In the history of soap, liquid hand soap is a relatively modern invention. Recently a number of natural living bloggers have shared homemade liquid hand soap recipes – making a gallon or more of hand soap from a solid bar of soap. While there are obvious cost savings to be had, is homemade liquid hand soap worth it? And are there any safety concerns with making your own liquid soap?
- Better for You – if made from a bar of all natural soap, homemade liquid soap has fewer mystery chemicals compared to commercial products
- Better for the environment – making it at home reduces packaging waste
- Saves money – a gallon (128 fl oz or almost 3800 mL) of liquid hand soap can be made for the price of a single bar of soap
- Easy – pretty easy to make, although the start to finish time is long
- Liquid hand soap does not really lather
- Liquid hand soap is the consistency of nasty mucous
- Liquid hand soap does not have preservatives and is susceptible to bacteria, mold and fungus growth
I was super intrigued when I came across the idea of using a bar of soap to create a whole gallon of liquid hand soap. The cost savings to be had were incredible – you could make the hand soap at more than a 90% savings depending on what kid of bar soap you use. The recipe is simple, and easy to follow, and produces enough to last for months.
I purchased a bar of all natural soap and whipped up a batch of the liquid soap one evening. I grated a bar of soap, dissolved it in hot water, stirred it up with my electric mixer and let it cool overnight. The next day I whipped it up again with the beaters and funnelled it into a rinsed milk jug. If you want to try this yourself, you can find step by step instructions here, here, or here (they’re all pretty much the same). I put a small amount of the hand soap into a reused bottle with pump and set it by the bathroom sink where we do most of our hand washing.
The kids loved the new white soap, and insist on using it all the time. I guess they think it’s super cool because mama made it. Or maybe they just like using new and different things (our regular hand soap is clear, not white like the homemade stuff turned out). But I don’t like it. It has a gooey, runny consistency that reminds me too much of snot. It strings like snot from the end of the pump and makes a mess. And it doesn’t really lather. These things are just preference, really, but I don’t prefer it. Also the fragrance of the bar of soap I used is very strong, so the liquid soap is much more heavily fragranced than I’m used to. This bothers me too.
The complaints above, are all just based on the type of soap I’m used to, and what I prefer. For the incredible cost savings, I could get over it, and just pick a more lightly fragranced bar for the next batch. As I thought more about this homemade liquid soap, however, I became much more concerned about a different issue: preservatives. This liquid soap doesn’t have any.
I know, I know: preservatives are considered to be a bad thing in the “crunchy” community. They are of dubious safety, and some types may even be carcinogenic. However, preservatives serve a very important function: they prevent the growth of mold, fungus and nasty bacteria in liquid products. Without preservatives, natural products will not stay fresh as long as commercial products. They should be kept in the fridge and used within just a few days. If not, they can become contaminated and cause severe health problems, blindness and even death (reference info here).
I spoke to a friend who is a microbiologist about the topic of making your own personal care products. She grew wide-eyed and seemed very concerned about the safety of doing this sort of thing. She pointed out that anything with water is at risk for microbial growth. Especially if tap water is used. Especially if made in your own, not-sterile kitchen, with your bare, naturally covered in bacteria hands. Oooops. She also said the longest it could possibly remain safe was a month in the fridge.
So, friends. I cannot recommend this soap. I will be throwing away the gallon of soap I made, because there is no way my family can use it up in less than a month’s time. Also, I know if I keep a gallon milk jug of white soap in the fridge, I will accidentally try to make a cup of hot chocolate with it early one morning. Blech. In fact, after learning what I have about preservative free personal care products, I will be very careful with testing out any more water based homemade products. I only feel comfortable testing things that are meant to be made in small batches, stored in the fridge, and used pretty much immediately (like homemade hair gel). The risk of not using preservatives seems much greater than the risk of having them in my products.
If you really want to try out this soap, or any other homemade liquid potion, I would suggest making a very small batch, keeping everything super clean, or even sterile during the making process, storing it in the fridge, never touching the inside of the container with your bare hands, and tossing what’s left after two weeks.
Have you tried making your own hand soap? What are your thoughts on preservatives?
This post was featured at Frugally Sustainable’s Frugal Day’s Sustainable Ways Blog Hop!