I’ve been making bar soap for a few years now. Liquid soap is something I’ve been mildly curious about, but after hearing it could have little to no superfat in the finished product, I steered clear of it. My dry skin wants a superfat in my bar soap. So, I shelved the concept of liquid soap until I was ready to revisit it.
As things go in my life, liquid soap was ready for me before I was ready for it. Thanks to Ashley Green, the author of the three incredible soap books that can be found here: https://www.ultimateguidetosoap.com/, I got my hands on a thorough, science-based instruction manual for building recipes and creating various types of liquid soap. I also greedily got my paws on the CP and HP books too, and they are just as amazing. The liquid soap book has 18 chapters and 526 pages of soap information - everything from the reason for why the book is written how it is, through soap history, formulating recipes, and troubleshooting. While I expected it to have some pre-made recipes too, it surprised me to find that it has 30 recipes in it - 30 full recipes. The recipes range from simple to more advanced, and it’s really quite an impressive compilation.
Before I began reading the book, I already had it in my head that I wanted to make a dish soap. I already use a 100% coconut oil bar soap for dishes and general household cleaning, and while it is one of my simplest soaps, it’s one of my favorites. I wanted to start there with its sister version in liquid form. As I began reading, I learned that fatty acid profiles can have different effects in liquid soaps. I won’t tell you all the things I learned there, because you’ve got to read the book to see (fair is fair and copyright, right?), but it made me start to wonder if I was making the right choice with this coconut oil soap I wanted. As I kept reading, I learned how the soap would turn out - what to expect in terms of consistency and clarity and why. I was back on track with this dish soap. It was almost like the emotional rollercoaster I go on when I read books for entertainment.
I got through the book, went over to my favorite soap calculator (soapmakingfriend.com) and plugged in the numbers I wanted. While this is similar to a recipe in the book, I think it’s ok to share, because there’s only so many ways to do a dish soap, and I truly had no idea it was in the book until I went back through it to double check. This has a little bit of a different spin on it, because it’s very similar to how I already make my bar dish soap. Here is the recipe I typed into the calculator https://drive.google.com/file/d/15A2U1nX7qzKi3qPmce8X_E6C4caOp-nF/view?usp=sharing . I don’t want to say, “Here is the recipe I created,” because while I did come up with the numbers I wanted to use, I’m sure someone else over the past several hundred or thousand years has made this too. It’s an all purpose cleaning soap, and I would be shocked if I was the first person ever to use these exact numbers and percentages for this soap.
I made some notes at the bottom of the recipe I linked above. I don’t want to tell you why I added honey, because I learned the concept of adding sugars from the book, and I’m not about sharing spoilers. Seasoned liquid soap makers may see why I added it or may be shaking their head at this right now wondering what I was trying to do with the honey. I’ve got to learn by doing, and that’s what I did. I made the soap paste with this recipe via cold process. In other words, I made cold process liquid soap (CPLS). I blended the soap together like I normally would and thought it had come to trace. I went back to check on it after about 30 minutes, and it had separated some. I blended some more until it was almost the consistency of marshmallow, and my stick blender didn’t seem to be very effective anymore. I put a lid on my container and waited over 24 hours to begin adding water to the paste. I did check on it a couple more times to ensure it was staying solid and not separating.
After I was happy that it was saponified, I weighed out some paste and began adding water. I started with 1:1 paste to water ratio to see how well it would dissolve. That left some soap bits in the water, and I added a little more to increase it to 1:1.3 paste to water ratio. That worked quite well. It would have been sufficient, but I wanted to see how far I could make this soap go. I ended up landing on a 1:2 paste to water ratio, and it works wonderfully. I have been using it to wash dishes and clean the counters and stove. It’s easier to use than my bar soap, but it’s still a fairly natural product, minus the KOH and preservative.
I developed a huge crush on my dish soap and wanted to try my hand at something else. I browsed the recipes available in Ashley Green’s book, and thought about a bastille option. Then I decided to develop one of my own. This is what I came up with: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NBsJf87RcfZY3DZiiJjhviCaPxEq62Hf/view?usp=sharing. Not only was I itching to make my own recipe, I wanted to make it via high temp hot process. I watched a few of the videos available on The Ultimate Guide to Soap’s channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/THEULTIMATEGUIDETOSOAP ), and tried it. All I could think when I made it was, “That was fast.” I didn’t follow the steps to make it as a no-paste soap, and I had to figure out dilutions which took a little calculating, a little guesswork, and some note taking as I continued to add water. This soap was exciting too. Honestly, I wasn’t quite as excited as I was about my dish soap, but It was still fun. I do think this soap may be something people love, but there are definite adjustments I need to make, and I know some of them I can do already such as adding a small superfat.
I’m definitely off to a good start, and I wouldn’t have been there if it hadn’t been for such a good book. I got a great foundation, and I can’t imagine how so many soapers had to figure so much of this out on their own. Liquid soapmaking is way different than bar soapmaking, and I would have gotten so many things backwards from the beginning if it hadn’t been for this literature. My adventure into liquid soap making has been fun and fruitful. I can’t wait to see where my soap journey takes me next.
