How to make liquid hand soap

Handwashing is one of the most crucial habits for maintaining personal and family health. But did you know that you can create your own liquid hand soap right at home? Not only is homemade liquid hand soap more cost-effective and eco-friendly than store-bought options, but it’s also gentler and more moisturizing for your skin.

How to make liquid hand soap

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of making liquid hand soap from scratch using natural oils and lye, as well as from bar soap using water and glycerin. We’ll even provide tips on customizing your soap with various scents, colors, and exfoliants to suit your preferences. Let’s dive into the world of DIY liquid hand soap!

Why Make Your Own Liquid Hand Soap?

Before we delve into the recipes, let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of homemade versus store-bought liquid hand soap.

Benefits of Homemade Liquid Hand Soap

  1. Control Over Ingredients: You can choose natural ingredients and avoid harsh chemicals, synthetic fragrances, and preservatives that may irritate your skin or cause allergies.
  2. Cost Savings: Homemade soap uses readily available and affordable ingredients like olive oil, coconut oil, and bar soap, allowing you to save money.
  3. Reduced Waste: By reusing containers and making only what you need, you can contribute to waste reduction.
  4. Customization: Tailor your liquid hand soap with your preferred essential oils, colorants, and exfoliants to match your preferences and needs.
  5. Creative Expression: Experiment with various combinations and recipes to create unique and personalized liquid hand soaps.

What You Need to Make Liquid Hand Soap

To embark on your liquid hand soap-making journey, you’ll need some basic ingredients and equipment. The specifics may vary depending on whether you’re starting from scratch or using bar soap, but here’s a general list:


  • Oils: Common choices for the soap base include olive oil and coconut oil, but you can use alternatives like sunflower oil, almond oil, or castor oil. Olive oil provides mild moisturization, while coconut oil offers cleansing properties.
  • Lye: For liquid hand soap, you’ll need potassium hydroxide (KOH), different from sodium hydroxide (NaOH) used in bar soap making. KOH produces a soft, sticky soap paste that can be diluted with water for liquid soap. Handle it with care, as it is caustic and can cause skin and eye burns.
  • Water: Use distilled or filtered water to prevent impurities or minerals from affecting soap quality.
  • Glycerin: This natural by-product of soapmaking adds moisture and glide to your liquid hand soap.
  • Bar Soap: If you’re creating liquid hand soap from bar soap, you’ll need a suitable bar to grate and melt. Options include castile soap, glycerin soap, or even leftover soap scraps. Higher-quality soap yields better liquid soap.


  • Scale: Ensure precise measurement of ingredients by using a digital scale capable of measuring in grams and ounces.
  • Thermometer: critical for monitoring the temperature of lye and oils, as it affects the saponification process and soap quality.
  • Blender: essential for thoroughly mixing lye and oils to create a smooth soap paste. You can use a stick blender or a regular blender dedicated exclusively to soap-making.
  • Pot: Choose a stainless steel or heat-resistant crockpot for heating oils and cooking the soap paste. Avoid aluminum or non-stick pots, as they can react with lye.
  • Spoon: Use a wooden or heat-resistant silicone spatula for stirring ingredients and scooping soap paste.
  • Grater: essential for shredding bar soap into small pieces. You can use a cheese grater or a food processor, ensuring proper cleaning afterward.
  • Bowl: A heat-resistant glass or plastic bowl suitable for holding the water and lye solution. Avoid metal bowls that may react with lye.
  • Gloves: Protect your hands from lye and hot soap with rubber or latex gloves that fit securely.
  • Goggles: Safeguard your eyes from lye and soap splashes with safety goggles or glasses.
  • Mask: Shield your nose and mouth from lye fumes and soap vapors using a dust mask or respirator with air filtration.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: For precise measurement of water, glycerin, and additives, opt for plastic or glass measuring cups and spoons.
  • Container: Choose a bottle or jar with a secure lid and dispenser for storing your liquid hand soap, considering the soap’s consistency and volume.

