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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Microwaving bars of soap, part 2: making liquid soaps for laundry and hand soap

(For part 1 on how to microwave a bar of soap, see yesterday's post )

For liquid soap

Liquid is my preferred form of soap for laundry and hand soap. It rapidly dissolves in cold water, hopefully getting down to the business of cleaning, faster. Plus there's no chance of any undissolved soap bits remaining on clothing, ever, even in cold water washes.

To make liquid soap:

After the inflated soap lump has cooled for 5 minutes, I break it apart by hand into small pieces, about the size of shooter marbles, into a stainless steel saucepan.

I cover with hot tap water, and bring to a boil on the stove. I stir constantly, breaking up any soap lumps as it comes to a boil. Once boiling, I reduce heat, and continue to stir until melted.

This takes about 5 minutes, total, compared to hours of stove-time to melt whole bars.

Once all is melted, I partially fill a 1-gallon, wide-mouthed container with cold water, about half full. I then pour the hot, melted soap into this cold water. Wide-mouthed container is key, as this is a scoopable, not pourable, soap.

I stir, and add more water to fill to the top, and stir again. Adding this extra water makes the soap more manageable for scooping into the washing machine. As the liquid soap cools, it will thicken substantially.

Using liquid laundry soap:
I use about 2 cups (or about 1/8th of the 1-gallon container) of this liquid soap per load. It's pretty gelatinous, so a sturdy scoop works well for me. After I add the laundry to the washing machine, I scoop this soap just under where the wash water comes into the machine. It dissolves in the first minute of agitation.

**slight derail -- Some folks don't like the gloppiness of this soap. You can microwave your soap before each load. It becomes pourable with heating. But that's too much work for me. I've got better things to do with my time, so I tolerate the gloppiness. I have read of some people using a mixer to "whip" the liquid soap. I haven't tried this, but reportedly, whipped, cooled liquid soap is easier to handle/measure for laundry. Again, I just don't have that much time. Maybe some day I'll give it a try.

Alternatively, a large pump dispenser (like what hair salons use for the large containers of conditioner and shampoo, or what a restaurant uses for condiments -- we're talking 1-gallon pump dispensers) would also make adding/measuring the liquid soap more manageable. A pump dispenser works well for my liquid hand soap.--  end derail**

I buy 3-packs of Dial "Basics" at Dollar Tree for $1, or often find it on sale at the supermarket for 88 cents/3-pack. So, my cost per load is about 4 cents, for just plain soap.

Adding vinegar makes a great rinse aid in laundry

With sensitive skin, in the process of healing from eczema, I find adding vinegar to the rinse compartment to be very helpful in removing any final traces of soap from laundry. Vinegar also keeps colors brighter, softens towels and reduces mildew smell (a bonus with bath towels). I use 3 to 4 tablespoons of vinegar per load, put in the rinse dispenser, to be released during the rinse cycle. 3 tablespoons of vinegar costs me about 3-4 cents per load.

Sensitive skin laundry products vs. my homemade soap/vinegar rinse

My total cost for sensitive skin laundry care is about 7 to 8 cents per load. Compare that to Dreft Baby Liquid detergent at over 30 cents per load, or Ivory Snow Gentle Care Laundry Detergent at about 50 cents per load.

Making hand soap for pump dispensers

I use the liquid form of this soap to make my own hand soap. I add enough water to give the liquid the right viscosity to pump from the dispenser. This is a trial and error process.

After the water has be mixed in, I add about 1 part of liquid dishwashing detergent (the kind for hand washing dishes) for 6 parts of liquid soap. This added detergent helps with cutting grease and oils, especially helpful in the kitchen.

Coloring and fragrance

I add liquid soap colorant (or food coloring) until the desired color, and essential oils for fragrance. This particular batch is lemon-mint leaf, starting with lemon dish detergent, and adding lemon essential oil and spearmint essential oil. It's a fresh fragrance that just smells clean.

Including the extra ingredients, 16 ounces of my own hand soap costs about 30 cents (compared to $1 for 7.5 ounces of commercial product). There's no additional plastic waste. And even with the dish detergent added, it's better for my skin than liquid hand soaps sold in stores. I can feel the difference.

The bonus to making my own liquid laundry soap is any time I run out of hand soap for the pumps, I have the soap in liquid form already, and can make up a batch of hand soap for refills, in just 3 minutes.



  1. Do you use your laundry detergent in a high efficiency (HE) washer? My washer instructions are very explicit to use HE soap. If you use anything else, the warranty is voided. This has made me cautious about using homemade soap.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      no, mine's a top-loader, a 20-year old Maytag. I would be cautious, too, especially if it's fairly new machine. You wouldn't want the manufacturer to exclude you from coverage, if there was a problem with the machine that had nothing to do with soap, but you were using a homemade soap.

    2. Hi Live and Learn, I have a european set front loader. I was purchasing North American HE detergent. Even that was too sudsy and clogged my set. I had to switch to a european brand of soap. I use a tiny amount of soap 1/8 cup for a full load . I noticed on The Prudent Homemaker blog that individuals ( not sure where?) were receiving coupons for Persil laundry detergent to purchase at Wal Mart.This is a brand that I can use, unfortunately my Wal MArts do not carry it.
      When I have had problems before with my washer it was because I had been using a North American HE liquid and it was plugging it up. I was warned that it could void my warranty. I received a 10 warranty from the manufacturer ( no cost) when I purchased this set. I have used it, it has saved me money for house calls, I switched to the HE brand they recommend.

