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blog,  DIY Bath & Body

Make Your Own Liquid Hand Soap

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High demand, low supply.

Have you had trouble finding liquid hand soap in the stores lately? If so, you’re not alone! At the time of this post, we are still under stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 crisis. Supplies are scarce, especially toilet paper, hand sanitizer, cleaning products, and even good ol’ liquid hand soap!

empty liquid soap shelves in grocery store
Empty liquid soap shelves at grocery store.

First it was the hand sanitizer. Everyone wanted it, as that “magic” germ-killer you can use without water. When that ran out, I did what millions of other people must have been doing: googling for “DIY hand sanitizer”!

The recipes online were plentiful. No shortage there. But as a result of people rushing to make their own hand sanitizer, the supplies of alcohol and aloe vera ran out!

The science of soap.

One might ask, “is ordinary soap as good at eliminating germs as hand sanitizer?”

Here’s some interesting info I found on the government website of the Center for Disease Control:

“CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible because hand washing reduces the amounts of all types of germs and chemicals on hands.”

“Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.”


“Soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at removing certain kinds of germs…

“Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers can inactivate many types of microbes very effectively when used correctly, people may not use a large enough volume of the sanitizers or may wipe it off before it has dried.”

(Read more at:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is soap-4279678_1920.jpg

So it’s back to plain old soap and water. Which is fine, if you have soap. Most people have gotten accustomed to using liquid soap these days, so naturally, this has become a product in high demand/low supply as well!

Personally, I love using bar soap, especially the handmade kind. I used to make my own bar soaps, both as a fun hobby and to sell at craft fairs. Nowadays, I love supporting other soap artisans by purchasing their wonderfully scented, natural handmade soaps!

But, I get it. In our efforts to be as ultra-hygienic as possible, we can’t afford the risk of sharing germs left on a bar of soap shared by multiple people. (Psst! Just keep your own personal soap bar in a private bathroom or a secret drawer!)

Better ingredients, better soap!

The ingredients for this liquid hand soap recipe are really quite simple: liquid castile soap, water, essential oils, and skin-conditioning oils.

ingredients for liquid hand soap. liquid castile soap, apricot kernel oil, tea tree oil. diy liquid hand soap
Simple ingredients for handmade liquid hand soap.

What is liquid castile soap?

Castile soap is an olive oil based soap based on a soapmaking style from the Castile region of Spain. Today liquid castile soap may also be made with other vegetable oils, but it is always free from the use of animal fats or synthetic ingredients. This purity is what makes it so versatile, lending it to multiple uses for both household cleanliness and your personal bathing needs. (Find out more about this super hero soap here!)

clear gold color liquid hand soap. liquid castile soap, pump bottle, windowsill, diy liquid hand soap
Olive oil-based liquid castile soap.

In the photo above, you will see the prepared liquid hand soap before I added the oils. Notice how pure and gold it looks! This is because it is pure, as you will also see when you look at the list of ingredients…

The two photos above show the lists of ingredients from a bottle of commercial hand soap (left), and a bottle of liquid castile soap (right).

While I have trouble pronouncing most the ingredients in the commercial soap, the list of ingredients in the liquid castile soap is fairly simple: water, saponified (chemically changed into soap with the addition of lye) coconut, olive and hemp oils, glycerin (a by-product of the vegetable oils), vitamin E oil, lavender essential oil, salt, citric acid (just like in fruit!), and rosemary essential oil. All nice stuff!

The SLS debate

The commercial brand hand soap contains lots of synthetic ingredients, including sodium laureth sulfate (SLS). There has been lots of debate and misinformation online about sodium laureth sulfate causing cancer or other ill effects. However, these are misnomers dating back to the early 90’s and the ingredient is generally safe for normal use. (Read more here🙂

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is actually approved as a food additive by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to be used as a whipping and wetting agent or as an emulsifier. So if it’s safe for food, it can’t be bad for the skin, right?

Well, yes and no. SLS can cause skin irritations under two conditions: if it is present in high concentrations AND left on the skin for an extended period of time. Most of use don’t leave our hands sudsy more than about a minute, so these trace amounts of SLS are not a real danger. But people prone to canker sores or have high skin sensitivities may want to look for an SLS-free alternative.

handmade liquid hand soap on windowsill

Personally, while I am relieved to know that I am not going to grow an extra foot by using commercial hand soap, I still prefer natural ingredients and handmade products. My hands feel dry after using the soaps with long lists of chemicals, and I’m always applying hand lotion afterwards. This handmade liquid hand soap, however, leaves my hands feeling soft, just a good amount of “squeaky clean”, but not dry.

Dilution is key

Liquid castile soap is an amazing product for its versatility. In my post, 25 Uses for Liquid Castile Soap, I list 25 ways you can use this little powerhouse, from bathing to washing dishes, even brushing your teeth! (yes, it’s that pure! But trust me, it’s not that tasty!)

The key to using liquid castile soap in so many functions is in its dilution. Straight from the bottle, it is quite strong, so using it on your hands without diluting it could have a drying effect. That’s why you will find recipes using a larger part of water to dilute it. (See this page on Dr. Bronner’s website for how to dilute their soap for 18 different uses!)

Texture comparison

While my first experience with liquid castile soap was with Dr. Bronner’s product, I have since switched to Dr. Woods’ liquid castile soap, found on I first tried it due to its lower price, but now love it for it other reasons. Number one, it’s much thicker than Dr. Bronner’s. Perhaps it’s from the added vegetable glycerin, I don’t know, but I like that boost in its texture. I also really love the scent of the lavender variety. They use only natural essential oils in their scented versions, making it unnecessary to add your own scent. If you try this recipe using other brands, let me know how they turned out, in the comments below!

One more word about texture: If you’re expecting this soap recipe to suds up really thick and gel-like after diluting it, you may be a little disappointed. It does come out a little thin and mildly sudsy, but it still works mightily at cleansing your hands, leaving them soft, clean and lightly scented!

Because of this minor flaw in texture, I am also providing a variation to make this as a foaming liquid soap. All you do is add another part water to your recipe. For example, if you used one part water to one part liquid castile soap before, now you’ll use two parts water and one part soap, and pour it into a foaming soap bottle! (see recipe and variations below.)

Ok, so let’s get ready and make some soap!

Liquid Hand Soap

  • 1/2 C Liquid Castile Soap
  • 1/2 C distilled water
  • 15 drops essential oils of your choice. (Skip this step if using
  • scented soap.)
  • 10 drops tea tree oil
  • 1 T sweet almond oil or other skin-nourishing oils.
  • 1 clean 8 oz. pump bottle (either new or repurposed.)
  1. Pour water into pump bottle first, to avoid excessive foaming.
  2. Carefully pour in liquid castile soap, followed by oils.
  3. Gentle shake bottle to combine.
  4. Squirt a coin-sized amount onto hands, lather and enjoy the soft, sweetly scented silkiness!

If you prefer to make this into a foaming soap, simply double the water!

For example, instead of 1/2 cup soap to 1/2 cup water, use a full cup of water, then pour all the ingredients into a foaming soap bottle, either new or repurposed.


DIY bath and body

I hope this helps you put some liquid hand soap back in your home during this time of critical need. I also hope you’re encouraged to continue using natural products, such as liquid castile soap, and inspired to make your own, as well.

Until next time, bye for now!

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