How to Make Liquid Soap: A Guide to Three Different Methods

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Save money and reduce waste with this beginner’s guide on how to make liquid soap. It includes a way to make it from scratch, from solid bar soap and pre-made soap bases. Each has its pros and cons, with the first giving more control over ingredients and the last being the easiest.

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No more in human history has soap been such an important product. Yet buying plastic pump bottle after plastic pump bottle can get expensive and create a lot of waste. Also, many people aren’t aware that most liquid soap isn’t real soap at all. It’s a liquid detergent made from water and synthetic ingredients, such as fragrance oils and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), that mimic the cleansing action of soap.

If you’d like to bypass using synthetic soap products and add to your toolkit of skills, you should try your hand at liquid soapmaking. There are a few ways to go about it; one method is so simple that a child could do it. Use one method or all, and you could be on your way to saving money, reducing plastic waste, and ensuring that the soap you and your family use is as natural as possible.

Save money and reduce waste with this beginner’s guide on how to make liquid soap. Includes a way to make it from scratch, from a solid soap bar, and customizing pre-made liquid soap bases for your needs #soapmaking #liquidsoap #homesteading #greenliving

Benefits of Making Homemade Liquid Soap

You’re already here reading this because you use a liquid soap in your home. Perhaps you’re even interested in making it from a business perspective. Regardless, there are many benefits to making it at home. Here are a few, followed by three liquid soap recipes.

  1. You want to avoid synthetic ingredients.
  2. Liquid soap is more convenient for you and your guests.
  3. It’s a way to use soap scraps from bar soapmaking.
  4. Making homemade reduces waste and cost.
  5. It’s fun to make!

Make Liquid Soap from Bar Soap

Can you use bar soap to make liquid soap? Yes, you can. Grating a bar of soap with a cheese grater and soaking it in hot distilled water can transform a bar or two into a quart of liquid soap. To make this diluted soap recipe, begin with a bar of 100% natural soap and grate it. Next, heat a quart of distilled water in a pan until it’s just simmering, and sprinkle the soap gratings on top. Set the pan somewhere to cool to room temperature and try to avoid stirring it since it can cause the soap to lather. The color and scent of the soap bar will come through a bit, but subtly. The cloudiness that you’ll probably see in it comes from the extra oils found in the original bar soap.

Grated soap diluted in distilled water gives you homemade liquid soap

If, after twenty-four hours, the soap is too watery, you can thicken it up. All you do is warm the soapy water and add more grated soap to the mixture. Leave it to dissolve, and it will make the liquid thicker. What you can learn from this is that when you make liquid soap from bar soap, the ratio of soap to water controls how watery or thick the soap is. Use more grated soap than water, and you’ll get a thick soap gel or paste. Use more water, and you’ll get liquid soap ranging from a semi-gel consistency to soapy water. You can get the thickness (or thinness) you’re after by adjusting the water-to-soap ratio to your liking. Regardless of the consistency you get, it will never be exactly like commercial liquid soap. It does the job, though.

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How to make your own natural liquid soap - learn how you can stretch one bar of soap into 1.5 litres of liquid hand soap #soap
Liquid soap making can be as easy as diluting a bar of soap in water.

I’ve just made a new batch of liquid soap from bar soap and an old bar of homemade pumpkin spice soap. It’s created an excellent general-purpose liquid soap and is light yellow, thanks to the color of the solid soap bar. In a pinch, I think you could even use it as homemade liquid dish soap, although it’s better if you use soap with a 0% superfat (such as this solid dish soap recipe) if you want to avoid any spots or film on your dishes. You could also use homemade liquid soap as laundry soap, but be careful about how much you use. Too much, and you’ll get a sudsy mess.

Use a Pre-Made Soap Base

The next way to make homemade liquid soap is much easier and more of a hack than an actual method. You can buy unscented 100% natural liquid soap and customize it with essential oils. The most popular is Dr. Bronner’s, available in some places by the gallon. The larger the bottle, the less plastic waste and the cheaper it will be. You could also get this organic option (or this UK option) since it comes in a smaller bulk bottle, which might be a more manageable size for some. There are also natural body wash soap bases that you can also bulk buy and customize if you wish.

Three ways how to make liquid soap #soapmaking #soaprecipe
Customize pre-made unscented liquid soap with your own scent blends. Image source

If you’d like to add scent to liquid soap bases, stick with these essential oils for soap recipes. Not all essential oils are skin-safe or smell great, but lavender, peppermint, and tea tree are popular choices. Lavender is great for all skin types, including sensitive, while peppermint and tea tree are suitable for normal to oily skin. With many essential oils, you may add up to, but not exceeding, ½ tsp (49 drops) of essential oil per pint (473 ml) of liquid soap. You could even use more than one essential oil, but again, don’t exceed the total amount. For example, you could create a blend with ¼ tsp lavender essential oil and ¼ tsp tea tree.

