Homemade Liquid Soap

by Daisy

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**I have toyed with taking this recipe off the site.  It is problematic.  Originally, I thought I had used KOH, but I was mistaken.  Since I thought I was using KOH, I used way too much lye(3.375 oz), but the dilution process seemed to eliminate that.  I use this recipe all the time in various incarnations and have learned the following:  1) stick blenders make a marshmallow goo that is totally unusable.  Don’t go there.  2) This is really a glorified version of melting the old bar of soap in water, it just skips the grating since the soap is so new and still relatively soft.  3) I like the 3.375oz NaOH version better because it doesn’t make the marshmallow goo if I use a stick blender to break up the chunks.

Ivory’s Liquid Soap

2.5 oz NaOH (or 3.375 if you don’t think Ivory is crazy)
8 oz water
5 oz coconut oil
1 oz castor oil
11 oz vegetable shortening

1. Warm your oils until liquefied and sprinkle the lye into your water.

2. When they’re cool enough to touch, slowly pour lye water into fats.

3. Blend.

4. Stop when you a drip stays visible on the surface for a few seconds.

5. Pour into a jar or other non-reactive container.

6. Insulate and allow to rest for 24 hours.

7. Find a BIG bowl. Dilute soap with water, slowly stirring to get the consistency you want. I add a few cups at a time and then let it rest. It thickens.

8. Stir in 3-4 Tbsp essential oils. I used lavender and tea tree oil to make it antibacterial.

9. Funnel into your containers.

I got nearly a gallon of soap out of this recipe. WOW! VERY economical. The most bang for your buck I’ve seen.

We use it for everything, but coconut oil is notoriously drying so be careful with your hair. I’ve been using it and it has a serious SQUEAK when rinsed.  So, if you have hair that breaks easily, be careful. Also, this is a BUBBLY soap, so no dishwashers or washing machines unless you want a foam flood.


Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy M June 4, 2009 at 5:37 pm

Where do you get KOH?

ivorysoap76 June 4, 2009 at 8:10 pm

I order it on the net from a soap supply company.

Emily June 9, 2009 at 12:56 am

so in this recipe you’re using potassium hydroxide, right?

ivorysoap76 June 9, 2009 at 1:04 am

Either one. NaOH makes a lot more, but wants to go jello on you as it ages. KOH takes several days of sitting around and being stirred back together to stop the separation and makes much less. Just depends on what you’re after, giant piles of something that will squeeze out of a shampoo bottle, or something that you can ‘gift’ in a pump and know that the recipient will never have to shake it.

Emily June 9, 2009 at 2:17 am

so it’s all about aesthetics? that’s wonderful. so, if you use NaOH, how does it not turn into a mason jar shaped bar of soap?

JR June 15, 2009 at 4:23 am

You can find lye at most hardware stores, it’s typically used to open clogged drains, so you can usually find it with the drain openers/chemicals. Make sure that it only contains lye, there are some products that have some other additives like metal.

the Jox June 28, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Hi guys!
My husband and I are all new to this, and I’m kind of confused on some of the terms ya’ll were using and was hoping you might possibly take some time to clear a few things up for me.
Thank you for you time and help! 🙂

Ivory Soap June 29, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Sodium Hydroxide and Potassium Hydroxide. They’re the two kinds of lye used to make soap. Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) is used to make bar soap. Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) creates a soap that won’t solidify.

Jen July 2, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Could you substitute the coconut oil with a different type of oil? In case you have the breaky dry hair?

lissie July 13, 2009 at 9:31 pm

Is coconut oil drying? I have very dry skin and I use it daily on my face. I would like to know if that is a bad idea. 🙂

Ivory Soap July 14, 2009 at 8:43 am

@lissie–do you use the oil itself, or a soap made from the oil?

Ivory Soap July 14, 2009 at 8:50 am

@Jen–I’m sure you could, but it wouldn’t be as bubbly.

Jackie July 19, 2009 at 2:01 pm

To make this or the bar soap recipe colorful would you add regular food coloring or would it have to be something special?

