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13 September 2009

Making liquid soap

I've been making cold pressed soap for a few years now and I had always wanted to add liquid soap to my shelves too. The first hurdle I had to cross was to find potassium hydroxide. That is the type of lye used when making liquid soap, whereas sodium hydroxide is used in hard soap and is easily found at the supermarket.

I think it's illegal in Australia to send potassium hydroxide through the post so you'll probably need a supplier close by where you can go and pick up what you need. Don't use the lye you buy at the supermarket, it won't make liquid soap.

I finally found a supplier close to me and a couple of months ago I picked up my supplies. The only thing standing between me and all those bottles of handwash, shampoo and dishwahing liquid was my own trepidation. I read the instructions and stopped, too afraid to go further.

Notice the potassium hydroxide crystals are much bigger that ordinary lye crystals.

I read about the lye groaning! And it being much hotter than the other lye, and to use a double boiler. I didn't do anything for a while, then realised what an idiot I was being, and made myself start up again. Well, the lye did groan but I didn't use a double boiler, I used a crockpot, and I didn't noticed that the lye was hotter than before. Imagine that - it all went according to plan and apart from being much more of a drawn out process than the cold pressed soap, it went well.

There is an excellent tutorial here, with photos, so I won't repeat what is already done. My advice would be to read the entire process before you start. I didn't and didn't know that it would take as long as it did. Luckily for me there is a natural break in the process, so I stopped there because I had to go out to a meeting that afternoon. I put the soap paste in the fridge and resumed the next morning.

Early on, the liquid was crystal clear, it was darker after the second cooking.

Although I'm happy with my first attempt, my soap isn't crystal clear and it's too dark. That doesn't affect the performance but if I were to give this soap as a gift, which I hope to do with future batches, I would want it a light golden colour and clear. I think I overcooked my soap in stage two because it was much lighter in colour before that second cooking. However, I have tested it over these past few days and I'm very happy with it. I've washed my hair with it, used it as a hand wash, and washed up with it.

Trace - similar to cold pressed soap but the thicker.

It turns the water white, just like bar soap does, but it retains a lather for a few minutes. The best thing though is that it cleans the dishes and pots really well. It cuts through grease. I think it's better than bar soap for washing up, but not much better. If you're thinking that this is going to be the same as detergent, it isn't. But it does the job it's intended for and it isn't made with petrochemicals, like every detergent is.

The soap cooking in the crockpot.

It's great as a shampoo and hand wash. It retains the natural glycerin, so it's not drying on the skin. My next test will be to wash some pure wool with it. I'm going to add some eucalyptus oil to the soap and use it as a wool wash.

My ingredients: I used rainwater instead of distilled.

As you can see, there are several uses for this soap. It does take a long time to make but you only spend a fraction of that time actually doing anything, there is a lot of waiting. I chose olive oil, rice bran oil and coconut oil but I won't give you the recipe I used because I have to fine tune it, when that is done, I'll post it. It made up about four litres (quarts). This is a useful skill to have under your belt, but you should make cold pressed soap before you make this. I'm not sure if I'll continue using it to wash dishes but I really like that it is also shampoo, hand wash and wool wash - all cleaning liquids that are quite expensive. I can already see a lovely cleaning basket gift that this features in.

Are you making liquid soap? I'd love to know how yours turns out. And if you have a fail-safe recipe, please share it.


  1. Here in the U.S.A. we can't buy lye at the local store anymore since the illegal drug labs are use it to make methamphetamines. We have to order it over the internet in small amounts that makes only about two and a half batches of soap, unless you have a commercial soap making business. I no longer make laundry soap and only make hard hand soap because of this change. I didn't know about making liquid soap -interesting, thanks.

  2. I've always been too scared to make soap, but I've been looking around for a liquid soap alternative to commercial soap, so maybe I'll just have to bite the bullet and give it a go.
    Liquid hand soap is the only petrochemical product that we still use (everything else is natural) and it irritates my excema no end.
    I've been waiting for it to run out to replace it with something natural.The only issue I have with that is that I'm still buying plastic containers, so making my own and recycling containers is something that has definitely been on my mind!

  3. Hi Rhonda Jean!
    I have been making all kinds of solid soap for quite a long while now and have wanted to make liquid soap but for some reason it just seems so complicated...
    I am encouraged by your post and hope to try it soon! Ü
    Wishing you a blessed day!