When adding essential oil, stir it gently with a spoon, and then pour the scented soap into a soap dispenser or squeeze bottle. Too much essential oil can cause skin issues ranging from dryness to contact dermatitis, so don’t go overboard. You can use this same dilution rate for the liquid soap you make with bar soap or the soap from scratch below.

How to Make Liquid Soap from Scratch

The most satisfying way to make homemade liquid soap is to make it from scratch. You begin making it the same way as hot process soap, with ingredients such as olive oil, coconut oil, and lye. It’s also made in a slow cooker (crock pot). You use a different type of lye, though, and instead of sodium hydroxide (NaOH), you use potassium hydroxide (KOH). The result is a clear liquid soap that ranges in color from clear to amber.

When you make liquid soap from scratch, the result is a paste that you dilute in water.

The process of making liquid soap from scratch begins much the same as hot process. You combine the ingredients and use a stick blender to bring the oils and lye solution to trace. Then, you cook the soap until it goes through the saponification process and becomes a thick, Vaseline-like gel or liquid soap paste.

Diluted and ready-to-use liquid soap is on the left, and the soap paste is on the right.

To transform the paste into liquid soap, dilute it in distilled water and add glycerin for moisture. You can also add essential oil for scent, but that’s optional. The soap paste can be stored for a long time in closed jars. Each time you want to make more homemade liquid hand soap, you dilute a bit more. The soap paste does not need a preservative, but once it’s been diluted, be aware that there may be a chance of microbes growing in the liquid soap. I’ve personally not experienced this, and I think homemade liquid soap has too hostile a pH for them to grow in.

Making your own liquid soap from scratch is an advanced form of soapmaking. Many soapmakers who have practiced the craft for years haven’t even tried it out! I don’t think that should stop beginners from attempting to make it, but start with a simple recipe with few ingredients, such as my liquid hand soap recipe. It will give you about a quart of soap paste that you can dilute and use in the same way as any other liquid castile soap. That quart of paste equals about half a gallon of finished soap, so it’s very good value.

The best way to recycle old bottles is to reuse them!

However, to give you a little bit of an easier project, you may want to consider making a batch of traditional soap first. I’d recommend hot process soap, but even a small batch of cold process will give you some experience. The initial steps, including blending to trace, are similar in each method.

Containers and Dispensers

No matter which type of liquid soap you make, you’ll need some way to dispense it conveniently. Usually, a soap dispenser that pumps but squeezes bottles work well, too. If you have any old shampoo bottles or hand soap dispensers from supermarket soap, clean them out and reuse them. They’re perfectly fine to reuse and re-love! So don’t recycle or throw them out when you do your next bathroom organizing. You can also ask friends and family to save some for you, or you can reuse the bottles that pre-made liquid soap arrives in. Alternatively, you could invest in some of these items:

Cold Process Soap Making

Liquid soap is more common and considered more convenient than bar soap, but it’s not always been this way. In the past, the only choice we had was soap that came as solid bars. Personally, I use both and don’t have anything against a good liquid soap. However, my favorite type of soap, hands down, is homemade bar soap. We’ve gotten into the habit of using liquid soap mainly because of marketing and profitability – liquid soap is primarily water.

There are many ways to make cleansing, sudsy soap at home

If you’re looking for an even more sustainable way to make homemade soap, check out the cold-process soap recipes below. The dish soap is amazingly efficient, and a single batch will give you enough soap to last a year of washing. We actually don’t use shower gels in our home – just bar soap for the shower. It doesn’t disintegrate into a mess because we always soap well-drained. An excellent way to stop bar soap from going mushy is to wrap a soap dish with rubber bands. Set the soap bar on the crisscrossed net of rubber bands, and the soap is kept high and dry.

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4 Comments

  1. What happens if you don’t use distilled water?

    1. Tap water and rainwater can contain contaminants such as dust, minerals, junk from your pipes or roof, microbes, and other misc debris. You might not see it, but it’s there on a microscopic level. Depending on what’s in the water, it can cause a few issues, but the most prevalent is early spoiling of the soap. It usually manifests as ‘Dreaded Orange Spot’ (DOS) and causes both orange spots of rancidification and a foul odor. It doesn’t always ruin soap, but if you consistently use non-distilled water then you can count on a good amount of your soap spoiling early. I know because I made that mistake when I first started soaping. It’s so disappointing.

  2. Beverly Robinson says:

    I have been making my own liquid soap for a couple years now. I am allergic to coconut and ALL it derivatives!!! And that’s 3 pages!!

    My recipe is almost like yours.

  3. Thank you for this great article! Can’t wait to try and make liquid soap out of leftover bars.