THX, Jackie

steam showers July 25, 2009 at 6:21 am

This is really useful thank you!

I have loved making fragrances ever since i was younger. I have looking at some of these amazing looking soaps that are now available and have been searching for ways of making them.

So again many thanks for the help!

Ellen August 1, 2009 at 5:42 pm

This is great. Just wondering what the first ingredient is? NaOH? And where do I get it? Also the coconut oil – where can I get this inexpensively?

Ivory Soap August 6, 2009 at 8:28 am

Coconut oil comes from Walmart and the lye can be ordered online…or if you can find it at Lowes or Depot….it’s Roebic crystal drain opener.

lonna August 20, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Hmmm…. I don’t know what went wrong. I let it rest but it hardened and I had to cut it in chunks to get it out of the jar. Then they were so hard I had to put a chunk in the Bullet with some water to blend it up. It was looking pretty good but now it looks like brown water and its not thick at all. I was wondering if my lye was the wrong kind but I am not sure, would it make a difference which one I used? I think I might try bar soap, I am not giving up.:)

Ivory Soap August 21, 2009 at 8:51 am

You used NaOH? I use that all the time. Yes, it will harden a bit, but overnight it shouldn’t be THAT hard. But I don’t know what was brown. Did you put in any additives?

BetsY August 27, 2009 at 11:52 am

I am a newbie with soap making. I have had great success with cold processing except when it comes to coloring? Any suggestions….I’ve used the colorings for candles…my instructions also suggested crayons….spices works very well…but my colors are not coming out..please help

Ivory Soap August 27, 2009 at 6:32 pm

@BetsY–I don’t color, so I don’t really know. Have you checked Kathy Miller’s site? She knows everything about it.

jaki August 29, 2009 at 9:46 am

what a great site!

Ivory Soap September 1, 2009 at 11:54 am

@jaki–Thank you!

Alma September 28, 2009 at 12:39 pm

Glad I found your article on liquid soap. Have 50 lbs. of NaOH that I bought to make my homemade soap and now I have something else to use it on. Anyways, I made some liquid hand soap yesterday as per your article and it came out great 🙂 I’m using my current hand soap dispensers, those that you push down and squirts the soap onto your hand, and was wondering if you recommend those or are they going to plug up really quick? Is that what you use or what do you use? Thanks again.

Ivory Soap September 29, 2009 at 8:43 am

@Alma I find that they work just fine. You might have to shake it, or add some more water from time to time, but I’ve never had it plug.

Frugal Kiwi October 3, 2009 at 8:10 pm

Hi Ivory,

Have you tried using this for hand washing dishes? I’m guessing so since you say you use it for everything, but thought I’d ask. I’ve been looking for a recipe for dishwashing soap for a while now.

raesofsunshine October 11, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Do you need to use a certain type of pan for the soap making and mixing of lye and water? I thought I’d heard about not using anodized pans…or something to the like.
What kind of pans to your recommend?

Tomato Lady October 11, 2009 at 5:35 pm

raeofsunshine–No aluminum, and if your lye/water container is plastic, make sure it is a thick plastic. Stainless steel pans are good. Enamelware tends to have nicks exposing the underlying corrosive metal, so be careful with those kinds of pans. Hope this helps!

ANA October 22, 2009 at 5:47 pm

sounds great, but is this soap ready to use??

Carla November 9, 2009 at 2:55 pm

I am new to soaping myself but have learned that vanilla additives will typically go brown. Did you use vanilla for fragrance, Lonna?

Carla November 11, 2009 at 7:43 am

Another question, please: You say this makes good suds? Does it cut grease properly for dishes?

Jen December 8, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Oh Tomato Lady. I’m botched this recipe twice. I was able to make the lavendar rosemary soap like a charm but this one has got me bamboozled!
It got too hard in the jar so I had to kinda melt and chip it out. I went ahead and diluted it with distilled water and it doesn’t seem to be getting thick at all and it’s not white.
I was wondering if it may have to do with the temperature that I poured the lye water in. You stated to pour it when they were cool enough to touch. I was waiting till about 110 degrees.

