Homemade Liquid SoapHomemade Liquid Soap, The Easy Way

Posted by Cindy 46 comments

What’s the difference between homemade liquid soap and homemade bar soap besides the consistency? The type of lye that’s used in each one. By combining fatty acids and Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH), the sodium actually crystallizes to form a hard bar of soap. In liquid soap, the Potassium Hydroxide (KOH, caustic potash) is soluble, leaving it to stay soft instead of crystallizing.

Homemade Liquid Soap

I started experimenting making liquid soap quite a few months ago. The hard way. Maybe it wasn’t exactly hard, but I couldn’t wrap my head around quite a few of the processes of homemade liquid soapmaking. If you’ve landed on this page through a search engine, you know what I’m talking about! There is not a lot of information around the internet on how to make homemade liquid soap, unlike bar soap where I studied many sites for months before I made my first batch.

I had Catherine Failor’s book, Making Natural Liquid Soaps: Herbal Shower Gels / Conditioning Shampoos / Moisturizing Hand Soaps, in front of me, but it was confusing of why she was doing some of the steps. There is invaluable information included in her book–once I got beyond some points.

I want to make homemade liquid soap so I can stay away from a bunch of added ingredients. I want oil, water and lye. Maybe some fragrance. Simple. I don’t want to add solvents to clear my soap, or acids to neutralize or emulsify or thicken. I want to make simple homemade liquid soap–mix it, cook it, dilute it, use it.

My first batch took me hours to do–I used Failor’s Super Mild Soap recipe from her book. I ended up with a clear, thick liquid soap…by adding borax to neutralize, emulsify, and thicken.

I finally stumbled upon Yahoo’s Liquid Soapers Group. There are years’ worth of posts there. After studying, asking some questions, and experimenting on my own, I was finally able to understand why Failor uses a 10% lye excess in her recipes then in later steps neutralizes the excess alkali–for clear, transparent soap. That’s the only reason. I don’t mind a cloudy soap (as long as it’s not milky). Many of the liquid soaps that are on the market are not clear.

I’ve come up with a recipe and a method that is simple.

I use a small (1 pound) recipe. Smaller recipes trace and cook faster.

I’m also only using two oils–20% Coconut Oil and 80% Olive Oil Pomace. Pomace will actually trace faster than regular olive oil. With the correct oil/lye mixing temperature and the correct trace temperature, I can reach trace in 20 minutes.

My recipe is also superfatted at 3% instead of Failor’s 10% lye excess, so there is no need to neutralize with an acid.

At the end, if I deem necessary, I thicken the diluted soap by the evaporation method instead of adding anything more to it–this leaves a concentrated liquid soap.

How to make Quick & Easy Supermild Liquid Soap:

First, weigh the crock pot. This weight will be needed after cooking to calculate the dilution water needed.

Heat measured oils in a covered crock pot on high to 160°F.

When the oil is just about heated, mix measured lye into the measured distilled water. It will naturally heat to the range of 140-150°F. Our goal is 140°F.

When oils are at 160°F and lye is at 140°F, mix the lye into the heated oils slowly (almost a dribble), stirring constantly.

Now, off to trace! Turn the crock pot to low–trace will happen faster when the mixture is at (or around) 160°F. Using a stick blender, use small bursts–on, off, stirring around. Bursts actually bring soap to trace faster than constant blending. Trace with this recipe usually takes about 20 minutes.

Give the blender a rest every few minutes also, this helps prevent overheating (and burning up) the blender and it stopping in the middle of a batch.

Liquid soap trace is different than hard soap trace. We reach the hard soap trace rather quickly. But keep going!

It seems to break up into an applesauce-like consistency.

Then back into a pudding texture.

And starts to get thick.

Then, less than a minute later, VERY thick–like a taffy.

All of a sudden, the blender won’t blend. You’re done.

Let it sit for 5 or 10 minutes. Trace is reached, if after setting, there is no separation of the lye (clear liquid at bottom) and oils (usually floats to top). I cover it the crock pot…if there’s no separation, the cook period is beginning now.

If there is no separation, turn the crock pot to high and keep covered. This will give a cooking temperature range from 180°F – 200°F.

Stir every 15 minutes. Stirring is important. Unlike hard soap, where I just cover it and let it do its thing, liquid soap paste can trap air, slowing down saponification.

