Making Liquid Soap

To make liquid soaps, you take the hot-process soapmaking techniques, make a few ingredient adjustments, and then go a few steps further. You make the caustic solution with water and potassium hydroxide, add it to warmed oils, and then you cook it until it is neutral. The mass of neutralized soap is the concentrate from which you will make the liquid soap.

You will measure out this neutral soap gel and melt it into water. You can keep the extra gel-like base in a sealed plastic container in the refrigerator (well labeled!) and make up more liquid soap as needed. This works well, because like any soap, liquid soap has a shelf life. It's better to mix up more as you need it than have an entire batch sitting around resolidifying or getting rancid.

One benefit of making small batches of liquid soap from the stored base is the ability to create variety. For instance you can make some in sage green for the kitchen, light blue for the powder room, and soft rose for the master bath.

Instead of sodium hydroxide, you will use potassium hydroxide to make liquid soap. The molecular structure of potassium hydroxide creates long strands rather than crystalline structures, so the soap remains fluid rather than solidifying. The soap paste with which you are left at the end of the first cook will have a texture like gummy jelly. Melting the paste into water makes the liquid soap.

If you've used sodium hydroxide, you'll notice that this stir to trace is different. It is very opaque and milky right away, yet very thin. You have to use the hand blender for action to get it to start tracing. When it does, it happens all of a sudden. Big bubbles will start to kick up when it's about to firm up.

You can divide the finished soap into small amounts and experiment with color and scent. Some fragrance oils and essential oils have color of their own, so add them before you add the colorant. Liquid food colors work perfectly

Liquid Soap in Slow Cooker

Yields about 3 pounds of paste, which will dilute to about 6 pounds of liquid soap

22 ounces coconut oil

4 ounces castor oil

1 ounce jojoba oil

16 ounces water

6.25 ounces potassium hydroxide

Rubbing alcohol in small spray bottle to control bubbles

For this recipe, use a 3.5-quart slow cooker. If you use too small a slow cooker for the batch, you will increase the chances of overheating, overflowing, and the “volcano” action of the cooking soap. You can make liquid soap in a double boiler or with the oven hot-process techniques, too.

  • Set slow cooker to high. Place the coconut oil, castor oil, and jojoba oil into the slow cooker. Cover to hold in heat. Melt the oils.

  • Place the water in a heatproof container and sprinkle the potassium hydroxide into the water. Stir until all the potassium hydroxide is dissolved. (This mixture won't get as hot as the lye solutions for solid soap since you're using more water.) Without waiting for it to cool, add the potassium-water solution to the oils by pouring it in a thin stream, stirring constantly and carefully to fully combine the mixture.

  • Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture to trace. Keep the head of the blender fully immersed to avoid blending air into the soap batter.

  • When the mass starts to thicken, the mixture will thicken fast — it may just become nearly solid! Remember that this will happen all of a sudden, so watch that you don't burn out the blender by not paying attention.

  • Let the paste cook until it's translucent. (This will take about 3 hours.) Stir the neutralizing soap every 30 minutes by folding the soap with a firm yet careful hand, incorporating the puffy areas into the center. (Keep the slow cooker covered as much as possible. The longer you leave the lid off, the more water will evaporate, which will throw the formula out of balance.)

  • After 3 hours, test to see if the soap is neutral. Scrape a small portion onto a folded-up paper towel. Drip a couple of drops of phenolphthalein onto the soap. If it turns bright pink, it needs more cooking. If it is clear with just a little pink, you're ready to move on.

  • If you're going to make finished liquid soap right away, measure out the amount you want to dilute and store the rest. Take the finished paste out of the slow cooker and let it cool in a glass or metal bowl. When it's cool, put the amount you wish to store into a heavy zipper bag.

  • Place the paste that you wish to make into liquid soap in a stainless steel pan over direct heat on your stove to melt the paste into the water. Use equal parts paste and water. Although it will produce some foam, boiling is the best way to get it started. Be sure the pan is an appropriate size for the batch you are making. One pound of paste and 2 pounds of water will fit perfectly in a standard 4-quart saucepan.

  • Bring the paste and water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 to 30 minutes. You need to stay with it, making absolutely sure it doesn't boil dry. It may be tempting to put a lid on, but it is better to leave the lid off, because the boil-over potential is very great, even if you keep the heat the same.

  • When the soap paste has dissolved, remove the pan from the stove and stir to incorporate as much foam as you can.

  • Spritz the surface with rubbing alcohol to clear any bubbles that remain. (Do not do this near a gas range!) Add color and fragrance if you like.

well and look best when used in small amounts. The liquid soap will be somewhat yellow, so remember this when working out your color plan.

Pour your finished soap into bottles and admire your hard work! Your soap is slightly superfatted and will get rancid over time. Just use it all the time and make more when you need it. Taking a pretty plastic dispenser of your own soap to work will be a treat for you and your coworkers.

Homemade liquid hand and body soap is really quite similar to the kind you buy at the store. You can pump or squeeze it in a similar way, and it foams nicely on the skin, especially if you use a sponge or a loofah. Where most liquid soaps made at home fall short is if you try to use them for shampoo, shower gel, or bubble bath.

An amazingly fun and fabulous way to dispense your liquid soap is with a “foamer.” This kind of bottle dispenses foam instead of liquid by forcing the liquid soap through a mesh, mixing it with air to make bubbles. Your liquid soap needs to be quite thin for it to work properly. Experiment with dilutions to find which works best for you.

Of course, you can use the recipe as shampoo to see how you like it. Many people prefer the feeling they get from a detergent shampoo to the feel of handmade liquid soap shampoo. You may find, though, that you love it! Handmade liquid shampoo leaves a different kind of residue than commercial shampoo, and it can leave some people's hair feeling oily, stiff, dry, or just strange. You can use a vinegar rinse to counteract some of this feeling.

All shampoo will eventually leave a buildup on your hair, and homemade soap will do this faster. It is a good idea to use a vinegar rinse at least once a week to take care of this. You can make wonderful herbal vinegars that you'll use highly diluted in water. Infuse 2 cups of white or apple cider vinegar with ∕ cup dried lavender, rosemary, or other herb of your choice. Let infuse for a week. Use 1 tablespoon of strained, infused vinegar for each 8 ounces of water. You can put this in a big squeeze bottle when you know you're going to need it and keep it in the shower. Use up the diluted solution within a few days.

You can try making bubble bath with the liquid soap, too. To get better bubbles, try adding 1 to 3 teaspoons of glycerin per pound of diluted soap. Depending on the water in your area, this may or not produce big bubbles.

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