Have you ever wanted to try making your own natural shower gel, liquid hand soap, or whipped soap at home? The most common ways to make them often involve chemical processes that the average person might shy away from. The first ingredient that can give pause is Sodium or Potassium Hydroxide, otherwise known as Lye. It's dangerous to handle but essential in making any soap. Another factor that can be a hurdle is cost since buying small quantities of all the ingredients and equipment you need to make soap can be more expensive than just continuing to buy it pre-made. I have good news though...
It's easy to make variations of liquid soap from any bar soap you have at home.
As a producer of handmade soaps I always have pieces and off-cuts that can't be sold. Some of it I re-batch into bars and we use it ourselves (it's customers who get to use the pretty soaps) but there's always some to spare. Using these pieces to make liquid soap for around the house makes sense so I started investigating how to go about it. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find any recipes relevant for what I had to work with since all the tutorials I found started with a bar of commercial soap.
There are major differences between handmade and commercial soap which means that if you try to use the recipes I found you could end up with a pot full of sudsy water. Industrially produced soap, such as most bars you find at the supermarket or drugstore, is produced to be denser than anything you can make at home. It's also stripped of its natural Glycerin which gives your skin that characteristic dry and tight feeling after use. For those new to soap making, Glycerin is a clear and viscous liquid that occurs naturally in soap. It's brilliant for softening the skin which is why its often removed from commercial soap for use in higher margin products such as face cream or hand lotion.
However, it's more than its moisturising qualities that make handmade soap attractive. Many producers such as myself use all natural ingredients which means your skin won't come into contact with dangerous chemicals such as SLS/SLES, Parabens, or artificial colour and fragrance. Some of these ingredients cause skin irritation but others are linked to more serious health issues including Cancer. A lot of people don't realise that your skin isn't an impenetrable barrier and that ingredients in personal care products can be absorbed through the skin. In fact it takes just 26 seconds after application for the chemicals in your average soap or perfume to make their way to all your body's organs.1
Enough of the background and on to making some natural liquid soap! This week I experimented with creating several variations and have found that you really need only two ingredients - handmade bar soap and water, preferably filtered. There are also optional ingredients you can use including essential oils and exfoliants such as ground pumice stone or poppy seeds. What you do not need is extra Glycerin. Other recipes you might have seen for making liquid soap from bar soap will have you add this. Handmade soap comes equipped so you don't need to bother.
120g (4.2 oz) Soap - this is equivalent to one bar of Lovely Greens Soap
Filtered Water - see variations for the amount you need.
1. Grate or cut your soap into small pieces and place into a sauce pan. Pour the water into the pan and bring it to a simmer.
2. Stir the soap and water until the soap has dissolved then take the pan off the hob and set it someplace to cool down. It will look like soapy water at this point.
3. Let the pan sit for 12-24 hours before adding any optional ingredients. Remember that for soap you should be cautious with overindulging with essential oils and that their quantity should be around 2% of your entire recipe. If your starting soap had fragrance in it already you should reconsider adding any at all. Whether you've added optional ingredients or not make sure to stir or even blend the soapy mixture well.
4. Pour into bottles (if applicable) and use. If you have sudsy bubbles in your mixture don't worry, they'll for the most part settle back into the soap.
Notes on preservatives: Any product that contains water can be an environment for bacteria to thrive in. To reduce bacterial contamination use clean pots and utensils and make sure to store the soap in containers that won't come into contact with grimy hands or surfaces. Pump and squeeze bottles are best and if you store your liquid soap this way then the soap should last at least a month if not longer without preservatives. The exception to this rule would be the 'Whipped Soap/Shaving Soap' since you'll probably need to store it in a pot of some sort. I don't recommend adding preservatives but you should be aware that this soap variation should be used within about a week. I also want to emphasise that this recipe(s) should only be used within the home and the resulting liquid soap should not be sold to consumers.
Whipped Soap / Shaving Soap
You'll need 360ml of water for this recipe (equivalent to 1.5 cups or 12.7 fluid oz)
Though not a true whipped soap, the result of using the ratio of 1:3 (soap to water) results in a light and creamy soap that creates a rich lather perfect for getting those legs ready for summer. You will find that after you let this soap sit for the required 12-24 hours that the result will look and almost feel solidified at the bottom of the pan. Don't panic! Just whisk it and after a a few seconds it will look just like the whipped soap in this post. Caution on making whipped soap...though it looks amazingly delicious do not attempt to eat it :)
You'll need 1080ml of water for this recipe (equivalent to 4.5 cups or 38 fluid oz)
A photo of this is pictured higher up in this post and I've also shown how it lathers up. Because natural handmade soap doesn't use artificial foaming agents (SLS/SLES) the lather is fine and composed of countless tiny bubbles. The consistency of the ratio of 1:9 (soap to water) makes for a thickened liquid soap that will suit being stored a squeezy bottle. I've also tried using this as a dish soap though next time I'd probably want to start with a bar of soap that doesn't have extra skin-moisturising oils added, unless you wash your dishes without gloves of course.
Liquid Hand Soap
You'll need 1440ml of water for this recipe (equivalent to 6 cups or 50 fluid oz)
You'll be able to stretch that bar of soap into about 1.5 litres of liquid hand soap with this recipe. Fill up your pump bottle with what you need and then store the rest in a clean jar with a lid. Topping up should be a breeze and you'll feel great at saving so much money on a natural liquid hand soap. One thing that you should be aware of when using this 1:12 ratio (soap to water) recipe is that it needs a bit more time to reach its final thickness than the other two recipes. So don't throw the baby out with the bathwater if your soap mixture looks too thin after 24 hours. Give it a bit more time and it will thicken up nicely.
1 United States Government, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of the Pesticides and Toxic Substances. Statement made in their flyer “Top 10 ‘Killer’ Household Chemicals”