stove top until the oil and wax have melted.

THREE: Add the olive oil, sunflower oil and castor oil to the now liquid coconut oil and beeswax, and give it a quick stir.


FOUR: MAKE SURE YOUR LYE HAS COOLED DOWN TO ROOM TEMPERATURE OR LOWER. Add two tablespoons of Manuka honey to the lye and stir, stir, stir until the honey has completely dissolved. This will take a while, but don’t be tempted to use warm lye because the honey will heat up the lye and you can end up burning the lye if the lye is still warm. Just be patient and keep stirring. You’ll notice the lye turning a reddish colour. That’s the sugars caramelising. To prevent the sugar/lye solution becoming too hot (and burning the sugars), place it in the fridge to cool down again.

FIVE: Check the temperature of your oils. They should be no warmer than 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit). Add the Manuka essential oil to the oils and give the oils a good stir.


SIX: Check that they lye has cooled down, before continuing. Then, add the lye to the oils, and use your stick blender to mix the lye/oil mixture until it has emulsified and thickened to a medium consistency (thick but still pourable). Pour the soap into the mould.

For the swirly surface, I used a chopstick in a looping figure 8 pattern along the length of the soap.


SEVEN: PLACE THE SOAP IN THE FRIDGE FOR THE FIRST TWO HOURS! This is important. The sugars will heat up the soap during the chemical reaction, and placing it in a cold environment will both prevent the soap from heating up too much and will help keep the colour of the soap a nice cream colour rather than the usual caramel-brown colour of honey soaps.

After two hours (approximately), take the soap out and place it somewhere cool to cure. I put mine in the laundry, which is the coolest room in our house. Don’t insulate or cover your soap!


EIGHT: Let the soap cure for a couple of days before unmoulding, and then let it harden for another few days before cutting it into bars. The bars of soap will need a further 6-8 weeks to cure before they are ready for use.

There’s also a FREE cute label to go with this soap, just right-click on the image to download:

Manuka Soap

  • Difficulty: advanced
  • Print

Yields 1200 grams soap (standard loaf mould) which equals to approximately 10 bars of soap.

Superfat is 5% and lye solution is 33%.

Before starting, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, free from any distractions!


  • 400 g olive oil
  • 250 g coconut oil
  • 270 g sunflower oil
  • 30 g manuka beeswax (can be substituted for normal beeswax)
  • 50 g castor oil
  • 135 g caustic soda
  • 270 g cold water
  • 2 tablespoons Manuka honey (can be substituted for normal honey)
  • 30 ml Manuka essential oil (can be substituted for another essential oil)


  1. Measure out the caustic soda and the water. MAKE SURE THE WATER IS COLD. Add the caustic soda to the water and stir until the caustic soda has completely dissolved. Set aside to cool down.
  2. Weigh out the coconut oil and beeswax and heat in the microwave or on the stove top until completely melted.
  3. Add the olive oil, sunflower oil and castor oil and give it a quick stir.
  4. Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, add 2 tablespoons of Manuka honey and stir until dissolved. Place in fridge to cool down again.
  5. Check the temperature of the oils. They should be no warmer than 32 C (90 F).
  6. Add the Manuka essential oil to the oils and give everything a good stir.
  7. MAKE SURE THE LYE HAS COOLED DOWN. Then, carefully pour the lye to the oils and, using a stick blender, mix until emulsified and the soap has thickened to a medium consistency (thick put still pourable).
  8. Pour the soap into the soap mould and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.
  9. Remove from fridge, and place it in a cool spot to set and harden overnight.
  10. The following day, cut the soap into bars. The soap bars will need to cure for a further 6-8 weeks until ready for use.

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  1. Hello. I’m having difficulty finding manuka or bees wax. I’m in Auckland. Any suggestions?

  2. Hi,
    thank you for the recipe – looks lovely.
    planning to make this soap this week.
    Just a quick question – do you add honey to lye-water solution? (as I know usually we add honey at trace diluted with water).
    Will be thankful for your response.

    • Hi Halyna! Like you said, usually I’d add it to trace, but in this case, I tried adding it to the lye solution, but I made sure the lye water was cold. Even so, the sugar did manage to heat up the lye solution again, so you have to be careful and make sure it doesn’t get too hot. Place in fridge if you think it gets too warm, or put it in an ice bath. Have fun making the soap!

    • You can use any essential oils or even fragrance oils, just make sure it’s one that doesn’t heat up – some fragrances tend to do that. A nice essential oil is lemon essential oil, one of my favourite go to, when I want one that does’t cause any problems (acceleration, heating, ricing, discolouration, etc).

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