I recently tried to conquer the beast that is making liquid soap from scratch. Cold Process Soap Making was easy for me to start. I didn't think too much into it and just dove in head first. Liquid Soap however, seems to be a whole different mountain to climb. It requires a different type of lye, Potassium Hydroxide, and hours of cooking in either a double boiler or slow cooker. Lacking a double boiler, I went with the slow cooker method.
After hours of research and not many resources found later, I was ready to start making liquid soap. I know many people, including myself, prefer the ease of liquid soap over a bar.
First thing to do was to gather the materials I needed. Luckily I already had all the oils:
Rice Bran Oil
I just had to get the Potassium Hydroxide, which I purchased from Amazon just to get it sooner, but future purchases I will mostly likely purchase from Wholesale Supplies Plus.
Other ingredients I needed:
Borax (or Citric Acid)
So How Do You Make Liquid Soap?
I would need to determine a recipe to use. I developed my own using soapcalc.net
This is my go to site for making recipes. It can be complicated to create a recipe, but this site makes it a little easier. All you need to do is enter your total oil weight, percentage for each oil you are using, and then determine which type of soap you are making by selecting the correct lye.
Here is the recipe that I used for my first liquid soap:
8 oz Coconut Oil
3.2 oz Olive Oil
3.2 oz Rice Bran Oil
1.6 oz Castor Oil
3.75 oz Potassium Hydroxide (KOH 92%)
6 oz Distilled Water
One of the resources I found suggested weighing the empty slow cooker before starting so that later you can weigh it with the soap and just subtract the weight to get the weight of just the soap.
I weighed my oils in a separate container, and then added to the slow cooker. I turned it on low to melt the coconut oil and it took about 45 minutes to melt completely.
While the oils were melting, I measured out my distilled water and lye separately. Then it's time to combine the lye into the water, stirring constantly.
Once the oils are finally all melted, I slowly poured in the lye/water mixture and began mixing with the immersion blender.
This is what it looked like after about 10 minutes of intermittent blending (you don't want the blender to overheat!).
Once the mixture reaches trace (which I don't think I mixed it enough after trace), then I cooked it on low for about 4 hours.
This is what the mixture looked like 30 minutes in:
It was kind of an applesauce texture.
After 4 hours:
At this point I did a dilution test. I took 1 oz of the soap paste and mixed with 2 oz boiling water. If the mixture remains clear, then it is ready to be diluted. If it is cloudy, then it needs more cook time. If it is milky, it definitely needs more cook time.
The mixture was slightly cloudy, so I cooked the soap for another hour just to make sure it was ready.
As far as I know, it should be a clear, jelly-like substance at this time. My was like jelly, but not clear, but I decided to go ahead and start diluting the soap.
I took it out of the pot and measured it separately, since my pot was still hot I did not want to risk taking it out.
It weighed 1 lb 2 oz. I pretty much did a 2:1 ratio and added 2 lbs 4 oz of distilled water.
Adding water to the soap jelly will help dilute the soap so that it is not as drying on your skin.
This is what it looked like once I added the liquid:
I turned the crock pot off and left the lid on for about an hour for the soap to disperse into the water. Here is a picture after an hour:
Since it wasn't completely dissolved, I left it over night, and here it is in the morning:
There was still a little jelly at the bottom, but I just stirred it up and let it sit for another hour.
Now to neutralize the soap. This lowers the pH of the soap and neutralize the excess lye that is left. To do this I could use a borax or citric acid solution.
Fortunately, I had some citric acid left over from my failed attempt at making bath bombs.
I also used a 2:1 ratio of water to citric acid. I added 1 1/2 tbsp of the mixture into my soap. Once it was added the soap turned lumpy and cloudy! I turned the slow cooker on low for about an hour just to heat it up so it would mix together a little better. This worked successfully and I now had mostly clear liquid soap. I added fragrance oil at 2% of the weight of the diluted soap. My first batch I used Cherry Almond.
I poured the soap into mason jars for storing:
After a couple days, I finally received my glycerin in so that I could try and thicken up the soap. It was pretty runny but slightly thicker than water. I wanted it to be more like store-bought soap. I added the recommended 2 oz per lb of diluted soap (6 oz) of glycerin to the soap to thicken it. I noticed only a VERY slight change in the thickness of the soap, so I looked up some alternate ways to thicken soap.
One way I found was to add salt to the soap. I do this for my bar soaps, so it seems like a good idea. I poured a little bit of soap into a pitcher in order to test and slowly added a 2:1 ratio of boiled water to salt. This thicken up my small sample, so I decided to split the remaining soap in two and leave one jar with just glycerin and one with the salt added:
Left: soap with just glycerin; right: soap with glycerin and salt
It made is more cloudy, but it was a thicker consistency. Unfortunately, because of the fragrance that I chose combined with the salt, it made your hands smell like Play-Doh! Even though the scent turned weird, it still was soap and created wonderful bubbles!
Though this did not turn out perfect, the soap still washes effectively and does not feel as drying as store-bought soaps! It isn't as smooth on your skin as the bar soaps that I make, so I will have to experiment with additives, such as goat milk!
I already created a new batch just one week later and plan on testing the salt again, just maybe not as much.
Soon I will have liquid soap available for purchase on the site and I will share some successful recipes and tips!