    3. Thanks for the input, Teresa. I have a top loader HE that the HE detergents in the stores work with it. However, I have to be careful and not use too much soap, or it starts to stink. Leaving the lid open helps, but it still has to be cleaned.

    4. Yes Live and Learn sometimes my washing machine can also get a smell. I usually run an empty machine on the hottest setting with bleach followed by another run with vinegar. That and I leave the door to my washer always open.
      When I moved to such small amounts of detergent the smell issue disappeared. I like other posters have a machine that uses very little water and it is cold water that enters the machine and the machine heats as I need it so I am able to clean on cold and some warm cycles for the majority of my clothes washing.

  2. Hi Lili,
    thank you for those two posts on making soap at home. It's something I have considered doing, but now that I have you clear instructions I can actually see myself making it in the very near future.

    1. Hi Jayne,
      Making laundry soap is one of those things you can do at home, and really not very time-consuming. I think it's more of a "mental-time" thing. Making laundry soap "sounds" like it would be an involved process, but it really isn't.
      And if you make the powdered form, either blending 50/50 with your current detergent, or mixing in those additional ingredients, like borax, washing soda, OxyClean, you can make large batch that will last for months at a time.
      Good luck!

  3. The problem I have with liquid form is exactly as you described: gelatinous, not pourable. I agree that adding some dishwashing liquid helps grease cutting. I like using the homemade liquid soap for washing dishes by hand. I use a ratio similar to yours, 1 dishwashing liquid: 6 liquid soap, then add water into my dish pan. I like adding the liquid soap because I think there is less soap film. I add a few drops of clorox to my liquid soap to prevent bacterial growth since it lasts for months. I made my batch (3 hotel bar soaps) in October last year and still have about 2 cups left. I haven't found a way to use it as a hand or laundry soap. For hand soap, I use a foaming dispenser and dilute body washes that I buy on sale with coupon, again adding some bleach to kill germs in the water that I use to dilute. It costs under 50c per bottle. For laundry soap, we have a LG washer which uses so little water (it weighs the load to calculate the exact amount of water to fill) that HE soaps are a necessity.


    1. Hi YHF,
      Another thing I've done, for the liquid soap to use in the shower, is to fill squeeze bottles with the soap. I re-use shampoo bottles, pry the cap off, fill my own homemade liquid soap, then recap. it squeezes out much more easily than it scoops. For kitchen sink use, you could even use your purchased dish detergent bottles for storing the soap/detergent/water/n\bleach solution.

      In our showers, I use a Sharpie to mark the side of the soap bottle, "soap" so it doesn't get mixed up with bottled shampoo. We keep the soap bottle on it's side. It comes out pretty easily this way.

      Just a suggestion.

      It's probably a good thing that you stick to using the HE detergent for machine-washed laundry.

    2. I reuse shampoo bottles too, especially the large pump sizes. In fact, I don't throw away all pump bottles since the pump is so useful for all kinds of homemade solutions.

      I haven't been able to successfully add store bought dishwashing liquid to the liquid soap, rather I do the mixing 1:6 in the dish pan. Is there a certain brand of dishwashing liquid that works better? I used the Target brand up and up dishwashing liquid. Despite a good shaking, I still see the blue dishwashing liquid settling to the bottom.


    3. Hi YHF,
      I use LA's Totally Awesome liquid dishwashing detergent. It's available at Dollar Tree, for $1 for a large bottle. I wonder why yours doesn't mix in well with melted soap. You could try a quick blend with an electric mixer, or immersion blender. I once had a batch of hand soap that separated days after mixing. I'm not sure why it did that time. Maybe I had too much added ingredients (sometimes I add lotion to my liquid soap).

      Try using a mixer or blender, with the liquid soap cooled thoroughly before adding the Target detergent, just to see what it does. The Target brand just might be denser (better product) than my Dollar Tree one, and so more difficult to combine initially. Good luck.

  4. I've been using store bought shower gels and body washes in the shower because I get SO much build up of soap scum when we use bars. Do you notice a build up from the homemade liquid soap when you use it in the shower? I'd really like to get back to using a simple, more cost effective shower soap but hate the resulting scumminess. Like others have mentioned, I have an HE washer so don't feel comfortable using a homemade detergent but I'm really excited to try out the homemade hand soap!

  5. Hi Laura,
    Homemade liquid soap made from bars of soap is a very diluted version of the bar soap, IMO. So, no, I haven't noticed excess soap scum in the shower. You would find that this liquid hand soap doesn't lather as you'd expect from rubbing a bar of soap between your hands. But it still cleans. I think perhaps we've become accustomed to too soapy of a washing experience.
    And I can for sure say that scummy build-up in the soap tray is a thing of the past. Bar soap is a mess in the shower, I think. If you found that the liquid soap wasn't thorough enough for you, you could try mixing it with your favorite body wash/shower gel.
    I would suggest making up a bottle of hand soap to keep by the sink in the kitchen, just to see what you think of it.

    And I agree, with HE washers, I wouldn't do anything that could compromise the warranty or machine's working parts.

  6. My kids use this kind of soap for making water balloons and i make a very useful soap for this purpose.


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