Liquid Soap Making Technique


Liquid soap making will provide you with liquid hand soap you can use at your washbasin, in the kitchen, and a body wash to use in your shower. During the process, you will be able to give your liquid soap the color, the fragrance and other features you want. Every time you will be assured to have the best quality of soap you and your family deserve. Contrary to commercially-produced liquid soaps, your soap will only contain the environment and skin friendly ingredients you have chosen.

Liquid soap making is more challenging than making bar soap in many ways. The main differences are:
– potassium hydroxide is used instead of sodium hydroxide
– potassium hydroxide comes as little flakes and usually contains around 10% remaining water and some impurities
– the process is a hot process instead of the cold process used in making bar soap
– the process is longer, with more stages to go through
– in the cold process a slight excess of oil is an insurance against too much lye in the soap, and the extra oil is even good for your skin. The excess oil, moisturising in a bar soap, would cause cloudiness in your liquid soap, could separate and float as a sticky layer on the top. So, just make sure you have the right proportions.

Making liquid soap is quite achievable, even for a beginner, if the right equipment is used and the different stages of the process are correctly followed.

If you are a beginner, you must follow a tried and tested formula. I recommand a formula based on an easy and reliable recipe from Ellen Peacock:
• 16.5 oz. (490 ml) Sunflower Seed Oil
• 7 oz. (207 ml) Coconut Oil
• 5.5 oz. (163 ml) KOH (potassium hydroxide)
• 16.5 oz. (488 ml) Distilled Water for the Lye Mixture

You will also need:
• 40 oz. (1,183 ml) Distilled Water to dilute the soap paste
• Either 2 oz. (59 ml) of boric acid or 3 oz. (89ml) of borax mixed into 8 (237 ml) or 6 oz. (177 ml) of water to neutralise the excess of lye
• Fragrance or essential oils, and soap dye or colorant, if desired.

In addition to the equipment used in the cold process, I recommend you use a large crock pot in which you can easily set the required temperature for the process to go on smoothly.

You will have to go through the following steps:
1 – Preparing and mixing the liquid soap ingredients
2 – Getting to trace
3 – Cooking the paste
4 – Checking the paste
5 – Diluting the paste
6 – Neutralizing the remaining alkali
7 – Adding fragrance
8 – Coloring the soap
9 – Letting the soap rest

So, why wait? Let’s get started!

1 – Preparing and mixing the liquid soap ingredients

After measuring your sunflower seed and coconut oils, put them in the crock pot that you set at 160 °F (72 C°). Mix your lye-water. Use the same cautious procedure explained in “Soap Making Technique”, using Potassium Hydroxide instead of Sodium Hydroxide. It will heat up, but less than with Sodium Hydroxide.
When the Potassium Hydroxide is completely dissolved, bring the mixture to 140 °F (60 °C), then gently pour it into the oils. Stir the oils and lye together for 5 minutes. It’s then time to turn on your stick blender.

2 – Getting your liquid soap to trace

You objective is now to bring your soap to trace, which will take time, depending on your mix of oils. Trace is the term to describe the consistency or thickness, and the stage where the mixture has turned to soap. Tracing is easily recognized. Using a plastic spatula, drizzle a small amount across the top of the soap mixture. If a mark or trail remains for a few seconds before disappearing again, your soap has traced. The mixture should have the consistency of liquid honey or pudding. The soap will go through different stages before it hardens into your paste. It will try to separate, so keep mixing it using the blender until it becomes very thick, like a very thick custard.

3 – Cooking the liquid soap paste

At this point, your soap has traced and you can move to the next stage. You need now a lot of patience. Put the lid on the pot and stir the paste after 15 minutes. After that, stir every 20-30 minutes for the next 3 to 4 hours during which the soap will go through various states, including a solid taffy state. If the soap seems to have separated, just stir it until it comes back to trace. Eventually the soap will reach the state of translucent vaseline.

4 – Checking the liquid soap paste

It’s then time to check how good is your paste. Take two ounces of boiling water and add one ounce of your soap paste. Stir the soap, breaking it up and helping it dissolve in the water. Once it’s completely dissolved (several minutes) check to see how clear it is. If it’s just very lightly cloudy, that’s o.k. It may be your combination of oils. Also, the soap will “settle” after it’s finished and get even clearer. But if the dissolved soap mixture is milky or very cloudy, you need to cook it longer, or you may have mis-measured your soap ingredients in the first place. If the test mixture stays clear as it cools, you are ok.

