Making liquid soap making can seem a bit intimidating to some people, but once you get down to understanding the process, it really isn’t much different than cooking a meal. Though, online there is definitely a lot less resources on liquid soap making than solid soap making, so when I first started off exploring liquid soap I was left with a lot of questions. Still there’s some open ends I have not yet completely closed, so this post will probably have some follow ups as I discover more aspects of making liquid soap. For the sake of understanding, I made a batch of liquid soap that I will guide you through. I will assume that if you’re reading this you have a basic understanding of what soap is and the process of making cold process or hot process soap (even if you only have experience with making bar soap). If you don’t, please start by reading the post How to make natural soap.
The difference between solid & liquid soap
Liquid soap like solid soap consists of three elements: fats/oils, water and lye. The difference is that instead of using Sodium Hydroxide, you use Potassium Hydroxide. When adding the three you will get a thick mass of soap, that then is further diluted with water to make it liquid. There are some basic things I would like to note on the way I personally make natural liquid soap:
- Natural liquid soap doesn’t feel like the soap most of us are used to from commercial companies. It is a lot thinner and doesn’t have the same creamy consistency. There are ways to thicken natural soap, but I won’t be exploring any of them, since those methods mostly involve adding extra chemicals.
- I will be using the hot process method, but are exploring the theory that it’s possible to do it by the cold process also. Since cold process needs to cure a few weeks, I will keep you updated on my findings in a few weeks (I have put a little of the soap aside without cooking it, and will measure the PH in some weeks).
- Like its important for most solid soap makers to make a hard bar of soap, its important for most liquid soap makers to make a clear (non cloudy) liquid soap. This is about aesthetics, and doesn’t make the soap better. A common method to do this is to put excess lye, and then neutralise the soap after its cooked. I won’t be doing that.
Now lets get started from the start. Even though solid soap and liquid soap is quite similar in it’s process, there are some differences in making the recipes. Let me explain.
How to form a liquid soap recipe
Again I will assume you have some basic knowledge of making soap recipes, but if not please start by reading How to form a soap recipe. Making a liquid soap recipe is a bit different than making one for bar soap. The basic differences and guidelines are this:
- Liquid soap usually have a rather higher percentage of Coconut oil (unless its Castile soap which is pure Olive oil), to ensure the soap foams properly and doesnt become sticky. I once made a liquid soap with only 14% Coconut and it barely lathered at all. You can use up to 90% Coconut oil in your liquid soap, but I prefer using around 50%.
- In solid soap recipes it’s important to use oils that will make the soap bar hard, but since thats not necessary in liquid soap, you can use higher percentages of oils like Castor, Safflower and Sunflower that is usually limited in bar soap. Which is great, because they are much cheaper!
- Liquid soap recipes are mostly made of oils with less un-saponifiables. What it means is that some oils have fats that can’t be made into soap. If an oils has high percentage of un-saponifiables it will make the liquid soap cloudy. For that reason Palm, Tallow and Cocoa butter is usually avoided in liquid soap formulations or added in very small amount, while Coconut, Castor, Safflower and Olive oil are frequently used. I take this lightly because I don’t care if my soap is cloudy.
- Superfatting liquid soap is pointless, because the excess oil will float on top of the soap once diluted since oil it not water soluble. You can though superfat with Vegetable glycerin at 1% of the full recipe.
I chose to follow the following basic recipe:
- 50% Coconut oil
- 25% Safflower – can be exchanged with Sunflower or Rice bran oil
- 20% Castor
- 5% Butter like Mango Butter or Kokum butter
- 50% Coconut oil
- 20% Safflower – can be exchanged with Sunflower or Rice bran oil
- 20% Castor
- 10% luxury oil like Sweet Almond oil or Avocado
I chose to use the first recipe in my example soap, and used beer instead of water. For superfatting I added Glycerin and then finally some natural colourant i got from Moksha Lifestyle Products and Peppermint and Sweet Orange essential oil.
The method of Hot process liquid soap making is similar to cold process soap making, until the point where you would normally pour the soap into the mould. If you need a detailed list of instruction please refer to the link how to make natural soap. The basic instructions are the following:
1. Calculate the recipe:
Unlike solid soap, your final amount of liquid soap will be at least double of you’re amount of oils, since the soap mass is diluted with water. So before you calculate you’re recipe you need to take into consideration how big your double boiler is, and then use the percentages above to calculate each oil amount. This is my recipe in the app Saponify:
2. Measure the oils and melt, measure lye and water and mix
2. Mixing the lye water with the oils and blending till trace:
3. Cook the soap mass on medium heat, stir lightly
4. Keep cooking for 2 hour to 2.5
5. Reaching the final phase
6. Start diluting the soap
7. Dilute completely or leave over night
8. Add your essential oils and colourants if any
9. Voila! Look at it and feel happy
This was all I had for now on liquid soap. Do let me know if there’s any stages of the process that should be more thoroughly explained – either in the write up or in additional posts. Leave a comment if you have any questions or corrections – no matter how long I do this, I still have a lot to learn!
Disclaimer: I personally don’t use preservatives because I only use this on myself, so I therefore don’t know enough about it to write about. So please do your research on how to use preservatives in liquid soap, and add at diluting stage. If you chose not to use any like me, be sure to ONLY to use it on yourself, and let it be on own risk. If never had any issues but better safe than sorry no?
If you want to get deeper into the process of liquid soap making, this book is a ‘must have’ for newbies and includes a bunch of recipes as well: