How To Make Liquid Soap That is Natural & Amazing

How To Make Liquid Soap

Now that summer is almost here and school is out, I have plenty of time to work on projects.

I’ve mastered cold and hot process soap making, so the next step was to learn how to make liquid soap. Sure, you can just grate some bar soap and pour hot water over it. After a few days gel will form and you’ll have liquid soap. But how would you like to make your own perfect shampoo, body wash and dish soap? I’ve figured it all out for you.

*UPDATE*

If you love this recipe, or are just checking it out for the first time, be sure to read the more recent post: A Simplified Process for Making Liquid Soap. This article highlights a few modifications and tips you might find helpful.

Liquid Soap Ingredients

Like hot and cold process soap, there is a lye component and an oil component.

The lye component is a bit different. Sodium hydroxide is used to make hard bar soap while potassium hydroxide is used to make liquid soap. Potassium hydroxide is harder to find and comes in flakes, not beads. The flakes are easier to work with, but are still caustic, so gloves and protective eyewear must be used. You’ll also need a small amount of borax. The other ingredients include, water, coconut oil, olive oil, essential oils and colors. You can source all of these ingredients organically except the potassium hydroxide.

Note: Keep in mind that all of the potassium hydroxide is eliminated during the soap making process through a reaction called saponification. It’s no longer caustic at this point.

Equipment

Like hot process soap making, you’ll need a slow cooker, a stick blender, quart jar (I use a wide mouth jar) and plastic stirring spoons. Since this recipe is measured in ounces, you’ll also need a kitchen scale. Additional equipment includes a plastic potato masher and a large jar for the resting period. You may also need a thermometer, and a ladle to move your soap. You’ll also need additional water for diluting the soap paste and mixing with the borax for neutralizing the soap.

Recipe for Liquid Soap

The Process

  1. Weigh your olive oil and coconut oil and place them into the slow cooker. Turn on low.
  2. In the quart jar, weigh your water. Slowly add the weighed potassium hydroxide, stirring gently as it’s added. Don’t be surprised at any sounds or reactions you may hear. (Potassium hydroxide reacts slightly differently than sodium hydroxide in water.)
  3. When the potassium hydroxide is all mixed in and the solution appears clear, add your water/potassium hydroxide mixture to the oils. Don’t worry about the temperature.
  4. Carefully stir by hand for 5 minutes to be sure all the oils come into contact with all of the potassium hydroxide.
  5. After 5 minutes, begin stirring with the stick blender. It could take up to 30 minutes to achieve “trace.” (In soap making, trace is normally when the mixture is thick like vanilla pudding, but with potassium hydroxide trace might look more like applesauce.)
  6. The mixture might look like it’s going to separate, but don’t stop until you have trace.
  7. Cook in the slow cooker for about 30 minutes with the lid on. Check after 30 minutes. If it’s separated, stir it back in.
  8. Check every 30 minutes for 3-4 hours.

Stages to look for

During the 3-4 hour cooking stage, your soap mixture will go through several stages. They’ll look like this:

  • Trace – thick pudding to applesauce
  • Custard-like with small bubbles
  • Watery mashed potatoes
  • Taffy
  • Chunky to creamy petroleum jelly
  • Translucent petroleum jelly

Each stage could take 30 minutes or longer. Be patient! When I did this the first time, I thought it would never work and just when I was going to give up, it finally came together. You’ll be able to stir it at every stage except for the taffy stage. You may need the potato masher for this. It will be difficult, but keep going!

Testing the soap & last stages

When you get to the last stage and it looks translucent, you can test it. Add 1 ounce of soap paste to 2 ounces of boiling water. Stir until dissolved. Let sit a few minutes. If it turns clear or is slightly cloudy, it’s ready. If it’s really cloudy or milky, cook your soap another 30 minutes or so. Test again. If it’s still cloudy, you may still need to cook it or you could have mis-measured. Keep going if this happens, but use it for laundry detergent.

If it’s clear when tested, then you can go to the next step. Bring the 40 ounces of distilled or filtered water to a boil in a large pot with a lid. Add all of the soap paste and stir. You may need the potato masher here as well. When it’s all incorporated, turn off the heat, put the lid on and wait. After an hour, stir it. Allow it to sit a while longer if it’s chunky or goopy. I do this so that I can leave it overnight. Otherwise I’ll be checking it every 5 minutes!

Once it’s all smooth, you can neutralize it with a mixture of borax in water. Dissolve 1 ounce of borax in 2 ounces of boiling water. It’s important to keep it hot. Weigh out 2 ounces of this and add it to the soap base, ½ ounce at a time. When it’s all mixed in, you can then add color and whatever essential oils you wish. I usually add 2-3 ounces, but no more than 3 ounces.