While you’re waiting for the paste to cook, boil the dilution water. This is added after the soap is done, but it needs to be boiling. A 1-pound batch of soap usually takes around 70 ounces of dilution water.

Soon (around 40-45 minutes), the paste takes on a vaseline-mashed-potato appearance.

Test for neutrality. This can be done with the tongue-zap test or with 60 ml 1% Phenolphthalein in Ethanol Solution Indicator. With phenolphthalein, drop 1 drop onto a small amount of soap (out of the pot!).

If it stays clear, the paste is neutral…and done. To clarify–the paste is done, but you can continue to cook it until it looks more like vaseline and less like mashed potatoes. Either way is fine! The more vaseline-like it is, the more clear the end liquid soap product it is. I was looking for a quick and easy liquid soap. I have no problem if the soap I use here at home is cloudy.

If it turns any shade of pink, there is excess alkali and it is not done. Continue cooking.

When the paste is done, weigh the crock pot (with the soap in it) and subtract the beginning crock pot weight. The result is the soap paste weight.

High olive oil recipes need a 3:1 ratio of water to paste to fully dilute without using an emulsifier. If it’s not fully diluted, the liquid will start to congeal, or thicken, on top working its way down through the soap, leaving a thick mass. Remember, since this is a simple, easy method, we’re not adding anything, so it needs to be fully diluted. To figure the exact dilution water needed, multiply paste weight by 3.

Pour boiling water into the crock pot (that is still on High). Stir around, breaking up the chunk of paste.

Cover and let sit a few minutes. Stir, break it up some more. You can leave this sit all by itself, but the process will take longer. It’s up to you! This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.

When it is fully diluted, the resulting soap is thin. It is up to you if you want to thicken it or leave as is. I personally like to keep some of the soap thin. I use it in the foamer in the bathroom. Also I keep a bottle at the kitchen sink. One squirt on the scrubby washes many dishes without filling the sink.

To thicken the soap without adding anything, put it in a pot on the stove. This will evaporate the excess water. I know this sounds insane to add all that water then evaporate it back out, but all of that water is needed so it doesn’t congeal. Leave it to simmer, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan, until it has reduced. I use a guide of about 25%…or 8 ounces down to 6 ounces (this fits in a pump bottle well).

You can also add 1-2 ounces of glycerin per pound of diluted soap for a more moisturizing, lathering, and emollient liquid soap. I have not done this. I just use the evaporation method now. BUT glycerin liquid soap is next on my list to try. It’s fast and easy, too! Liquid soap can be thickened with sodium hydroxide, also. Another experiment in the works!

To fragrance the liquid soap, add up to 2-3% of the diluted soap weight of fragrance or essential oil to hot diluted soap. You can add fragrance to the whole batch of soap in the crock pot (or pan if thickening) or pour the soap into individual jars and add a different fragrance to each one. I generally use 1 1/2 tablespoons of fragrance per quart jar. But it’s your own personal preference! This recipe make 2 3/4 quarts un-evaporated soap or 2 quarts evaporated soap.

Here's the full recipe and printable!

Homemade Liquid Soap

Quick & Easy Supermild Liquid Soap | 1# 3% Superfat

Type:
Hot Process Liquid
Trace Time:
Cook Time:

Ingredients

  • 3.2 oz Coconut Oil
  • 12.8 oz Olive Oil Pomace
  • 9.4 oz Distilled Water (3:1 Water:KOH)
  • 3.1 oz Potassium Hydroxide (KOH)

Additives (optional)

  1. Fragrance -- 2-3% diluted soap weight.
  2. Dilution water -- 3 times paste weight.

Variations (optional)

Thicken with evaporation method--25%.

See all my Soap Recipes!

46 thoughts on “Homemade Liquid Soap, The Easy Way

  1. kellyb

    Cindy,

    This is the first time I’ve understood the process to make liquid soap. I’ve read a lot of information and after several steps my eyes began to glaze over. This was an excellent post with clear directions and pictures. Thanks for sharing. Liquid soap is now on my to-do list.

    Reply
    1. Cindy

      Kelly, there’s lots more that you CAN do to it. But this will give you some fast, easy soap. I wouldn’t sell this or anything, of course. LOL!