Any thoughts or shall I try try again? I’m very new at soaping and your blog has inspired me so much to make things at home. I love it!

Tomato Lady December 8, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Hi Jen–I’m terrible at liquid soap myself. Ivory may be able to trouble-shoot this for you. (When I make liquid soap I just grate up a bar of my soap, cover with warm water and let it sit overnight–total cheat).

Jen December 8, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Magic. I was frustrated and I left my watery soap disaster on my counter for about 3 hours. I decided to whip it once more with the stick blender and I walked away one more time. Came back about 30 minutes later and it was white and thickening into a nice looking soap!

So pretty much my last step in the recipe was to send a frustrated message to TL and then poof… problem solved. You ladies are so magical.

Cin May 12, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Do you have to wait 4-6 weeks to use this or can you start right away. I just had a BAD experience with not quite “ready” soap and am a little scared:-) Thanks.

lynn combs May 24, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Does anyone know if they still make the original white ivory liquid and where I can get it?

Amin June 1, 2010 at 3:42 am

Dear Ivory,
we are the trader of soap and skin care products, and i would like to make the handmade soap in paste type (like thick spread cheese form) and i have soap noodles, does this soap noodles can make the paste soap, and what are the other ingredients to add.

thanks for your cooperation

Cheryl June 6, 2010 at 10:31 am

My liquid soap got hard when it sat overnight, too…about like cold butter, so I decided to experiment with it.

I cut off 1/4th of it, chunked it up in a bowl and started adding distilled water and using a stick blender. It came to a nice consistency, but would get thicker when I let it set for a few hours. I kept adding water. When it came to a consistency I liked, I added a combined total of 1 Tbs scent oil and tea tree oil.

After adding the oils, the soap doesn’t seem to lather much anymore, but it does clean nicely. It’s still too thick to use in a foam pump bottle, but I’ll thin it more for that.

On day 3, after making the original batch, I took a second 1/4th chunk and just added distilled water to a liquid soap consistency. I think I’ve added about 6 or 8 cups thus far. I used the stick blender to mix the water in. I’ve just let it sit for awhile to see what it does. Today it is very thick and looks like melted marshmallow that clings to the whisk and just oooooozes off. It’s kind of slimy.

I’m thinking of warming it a bit the next time I add water. I am totally open for suggestions for using the last half of the original batch (which is still hard). I love this recipe and I hope to make it again….maybe with KOH next time.

socknitster July 17, 2010 at 2:41 pm

I’m a long-time soaper and when I saw your recipe I was filled with glee! Finally someone with some sense! Soap is supposed to be a practical everyday object–while I enjoy making it, and it is a creative challenge, I don’t appreciate the expectation that I’m going to slave over a hot process liquid soap just so it will be clear! WHY there isn’t even ONE recipe in all my soaping books for a simple cold process MILKY (gasp!) soap, I will never know! Also, since we all know we can grate our soaps and turn them into liquid soaps if we want, it only makes sense to make a soap with that intention from the first.

So, I made a batch yesterday. Of course, I couldn’t follow the recipe exactly. That would be too easy! I didn’t have any vegetable shortening because I’m allergic to soy, so I used soft oils like canola and sunflower instead. (I ran it through a lye calculator, of course.) To start, it looked just like yours, just a little more ivory than white. After 20 hours of being snuggled up in warm towels, I was surprised to find it was a bright golden yellow hard gel. I scooped it out into a large bowl and added about 4-5 cups of boiled water. After mashing a bit, I used my stick blender to whiz it up. Well, it is disappointingly thin. After reading through my soaping books, including my copy of Liquid Soaps by Catherine Failor, I decided it might be due to a lack of stearic acid containing fats. I intend on making another batch soon.

Bring on the creamy, milky, liquid soaps, baby!

