Making your own homemade liquid coconut oil soap is simple, thrifty, and very rewarding. Coconut oil soap provides lots of lather and cleaning power for all-purpose cleaning.
When I first made this soap, I had a great idea. I made a pure liquid Castile soap (made with only olive oil) and this liquid soap made with only coconut oil. My idea was that I would combine them, as needed, for different purposes around the house.
Oils in soapmaking
I had my reasons. Each oil in soap making brings different properties to soap (different from the properties they’d bring to a homemade lotion, for example). In a bar soap, there is a HUGE difference between a pure Castile soap made with only olive oil and soap made with only coconut oil.
Soaps made with olive oil are more conditioning. Olive oil is great for soaps meant for the face and body for that reason. On the other hand, soaps made with only olive oil don’t make much lather and they aren’t as “cleansing” as soaps made with coconut oil. Some people find them “slimy.”
Soaps made with coconut oil are cleansing and they provide a nice bubbly lather, but they can be drying to the skin when used alone.
Most people prefer using a soap with a combination. They want a soap that isn’t too drying, but that has some lather and cleansing ability. That’s why I used a combination of the two oils in my easy beginner soap recipe. I wanted a conditioning soap that provided some lather. If you haven’t tried making soap yet, you may want to begin with that recipe to get your confidence up before moving on to liquid soaps.
Read my post about the best oils in soap making for more information.
Oils in liquid soap making
Now that I’ve made these liquid soaps several times now, I have to admit that I don’t notice as much of a difference between the liquid soap made with olive oil and this liquid soap as I thought I would. In fact, I generally make this soap most often.
The biggest differences are cosmetic. This soap is much lighter in color while the liquid Castile soap is more golden in color. They also have a different scent. (If you add essential oils or fragrance oils when you dilute your liquid soap, though, you probably won’t notice a difference.)
I’ve found that both of these soaps provide a lot of lather. This one makes a slightly more abundant and bubbly lather. Neither one is excessively drying, although the one made with olive oil is slightly more conditioning.
My husband prefers my homemade liquid soaps for use in the shower to gels made with other surfactants because he likes the amount of lather they provide. (Yes, even the one made with only olive oil provides a lot of lather.)
Refined coconut oil, sold for soap making, generally is very inexpensive, so I like using it to make soap. I haven’t noticed a difference when using refined coconut oil vs. virgin coconut oil (which I used to use before I could find the more inexpensive coconut oil locally). (I used to make soap with olive oil more often because here in Spain it was the least expensive oil.)
Those with coconut allergies will be happy to learn that pure Castile liquid soap is also a great multi-purpose soap.
Why Make this soap?
Making your own liquid soap makes a lot of sense financially. It’s a bit intimidating, but once you’ve successfully made it, you’ll see it’s not that difficult. Liquid Castile soap is surprisingly expensive. Not only can you save a lot of money by making it yourself, but you are able to control which ingredients you use. This is especially helpful for people with allergies and skin sensitivities.
It’s also more sustainable. You can keep using the same containers and dispensers over and over again, meaning much less waste! One big batch of soap will keep for a very long time.
Before making this soap, you may want to read my post about how to make a liquid soap with general information about the process. It may also help you choose which soap you’d like to make.
This recipe uses only a few simple ingredients.
Obviously, you will need coconut oil. You can use refined coconut oil or virgin coconut oil. It doesn’t really matter which you choose. Avoid using fractionated coconut oils or coconut oils that have been modified to melt at a different temperature. (If you want to use them, you’d have to run the recipe through a lye calculator and adjust the amount of lye used. Read more about using a lye calculator here.)
Apart from the coconut oil, you will also need lye. In the case of liquid soap, you will need a different type of lye than the one used in bar soaps. For liquid soap, we will be using KOH, potassium hydroxide. (Bar soaps use NaOH, sodium hydroxide). All true soaps use lye. (For more information about lye and why it is needed in soap, read my post about why soap needs lye.)
Do not use NaOH, sodium hydroxide, to try to make liquid soap!
I use glycerin when making liquid soap for several reasons. Glycerin is normally a by-product of the soap making process. Adding more glycerin makes the process of liquid soap making easier and more fool-proof.
Not only is it said to move the process along more quickly, making the process quicker and easier, it also has other advantages. Soap pastes made with glycerin tend to be easier to dilute in water. They also may be more transparent and conditioning to the skin. (Glycerin is a humectant which can draw moisture into your skin.)
If you don’t want to use glycerin, you can just sub it out for more water. Just know that it may take longer to make and your resulting soap may be slightly different from mine.