      Reply
  2. Robin

    This is a wonderful post! Thank you! I’ve been putting off trying liquid soap, but it’s on my radar now and you’ve explained some things that will really help out.

    Reply
  3. Belinda

    Morning Cindy,
    It is wonderful when you can find a site like yours. I have been simplifying the liquid soap process for a while now and thought I must be the only ‘mad’ one around. I had a lucky find. A couple of batch’s ago, this is what I did.
    I stopped blending at taffy stage – don’t want blender to burn out – I then mix every 20 mins for 1st hr. (I got a phone call and had to go out) put crock pot on low and left the building. 2 1/2 hrs later I return to gorgeous translucent soap paste. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Magic!!
    No stirring, no stressing – PERFECT
    Done this a couple more times to check that it was not just a fluke and YEAH more awesome paste.
    Thank you for your time and effort in writing your posts and recording your findings.

    Reply
  4. Marjo

    Thanks for this post! It is the most useful and understandable I’ve seen in all of my research. I would love to try making liquid soap, however, I have had no luck in finding KOH (potassium hydroxide) locally. I live near Sioux City, IA. We have one chemical distributor, but they only sell KOH in 50 gal drums and they offered no help in trying to locate smaller quantities.

    Where did you get your KOH and olive oil pomace?

    Reply
    1. Cindy

      Thank you, Marjo!

      Finding any type of lye locally here is non-existent. All of my sources are online. These are my sources for lye:
      Bulk Quantities
      http://www.boyercorporation.com/
      Small Quantities
      http://www.thelyeguy.com

      The olive oil pomace I just buy at my local grocery store in a gallon can. In many stores, the price of pomace is the same as regular OO. You CAN substitute…the numbers come out the same (within 1/100 of a gram). Pomace does seem to trace quicker than regular OO though.

      Happy soaping!

      Reply
  5. Catherine

    So glad I found this post ! I’m about to make my very first batch of liquid soap on friday and I had wondered whether I could just make a small batch or not, all the recipes I found including in the Catherine Failor book seemed huge for a first try ! so glad to hear you can do it in small batches and it works as well. Also interesting to read that comment from that lady who didn’t stir past an hour ! that certainly simplifies it even more..:)

    Reply
  6. Denise Baker

    WE have been looking for a good liquid soap recipe for a long time and had almost given up.
    We will be trying your method this afternoon and will update our results.
    Thanks so much for the easily understandable, well written directions with measurements.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  7. Far

    Hi Cindy, I make soap currently and am trying to make a shampoo. I simply got a bar of soap (NaOh) and added water- heated on stovetop. I found that my hair felt coated with residue after use so i read that baking soda could be added- this actually helped alot until I decided to add a nettle/chamomile/mint infusion. Now my hair feels over coated and gross! (back to the drawing board)- simple is probably the best, anyway.

    Do you find any type of residue left behind with this one? I know that the residue felt is from using commercial shampoos that strip our natural oils from our scalp- our scalp then overcompensates to replace them. It can take up to 6 weeks for your scalp to adjust- i’m in my 3rd. Persevere….

    Thank you for the info…Will try this method in the morning….can’t wait!

    Reply
  8. Morticia

    Thank you, thank you! I love this recipe/method! I have several “crafting” crock pots and now I have another use for them! I do have a question, though. I have been making bar soap for years and I have to drive 4 hours to get Lye, otherwise the shipping/hazmat fees are as much or more than the cost of the lye. Are the feds requiring the same fees for KOH on the sites you have mentioned in earlier comments? Thanks, again! Oh, and I plan on making this for gifts, too! Put it in a mason jar with pump dispenser. So cute!

    Reply
    1. Cindy

      To be honest, I have never sequestered my liquid soap. I use the same day :) Sequestering gives it chance to become clearer. It is already non-caustic so it won’t hurt you!

