The first thing I must say before I get started is that I couldn’t have made and truly understood liquid soapmaking with out reading Catherine Failor’s book Making Natural Liquid Soaps.  I strongly suggest buying this book and reading it over before attempting liquid soap.  The method I use on this page is her paste method which I find very easy to make.  The reason I am writing this web page is because I understand that when you are on a soap journey, the more information the better. 

 

This method uses a double boiler system, I use two pots, one
smaller than the other, the handles on the top pot hold it suspended over the bottom of the larger pot. I put water in the bottom one and when the top pot is on it, the water level is over the bottom of the top pot.

The recipe
366 g coconut oil
1424 canola oil
400 g Potassium Hydroxide
1204 g water

When you add the potassium hydroxide it will sound like it is going to explode or boil over, but the water does not bubble up at all and it doesn’t even heat us as much as sodium hydroxide so don’t worry.  

One more note, I am one of those risk taking soapers who doesn’t even wear gloves when making soap. (this is not a recommended method of making soap!).  When mixing the water &  potassium hydroxide together and when mixing the soap there seems to be a very caustic steam that comes from the mixture.  When I make liquid soap I always wear long sleeves and gloves otherwise my skin begins to burn.  

-pre-heat the water in the bottom of your double boiler
- heat and mix your oils and fats like you normally would for cp, using the
temperatures 160 for the oils and 140 for the Potassium/water mixture, they will get to these temperatures very fast so be ready with your hot water in the bottom of your double boiler when you start. 

Now this is a stage you have to look out for.  This is what your soap looks like just before it starts to puff up and out of the pot.  What happens is that the soap gets too hot (you notice that it is in the double boiler.) and it doubles in size.

If you see this start happening get your pot into your sink and let it cool off.   I have a sprayer in my sink and I use it on cold and spray the outside of the pot.  I don’t have any pictures of the soap puffing up, because I was just a tad too busy making sure I didn’t get caustic soap all over the counter and the floor.  That is exactly what happened when I tried  a crockpot to make liquid soap.  I guess my crockpot is a bit too hot and there is no way to cool it down quickly as the sides are meant for insulation.  Catherine mentions this in her liquid soapmaking book, but she says that it is because of the trapped air in the soap.  Through my experience I disagree with her theory.  It does look as though it is full of air and that is why it is puffing up, but as long as the pot was too hot, I could not stir it down, while using a sprayer to cool the side of the pot immediately made the soap collapse back to it’s original size.  Whatever the theory, be aware this may happen and be prepared.  

Try to bring your soap to trace, which even with a stick blender is pretty long.  It will go through a few stages before it hardens into your paste.  It will also keep trying to separate, but keep mixing it until it is VERY VERY thick like a very thick custard or maybe a meringue.  

This is not trace, just a good imitation.  It has to get much thicker than this.   If you stopped at this point your soap would separate.

Nope, this isn’t it either, keep going.

I am not sure you can tell by this picture, but at some point your soap may look sort of grainy and like it is separating.  Keep going, this is normal. 

I didn’t get a picture of the most important part of this process, trace, as when the soap came down from it’s puffy stage it collapsed into a solid mass.  This is sort of what it looked like, but this is a bit further on in the process, after it has been heating for a while. 

Put the soap into the top of your double boiler and bring the heat up. It
will make a very stiff paste, I don't bother to try and mix it, it is far too thick.
Check your mixture twice for separation 20 min apart. You have to pry the paste away from the bottom of the pot. If it has separated there will be a clear liquid on the bottom. If you find this you will have to mix it up again, which believe me is not that easy, a very good reason to make sure you get it too full trace.

Tip: Try to keep your soap as close to 160 deg as you can, if you go over 160 your soap will boil up over the top of the pot, much less than 160 and your soap will take forever to trace

Liquid Soapmaking

Dilution:
Scrape  the paste into a pot of 4820 ml of water for dilution. Break it up a bit to get it into manageable sized chunks.

If you have lots of coconut in your soap it will completely melt overnight.  If it is high in soft oils (again which this recipe is) you will have to reheat it in the morning to get rid of the last of the chunks.  In the morning heat up your mixture to just warm and melt any leftover chunks, again making sure you keep the lid on until it warms up.

Sulfated castor:

This recipe should give you a very clear gel like liquid soap, but to get it totally clear you have to make a soap that is at 0% superfat. You are a soapmaker so you know that soap made with no superfatting will leave your skin quite dry. The only thing that will superfat this soap and not make it opaque is Sulfated castor oil. It is kind of hard to get, and really if you don't care if your soap is transparent, you can use any oil that you like. I like the clear soap so I hunted down the Sulfated castor

 

-add 70g of sulfated if you are using it, and fragrance. If you get the mixture too hot, you may want to wait for the solution to cool down a bit to add the fragrance, otherwise it will vaporize. Let it cool and voila, liquid soap.
It seems complicated at first, but once you do it a few times it becomes much clearer. Remember what CP seemed like when we first started.

Keep the water in the double boiler boiling for 3 hours.  Make sure that your pot is covered, the idea is to get it as hot as possible.  After about 2 hours it will start to turn translucent, if not keep cooking it at a very fast boil until it does. Cook for 1 hour after the translucent stage.  I have cooked it for about 4 hours once, and it made a beautiful clear batch of soap.  I have never tested my liquid soap with phenolthalein so I don’t know how well that works.  

Slowly  heat up your water/soap mixture to a medium heat and then turn it off overnight. 