  4. thanks for the recipe. i am a little disappointed about the dish washing outcome, though. i was hoping for a sparkly petrochemical finish :)

  5. Thanks for this post. I have been eagerly awaiting this post, but haven't yet made the cold pressed soap.

    I live in the US and got lye at ACE hardware.


  6. We can buy potassium hydroxide in Oklahoma. Hubby uses it in the hydrogen generator he built & installed on his car to improve his gas mileage. It's available at stores that specialize in chemicals, a lot of them sell things that school kids can use in science projects and we were able to buy a small amount. But it might vary from state to state.

  7. I love that it can be made in a crockpot! Thanks for sharing this idea.

  8. I haven't made any soap yet but it's on my list of things to do in the future.

  9. I'm SO glad I haven't given away my old crockpot!! Thanks for letting us know how it went.

    Barb in GA

  10. I thought it would be something to try to make soap but like holly said "the illegal drug labs are use it to make methamphetamines."
    But I heard my grandmother made soap using lard and wood ash.

    Coffee is on.

  11. Thanks for posting this Rhonda. I'm going to try to give it a go some time.

    A question though, can you use your crockpot for cooking again after this, or like cold pressed soaps, do you need a crockpot especially for your soapmaking?

  12. my only adventures in soap making so far involved trying to make liquid hand soap from grated soap bars. It didnt go very well. So instead i am reusing foam pumps with diluted castile soap, this works well and saves money

  13. If I may ask Rhonda what do you use or recommend to use to wasah up your dishes? If I understood your statement right when you do later write up your recipe you will tell us how long to cook your recipe using a crockpot. That was very innovative of you to step out and try it differently than the recipe you were using! :) I thought you were using your bar soap to wash your hair. Do you feel the liquid soap is better? Jody

  14. dora, lye comes from woodash and we soap makers use vegetable oils instead of lard as our fat. Same process, same result.

    Rinelle, I use my ordinary crockpot, I just make sure it's cleaned properly afterwards. Unlike cold pressed soap, this is not caustic at the end and can be used straight away. So I guess, it's just like cleaning out a pot that's full of soap.

    Jody, I think I'll continue to use my homemade soap to wash up. I used it as shampoo to see how good it was - it's excellent, but I will continue to use a bar of soap as my shampoo. I'll use it as handsoap and wool wash and for gifts. Washing up and shampooing can be done almost as efficiently using a bar of soap.
    If you go by the tutorial and the recipe they used, you'll make excellent soap. So follow the tutorial and when I make a second batch (in a couple of months) I'll let you know what worked for me.

  15. This was fun to read! This may be a silly question, but where do you get your fascinating bottles, I love them! I am in the US, so didn't know if you ordered them online?

  16. Hi Rhonda,
    I'm the person from the forum asking about liquid soap etc.
    Thanks for the post and the link to the tutorial, looks interesting. Think I best learn how to make normal soap first, before venturing into the liquid variety.
    I'd love to try making goats milk soap as that is what we currently use due to skin irritations.
    Anyhoo guess I should jump in and give it a go!

  17. Unfortunately I can't make soap here. I can't even find lye for some reason. :( This is definitely interesting though! I love reading your posts! Will also be joining the forum- I didn't know you had one up! I'm sure it will be great! :D

  18. maries cottage, most of the bottles and jars I use are recycled - mostly they're jars or bottles we've bought and used. However, the tallest of the bottles in the soap photo, was bought at a $2 store for $3.

  19. For bookflutterby: I'm not sure where you live, but I had the same problem here in Arizona. I finally found it in the plumbing section of my Ace Hardware store. It is used as a drain cleaner! :)

  20. Thankyou for the liquid soap links, I would love to try making it. I have just finished making the laundry soap which is fabulous. I think I remember reading you live in Brisbane - I am not far - Upper Coomera just north of the Gold Coast. Where do you get your supply of Hydrogen Peroxide?

  21. Just want to let those in the US know, if you buy your lye in the drain cleaner section of your hardware store, chances are it is not 100% lye and also has some metals in it (toxic, like aluminum, etc). Check the manufacturer online to see all of the ingredients - it does not list them all on the container. I bought some at Home Depot and then did some more research and realized it is NOT 100% lye and would be dangerous to use in homemade soap.
    You can buy pure lye from local soap supply shops, or online.


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