We’ll also be using water in our lye solution. I recommend using distilled water to avoid adding impurities and minerals that could result in a cloudy soap.
Making liquid soap is very similar to making bar soap. Most people hot process their liquid soap, though. That means that they will cook it in some way or another to help finish the process of saponification. (Someday I will write about my experiments in trying to cold process liquid soap.)
In the past, I have recommended making this soap in a slow cooker. Over the years, though, I’ve had many questions about how to make this if you don’t have one. I made my last batch of this soap in the oven, and it worked quite well and was very easy to do too.
So, if you are using a slow cooker, you can add the weighed out coconut oil to the slow cooker and allow it to melt in there. If not, I’d suggest melting the coconut oil in a large bowl.
Making the lye solution
In a separate medium-sized bowl, mix together the water and glycerin. In a separate smaller bowl, weigh out the potassium hydroxide (KOH).
Pour the KOH into the water and glycerine mixture. Mix them together until the KOH is fully dissolved into the water and glycerine mixture. It will be cloudy at first but will clear up. It will also get very warm.
Making the soap paste
Carefully pour the KOH mixture into the warm coconut oil, and slowly mix them together. This can either be done right in the slow cooker crock or in a large bowl.
Using an immersions blender, blend the ingredients together. The mixture will begin to thicken after a few minutes. A couple of minutes later, the mixture will probably begin to look grainy. Continue to blend. (You can take breaks to give your blender time to rest. This helps prevent burning out the motor.)
Soon after the mixture gets smooth again, it will start to thicken. At that point, you may want to remove the immersion blender as the mixture turns into a paste pretty suddenly. (You don’t want to burn out the motor of the blender or get it stuck in the soap paste.)
Cooking the soap paste
Once the paste has formed, it should be cooked to help finish the saponification process and make a translucent soap. (I’ve tried skipping this step and the paste stayed opaque and the finish soap was on the cloudy side. Even cooking for a short time, though, was enough to get the paste to the point where it could finish the process on its own, with time.)
Cooking in the slow cooker is the best option, if you have one. If you’re using a slow cooker, cover the soap and cook it on low for several hours.
If you don’t have a slow cooker, the paste can be spread out on a baking sheet and baked in the oven at around 70ºC/160ºF. (Ideally, cover the soap paste so that it doesn’t dry out too much.)
I tried cooking my last batch in the oven and my soap paste didn’t get as translucent as it does in the slow cooker. Perhaps, it would have had I cooked it longer and covered it. It may have also helped to increase the temperature slightly. In any case, the saponification process did complete and the soap is safe to use, but it was slightly cloudier than the soap I make in the slow cooker. (See my video!) I’ve found that soap pastes that haven’t gone fully translucent generally improve with time.
Every half hour or so, try to mix the soap paste as best you can. You can flip it over to expose different parts of the soap paste to cook the paste evenly. As it cooks, the mixture will become more translucent. The process will take 3-4 hours.
Check for doneness
There are several ways to test for “doneness.”
One method is to dissolve a small amount of the paste into distilled water, checking to see if dissolves into a clear soap. If the liquid is cloudy, you can continue to cook the soap in the slow cooker for another half an hour before checking on it again. If it dissolves clear, you are finished making the soap paste.
Another method is to use the zap test.
The zap test
To check for safety of the soap, many soap makers rely on what is called the zap test. To zap test a liquid soap paste, run your wet finger over the surface of the paste and then touch your soap-covered finger to your tongue. If the soap is caustic, it gives a zapping sensation. (This has nothing to do with flavor.)
If the soap doesn’t zap (if you can’t tell, it doesn’t), then it doesn’t have any more active lye, and should be safe to use.
If the paste passes the zap test, but is still cloudy, it’s your call whether or not to continue cooking. Cloudiness is generally only a cosmetic issue and may be caused by a number of factors (including minerals in your water). Often, soap paste that isn’t translucent after cooking for a while will eventually get more translucent on its own.
(I once removed part of a soap paste before it was fully cooked to see what would happen, and after a few weeks, it looked just like the rest of the batch that had been fully cooked.)
Once ready, the soap paste can be stored or dissolved into liquid soap as needed.
To store liquid soap paste, scoop it into a covered glass or plastic container or in Ziplock type plastic bags. The soap paste can be kept in a cool, dark place for a very long time. (I’ve had soap pastes stored for years without issues.)