I’m going to keep working on this till I get it right. I love soaping and this is clearly an area that is missing. I’ll need to experiment with potassium hydroxide as well. My soap is still soap, but even though it seemed to fully react and I only added about 4 cups of water, as well as a borax solution, it still separated. Maybe it needs more time to saponify or maybe its the oils I used. I’ll know in time. Do you have any ideas?

Thanks again for giving us this recipe!

Kellan August 21, 2010 at 7:48 am

I’ve been talking about making soap for a while, especially liquid soap, so this is SUPER EXCITING for me. I did have one question, do you think this could be done with olive oil for something like body wash?

Ivory Soap September 8, 2010 at 6:56 am

This is going to make a creamy soap, not true liquid. Scoopable soap. And I would think any oil would be fine if you ran it through a lye calculator

Teresa November 12, 2010 at 9:07 pm

I made this for the first time this week and it turned out beautifully! It was my first attempt at soapmaking, and I am very pleased! Yippee! Love the rich, creamy lather! Thanks for a great recipe!

kjnanny January 5, 2011 at 8:29 am

Howdy! I’ve been looking forever for a decent liquid soap without shavings from a bar of soap. I like the comment someone put up that overall meant that the intentions of liquid soap should start and end that way (not using a bar).

I would say that I am still a greenhorn when it comes to soap making even though I’ve been making it for a few years. My own soap recipes are awesome, and I have regular customers that buy in bulk so I don’t see them for a few months. I created my own scent that is a big hit, but I keep getting request for liquid. I really want a recipe that I know will work each time in order to make larger quanities.

I buy my lye from the Amish (they get it in huge bulk). I have no clue where to get Potasium Hydroxide. Any ideas?

Any suggestions for books on liquid soap making? I’m currently looking into this recipe and thanks for sharing Ivory!!!

TheMadDogs March 29, 2011 at 1:42 am

Hello ladies,

This is a little late on this message, but it is very interesting. Finally getting tired of all the garbage in “factory” soap, we are going to give this a try. The situation is a little different though – we are on a sailboat in Alaska – been here 3 years and loving it.

The soap question relates to rinseability of the soap. I have a bar of natural olive-oil castile soap, albeit “store-bought”, but it takes forever to rinse with cold water. Any experiences with different oil combinations that don’t dry too much (the wind & salt water does enough of that) but something that rinses well in cold water?

Thanks for the insight and the great info.
The Mad Dogs
Exploring to inspire…

Tomato Lady March 29, 2011 at 6:26 am

Dean–You may be searching for the holy grail of soaps, but I’ll give it my best shot. I would go with a soap high in olive oil or other conditioning oil, that is to say, any soaps high in conditioning perhaps olive oil, avocado oil, sweet almond oil or cocoa butter (you can search on soap making sites for the qualities of different oils). Avoid soaps made from coconut oil. It’s great for lather, but unfortunately has drying properties for the skin. You are likely going to have to sacrifice some lather for mildness and conditioning. Then I’d say use a lotion bar (recipes on our site and others–easy to make) for a convenient and lasting skin protectant/moisturizer. Best of luck in your search!

TheMadDogs March 29, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Hi Tomato Lady,

It might be the Holy Grail of soaps, but if your going for a goal… go high!!

Thanks for the tips, I have a little better idea and direction now.


The Mad Dogs April 3, 2011 at 2:08 am

Hello again,

Well, Alaska (at least Ketchikan…) doesn’t seem to have any Potassium Hydroxide in town. I did find some NaOH, but am wondering…

Ivory made her soap using NaOH, and I see that when used to make bar soap you need to let it cure for 3 – 4 weeks. Is this just for the bar to harden or does it need to perform some chemical process? If I give Ivory’s recipe a try and make up some liquid soap using NaOH, can I use it right away in a few days, or do I need to wait a while for it to do its thing??

Thanks again for all the advice. By the way, I’m also going to make a few of the moisturizing bars as well.

