How to form a liquid soap recipe (with recipes)

When I started making natural liquid soap, I realized that there’s a lot less information on this process, than there is on solid soap making (both cold and hot process). This goes especially for info on how to combine oils in the right percentages to make a great liquid soap recipe. After a lot of searching and experimenting, I’ve gotten a basic idea on the things to consider when forming a liquid soap recipe. I would like to share what I’ve learned with you in this post, including a few examples of recipes I’ve used. If you have never made liquid soap or would like to give it try, you can start out by reading: How to make natural liquid soap.

In the post How to form a soap recipe, I explain the process of forming a recipe for solid soap, and there are a few things that are very different when forming a liquid soap recipe.

1. Liquid soap can contain high amounts of soft oils

Solid soap is all about making the bar hard and long-lasting. This means that a lot of oils can’t be used in high quantities, because they make a soft and sticky bar of soap. These are called soft oils – meaning that they are fluid at all times (coconut, palm, and mango butter are examples of hard oils because they turn solid at certain temperatures). Liquid soap formulas, on the other hand, can easily contain high amounts of soft oils since you don’t have to worry about the soap turning soft. Examples of soft oils are Sunflower, Sweet almond, Avocado, Safflower, Castor, and Canola oil.

2. Liquid soap needs high amounts of coconut oil

Coconut oil is a must in most soap formulations because it gives great cleansing properties and abundant lather. Though in solid soap, coconut oil isn’t used above 30 percent, because it makes the soap drying (unless it’s super fatted properly. Read: 3 Coconut Soaps – for hair, body and clothes). Liquid soap, on the other hand, needs high amounts of coconut oil, to give proper lather and is often used between 60-90% of the total soap formulation. I’ve not experienced it to make the soap drying, properly because of the added water.

3. Liquid soap isn’t superfatted 

To Superfat a soap is to leave some of the oil ‘unsaponified’ in the soap, but since liquid soap has added water, the excess oil would just float on the top of the final soap. This means that it’s pointless superfatting liquid soap, the same way you would in solid. Though there are two ways to do it, which is to add glycerin or sulfated castor oil, which are both water soluble.

4. Liquid soap gets cloudy if certain oils are used 

This is of absolutely no importance to me personally, but for many soapers, it’s important to keep the liquid soap completely clear (not cloudy). Some oils make liquid soap cloudy because they contain high amounts of ‘unsaponifiables’ (oil that can’t be made into soap), and is therefore left as oil in the final soap, that creates cloudy masses. Examples of these are palm oil, lard, tallow and all types of Butters (cocoa, mango, Shea etc.). It’s recommended only to add these at 5% of the total recipe if you want to keep the Soap clear.

Another way this is ensured is to make the soap with higher amounts of potassium hydroxide and then neutralizing the soap at the end. This won’t work though if there are too much ‘unsaponifiables’ in the recipe, so either way first rule is key.

How to formulate a recipe

To make this guide more simple, I will write down a general guide and then mention the exceptions in the section with recipes. According to me, there are three parts to a great soap recipe, with the option of excluding the third category. These are:

1. Coconut oil – 60% to 90% of the recipe 

Coconut oil is a must, in any amount from 60% to 90%. I’ve tried all the ranges, and from what I can feel, the biggest change is how abundant the lather is. Though I would say the more sensitive your skin is, or if you want to make soap for children, the smaller amounts of coconut oil should be used. Baby soap is the only time I would add less than 50% coconut oil – and accept the soap will just lather less.

2. Soft oils – 10% to 40% of the recipe 

Soft oils serve to add moisture to your soap, and also to keep the price down. What’s great about liquid soap recipes, is that a lot of really cheap oil makes for great components in high quantities. These are for example sunflower, canola, safflower and castor oil. Other examples are sweet almond oil, avocado oil, and apricot kernel. Olive oil isn’t technically a soft oil but is also a very moisturizing oil. Therefore it can also be added to the recipe as a soft oil.

3. Hard oils – 5% of the recipe 

Hard oils can add some extra body to your soap but needs to be added in less than 5% if you prefer an unclouded soap. Though, since I don’t care I’ve added up to 15% and loved the outcome. Examples are cocoa butter, shea butter, mango butter, and kokum butter. Personally, I don’t use palm oil, because of its environmental concerns but I’ve heard it’s great for liquid soap. Additionally are tallow and lard, which I also don’t use.

These three in combination will make a great recipe. Let’s take some examples.

Liquid soap recipes

1. The super lathering one 

  • 90% Coconut oil
  • 10% Castor oil

2. The cheap one 

  • 60% Coconut oil
  • 10% Castor oil
  • 30% Sunflower or Safflower oil

3. The Luxurious one 

  • 60% coconut oil
  • 10% castor
  • 25% sweet almond or avocado oil
  • 5% mango, kokum or shea Butter

Now to the exceptions:

3. The baby soap 

  • 100% olive oil

4. The cleaning soap (for a sparkling house or super clean laundry)

  • 100% coconut oil

I’m a bit apprehensive writing a baby soap recipe containing coconut oil since I don’t have much experience with it. But from what I can deduct it could work with small amounts of coconut oil and high amounts of soft oil – if you want to avoid using olive oil.

This was all I could cook up for now. I’m not nearly as experienced in liquid soap as I am in cold process soap making, so feel free to write in the comment section if you disagree with something or have other input – I’d love to hear it!

//Louise

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