Avoid storing in metal containers and avoid contact with metal as certain metals can react with the soap paste and shorten its lifespan. (Don’t ask how I know that. 😏)
Diluting the soap paste
To use the soap paste, it will need to be diluted in water. I suggest using distilled water to ensure a transparent soap. You can add more or less water, depending on the desired concentration. I generally 1 part soap paste to 1-3 parts water.
For fragrance, I also often add a few drops of essential oils to my liquid soap at the time of dilution.
For more information about diluting the soap paste, read my post on diluting soap pastes.
Over the years, I’ve had many people writing me with various problems. One of the most common is that the soap isn’t transparent or that the paste doesn’t get clear no matter how long they cook it. There are several reasons that your soap may not be as transparent as you’d like.
Keep in mind that cloudy soap is generally safe to use, it just isn’t as pretty as clear soap. If your soap paste passes the zap test, it should be completely safe to use.
Just as coconut oil turns solid and opaque in cold temperatures, so does this liquid soap, to a certain extent.
My partially diluted liquid coconut oil soap turned an opaque white and thickened up in the winter. When the weather warmed up again, the soap cleared up. This is only a cosmetic issue, but you can dilute it more in the winter than you would in the summer if you want it to be clear.
The other most common issue is having used tap water to make the soap. Tap water has minerals and can have impurities that often make the soap look either cloudy or even opalescent.
For other problems, read my post about troubleshooting liquid soap problems.
Homemade Liquid Coconut Oil Soap
Makes 1-2 Gallons of soap (See notes below.)
Making the soap paste
- Melt the coconut oil. This can be done in a slow cooker or in a large bowl.
- Mix together the water and glycerin in a large bowl. Measure out the potassium hydroxide (KOH) in a separate smaller bowl.
- Pour the KOH into the water and glycerine mixture. (Not the other way around!) Mix well until the KOH fully dissolves into the water/glycerine. It will heat up and be cloudy at first but will clear up.
- Carefully pour the KOH mixture into the warm coconut oil, and slowly mix them together. This can be done in the slow cooker or in a large bowl if you don't have a slow cooker.
- Using a hand blender, blend the ingredients together. The mixture will begin to thicken after a few minutes.
- A couple of minutes later, the mixture will probably begin to look grainy. Continue to blend it until it gets creamy again. (You can take breaks, as needed, to allow the blender to rest. This prevents burning out the motor.)
- Once the mixture thickens into a putty like paste, you can begin to cook it. This can be done in the slow cooker or on a baking sheet in the oven.
Cooking the soap paste
- Cook the soap paste in a covered slow cooker on the low heat setting. If preferred, spread it out on a baking sheet and cook it in the oven at 70ºC/160ºF. As it cooks, the paste will become more translucent. Cook the paste for around 3-4 hours, stirring it as best you can every half hour or so.
- To check for "doneness," take a small amount of the soap paste and dissolve it in distilled water. If the resulting liquid is cloudy, cook the soap for another half an hour before checking on it again. If it dissolves clear, you are finished making the soap paste. It can now be stored or dissolved into liquid soap.
Dissolving the liquid soap paste
- To make liquid soap, dissolve the paste into water. (Preferably use distilled water to get a transparent soap.) The amount of water used depends on how concentrated you want the finished soap to be. I generally use 1 part soap paste to 1-3 parts water. You can allow the soap the dissolve on its own overnight or use heat and stirring to speed up the process.
This post was originally published on October 21, 2016. It was rewritten in May of 2021, adding clearer instructions, new photos, and video.
Hello! I love your discussion on the difference between the olive oil and coconut oil. But can you you use vegetable glycerin? Is there a difference as regards your recipe?
Tracy Ariza, DDS
The oils and the glycerin serve different uses. You need the reaction of oil with lye to make soap.
The glycerin here is separate and is being used in place of part of the water. It helps speed up the process and makes a soap that I feel is easier to dilute and is less harsh.
Is this a soap free soap? Thanks
Tracy Ariza, DDS
No- this is a true soap.
If you want a non-soap bar, try my shampoo bar.
What kind of KOH did you use? 100% pure, or 90%?
When I try running numbers through a soap calc, I figured you used 90% KOH with a 6% superfat. Is this correct?
Tracy Ariza, DDS
I don’t generally superfat my liquid soaps because they can get cloudy and even separate if superfatted too much- in the same way as you would with bar soaps.
I use the SBMcrafters advanced lye calculator for my liquid soaps. (You can read more about it in my post about how to use a lye calculator.)
I think it probably is 90%, but the label has worn down, so I can’t read it for sure.
can you use this fir liquid Laundry soap?