The Rest Period

Now you can ladle your soap into a large jar. I use a gallon size glass jar for this. Secure the lid and leave it for a week or so. This allows any solid particles to settle to the bottom. When your soap is clear, pour it into smaller bottles, label and enjoy! Just be sure not to disturb the sediment on the bottom or you’ll have to wait for it to settle again.

I’ve used mine for shampoo, body wash, dish soap and hand soap. Next I’ll be adding essential oils to make a dog shampoo. They have slightly more acidic skin, so I’ll be adding a bit of lemon juice to the shampoo just before I use it.

*UPDATE*

If you love this recipe, or are just checking it out for the first time, be sure to read the more recent post: A Simplified Process for Making Liquid Soap. This article highlights a few modifications and tips you might find helpful.

How To Make Liquid Soap 1

More on Soap Making

If you’d like more information on soap making, check out our other articles here:

Have you tried making liquid soap?

How did it turn out? Share with us in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. Yes, I’ve made liquid laundry soap from soap nuts. Boil 4 cups of water, remove from heat, add 1/2 cup of soap nuts (bits or whole) and let soak overnight. Strain into a quart mason jar and store in the refrigerator (although I left mine near the laundry tub for 2 weeks and it was fine).

  2. love this blog, make all my own things, but have severe allergy to cocoanut since I was born, 77 years ago. Is there something that can be substituted for it?

    • Unfortunately, Joy, there is nothing that works as well as coconut oil. It’s the only thing that produces the lather that is fluffy as well as cleansing. You can omit the coconut oil in hard bar soaps, but I’m not sure about liquid soaps. Some hard bar recipes say that you can substitute palm kernel oil (not palm oil) for coconut, so you might want to try that. The SAP values (the amount of potassium hydroxide needed to make a particular oil into soap) differ, so I’d run it through a lye calculator to be sure.

      • OUT OF CURIOSITY AFTER ALL THE EXTENSIVE RESEARCH IVE DONE ON MANY OF THE BASIC OILS USED IN SOAP MAKING,I AGREE THAT COCONUT OIL IS ONE OF A HANDFUL OF OILS THAT ARE GENERALLY USED IN ALMOST ALL SOAP RECIPES BUT MUCH OF WHAT I READ CLAIMS A COMBINATION W/OVER 30% COCONUT OIL CAN BE EXTREMELY DRYING TO THE SKIN BECAUSE OF ITS POWERFUL DEGREASING ABILITY-AS IN,IT COULD REMOVE ALL NATURAL OILS WHICH ISNT WHAT MOST PPL ARE LOOKING FOR IN A SOAP-YOU HAVENT NOTED THAT AS A BODY BAR TYPE SOAP AN OVER ABUNDANCE OF COCONUT OIL BEING EXCESSIVELY DRYING??

  3. Almost four in the morning, and I’ve been going over a chapter in my next book. This section raves on the wonders of soap, which makes you feel glad all over. Fire’s pretty good stuff and the wheel is handy enough, but you have to be careful with both. I made a batch of soap myself using a family recipe of Granny Clampett’s, and wisely tested it before using it. Strong enough to remove a tan, with a stench like Lucifer’s underarm. Tonight, always reluctant to bother busy divine beings with the small stuff, I was actually praying for lucid instructions on how real soap that was real good could be made by my own dirty hands. Voila, bingo, and angel choirs, my Inbox dinged and you answered my question. As if more proof of a benign universe were necessary. With your kind permission, assuming my book ever sells, I’d like to Acknowledge your help of unmet friends and Gaia-oriented values, the subtext of said book-to-be-one-hopes. Happy D-day and keep up the good works, please.

    • Thanks so much Geoffrey! I love being able to help people. If your book ever sells, I want a copy!! Sure, you have my permission. And if I can help with anything else, just let me know.

  4. This sounds great!
    I do have one question, though — I always thought that water-based liquid soaps required a preservative, because bacteria will grow in liquid soaps (unlike hard bar soaps). This recipe does not have a preservative. Can you explain your reasoning? Thank you so much!

    • Hi Jen,
      I’ve never used a preservative and my soap holds up well. I don’t superfat, so that may be one reason. You could try citric acid if you want, but sometimes it causes mass separation. I do use sunflower oil which has a large amount of vitamin E, which has been used as a preservative. When I do liquid soap, I substitute 2 ounces of olive oil with 2 ounces of sunflower oil. Seems to work just fine. You could also try ROE (rosemary oil extract).

  5. I have a trick for not disturbing the sediment at the bottom when dispensing liquid to smaller bottles: use a glass gallon jar that has a spout at the bottom like a tea dispenser. You can usually find a used jar at thrift stores. I’ve never made liquid soap so I do not know how much sediment is accumulated at the bottom, but I would think it would be less than the level of the spout.

