“All-natural” Experiments: Liquid Hand Soap

As a kid, we used bar soap for bathing and hand washing. As the one responsible for cleaning the kitchen and the bathrooms, I always dispised the leftover gunk that those bars of soap left on the sink rim where they sat, so when I moved out on my own, I switched to liquid hand soap and never looked back.

Pre-natural days, I chose my soaps simply based on smell and pretty package. And, in those frugal college and military days, price. When I tried to move to a more natural direction in my household products, the price thing was kicking my butt! Why is it always that less ingredients = higher price? So I did some research and experimenting and figured out how to make my own natural, inexpensive, completely customizeable liquid hand soap.


All of the ingredients, except the water, require some sort of processing and purchasing. I research and read lables and purchase the most natural versions I can find from sources I trust. And I buy in bigger quantities to keep the overall price over time down.

Liquid castile soap. Probably the most expensive ingredient to purchase, but buying in bulk does help and a decent sized bottle does tend to last awhile. Plus, it is a multi-purpose cleaner. I have used it to make shampoo for both humans and dogs, to clean the carpet, and to make body soap. Plus, a certain Dr’s brand makes for great bathroom reading! 😉 Technically, you can dilute liquid castile soap with water and use as is, but I prefer something thicker.

I use only the unscented or baby versions of the castile soap I buy. The scented versions contain essential oils, which I try to avoid as much as possible. Also, if you want to scent your soap, unscented gives you more room to customize how you like it.

Xanthan gum. Ok, not quite “all-natural.” Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide made from fermented sugar and bacteria. While considered generally safe for human consumption, the jury is still out, as with most things, on any potential long term or increased consumption effects. I originally went looking for arrowroot powder, but my grocery store doesn’t carry it and I wanted a thickener for my hand soap, and as no one in my house is ingesting the soap, I figured it would be ok.

Vegetable glycerin. Vegetable glycerin is another multi-use ingredient. I use it for other skin care products, for the cigar box humidor, and my sweetheart has used it for at least two of his projects, although I can’t for the life of me remember what they were! If you are very, veryvery patient, this one is optional. I am not.


Optional. Essential oils, fragrance oils, Vitamin E oil, etc.


1) Get your soap vessel. An old pump soap container will do, as will a mason jar with one of those soap pump lids. I like whiskey, and have been known to buy a bottle based on the usability of it’s bottle, so this is my kitchen soap dispenser:


I found a good deal on the pumps online which fit a standard booze bottle and ordered a dozen. I also make gift soaps for friends featuring their favorite adult beverage container.

2) Fill your container of choice about 1/3 full of the liquid castille soap:


3) In a small bowl, mix equal parts xanthan gum and vegetable glycerin until it thickens a little:


For this sized bottle, I used about a 1 1/2 tablespoons of xanthan gum to 1 1/2 tablespoons of glycerin.

If you are skipping the glycerin, replace with a little water. The glycerin is much easier, and will mix with the xanthan gum fairly quickly and evenly. I used water once, and while I eventually got it mostly mixed, it took a lot of patience (and arm muscle)! The powdered xanthan gum tends to clump in water. Maybe a blender or mixer could do the work?

4) Mix the xanthan gum/glycerin mixture with enough water to fill the rest of your soap bottle:

It will thicken up quite a bit within the first 30 seconds. If it’s too thick, add a bit more water. If it’s too thin, add a bit more xanthan gum/glycerin mixture. Keep in mind it will thicken a little more once it’s in the soap bottle.

5) Pour the thickened water mixture into your soap dispenser. Replace the lid, and shake gently. More like swirl and tip gently. Soap + vigorous shaking = lots of suds in your bottle = overflowing! (Trust me on this one…..)

Optional, 6) If you like a scented soap, but bought the unscented castile, this is when you would add your scent and give it another gentle swirl and tip. Different essential oils have different qualities to lend to the soap, as well as the smells, so choose what you like/want and start with a few drops at a time. (You can always add more, but can’t take it out once it’s in there!) There are also fragrance oils available out there. Or you could use something like rosewater. You can also add a few drops of vitamin E oil for it’s skin-loving qualites, and as a preservative for your soap.

Since I don’t like using essential oils, but I do like pretty smells, in the future, I plan to play around with some oil and water infusions with soap to see what works for scenting.


And that’s it! I refilled my bottle yesterday and it took less than 5 minutes from start to finish.

This soap works great on pretty much anything. It has even gotten the grease of my sweetheart’s hands that his normal scrubbing and cleanser from the auto parts store wouldn’t remove completely. Plus it’s very gentle on skin.

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