How to make natural liquid soap

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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?

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 writing about 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 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 it (even if you only have experience with making bar soap), but if you don’t, please start by reading the post How to make natural soap.

Whats the difference between solid and 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 make 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

or

  • 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

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:

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Instead of NaOH (Sodium hydroxide) I put KOH which is Potassium Hydroxide and then Superfat by 0%.
2. Measure the oils and melt, measure lye and water and mix
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I measured out my oils. Since I had Mango butter I heated the oils straight in my double boiler until completely melted. Then measured the lye and beer and missed it. 
2. Mixing the lye water with the oils and blending till trace:
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When the lye water was ready I added it to my oils. I blended until it reached trace and then put it on the stove on medium heat. Don’t worry if it looks like its splitting, it will settle down as it’s getting cooked.
3. Cook the soap mass on medium heat, stir lightly
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Cooking the soap mass it actually quite relaxed. Many might feel like stirring the mass all the time, but it won’t burn if you don’t. Actually it’s better to put a lid on the pot and let it heat. Check once in 30 min. to see what stage the soap has reached. Stir lightly.
4. Keep cooking for 2 hour to 2.5
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The soap mass will start getting more solid and waxy. Continue heating and stirring lightly from time to time. 
5. Reaching the final phase

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Once it reaches this stage is when I start checking if my soap is done. The stage is something like gel phase, that some might know from solid soap making. The mass is sort of elastic, and doesn’t clump anymore. There are different options for checking if the soap is done – personally I use a PH meter and wait for the soap to reach PH between 9-10. Though I’ve heard of people using PH strips, or the chemical phenophtalein which changes colour if the soap is not done. Others use the method called the ‘zap’ method – where you put some soap on your finger, and touch it to your tongue. If it feels like a small electric current, it’s not done. Though honestly I don’t use this method, because I can’t feel the difference enough to trust it. 

6. Start diluting the soap
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When you are sure your soap is finished, you can either dilute it straight away, or keep the soap mass for diluting later. Different soap miss have different diluting points, which means some might need more water than others to turn liquid. Coconut soap for example have a low diluting point, which means it needs less water to mix with the water. 
7. Dilute completely or leave over night
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So how do you figure out how much water to use? I really just take it as it comes, and dilute slowly to make sure I don’t pour too much water. Start adding 1:1 (As much water as your oil weight) and let me mass simmer, while you mix from time to time. Then add 1/4 water of total oils until it’s diluted. Now I actually added 1:1 to my batch, turned off the heat and let it stand over night. In the morning I added two times 100 ml over an hour and then it was diluted. It just makes the process a little shorter if it gets to stand on its own over some time. 
8. Add your essential oils and colourants if any
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At this stage you can add you’re essential oils and colourants. I’m a bit untraditional when it comes to essential oils, and I tend to add a lot. For 400 grams oils I added 25 ml of Peppermint and Sweet Orange.  You can use bramble berries fragrance calculator that gives recommended amounts – or my favourite method, add until you feel like it’s enough. Ive actually occasionally reheated a soap and added extra essential oil, and it’s worked well for me. 

9. Voila! Look at it and feel happy
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My final soap – in the sun light it looks red, but otherwise it has a brownish colour. Since natural soap is a lot more liquid than commercial soap, it’s perfect to keep in a soap pump or foam dispenser.

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!

//Louise

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