      Reply
  9. Claudia Franco

    I have made bar soap many times, but I have a few pounds of KOH. I want to use up the oils/KOH I already have. Do you think I can run my oils through a calculator and use this method and get same results as you? TIA

    Reply
  10. sandra

    I read the book by Failor also.
    I found her instructions rather confusing
    but after ready the steps several times I made her silk shampoo recipe, I halved it because it was just too
    big of a batch to try my hand at liquid shampoo/soap.
    it turned out okay, but when I read your post
    I made another batch using the soap calc to help figure
    the lye/water ratio. The way you explained it was simply
    it’s basically making hot pressed soap using potassium(KOH)
    instead of NaOH and than diluting it. I have yet to try it
    waiting for it to sequester 2 weeks. I used 1 lbs batch also.
    coconut castor and olive oils. acurding to the soapcalc-http://www.soapcalc.net/calc/SoapCalcWP.asp this shampoo is supose to be very conditioning.I have been making cold and hot pressed soap for some time, also I make anti wrinkle lotions an lotions that are very moisturizing, I live in a cold dry place and need extra moisturizing lotions, and the ones on the market that cost 15.00 to 89.00 just don’t work. But the ones I have been making work great and I use only natural ingredients.
    Anyhow thank you for your easy to understand recipe, I will post more if it turns out to be good.

    Reply
  11. Rebekah

    Hi,

    I tried you recipe/method and ran into some trouble. After mixing the lye and oils (at right temp), the mixture would not become a paste. I could see some clumps here and there but not a paste at all. I could see the oils sitting on top still. So, I cooked it for about 2 hrs and stir it every 20 minutes. Then, turned off the crock-pot and let it sit overnight. In the morning, it was almost a paste, so I began to mix again more with the electric mixer. After about 20 minutes it became a paste! I turned on the pot to high and once it reached about 75 C I time the cooking period. I only cooked it for about 30 minutes and then added the boiling water. What do you think the mixture did not become a past after 20 min or so?

    Thank you,
    Becky

    Reply
    1. Cindy

      Did you mix it with a stick blender after mixing the lye/water with the oils? That the process to bring it to trace then further to the paste form. What you did is just fine, though, if it worked!! I have seen CP liquid soap made that way…a longer process, but it works!

      Reply
  12. Dustin

    Hello!

    I produced a lovely batch based on this method on Saturday… I love it. However; I’m noticing that it is beginning to separate. :/ Did anyone else have this problem?

    Reply
    1. Cindy

      It may start to separate, but not much at all. Just shake it up. The separation is the lye discount (superfat) being above 0, where Failor’s method was a -10% …oil and water don’t mix. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it! The little it may separate is what I gave in to rather than the long, long process of the Failor method.

      Reply
  13. Mary Ann

    Thanks so much for the great pictures. I am an experienced bar soap maker, but just tried liquid soap a few days ago. If I hadn’t seen your site, I would have thought something was seriously wrong with my soap batch. It looked like it had curdled or something! I remembered seeing your similar stage, and just persisted. I have almost a gallon of diluted soap (I made up my own recipe) sitting on my counter now. It is a nice translucent amber color and already feels quite nice. Thanks for a very helpful post.

    Reply
  14. Robert

    Thank you very much for posting this. I’m going to try it today. We have the Failor book also but this simplified enough to motivate me to do it.

    Reply
  15. Lenna

    I agree with Robert, and with you. I tried the bungee and double boiler method in the past, and it’s a huge pain, and an unnecessary one in my opinion. So thanks for the step by step process! It really motivated me to go ahead and do it! :)

    Reply
  16. Eric H

    Thanks for this – it really helped me understand the process of making soap with KOH. I’m just getting interested in soap making, but one of my ultimate goals is to make a soft shaving soap. Every one I know of uses both KOH and NaOH.

    I’d probably better learn to use each one on its own, first.

    Reply
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  20. Hilary

    Hi,
    I have made liquid soap using your method a couple of times with great success. I tweaked you method this morning by using my heavy duty blender rather than my stick blender for most of the process. I heated the oils and put them in the blender then I carefully added the KO water mix and put the lid on and blended away reaching trace and beyond in a few minutes. I decanted the paste out of the blender into the crock pot at the taffy stage and finished it off with my stick blender. I have been concerned that I might burn out the stick blender so I am delighted that the plan worked out!

    Many thanks for a great site,
    Hilary

    Reply
    1. Cindy Post author

      How exciting Hilary! I have been wanting to try my blender with regular bar soap, but didn’t really think it would be much different than the stick blender. Thanks for trying it and letting us know!

