Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Natural Liquid Soap Simplified: Recipes and Tips

Liquid soap looked so complicated it took me a while to get confidence to make it.  When I did, it was so straightforward I wondered what I had done wrong.  If you don’t need it perfectly clear, it’s simple.  Yes it takes longer than bar soap (the longer you cook it the lower the pH) but you don’t have to be in constant attendance.

A small super fat (1 or 2%) takes care of the pH or you can do a 0% super fat and add a little Borax or something less Alkaline if the pH is too high.  Look in your pantry – citric acid (take care not to use too much as you don’t want the pH too low)

Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) runs at about 90% purity.  Summer Bee calculator adds it at about 95% of the saponification rate. This all goes towards preventing it from being lye heavy (which can be easily fixed if it’s not too bad, by adding borax to the dilution water.  If a mistake with the recipe or measurements has been made I would just start adding a bit more oil at time, cooking and stirring). Soap Calc has a box for the 90% purity which would have the lye measurement a little higher than Summer Bee.

In Australia and NZ, KOH can’t be posted due to its dangerous goods category.  Dedicated soap supply shops stock it and I found very inexpensive bulk KOH supplies at swimming pool, chemical outlets.

I wear a mask as well as gloves handling the flakes as the dust causes nose/lung irritation.

The Potassium Hydroxide may make noises if you add it too quickly to the water.  That's OK, just slow down and stir it.

Castile soap (Olive oil) may be good for the skin but I found it left a stickiness while the skin was still a little damp. It also took hours of blending to bring anywhere near a thick mixture.  I prefer a mix with Olive, Coconut oil/castor oil and even a solid oil like Palm or Tallow.

Use reverse osmosis filtered water or distilled water.

100% Coconut liquid soap at 30% dilution is the best homemade dishwashing liquid I have made.  This thickens up quickly when blending.  Interestingly, if the temperature is low the completed liquid soap will go white.

I run my recipe through Soap Calc because it has an excellent description of what your soap’s characteristics will be (forget the hardness with the liquid soap).  I started off using Summer Bee Meadow advanced calculator because it is more detailed with the water content until I worked it out for myself.  Summer Bee only works in ounces and I had to convert everything.

A tip in Catherin Fallor’s book “Liquid Soap”, is to grate bar soap with your oils to speed up the process.  The Sodium Hydroxide mixing with the Potassium Hydroxide causes it to firm up very quickly.  For this I use 100% Coconut Oil bar soap with a 1% Super Fat.  I make this for laundry/cleaning.

Another idea from this book I like though don’t necessarily use is to make single oil liquid soaps and mix according to need.

Use a stick blender to mix oil and lye till it starts heating up and then use a hand held cake mixer.  This works well and doesn’t overheat because of the bigger motor.

Soap paste can vary in colour according to the oils used. Yellowy with Olive oil, more greeny with increased Tallow.

I have read that soap paste can store indefinitely in the fridge.  I dilute to 30% to store and let it settle.  While it is perfectly fine to use straight away, if you let it sit for 4 weeks a white layer of solids forms on the bottom.  I pour off the clear soap and do this process again with the milky remnant.  I use the white, left over for any cleaning.

If you are colouring your soap keep in mind the original colour of the soap.  If it is amber your reds will be more orange. Yellows and greens will be vibrant but blues won’t do so well. Good luck with Lavender.  Oil type affects colour of soap.

I use salt to thicken my liquid soap to make a gel, but this can not be done if the coconut oil or castor oil content is higher.  I haven't found the exact percentage and after some disappointing results. I have found that my soap with a the Castor Oil content over 15% wont thicken.  I think this might be the same for Coconut oil which probably also applies to Palm Kernal oil and Babassu oil or any oil that has high levels of Lauric, Myristic or Ricinoleic Acids. It becomes a balancing act between bubbles and thickening.

High levels of coconut and castor oil would be fine if the soap was to be used liquid or in a foamer.

Higher coconut oil content will also prevent Borax from thickening the soap.

Sometimes, depending on the recipe I haven't been able to get the batter to trace after hours of blending.  A small amount (no more than 10gm) of grated coconut oil bar soap softened with a bit of water added in has worked quickly. Several times I could not get the batter into a paste and gave up blending.  After cooking till the pH was right and it was clear in water, it still was thinner and not so translucent but when I added the water to bring it to a 50% paste solution it gelled up and become a very thick paste.  It was fine.

Use as a body wash, hand soap, shampoo (don't forget to rinse hair in dilute vinegar or citric acid or it will feel like straw).

Weigh out your oils into a slow cooker making sure the solid oils are warmed to a liquid state.  Dissolve the KOH in the water and then add to the oils. Blend. Continue past trace (I use a cake mixer when it gets thick) till it becomes really thick.  I cook mine on high but medium might be better.  Mix now with a ridged spatula or spoon as it is really thick now. This can take some time and if over 80% Olive oil it may take "forever". I gave up with one and it solidified when left.

After about 4 hours it should become translucent. Put a little bit in a glass jug with some filtered hot water and dissolve it.  If the water is cloudy, continue cooking.  It may take 6 hours.  When the water is clear, it is done.

Check the pH.  If it is 10, add a Tsp of Borax to the dilution water and bring it down to about 9.  Borax has a pH of about 8 and is an ideal buffer.  Its good for you, and it wont ruin your soap (citric acid could be used to lower the pH but care needs to be taken not to lower the pH so much that you don't undo the saponification).

Weigh your thick paste and add enough boiling water to bring it back to double the weight of the oils and KOH.  This is your done paste.  It is now at 50% dilution.  When you need to use it dilute further to 10% if you wish.

The following recipes use 1000gm of oils.  This will give 10-12 litres of liquid soap when diluted down to 10%.  

Coconut Liquid Soap (for cleaning)
Coconut oil                         1000g
Water                                  793g
Potassium Hydroxide         268g  (0% superfat)

Cleaning              67
Conditioning       10
Bubbles               67

Weigh the soap paste after cooking and add enough water to bring to total weight to 2580g.  This is a 50% dilution.
Check my blog for dilution ratios if this is a mathematical struggle for you

3 Oils Liquid Soap
Coconut Oil            120gm
Castor Oil               120gm
Olive Oil                 860gm
Potassium Hydroxide     210gm
Water                              630gm
Dissolve KOH in water, then mix into the oils and blend.
When paste is cooked, weigh and bring it up to total weight of 2420gm with boiling/hot filtered water.  This will give you your paste at a 50% dilution.

70% Olive Oil Liquid Soap
Coconut oil        100gm
Castor Oil          100gm
Beef tallow        100gm  (you can use Palm oil without changing the lye measurment)
Olive Oil            700gm
Potassium Hydroxide   210gm
Water                            630gm

When the paste has cooked weigh and bring it up to 2420g with boiling/hot filtered water

1 Bar Liquid Soap
Adding the bar soap to the oils will speed up the trace a lot more. With the above recipe I would use a 110gm bar of Coconut Na OH soap grated and added to a little water first.

Coconut Oil Bar Soap 110gm
Castor oil       100gm
Beef Tallow   100gm
Olive Oil        700gm
KOH              185gm
Water             564gm

I would use a small portion of this water to mix in with the bar soap to soften it prior to adding it to the oils

Remember, diluting and letting it sit for 4 weeks will let the solids settle and the liquid clear.  Pour off the clear soap.  You can use the cloudy portion.

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