A New First


When I have huge to-do lists, of things that just REALLY need to be done RIGHT NOW, I always find the motivation to do those (other) things I've been wanting to do for a long time and have never gotten around to. So, about 2 weeks ago I finally tried making liquid soap! For years I've used my plain lard bar soap to make fake liquid soap – I (or actually the boys) shred it, further cure/dry it on sheet pans in the oven for days/weeks (until I need to use the oven), then zap it in the food processor and store it for when I need it to make laundry soap powder. To make “liquid” soap, I put some shredded soap in a half-gallon jar, fill it up with water (last time I used 1:8 soap to water, I believe), and shake it occasionally over the next few weeks, until it's fully hydrated (or close, it never really loses all the bits completely). It makes a cloudy white mucus – there's really no other description that quite captures the slimy, gooey, snotty nature of this liquid. When I pour it, I have to cut the string of soap with my finger, or the entire jar would just bloooooooop on out without stopping – I pour into the bathtub, and it will string out for several feet without breaking! This works fine for my purposes, mainly washing raw fleece and finished yarns, and when Caleb needs to wash a not-yet-tanned sheepskin or such. But it's just kinda gross, and I'm always up for a challenge, conquering new territory :)

I mainly decided to try making true liquid soap after just getting tired of all the DIY recipes for various things that all call for castile soap/liquid dish soap/Dr. Bronners (by the way - pet-peeve alert – Dr. Bronners is NOT castile soap! That technically means a soap made entirely from olive oil, something fairly rare and difficult to make. It has come to mean any non-animal-fat soap, and often is synonymous with liquid non-animal-fat soap, but Dr. Bronners' main ingredient is coconut oil. Just saying.). Anyway, I make all this soap, and I am supposed to go buy yet another soap product, just to make something “myself”? So, I made it myself :) And as intimidating as it seemed (I actually bought the different type of lye for this about 2 years ago, and never got the courage to do it until now!), it turned out to be pretty simple. It hinged on finding some really good recipes, with explanations not just directions (particularly thethingswellmake.com, excellent lengthy discussions of whys and why-nots!), and watching a few YouTube videos.

I initially made a 100% coconut oil recipe, from thethingswellmake.com, and it turned out great! It took much longer than the recipe said, I think I had the heat too low for most of the time, but she explains how to tell when its done, so I eventually got there. The basic idea is that you make a regular batch of soap, but with potassium hydroxide rather than sodium hydroxide, and then cook it. And cook it. And cook it. That first batch took about 10 hours (the recipe said 3!). It's not demanding, though, you just stir (or mash, it's very thick) every half-hour or so. Eventually, the soap paste (blob) will start looking like very thick jelly, getting clear, and when you put a teeny dab in water and dissolve it, it stays clear. Ta-da! Liquid soap! Well, almost – that's liquid soap paste, like a concentrate so strong it's solid. I put that in a big jar, and reserved maybe 1.5 cups in the pot. I added an equal part of water (by eyeball measuring) and kept it warm until it dissolved, and then stirred in a bit of fragrance oil (Spiced Red Tea, a last hurrah of warm cozy winter fragrance!). That became my concentrated liquid soap, which filled a maple syrup jug. Then, I filled a pump dispenser halfway with that concentrate, topped it up with another equal part water, and I have liquid soap! It's like magic, it's “just like the real thing” :) The maple syrup jug will probably fill my kitchen and bathroom dispensers at least 3 times each, with some dishwashing straight from the jug thrown in. And then I still have ¾ of a half-gallon jar of soap paste :)