Make sure the pot  is covered. If your soap is high in soft oils (which this recipe is) it will get a skin on it if it isn't covered.  Once you add the borax it will fix this but until that time, keep the lid on all of the time.  

The soap doesn't have to be very hot.  Add your neutralizer, I use borax
Neutralizer:
56 g borax
112 g water
Heat up the water and borax mixture in the microwave until the borax completely melts.  This is harder than it sounds.  Borax will not melt until it is very hot and it will become solid again as soon as it cools so you have to heat it up just before you add it to your soap.  When the borax is melted it will be as clear as water. 

When you add your fragrance to the soap it may cloud the soap., the soap will clear again as it cools. 

I now make liquid soap at a 0% superfat.  When you add fragrance or essential oils that close to the line, your soap may turn cloudy due to the oil in the fragrance.  This will not happen if you make your soap with water soluble fragrances, but water based fragrances are just regular fragrances with polysorbate 20 in them, so you might as well add it yourself.  

I have taken pictures of a soap that I made that turned cloudy and separated, so I took some pictures to show how well polysorbate 20 works.

As you can tell, my “understanding liquid soapmaking” is pretty low on information.  I have been making cold process liquid for over a year now, and for me it is much less stressful. 

 

I don't think that there really is any instruction on the web for CP liquid soapmaking, but it is actually quite easy.

 

The first thing that is important is to find a plastic container with the right shape and you have to make a batch that gives you enough mass to help create the heat that you need. This is important because you want your liquid soap paste to go through major gel. I have a container that is just over a gallon and it will really heat up. So think big and deep.

 

The next thing that is important is to get the soap to trace. For most people this is the hardest thing, because if they have made CP soap before, they tend to stop way too early. A trace can take 1/2 to 3/4 hours to get to and if you don't want to burn out your stick blender you might want to have a spare handy for when the first one heats up. I think of trace as several stages.

 

They are:

 

The CP trace stage. This stage will look like a regular trace for cp soap, but if you stop blending it will separate in a about 30 seconds.

 

The Rice Stage: I don't mean it looks like rice, I mean it looks like soap does if you have used a fragrance that is not right for CP soap. It has almost a layer of oil with curd like whitish lumps. It is also the stage that can volcano over the edge of a pot if you were doing the HP method. I have never had the volcano with cold process liquid soap, maybe because instead of using a metal pot that stays quite hot while the plastic container disperses the heat a bit.

 

The Soufflé Stage: The soap will look like it is full of air and very light, like the lightest scrambled eggs you have ever made. This stage is very hard to mix as it is almost dry and your stick blender runs out of material to mix. I find it speeds things along to mix by hand quite a bit. After a while the soap will start to heat up and I have actually seen steam or smoke escape while I am mixing. This is ok, and actually means that you are coming to trace soon.

 

The Honey Stage: All of a sudden your soap soufflé will start to fall, and become very smooth. I think that the soap almost looks like honey. Once the soap is all smooth you can stop stirring. If you want to get the soap to really gel though, keep going until the soap almost becomes a paste. It will happen all at once, so watch for it.

 

Your soap has now traced and will become a solid block of paste.

 

 

Once the soap traces, you can leave it for a few weeks (at room temperature) and it will start to look transparent, much like Vaseline.

 

 

The other thing about coconut oil liquid soap is that it will never get thick.  You can try everything, but it just won't thicken.  Someone told me that you can thicken it with crothix, but I haven't tried it with just coconut, and it doesn't work with my regular mix of coconut (20%) and canola, it seems to get a bit of a crust. 

 

Every type of oil makes a different type of liquid soap.  I have found that 20% coconut and 80% canola makes a great soap that doesn't have that traditional liquid soap smell and it thickens up very well with just a small amount of borax. 

 

Bottom line, liquid soap is not very easy to get a handle on, but eventually with a bit of fiddling, you can get a fairly consistent product. 

Now this may seem to be an obvious point, but one day I got the light bulb and it seemed pretty important. 

Liquid soap is water soluble, when you mix water and oil, the oil will turn the water white and eventually migrate out and float on top of the water.  This means that if you want to superfat any oils left over will, first make your soap cloudy, then eventually end up as a layer of white on top of your soap. 

Some people may not mind a cloudy soap and may even want the look of a superfatted liquid soap, the bottom line is that I have never found a way to keep the oils incorporated in the soap with out adding polysorbate 20… which brings us to the next point.  If you want to superfat your liquid soap, you have to use either turkey red oil (sulfated castor) which is water soluble, or add polysorbate 20 to your oils to make them water soluble. 

This was the cloudy soap.  It turned cloudy when I added the borax, so I suspect that I miss-measured the lye a bit to get a bit more superfatted soap. 

As I added the polysorbate 20 the soap started to clear.  When you first add it, the soap does not seem to be effected, but as you stir it slowly starts to clear.

Here is the final product, I added 1 drop of green food coloring to the whole batch and my fragrance.  By the next day it was crystal clear., and smelled great btw. 

Thick soap

I like you have tried everything to thicken soap, bottom line… I have found nothing that will thicken your soap except the mixture of oils.

I have tried, crothix (various ways including neutralizing with citric acid), xanthum gum, various carbopol’s, guar gum, and innumerable chemicals.  The only thing that I have found that will make a thicker soap is by using no more than 20% coconut oil.  I also made a 100% batch of castor oil batch and it was water thin.   I have read on a list that some people are making a thicker soap by boiling down their soap to evaporate the water out of your solution.  I personally did not find that that works.