We get this question frequently. Soap cleans. While we do choose oils and ingredients with purpose and intent to create a long-lasting quality soap that isn't overly stripping, all it does is clean.
In the U.S., we legally cannot tell you the soap or its ingredients do anything such as treat acne, rejuvenate cells, or lighten skin. Those are medical/drug claims. Ethically and morally, we feel that's best too. We would never want to offer false hope that any of those things will happen from using soap.
Last year we made several posts on our Facebook page in regards to why we don't make any claims on our soaps, and here are the graphics and texts from those posts.
The link/button below will take you to a Google Doc in which I share one of my soap labels and discuss some components of it.
We have been working on compiling a list of our free recipes to make everything easy to find. It is a Google Sheet, which means you can bookmark the sheet, and I can update it as needed without you having to redownload anything. I hope you find this helpful!
If you come across any errors (recipes don't open, links direct you to the wrong place, etc.) please let me know.
If you find this helpful, please help us out by clicking the link to buy me a coffee, or order your micas through our Mad Micas affiliate link (those are in the Google Sheet). Of course, we sell soaps, and you are always welcome to purchase soap from us as well.
This download is a pdf hyperdoc that has links to various cited sources for information on labeling soap. These sources are either government websites or from the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild.
Note: In the US, children's soap requires lead testing. This information is cited in the hyperdoc from a government website.
Firstly, I am a teacher. Making soap is a way to destress, create, and give back to my community. I recently purchased a 3D printer to make my own custom soap tools as well as to use for education purposes. I absolutely love to create and share, and this has given me one more outlet in which I can do both of those things. If you have a 3D printer or know someone who can print things for you, feel free to see what templates I have available to help you out in your endeavors. I'm currently still working on getting the hang of troubleshooting and creating more consistent prints, but when I get some good lessons and templates made, I'll be happy to share what I can with soap makers and educators. I already have a few designs uploaded that are free to anyone who would like to test them out. Happy printing!
Find us on Thingiverse and Cults:
In soaping forums I see many people looking for help controlling trace or trying to figure out why a batch went wrong. Well-meaning people often suggest that they need to soap while their oils and lye are within 10°F (5°C) of each other. Let me talk about why this answer bothers me.
I frequently make soap with my lye solution around 75°F and oils around 95°F. I am able to create intricate swirls like this. However, if I soap with my lye solution at 150° F and oils at 160°F, I can expect for my soap to move along much more quickly even though they are within 10°F of each other. Then there’s the heat transfer method where you use the hot lye solution to melt your hard oils and butters. Those are just three counterexamples (when you really only need one) for the suggestion to soap with oil and lye between 5-10 degrees of each other. Why do people still push this concept?
I do see reputable soapers mention that the oils and lye should be within a specific range of each other AND mention that they should keep them at a certain temperature. Soap Queen recommends soaping between 120°F and 130°F (https://www.soapqueen.com/bath-and-body-tutorials/tips-and-tricks/back-to-basics-how-temperature-affects-cold-process-soap/). This blog states that books and soapers recommend oils and lye be within 10°F of one another, but I didn’t see an explanation of why. I have not seen evidence that they need to be within a certain range of each other. Modern Soap Making suggests keeping your temperatures below 110°F to help control trace and keep your soap batter behaving nicely. They even mention that your oil and lye do not need to be within 10°F of each other. Here’s a link to their really great blog on the topic: https://www.modernsoapmaking.com/blog/controlling-trace-in-cold-process-soapmaking
Why in the world do so many people suggest the oils and lye be within 5°-10° of each other? Why are we not explaining more frequently a certain range for soaping overall instead of how close in temperature the oil and lye need to be? I know it would be confusing and frustrating to a new soap maker to have their oils and lye within a certain range of each other only to experience acceleration, because they were 145°F and 140°F, which is quite warm. I don’t see where it can be a safety concern, but it does seem like an outdated concept, and it’s frustrating to see misinformation on the topic. Your lye and oils do NOT need to be within a 5°-10° range of each other, but it would be best to stay at a cooler temperature if you want to keep your batter fluid. I tend to soap with room temperature lye, around 75°F, and oils around 90°F-100°F. As you can see, I am able to make some good soap like this. We will all have our own sweet spot as to what temperature works best for us and our recipes, but it probably isn’t going to be based on how close in temperature the oils and lye are.
As always, safety first, and then have fun.
When I say, “Castile,” I’m referring to 100% olive oil soap, not any vegetable-based soap. 100% olive oil Castile soap is made of olive oil, water, lye, and whatever additives the soaper chooses (oatmeal, clay, scents, etc.) This soap tends to be in a league of its own. It’s not my favorite for hand washing, because it doesn’t dry out as well between uses since I wash my hands much more frequently than I shower. It really needs to dry well between uses to be its best. I recommend using it for face or body washing 1-2 times per day. You could also rotate bars of castile soap for handwashing so the bar doesn’t get used more than a couple of times per day and can dry well between uses. Use a well-draining soap dish or soap lift, let it air dry well between uses, and you will probably love your Castile soap and increase its longevity drastically. These tips could be applied to other 100% oil soaps as well.