5 – Diluting the liquid soap paste

You must now dilute your paste. Bring to a boil the remaining 40 oz (1,183 ml) of distilled water, add it to the soap paste and stir. Turn the heat off the crock pot put the lid on an wait an hour before stiring again. It must have already softened a bit, but still is chunky and gooey. Put the lid back and wait. You might now just go to bed and wait until the morning when it has all dissolved.

6 – Neutralizing the remaining alkali in the liquid soap

As explained earlier, it is better to have an excess of lye when making liquid soap. Now, this excess of lye must be neutralized as it is corrosive to the skin. For that you will use either a 20% boric acid solution or a 33% borax solution.
Turn on your crock pot to 180°F (82 °C). In a separate container, mix your neutralizing solution. To match the recipe we are using here, for the boric acid, take 8 oz. (237 ml) of boiling water and add 2 oz. (59 ml) boric acid. For the borax, use 3 oz. (89 ml) borax in 6 oz. (177 ml) of boiling water. It’s important to stir very well and make sure that it stays very hot. Don’t let it cool down as the borax or boric acid will then start to precipitate out of the mixture – and it won’t mix into your soap!

Add about 3/4 oz. (22 ml) of neutralizer for every pound (455 g) of soap paste (just the paste, not the added water.) So, for this recipe which has about 2.8 lb (1,270 g) of paste, you will add 2 (60 ml) oz. (2.13 rounded down to 2) of neutralizer solution. Too much neutralizer (especially the boric acid solution) can cause cloudiness, so it’s best to round down and/or err on the conservative side. Slowly pour the neutralizer into the re-heated soap mixture and stir well. Add one ounce first, stir and let it sit for a bit. Then add another half ounce and stir. Then, if you still have no cloudiness, add the final half ounce and stir.

7 – Adding fragrance to your liquid soap

About scent in your soap, you can use either fragrance oils or essential oils.

Let’s be clear: essential oils are natural and contain the true aromatic essence and other naturally beneficial properties of the plant the essential oil was distilled from. Essential oils are not the same as fragrance oils, perfume oils or potpourri oils. Where essential oils contain only the distilled essence of a plant, perfume and fragrance oils are artificially created fragrances, contain artificial substances or are essential oils diluted with carrier oils and do not offer the caliber of therapeutic benefits that essential oils offer (

If you want a genuine natural homemade liquid soap, you’ll go for essential oils, which are more expensive. If you don’t mind and are after just a nice smelling soap, you can choose among a vast choice of fragrance oils which will give your liquid soap a nice fragrance but will bring no specific benefits for your skin.

My personal choice is for essential oils as I am also already using them for my health. I really know the great benefits I can get from them, and many are highly beneficial for your skin. As a rule of thumb, especially with your body wash, use 20 to 25 drops of essential oils per 8.5 oz. (250 ml) of liquid soap.

You can also make your liquid hand soap anti-bacterial by using specific essential oils, such as tea tree essential oil. Indeed the essential oil distilled from tea tree is well known in aromatherapy for its powerful anti-bacterial properties, yet mild effect on the skin. Add 10-15 drops of tea tree EO per 8.5 oz. (250 ml) of liquid soap.

With the essential oils, add half a cup of glycerine to your homemade liquid soap to give this recipe a stronger moisturizing property.

8 – Coloring your liquid soap

After dilution of the paste and neutralization of the remaining alkali your liquid soap is translucent and has a slight amber color. You can give it the color you want. Coloring can be obtained from either artificial or natural colorants which can be found on countless websites, such as

9 – Letting the liquid soap rest

Let your soap cool and pour it into large bottles or jars. Put it aside in a cool place and just let it rest for 1 to 2 weeks. During this resting phase, the insoluble particles should settle to the bottom, and any minor cloudiness caused by insoluble particles should clear up. Then pour your soap into their final bottles or tubes. Be careful not to disturb the settled solids. You can even pour your soap through a fine kitchen sieve for a better result.

A variation of this recipe could be to replace the water used to dilute the soap paste by the same amount of strong herbal tea made from herbs such as camomile, mint, green tea or lemon-grass.

Your have now completed the hot process for your homemade liquid soap. Enjoy your liquid hand soap and your body wash!