      Reply
    1. Cindy Post author

      You can do whatever you want! That’s what’s so great about making your own :) Adjust the water to 11.3 oz and the lye to 3.8 oz. You also won’t need as much dilution water, either, as coconut oil dilutes at a less rate than olive oil. I would try 2 times the paste weight instead of 3. Have fun!

      Reply
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  22. Eunice

    I was wondering if I could just evaporate the extra liquid by leaving in the crock pot and cooking with lid off.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  23. Molly

    Hi! I love your post. I am trying to make 20 Gallons of liquid soap out of one batch of paste. I have calculated and was going to try the blender method and then possibly create multiple small batches adding each paste batch to one big tub, then dilute. What is the best method for making this amount of soap…blender vs crockpot? % on oils etc. Thank you again.

    Reply
    1. Cindy Post author

      Molly, this 1# recipe makes 2 quarts evaporated soap. You can thicken it other ways than evaporating, so you end up with more soap in the end (2 3/4 quarts per 1# batch). To make 20 gallons of diluted soap, you would need to make roughly a 30# (weight of oils) recipe. You can easily make a 4# recipe in the crock pot, so I would times this recipe by 4 and make 7 separate batches. The paste does not need to be diluted at once…you can dilute a batch at a time.

      Remember!! Once you add water to ANYTHING, the chance of bacteria entering the product greatly increases without the use of a preservative. You can put the paste in a zip lock bag and put in the fridge to keep for diluting later.

      Reply
  24. SYED.MUMTAZ.JILANI PAKISTAN

    excellent receipe thanks .you are doing a good job .thankyou for teach us this method and receipe .again thanks and carry on …………………………………………………..

    Reply
  25. jessica

    I just made this liquid soap with your recipe. The result is cloudy and the phenolthelain test is pink. Maybe it not fully cooked and I already dilute with distilled water. What shoud I do with the excess alkali in this diluted soap? I dont mind about the cloudiness.. Thankyou in advance,

    Reply
    1. Cindy Post author

      The phenolthelain test needs to be done BEFORE the cooking stage is done. That tells you if there is lye still caustic in the paste. AFTER the cooking is complete, then you can dilute it. How much of this do you have? I would let it sit a week, then test again, or maybe a couple weeks. The lye will cure out of it.

      Reply
      1. jessica

        dear cindy.. I already diluted all the recipe and used it for bath. It seems okay, it doesnt dry my skin (not yet I guess?). The last test I did was with a very small paste which hadnt been fully diluted.. it turned slightly pink. Is it okay? I put optiphen and essential oil for fragrance.

        Do you have a recipe for a more moisturising effect (not drying the skin as commercial soap) but with more coconut oil or other oils instead of olive oil, since coconut is a lot cheaper. Is it possible?
        Thanks again..

        Reply
        1. Cindy Post author

          The pink means there is still lye present in your paste. Optiphen (preservative) and essential oils won’t have any affect on lye being present. I would just wait a week or so before continuing to use it.

          Coconut oil in soap is not more moisturizing. When coconut oil is saponified in the soaping process, more isn’t better. It is high in lauric acid, which is drying to the skin over time. I use soaps high in coconut oil for cleaning soaps. In liquid soaps it isn’t as big of deal I suppose with the added water (there are lots of recipes out there using 100% coconut oil for bubble baths), but I can tell a big difference from that soap and an olive oil soap. Liquid oils in liquid soap recipes can be substituted for whichever oil, or combination of oils, you’d like to use. I buy Olive Oil Pomace for soaping…it is much cheaper, and actually works very well in soaps, but isn’t as healthy to eat as regular or EV Olive Oil.

          Reply
  26. jessica

    and also after hours, it separated, the clearer at bottom and the cloudy on top. What happen? does it effect the quality or only the appearance?

    Reply
    1. Cindy Post author

      The separation into cloudiness after a few hours goes back to the paste not being cooked enough. If it’s cooked until it’s done (no more pink when testing), it may have a little separation after sitting for a few weeks. If it’s cooked until it’s transparent, it shouldn’t turn cloudy at all, but may separate a little because this recipe is superfatted with extra oil.

      Reply
      1. jessica

        thank you very much for your guidance. It is my very first time making soap. And I will not start without your simplest and easiest recipe.

        Reply

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