The Mad Dogs
Exploring to inspire…

Tomato Lady April 3, 2011 at 6:06 am

Dean–Prevailing wisdom is that bar soap needs 3-4 weeks to become mild enough to prevent a drying, caustic effect on the skin, although some will say technically the chemical reaction is complete in a shorter amount of time. Beyond that, the 3-4 weeks is for additional water evaporation to make the bar more durable so it won’t dissolve so quickly in the soap dish. You can test it out periodically and see what you think is the magic time lapse for your soap.
With liquid soap (made using potassium hydroxide, that is), the soap is considered usable immediately.
Another thing to consider if you want to use homemade bar soap sooner is the hot process method. It is considered “done” basically as soon as it is hardened, although as with all bar soaps, the longer it cures the longer it will hold up in use.
I hope you like the lotion bars. I find they are much more serious than any liquid lotion, which seems pretty tame in comparison to me now.
Good luck, let me know if you have any further questions, I’ll see if I can steer you in the right direction.

The Mad Dogs April 3, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Thanks for the info.


Heidi Huston May 1, 2011 at 11:04 am

I’m relatively new to homemade hand soaping. I thought it would be another fun craft like CP soaping. I had a hard time getting my oils to completely cook down into the soap paste & ended up burning a lot of the soap around the edges, and I never put it on any higher than ‘Low’ setting. Finally I had to keep a timer & switch it from ‘Low’ to ‘Keep Warm’ every 15 minutes. (Rediculous) I think I’m gonna use the double boiler method next time. I used a lye calculator for my formula:
-6 oz. Olive Oil
-5 oz. Coconut Oil
-3 oz. Palm Oil
-3 oz. Sweet Almond Oil
-3 oz. Sunflower Oil

-4.27 oz. Lye (KOH)
-12.8 oz. Distilled Water
I also added about half an ounce of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate to give it more suds. Well, it was supposed to yield about 32 oz of paste, but I only ended up with 19 oz. after scrapping off the burned soap. I went ahead and mixed my paste with 56.4 oz. of water (wich is about a 1:3 ratio). My soup is a pretty golden color & clear as a bell, but has almost NO SUDS!! What did I do wrong? It’s also a little thinner than I want, any advice on ways to thicken it without loosing clarity? Is it the choice in oils, or maybe too many different oils? Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated!

Katie August 16, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Wanted to say thanks for the recipe. Just tried to make it last night, but made a mistake and used olive oil instead of the coconut oil, so ended up making two batches. Like some of the others, the soap went hard in the jars, but was able to scrape them out and right now the chunks are soaking in distilled water so I can break up the chunks.

By the way, love the site, have gotten some great ideas from it.

Dizzy May 3, 2012 at 4:05 am

Hi, love this recipe, I made it last night and have got to the adding water stage, its still in chunks and taking a while to break down and dissolve, can I put it back on the double boiler to help it along. Also does it need to cure once its all liquid and in the bottles, can it be used straight away or must it wait like bar soap for 3 to 4 weeks.

Ivory Soap May 4, 2012 at 9:22 am

NO need to cure. All that dilution with water takes care of the harshness

Robin Boles May 11, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Hi. I just found this recipe. You state using vegetable shortening. Can I replace it with vegetable glycerin. If not what kind of vegetable shortening are you using? I cant wait to try this recipe..

Ivory Soap May 12, 2012 at 10:59 am

I have never used glycerin. I used crisco or store brand canned shortening.

