October 8, 2020

Civil War Era Honey Soap | Tutorial | How To

Civil War Soap Recipe

Honey soap was a popular soap before and after the war. It was known for and its supposed "skin whitening" properties. This recipe contains honey but at the time, writings suggest that some honey soaps didn't contain honey at all. 

 I found this recipe in The Confederate Receipt Book; however, the recipe was printed almost verbatim from The New Household Receipt Book, (1853) by Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of Godey's Lady's Book. I am always interested in the ingenuity of humans in reduced circumstances and was curious if this recipe made a decent soap or was a war-time, makeshift recipe. 

Civil War Soap Civil War Soap Recipe


Other recipes of the time mention annatto for coloring so I added a bit to give it a nice honey color.  I also chose bergamot as the scent as the recipe for Honey Soap from The Druggist's General Receipt Book (1853) called for Windsor soap which was frequently scented with bergamot and caraway. Another contemporary recipe called for cinnamon oil. The 1866 printing of the Druggist's General Receipt Book changed the scent in their recipe for honey soap to oil of citronella. 

Civil War Era Honey Soap Recipe 


- 2 Pounds White or Yellow Soap (Castile, Tallow, Lard)
- Water
- 1/4 Cups Honey
- Essential Oil ( Read the warnings on your oil.) 


Shred, chop or grind your soap. Add the soap and a little water in a double boiler (or straight over the heat making sure you keep it below 230 degrees F until melted or in "mashed potato" form). Add the honey, colorant, and essential oil and stir until combined. Pour or scoop into a silicone mold or any container lined with waxed paper. Let cool until hard. Slice the soap to the size you want and let cure in a warm dry place for at least a week.   

Civil War Soap Recipe
The Manchester Journal (Vermont) 25 Jun 1861


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Soap Flakes : If it's your first time melting soap, soap flakes make it easy.

Annatto:  If you want to use annatto, make sure to place it in a coffee filter and into the honey overnight and remove before using, unless you want flakes like my soap. 

Soap Colorant: If you want to use a modern colorant. 

Bergamot Oil: Cinnamon oil, Citronella, Bergamot, Rose were common soap scents during the war but in modern times, cinnamon oil can be an irritant so I would not recommend it for beginners. 

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