How to Make Liquid Hand Soap from Scratch

Creating liquid hand soap from scratch offers more control over ingredients and quality. Follow this basic recipe and adjust it to your preferences:


  • 16 oz (454 g) olive oil
  • 7 oz (198 g) coconut oil
  • 9.35 oz (265 g) distilled water
  • 4.9 oz (139 g) 90% pure potassium hydroxide (KOH)
  • 1 oz (28 g) vegetable glycerin
  • Essential oils, colorants, and exfoliants of your choice (optional)


Step 1: Prepare the Lye Solution

  • Put on safety gear: gloves, goggles, and a mask. Work in a well-ventilated area.
  • Measure water and KOH using the scale and pour them into a heat-resistant bowl.
  • Stir gently until KOH fully dissolves. Be cautious not to splash or inhale the caustic solution.
  • Allow the lye solution to cool to about 140°F (60°C) before proceeding.

Step 2: Heat the Oils

  • Measure the olive and coconut oils and pour them into a pot.
  • Heat them over low to medium heat until they reach around 140°F (60°C), using the thermometer to monitor the temperature. Avoid overheating, as oils can scorch or smoke.

Step 3: Blend the Lye and Oils

  • When both the lye solution and oils are at the same temperature, slowly pour the lye solution into the pot with the oils.
  • Use a blender to mix until they reach a light trace, thickening slightly and leaving a faint trail when you lift the blender. This may take 10 to 15 minutes. Avoid overmixing to prevent the mixture from becoming overly thick and challenging to work with.

Step 4: Cook the Soap Paste

  • Once you achieve a light trace, cover the pot with a lid and cook the soap paste over low to medium heat. Stir occasionally with a spoon.
  • The soap paste will go through several stages, including bubbling, foaming, separating, and gelling. This process typically takes about 3 to 4 hours, depending on your pot’s size and shape.
  • Use the thermometer to monitor the temperature, aiming for around 180°F (82°C). You’ll know the soap paste is ready when it becomes translucent, smooth, and no longer “zaps” your tongue when touched. Zapping indicates the soap is still caustic and needs further cooking. Be cautious not to burn yourself while testing the soap.

Step 5: Dilute the Soap Paste

  • After the soap paste has finished cooking, turn off the heat and allow it to cool slightly.
  • Measure the glycerin and add it to the soap paste, stirring well with a spoon. Glycerin helps dissolve the soap paste and facilitates dilution.
  • Next, measure the water and incorporate it into the soap paste while stirring. The quantity of water needed may vary based on the soap paste’s consistency and concentration. You can start with a 1:1 ratio of soap paste to water and adjust as necessary.
  • You can use a blender to help blend the soap paste and water, but be cautious not to introduce too many bubbles. The diluted soap should be smooth and fluid but not overly thin or watery. A suitable weight for your diluted soap in this recipe is around 64 oz (1814 g).

Step 6: Customize Your Liquid Hand Soap

  • This is the creative part, where you can infuse your liquid hand soap with your favorite scents, colors, and exfoliants.
  • Essential oils such as lavender, peppermint, lemon, or tea tree can add pleasant fragrances and additional benefits to your soap. Consider experimenting with different combinations.
  • For coloring, you can use soap dyes, micas, or natural pigments to give your soap a unique hue and some sparkle.
  • Exfoliants like salt, sugar, oatmeal, or coffee grounds can provide texture and scrubbing power. Tailor the amounts to your liking and the desired effect.

To add these ingredients, simply pour them into the container with the diluted soap and shake well to ensure even distribution. You can also use a blender, but be careful not to create excessive bubbles. Test the soap on your skin and make adjustments as needed to achieve the desired characteristics.

How to Make Liquid Hand Soap from Bar Soap

If you prefer a simpler and quicker method, making liquid hand soap from bar soap is a great option. Here’s a basic recipe you can modify to your preferences:


  • 4 oz (113 g) bar soap
  • 8 cups (1.9 L) distilled water
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable glycerin
  • Essential oils, colorants, and exfoliants of your choice (optional)


Step 1: Grate the Bar Soap

  • Put on gloves and use a grater to shred the bar soap into small pieces. You can also use a food processor to expedite the process, ensuring thorough cleaning afterward. You should have approximately 2 cups (473 ml) of soap shreds.

Step 2: Boil the Water and Soap Shreds

  • Pour the water into a pot and bring it to a boil over high heat.
  • Add the soap shreds and glycerin, stirring well with a spoon until the soap completely dissolves.
  • Use the thermometer to ensure the temperature reaches around 212°F (100°C).
  • Glycerin helps soften the soap and enhance moisturization.