Blended Oil Soaps
Many handmade soaps are a blend of various oils, fats, and butters. I’ve found my blended oil soaps are much less finicky to work with. They still need to be kept in a well-draining soap dish or soap lift, and they still work better when they can dry between uses. I keep one in the bathroom at work where many people use my soap. It does not get to dry between uses, and it performs well and lasts a good while. I keep it on a soap lift, or soap saver pad, and it does pretty well. My favorite thing to do is cut a bar of my soap into halves or thirds and leave one piece by the sink at a time. The smaller bars seem to dry a bit better between uses, and I can rotate pieces if I feel like the soap needs a break to dry a bit. I don’t usually rotate pieces, but it’s an option that I think some would prefer.
Main takeaway: Don’t let your soap sit in liquid. It will get slimy, and it will decrease its longevity. Let it dry as much as possible between uses, and it will be living its best life while you enjoy your wonderful handmade soap.
One of the most frustrating things to see answered in soap forums is the question, “Why did my cold process soap crack?” Even well-known soapers tend to say that cold process soap cracks, because the soap got too hot. Heat is the cause, but it’s not necessarily a sign of too much heat. It can often be a sign of inconsistent heat. Usually you see this when the top of the soap is too cool to expand with the internal heat during gel phase, and it cracks. Many times, insulating your soap will actually prevent cracks from happening.
Clara Lindberg has written a wonderful blog on the topic of what’s hot when it comes to making soap (https://auntieclaras.com/2015/06/overheating-soap/). One of the many things she mentions is water content. I’ve never found any reason to use the standard 38% water as a percent of oils. I actually don’t love using water as a percent of oils. Instead I prefer liquid:lye ratio and lye concentration, but that’s a different topic for another time. 38% water as a percent of oils is way more water than I can rationalize ever needing in cold process soap. More water means a hotter soap. When you control the amount of liquid, or water, you use in your recipe, you’ll have a much easier time controlling the outcome of your soap.
I tend to keep my water content just under a 2:1 water:lye ratio. Then I use my oven to ensure an even and full gel phase, and I even oven process milk soaps. I preheat my oven to 170F, turn the oven off, turn the oven light on, and leave the soap in the oven, uncovered, overnight. When I began soaping this way, my soaps stopped cracking. I honestly thought it was a far-fetched idea to insulate my soap when so many people kept saying the cracking was from overheating, but lo and behold, adding or retaining some of the heat prevents cracking. Teri from Tree Marie Soapworks mentioned that, "Cold soap cracks. Warm soap expands," referencing Clara's blog, and I'm glad I took the advice of these skilled soap makers.
The soap cracks when the top cools quickly and can’t move with the warm soap which is expanding in the middle. The cooler top cracks against the internal heat. If you’re making 100% coconut oil soap, have a high water content, or include additives that make the soap hotter (sugars for example), then it's possible the soap is cracking and may be about to volcano. I've only seen anything close to a volcano once, and it was with a 100% coconut oil dish soap I was making. If your water content is not too high, then it's most likely fine, but exercise caution and keep an eye on your soap until you have built your confidence with this and know what to expect.
What happens when you use the standard water in a soap calculator and add heat through insulation or oven processing? Loads of things can happen, and most are less than desirable. If you want to force glycerin rivers for a design choice, then this might be the way to go. However, the results often may not be what you love. Refer back to Auntie Clara’s blog I linked earlier. I’m not reinventing the wheel by doing my own experiments and documenting them for this blog post when Clara has such a beautifully written blog already. Plus I’ve already seen many of the things mentioned in her blog, and I don’t really want to do them again just for the sake of documenting them.
To summarize, I think it is rarely necessary to go above a 2:1 liquid:lye ratio when making cold process soap. I wish someone had told me that sooner when I was a new soap maker. I can’t even figure out why we tell new soap makers to use the full water amount (Soap Calc standard 38% water as percent of oils) until they get used to making soap. The full water amount is what causes so many problems anyway. To keep your soaps from cracking, remove the wild card of excess water, and insulate your soap. Keep a close eye on it until you know how your recipe will behave, and have a safety plan in place in the event something does go awry. For example, maybe place your mold in a large soap-safe container to catch potential volcanoes. Honestly, I think it’s good advice to have a safety plan in place regardless of your water content while you’re learning how to make soap or when trying something new.
Soap making involves a great deal of trial and error and making adjustments until you find your sweet spot with how you are happy and comfortable making soap. Your main focus is to following safe soap making practices, and then enjoy the learning process.
Here is a batch cost calculator available in both Google Sheets and Excel.
If you click the button to use the Google Sheets version, it will ask you to make a copy. The Excel version will download to your device when you click it.
Please leave a comment if something doesn't work correctly or if you love it. Happy soaping!