Sunshine August 12, 2012 at 9:27 pm

I’ve tried a similar castille soap using this recipe: http://silverfirsfarm.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/liquid-castile-soap-tutorial/ and http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Liquid-Castile-Soap (same recipe). The recipe calls for KOH, but I couldn’t find any (not even at the winery supply, which is crazy, they were out of stock). I used NaOH instead. The WikiHow recipe just says “lye,” and the other tutorial used KOH and NaOH interchangeably. I don’t remember now (so many webpages), but it seems like I got the idea that KOH and NaOH were basically both ok, but KOH better for liquid and Na better for solid soaps. I have a bunch of this recipe in the crock pot still, and it’s been there for about 5 hours, but never looked like the pictures *ever* and looks like it’s getting dry. It sounds like you’ve tried Na and K: could the sodium be the reason? Any other idea why it isn’t getting gel-ish or translucent? It never has gotten “too hard to stir” and I’ve tried the hot setting and warm setting at this point, thinking maybe it’s too hot. It’s 184 degrees, on the low setting for about an hour. It has a sortof whitish crust where it sticks to the sides of the crock, but it scrapes off easily and doesn’t stick to the plastic spoon. Did you run into this at all? Any idea if it’s related to NaOH or temperature or something else? It was separated most of the time, but never got to what the pictures & videos look like “trace” before it suddenly separated, and it’s been not like the photo ever since. 🙁 Any advice is appreciated. 🙂

E. Gale March 8, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Sunshine: it largely depends on the lipids you use…as each saponifies at a different rate. Olive oil takes much longer to react than coconut, for example. So when you blend your oils, the molecular reactions happen at different rates.

When using a crockpot, it isn’t necessary to use a purely Hot Process. I like to use a CpHp, where I allow my lye and fats to cool to around 90-120 degrees F (the trick is to get them both cooled to about the same temp). Then I combine and blend to trace. Once true trace is achieved, I return the crockpot to low heat to cook.

It should behave more like you see described from that point on. The important thing during the cook, is to ensure that the lye is has been blended into the oils thoroughly. The HP method incorporates the lye and starts the saponification process much faster due to heat. But if you’re patient it always comes together into a proper gel stage – the cook time may vary, and much depends on your stirring and blending.

Amanda April 5, 2013 at 10:15 am

hi.. love this 🙂 is there something you could sub for the vegetable shortening? thanks!

Marianne May 28, 2013 at 7:04 am

Hello! I made it yesterday and today it’s not dissolving well, it’s still in chunks and hard to break it down and dissolve. Can I put it on the double boiler?

Daisy May 28, 2013 at 7:38 am

Marianne–Sure! Whatever it takes. That would be fine.

winona June 15, 2013 at 10:01 am

i have been looking for a formula to make liquid soap using naoh for a while, i just knew it was possible. naoh is so much more accessible and affordable than koh. i am so accustomed to making liquid soap using a hot process that i decided to do the same using naoh. i think it turned out great. thank you so much for posting.

aida March 18, 2014 at 2:07 am

hello i made this recipe yesterday now it is diluting. i love how thick is it. i keep adding water and it keeps wanting to thicken. the consistency is somewhat slimey and also chunky, will it help if i stick blend it to make it smooth?

winona March 18, 2014 at 9:37 pm

i used naoh in place of koh in an attempt to make liquid soap. after some time it solidifies. i have returned to using koh for liquid soap and naoh for bar soap.

Daisy March 19, 2014 at 6:46 am

aida–I haven’t tried that, but if you do, please let us know how it works for you.

Erika May 24, 2014 at 3:52 pm

So I made this last night and decided to double the recipe. I doubled it because I was out of TONS of things and this could replace it. Can I just say I LOVE THIS! With the “base” I made puppy shampoo with cedar oil and lavender, people shampoo with tea tree and eucalyptus, body wash with sweet magnolia, lavender and orange and with the remnants I made a dish soap with tea tree and lime. I didn’t want to write until I had tried this for all the above uses, but let me just say this is SPECTACULAR! I did tweek it a bit, vegetable glycerine instead of castor oil, and in everything except the dish soap, I stick blended in avocado oil before I put it their respective bottles. I can not thank you enough for this…such a life saver!

Andrea July 20, 2014 at 7:47 am

Just curious if it goes all stringy and then returns to a solid after you store it? I have made soap shavings into liquid soap and after a few days end up with soap so hard you can’t get it out of the bottle or having to water it down so much you no longer have soap at all.

Maria April 11, 2015 at 12:09 pm

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