Hi Tracy, can you mention the concentration of the glycerin?
I found the marketplace sell the glycerin in many concentration, is it ok to used 50% glycerin?
Tracy Ariza, DDS
Mine says 99%. That said, in this sort of recipe, it shouldn’t make a huge difference as the glycerin is just there to move the recipe along more quickly and make it a bit more foolproof. (I talk about my reasons for using it more in my post about making liquid soap.)
hi, can you please reply this. im working for my fyp. gonna produce the soap for fruit latex stain removal. is it okay if i produce liquid soap 100% coconut oil with 30% superfat? or just keep on 3%? this recipe does not include glycerin. purely coconut oil. and other sample gonna be 90% CO with addition of 10% canola oil. please contact me, your help is needed. Thanks in advanced! (sorry for bad english)
Tracy Ariza, DDS
Liquid soaps shouldn’t really be superfatted like that because the oils will just separate out. They will also lower the effectiveness of the soap. Smaller amounts of superfatting will first result in a cloudy soap and later lead to one that separates.
I’ve never tried canola oil in a liquid soap so I’m not sure what the result would be when added. (Make sure to run any changes in oils through a lye calculator.)
Thank you for your article. What percent super fat did you use for your soap calculator?
Tracy Ariza, DDS
I don’t superfat my liquid soaps as the excess oils can cause cloudiness. I haven’t found them to be at all harsh. (Perhaps the glycerin helps?)
Some people do superfat their liquid soaps, but you have to keep the amount very low (less than 5%) to avoid separation or cloudiness.
hola Tracy ! tengo una duda se puede usar este jabon de coco para limpiar la casa y para diluirlo y hacer jabon para la lavadora ? la verdad es que ya lo he hecho y que funciona muy bien , pero quizas para lavar la ropa no haria falta poner glycerina en la élaboracion ? o no importa ?
gracias por todo
Tracy Ariza, DDS
Yo añado la glicerina porque acelera el proceso de hacer el jabón y hace un jabón que se diluye mejor. También puede aportar propiedades más suavizantes.
No debería dar ningún problema.
Lo único que no me gusta de usarlo para la ropa es que si tienes agua dura, con el tiempo, los jabones pueden dejar un poco de capa de restos de jabón. Igual no se ven al principio, pero con el tiempo se nota. Por eso hice un detergente que no usa jabón. Es lo que suelo usar ahora.
Thank you for your reply to my question on your youtube channel. I have noted the ingredients and hope to make this recipe of Coconut oil liquid soap. I will surely keep you posted as I progress in my assignment.
Tracy Ariza, DDS
You’re welcome! Good luck with it!
Once I add water to the soap paste to dilute it, how long will it last without preservatives?
Tracy Ariza, DDS
It’s really impossible to say as it will depend on many factors- if you’ve used distilled water or not, the pH of your soap, etc.
All of that said, I’ve had it diluted for more than a month or two without any issues. (We normally use it up before then, though.) I still try to keep the majority of the soap in paste form and have kept it like that for years even.
Would you be able to help me out regarding other additives/oils such as vit e oil, jojoba and extracts?
I do plan to do both a coconut soap and a castile olive oil soap and mixing the two. However, I’m not sure if there’s one you would recommend over another to add the vit e and jojoba oils to, and at what amounts? I’m experienced in cold process soaping and have only ever made olive oil castile soap once. Any insight or tips would be very much appreciated.
Tracy Ariza, DDS
The problem with adding liquid oils to soap is that it generally reduces their effectiveness and also makes them cloudy. Jojoba oil is especially problematic for making soaps cloudy.
If you don’t have a problem with a cloudy soap, you can try adding some, but don’t go overboard with it. The liquid soaps should solubilize some oil, but after a certain point, it won’t just make it cloudy, but will also separate from the soap.
I don’t add any oils to my liquid soaps, though, and don’t think they need it.
Extracts are different- and it would really depend on the type of extract you want to add. I generally add essential oils during the dilution process for scent. They can be added to either.
The olive oil one is slightly more conditioning than this one- and I don’t think you really need to add anything to it. I find it quite gentle. Perhaps it’s the added glycerin that gives it a nice skin feel, but I don’t find it needs anything else.
Newbie here. Thanks for writing this post. I’ve a couple of questions.
How big is your slow cooker? Can it be done in 4.5L slow cooker?
When it is cooking for 3-4 hours, it is on “low” all the time?
Tracy Ariza, DDS
Mine is 5.7l, but I think 4.5 liters would probably work fine.
Yes, I leave it on low the whole time.