    Thank you for all your hard work and great ideas.

  6. I also want to know if there is a good substitute for the coconut oil! My girlfriend is allergic, and I want to make something we both can use!

    • Because different oils saponify at different rates and have different fatty acid components, you should never substitute oils in soap recipes. The amount of lye and water has to be recalculated carefully. Coconut oil is in most liquid soap recipes because the lauric acid provides most of the lather. Palm oil has a similar lauric acid profile, but requires less lye.

      • That’s right, Erin. I mentioned above that the oils should not be switched out because of the SAP value and if you do, run them through a lye calculator to be sure you have the right amount. I have known some people that are allergic to coconut to be able to use hand crafted soap. The coconut oil goes through a transformation and may be ok for some people who do not have severe allergies. I would only recommend this under that care of a doctor.

  7. Hello – love the idea of making my own liquid soap. I’ve been making my own bar soap for a few years now and love the result 🙂 My question is regarding the ingredients list…3 oz. borax and 6 oz. water. Down farther in the instructions it says to use 1 oz. borax and 2 oz. water…which is right?

    • Actually, Kathy, either is right since the proportion is the same. Some people feel the need for more neutralizing solution, so more may be necessary. You can test your mixture with a pH indicator test. If it’s too alkaline after you add the initial 2 ounces of borax solution, you can add a bit more, but no more than 6 ounces. I usually find that 2 ounces is plenty.

  8. I’m confused by “weigh the water.” Usually ounces of water means liquid volume. Are you saying these ounces are measured by weight on a scale, and not by volume with a measuring cup?

    • Good point, Roger. In my cold process soap making recipe, I used cups, because I had done all the weighing for you. I simplified it to make it easier to do. In most recipes ounces are used, sometimes grams. And these are weighed ounces, not measured. And ounce of oil will weigh different than an ounce of volume. So always weigh your ingredients unless indicated to do differently.

  9. I make my own liquid soap, but I never heard about neutralizing it with borax. What ph is the soap will be after it will be neutralized with Borax? Also, you mentioned you use it as shampoo as well, but the shampoo have to be neutral, as I know. Is it around 7?

    • Hi Veronika! I’ve tried several methods for lowering the pH in soaps and none of them get it down as far as 7. In the liquid soaps, the pH will go down to 8-9 which is far better for your skin than 10 or so where it is naturally after the soap making process. I’ve tried lemon juice and vinegar, but these cause the soap to separate. I’m happy with the results of around 8 or so.

  10. I was wondering why there are several measurements of water for this recipe. I read the directions and there doesn’t seem to be separate steps to add the different measurements of water. Did I miss something or is all the water added in the initial stage?

    • It is a mixture and not a chemical formula. Some people like more suds, less suds, more liquid, etc. The amounts are only approximations as it is a mixture. Mix it up and find out what proportions you like and write it down for the next batch. For example, I make my own washing detergent that will last for several years. The proportions are one grated bar of Felds Naptha soap, one cup of Borax and one cup of washing soda. I don’t want a 1/4 box of this or that laying around. So, I freeze the soap after it has air dried for a few months. I grind up 10 bars of Felds in my Kitchen Aid grinder and add one box of borax and one box of washing soda. Nothing is left over and I’m left with a bucket of dry detergent. I never use more than 3 tablespoons a load. I’m set for a few years at 6 cents a load. Regular detergent is 60 cents a load. No plastic containers are left over. No lugging detergent in from the store for a few years.

      • That wasn’t my question. The are three measurements for water and no mention of separate stages to add them. It’s not the quantity but why there are 3 measurements and no mention of when to add these separate quantities or if they all get put in at the same time.

        • The instructions say to weigh the 5.5 oz. water with the potassium hydroxide in a quart jar.

          The instructions say to bring the 40 oz. of water to a boil and add all the soap paste and stir.

          Then the instructions say to boil the 6 oz. water and add the borax and use that mixture to neutralize the soap mixture but my question was the instructions ask for more water/borax at the end than the instructions say. I was told to mix it and use what is needed because sometimes more neutralizing is necessary and to test with a pH indicator.

          Hope this helps you 🙂

      • Also, it IS a chemical formula. Measurements wouldn’t be required otherwise. This is a chemical reaction, not making a mud pie.

        • Hi Peter! No, you didn’t miss anything. The first measurement of water is for the initial process. Then, after the “paste” forms, you’ll need to dilute it. This is the second amount of water. After it cooks down and becomes more liquid, you’ll need to neutralize it. The third amount of water is to mix the borax into. The amount you use is up to you, but for this size batch, I use about 2 ounces of diluted borax and water. You can check the pH with a meter or pH test strips.
          Hope this helps!