How to make Natural Liquid Soap (with Recipes)

Making natural liquid soap from scratch 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. In this post, I will guide you through the process of making Hot Process liquid soap, from formulating a liquid soap recipe to diluting the finished soap.

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.

Solid & Liquid Soap – The Differences

Liquid soap, just like solid soap, consists of three elements: fats/oils, water and lye. The main difference between them is that solid soap is made with Sodium Hydroxide, while liquid soap is made with Potassium Hydroxide. Before we start, I would like to note some basic things

  • Natural liquid soap is a lot thinner than what you might be used to from commercial companies. There are ways to thicken natural soap, but I won’t be exploring any of them since those methods mostly involve adding extra chemicals
  • Just like it’s important for most solid soap makers to make a hard bar of soap, it’s important for most liquid soap makers to make a clear (non-cloudy) liquid soap. This is purely about aesthetics and doesn’t make the soap better. A common method to do this is to put excess lye and then neutralize the soap after its cooked. I won’t be doing that.

Now let’s get started from the start. Even though solid soap and liquid soap is quite similar in its process, there are some differences in how you formulate the recipe. 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 has a rather higher percentage of Coconut oil (unless its Castile soap which is pure Olive oil), to ensure the soap foams properly and doesn’t become sticky. 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 that’s not necessary for liquid soap, you can use higher percentages of soft oils like Castor, Safflower and Sunflower. Which is great, because they are much cheaper!
  • Liquid soap recipes are mostly made of oils with fewer un-saponifiables. What this means is that some oils have fats that can’t be made into soap. If an oil has a high percentage of un-saponifiables it will make the liquid soap cloudy. For that reason, Palm, Tallow and Cocoa butter are usually avoided added in very small amounts. I take this lightly because I don’t care if my soap is cloudy.
  • Superfatting liquid soap is pointless because the excess oil will just float on top of the soap once diluted since oil is not water soluble. You can 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 colorant.

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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 mold. 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 your amount of oils, since the soap mass is diluted with water. So before you calculate the 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:

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 5.19.55 pm
Instead of NaOH (Sodium hydroxide), I put KOH which is Potassium Hydroxide and then Superfat by 0%.

2. Measure out the oils, Melt the oils, Prepare Lye Water

I measured out my oils. Since I had Mango butter I heated the oils straight in my double boiler until completely melted. Then measured out the lye and beer mixed it, keeping it aside until it turned clear. Note: some people measure the temperature if the oils and lye water, but I simply use the lye mix when it turns clear. 

2. Pour the Lye Water in the Oils and Mix

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 less.

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. 

4. Keep cooking for 2 to 3 hours

The soap mass will start getting more solid and waxy. It differs a lot how long it takes to reach this stage. Be patient. 

5. Reaching the Final Stage

When the soap starts turning a lit translucent, you can start checking if the 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 a PH between 9-10. Though I’ve heard of people using PH strips, or the chemical phenolphthalein which changes color 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

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 has different diluting points, which means some might need more water than others to turn liquid. Coconut soap, for example, has a low diluting point, which means it needs less water to mix with the water.

7. Dilute Completely or Leave Overnight

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 overnight. 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 Colorants if any

Once it’s completely diluted you can add your essential oils and colorants. 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 favorite method, add until you feel like it’s enough. I’ve 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

My final soap – in the sunlight it looks red, but otherwise, it has a brownish color. 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. 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?


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How to make Natural Liquid Soap from Scratch, from recipe formulation to diluting. Includes a discount code to shop the ingridients.png


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