With that nice stock of future liquid soap, the obvious next step was – do it again :) I know, now I have two years worth of soap paste, but I really wanted to try making a lard-based liquid soap. In my research, I found an online soap calculator that formulates liquid soap as well as bar, so I ran my regular “Classic Lard” recipe through that, and last week gave it a whirl. The main difference was that, according to information I found online, some ingredients including lard (and most butters – shea, cocoa, etc) have unsaponifiable (un-soap-able) components that would not result in a clear soap. The reason liquid soap is totally clear is because there is nothing extra in it – including things that are moisturizing. This is the same for so-called “Glycerin Soap”, named for the need to add glycerin because it is formulated to have zero extra fats, or they will cloud the soap. Most bar soap is formulated at 5-8% superfat, meaning they have that much more oils than lye – it both guarantees there won't be any free lye, and also includes extra oils for moisturizing purposes. That's also the appeal of recipes with cocoa or shea butter, beeswax, and some other ingredients – they just don't fully react with the lye, so they are extra-moisturizing from that remaining material. This is very different for the clear soaps, both bar and liquid. Any remaining material will cloud the finished product, so they are calibrated to a 0% superfat, or even negative numbers, to ensure there are no oils left! The clear bar soaps then have liquid glycerin added to make them not so drying and stripping to the skin (thus the name, in actuality they have no more glycerin than naturally occurs in regular bar soap), and the liquid soaps are often buffered with boric acid solution to neutralize the excess lye so it won't burn skin. You see why it took me 12 years of soaping to finally tackle this project! Once I really understood the process, I realized that if I don't care about it being clear, all the scary part is gone! Enter liquid lard soap! So that's what I did today, and it turned out great! It's not clear, but not cloudy, just enough amber-tinted to not see through it, actually quite attractive I thought (of course, I'm used to chunky/lumpy white snot-in-a-jug, so I may be a little too easy to please :) ) The process was the same, except this time it really did only take 4 hours of cookin - and only because time got away from me and I didn't even test the soap until then, and it was ready, it may have been finished at 3 hours. While the soap paste never even hinted at being anything but completely opaque, like pudding, the teeny-dab-in-a-glass test came out nicely clear. I did a smaller batch of this, in case it wasn't a total success, so I only ended up with a quart of diluted liquid soap, and a quart right to the top, like smushed against the lid, of the semi-solid paste. But it worked great, so I will definitely be repeating this - since the base recipe is 80% lard, that's makes it mostly free (except the time spent rendering), since I get the (pastured, non-GMO) pig fat from a fellow farmer. Yea!

My next liquid soap trial will be goat milk soap – I found a couple of recipes, a couple of YouTube videos, and it looks quite doable. Like the lard-based liquid soap, it doesn't end up clear, because of the milk solids (which is the point of goat milk soap after all, the moisturizing-ness of the milk fats!) but it appears to come out a clearish caramel shade – literally, since the sugars in the milk caramelize in all the cooking :) The pictures I've seen looked like the soap was in an amber glass bottle, but then I realized it is actually a clear bottle! Anyway, that'll be next, just to see how it works, and if it's worth it. Which leads to the next question – if I am making all this liquid soap, what will I be doing with it? Should I test the waters in selling it, in addition to the bar soaps? And can I convert my wonderful bar shampoo recipe to a liquid soap...?

So I'm curious, and would love feedback on this – how many of you use bar soap on a routine basis, either in the kitchen or bathroom, and if you don't, why? Is it because liquid soap is so much more convenient, you believe it's better, or some other reason? Would you buy liquid soap preferentially over bar soap, even if they were the same (like liquid goat milk soap vs. bar goat milk soap)? Thanks for any input, y'all!


Bar Soap

I'm one of those people that NEVER uses bar soap. I find it just too much of a hassle/mess. Liquid soap is just so much easier/convenient. The only Bar soap I have in my house is for decorative purposes only. So yes I would choose liquid soap 100% of the time. But I also pretty much just buy my soap from Walmart, not artisans, so YMMV.

Bar Soap

I usually use bar soap. That's because Cindy buys bar soap and I'm fine with it. But in the shower if it gets sprayed on, it gets soft and squishy. I try to keep it up on the high shelf where it is out of the spray.

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