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Save money and reduce waste with this beginner’s guide on how to make homemade 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.
No more in human history has soap been such an important product. Keeping hands and surfaces clean has practically been ingrained in children and adults alike over the past two years. As we move into the future we’ll rely on it, even more, to stay safe and healthy. Yet buying plastic pump bottle after plastic pump bottle can get expensive and create a lot of waste. Another thing that many people aren’t aware of is that most liquid soap isn’t real soap at all! It’s a liquid detergent made from water and synthetic ingredients, such as 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 can make homemade liquid soap at home. There are a few ways to go about it, and 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 liquid soap you and your family use is as natural as possible.
Benefits of Making Homemade Liquid Soap
You’re already here reading this because you’re a liquid soap user! Or perhaps you’re interested in making liquid soap from a business perspective? Regardless, there are a lot of benefits to making homemade liquid soap:
- You want to make all-natural liquid soap
- Liquid soap is more convenient for you and your guests
- It’s a way to use soap scraps from bar soapmaking
- Making homemade reduces waste and cost
- It’s fun to make homemade liquid soap!
Make Liquid Soap from Bar Soap
Can you make bar soap into a liquid? Yes, you can! Grating a bar of soap up with a cheese grater and soaking it in hot distilled water can transform a bar or two into a quart of liquid soap. First, source a bar of 100% natural soap and grate it. Then 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 foam up. The color and scent of the soap bar will come through a bit in the homemade liquid soap but subtly.
If, after twenty-four hours, the soap is too watery, repeat the above process with the soapy water and add more grated soap. I’ve just made a new batch of liquid soap from bar soap and an old bar of homemade pumpkin spice soap and it’s created an excellent liquid soap for cleaning hands. It’s light yellow, due to the pumpkin in it, and has a faint scent. You can 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.
When making liquid soap from bar soap, the ratio of soap to water controls how watery or thick the soap is. Use more soap than water in your mixture, and you can 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!
Make Liquid Soap from 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 liquid castile soap, 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 liquid soap (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.
If you’d like to add scent to liquid soap bases, stick with essential oils used in 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.
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 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 process of making liquid soap from scratch starts much the same as hot process. You combine the ingredients and use a stick blender to bring the oils and lye to trace. Then you cook the soap until it becomes a thick, Vaseline-like gel or paste. 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 liquid soap paste can be stored for a long time in closed jars and diluted each time you want to make more homemade liquid hand soap.
Liquid soap making from scratch is an advanced form of soapmaking. Many soapmakers that 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 too!
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 too. The initial steps, including blending to trace, are similar in each.
Containers and Dispensers for Liquid Soap
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 squeeze-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:
- Liquid soap dispenser (dark bottles)
- Clear glass liquid soap dispenser
- Automatic dish soap dispenser
- Automatic liquid soap dispenser
Homemade Soapmaking for Beginners
Liquid soap is more common and considered more convenient than bar soap, but it’s not always been this way. In the past, we only had solid soap that came in 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.
If you’re looking for an even more sustainable way to make homemade soap, check out the below cold-process soap recipes. The dish soap is amazingly efficient, and a single batch will give you enough soap to last a year of washing. We exclusively use bar soap for the shower and it doesn’t disintegrate. 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!
- Liquid Hand Soap Recipe from Scratch
- The Best Homemade Dish Soap Recipe
- Simple Castile Soap Recipe (pure olive oil soap)
- 7 Ways to Make Homemade Soap