Step 3: Let the Mixture Cool and Gel

  • Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
  • Pour the mixture into a container and let it sit overnight or until it thickens. During this time, it will thicken and become cloudy.
  • Use the scale to ensure the weight of your liquid soap reaches around 64 oz (1814 g).

Step 4: Customize Your Liquid Hand Soap

  • Just like with the scratch-made soap, you can infuse your liquid hand soap with essential oils, colorants, and exfoliants for a personalized touch.
  • Add these ingredients to the container with the liquid soap and shake well to blend evenly. You can also use a blender but exercise caution not to create excessive bubbles.
  • Test the soap on your skin and make any necessary adjustments to meet your preferences.

How to Store and Use Your Liquid Hand Soap

Now that you’ve successfully created your liquid hand soap, it’s important to store and use it correctly:

  • Choose a Suitable Container: Select a bottle or jar with a secure lid and dispenser that matches the consistency and volume of your liquid hand soap. Consider your personal style and decor and ensure the container is easily labeled and identified.
  • Shake Well Before Use: Prior to each use, shake your liquid hand soap thoroughly to ensure even mixing of ingredients. Some components, like essential oils and colorants, may settle over time.
  • Use a Foaming Dispenser for Extra Bubbles: If you prefer a rich, foamy lather, employ a foaming dispenser. These specialized pump dispensers blend air and water with your liquid hand soap to create a creamy foam. Adjust the soap-to-water ratio and add glycerin for a moisturizing effect.


Crafting your liquid hand soap is a rewarding and cost-effective endeavor that promotes sustainability, reduces waste, and enhances your skin’s health and hygiene. Whether you opt for a from-scratch approach or transform bar soap, the possibilities for customization are endless. Store your creation in a container that suits your style, remembering to shake well before each use. Now you can enjoy the benefits of homemade soap every time you wash your hands.

We hope this comprehensive guide has inspired you to embark on your homemade liquid hand soap journey. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to share them with us. We’re eager to hear from you and witness your creative soap-making endeavors. Happy soap-making!


Q: How long does homemade liquid hand soap last?

Homemade liquid hand soap can remain viable for several months, contingent on the ingredients and storage conditions. To prolong its shelf life, store your liquid hand soap in a cool, dry, and dark location, shielded from direct sunlight and heat sources. Utilize clean and sterilized containers and dispensers, and prevent contamination with water or dirt. Periodically inspect your soap for signs of spoilage, such as mold, rancidity, or unpleasant odors, and discard it if any of these issues arise.

Q: How can I make my liquid hand soap more antibacterial?

To enhance the antibacterial properties of your liquid hand soap, incorporate essential oils recognized for their antibacterial attributes, such as tea tree, lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, or rosemary. Aim for a concentration of about 1% to 2% essential oils in your liquid soap, ensuring the final product remains skin-friendly. Keep in mind that while these oils may offer added antibacterial benefits, proper handwashing techniques, including thorough lathering and rinsing, remain critical for optimal hand hygiene.

Q: Can I make liquid hand soap without lye?

Traditional soap making, whether in bar or liquid form, typically involves lye (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide). Lye is essential for saponification, the chemical reaction that transforms oils into soap. While it is possible to create liquid hand soap without directly handling lye, it’s challenging to avoid lye entirely in the soap-making process. Pre-made soap bases that have undergone saponification and are available for melt-and-pour soap crafting are one alternative, but they may contain various additives. Always exercise caution and adhere to safety protocols when working with lye.

Q: Can I use tap water in my liquid hand soap recipe?

Using tap water in your liquid hand soap recipe is generally acceptable, but it can introduce impurities or minerals that may affect the soap’s quality and appearance. To minimize such issues, consider using distilled or filtered water, which undergoes additional purification to remove contaminants. Distilled water is particularly suitable for making soap because it lacks minerals that can interact with soap ingredients, potentially causing cloudiness or sedimentation in the final product. If you choose to use tap water, consider filtering it or allowing it to sit to let any chlorine dissipate before incorporating it into your soap recipe.

Sharing Is Caring:

The Howtowise team has helped thousands of homemakers fix their household problems with step-by-step tutorials. Howtowise has been featured in The New York Times, Scientific American, Good Housekeeping, Vox, Apartment Therapy, Lifehacker, and more.