Natural Hand Soap Ideas: Making Hand Soap At Home

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

When it comes to virus control, washing our hands with soapand water for at least 20 seconds, or longer, is extremely effective. Whilehand sanitizers are useful in a pinch, the chemicals in hand sanitizers areunhealthy for you, and may eventually contribute to bacterial resistance. Handsanitizers are also harmful to the environment.

Making hand soap at home is fun, easy, and inexpensive.Check out the following homemade hand soap recipes.

Making Natural Hand Soap at Home

Here are some easy ways to make your own hand soap:

Natural Hand Soap Using Bar Soap

Start with a bar of soap. Look for a chemical-free bar soapwith 100 percent natural ingredients. Natural bar soaps are availablecommercially, but you may enjoy using homemade herbal soaps from your localfarmers market. Handmade soap usually contains no preservatives or fillers.

  • Grate about one-quarter of the bar with a fine grater. You can also chop the soap very quickly in a food processor.
  • Put the grated soap in a saucepan, along with 1 quart (1 L.) of bottled or distilled water.
  • Turn the burner to medium and warm the mixture, stirring constantly, until the soap has completely dissolved.
  • Let the mixture cool, then pour it into a container. Let it sit about 24 hours then shake well to blend. The hand soap will thicken, but don’t expect it to be as thick as commercial hand soaps. Don’t worry, it’s just as effective.

Homemade Hand Soap Recipe Using Liquid Soap

To make natural hand soap with liquid soap instead of barsoap, just combine the following ingredients and mix well:

  • 1 ½ cups (about 0.5 liter) of filtered or distilled water. You can also use herbal tea, but make it about three times stronger than usual.
  • Approximately 6 tablespoons (about 100 ml.) of liquid castile soap. Castile soap is gentle and toxin-free.
  • About 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) of coconut oil, almond oil, or glycerine, which will add moisturizing properties to your hand soap. You can also mix in a few drops of vitamin E oil.

Adding Essential Oils to Your Natural Hand Soap

Essentialoils work well in both of the above homemade hand soap recipes. The oilsmake your soap smell great, and they may boost their effectiveness.

Be sure to use a glass container if you’re adding essentialoils because some oils can degrade plastic. Always keep essential oils out ofreach of pets and children; some can be toxic when ingested or poured on theskin.

The oils should be well diluted to avoid skin irritation. Asa general rule, 20 drops of essential oil per batch is sufficient when you’remaking hand soap at home.

The following essential oils work well in natural hand soap:

  • Lemon, grapefruit, or orange
  • Cinnamon bark
  • Rosemary
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lavender
  • Tea tree
  • Bergamot
  • Geranium
  • Clove
  • Cedar, pine, juniper, or fir needle
  • Peppermint or spearmint
  • Ylang ylang
  • Ginger

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Indigo Soap Recipe for Natural Blue Soap

Two ways to use indigo powder to create natural blue soap and an introduction to using green indigo powder in soapmaking.

Naturally coloring handmade soap is like layering magic over magic. The soapmaking process in itself is pretty amazing but using leaves, roots, flowers, and clay to tint your bars stunning hues is a whole other ball game. I share plenty of natural soap coloring ideas here on Lovely Greens, but one that I’m really excited about is this indigo soap recipe. Recipe isn’t quite the word for it though since it’s really two methods that you can use to create naturally blue soap. Methods that you could use for almost any natural soap recipe. I also introduce a third way to create a unique blue shade by using two different types of indigo.

The instructions below are for cold-process soap recipes. You could use any light-colored soap recipe of your choice, but do avoid using those high in golden or dark-colored oils. The color of those ingredients may tint your soap greenish. Also, have care that you use true plant-based indigo to naturally color soap. Synthetic indigo is much more common but is not safe to use in soap or personal care products.

Both soaps are colored using indigo, but use different natural coloring techniques

Natural Blue Soap Recipe

I first introduced you to making a natural blue soap in my woad soap recipe. Though the soap woad creates is a lovely natural denim color, you need a lot more powder and the final color is less vibrant than if you used indigo. Woad soap has a softer hue that I love and that definitely has its place. This indigo soap recipe will give you much deeper shades, including a rich denim blue and a baby blue.

Used both on the skin and in dyeing fibers, woad (Isatis tinctoria) and indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) are safe dye plants with a long history of use. Both are rich in a compound called indigotin and how humans learned to extract it from leaves boggles my mind. That’s because extracting it from green leaves yourself can be a lengthy, complicated, and messy process. Fortunately, we can purchase ready-to-use powder that’s ideal for dyeing cloth, to use in artwork, and to naturally color soap.

For natural blue soap, I’ve begun with indigo powder purchased from a natural textile dyer. A tiny amount of this deep blue powder goes a long way, and beware, it can be messy! One of my plastic jugs is still blue from using it. To get the darker blue soap in the photo above, I added indigo during the soapmaking process. To get the lighter blue soap, I first infused the indigo in liquid oil for six weeks.

Indigofera tinctoria has been used for thousands of years to naturally dye cloth and fibers blue

Indigo is a Natural Dye Plant

There are many species of plant that we commonly call indigo, but the one I’m using is Indigofera tinctoria. When working with plants, or plant-based materials, it’s important to always identify it by its Latin name rather than a common one. That’s especially true when it comes to using them on or in our bodies.

If you’d like to try growing and using homegrown indigo, know that its home is in the tropics. That means that you need to have a humid and hot climate or be able to mimic those conditions with a polytunnel or greenhouse. Indigo is a perennial broadleaf evergreen that can grow six feet (2 m) tall, in the right place, and with the right care. It has beautiful pink flowers and Teresinha Roberts of Wildcolours recommends harvesting leaves just before they open. She also says that you might not be able to harvest from your plants until they’re at the end of their second year of growth and at that time you should only take half or less of the leaves.

Pomace olive oil infused with indigo powder turns a turquoise blue

How to use Indigo in Soap

Creating natural blue soap with indigo is relatively easy, and there are a few ways to do it. The easiest way is to mix a small amount of indigo powder into part of your liquid oil in a soap recipe. You can then stir that blue oil in at trace and pour the blue soap batter into the mold. If you ensure that the soap fully gels, then the color will be much more intense. When I say a small amount, it means less than 1/2 tsp per pound (454g) of your main soapmaking oils. Use more than that and your bars will be very dark blue but the lather will also be blue and could stain your bathtub or washcloths.

To get an even more intense color, don’t wait to add the indigo at trace. Mix the powder with the sodium hydroxide then make your lye solution with it as usual. You will notice a pungent scent when you make your lye solution with indigo but that scent doesn’t last in the bars. Adding indigo to the lye solution seems by far to be the most popular method that soapmakers use. The color is more vivid, but the downside is that all of your soap will be the same deep color. I love simple soap designs so that’s fine by me, but if you wanted to add swirls or layers to your batch, you might want the first method.

The last method is to use indigo to naturally tint the liquid oil portion of your soap recipe blue. Then you use that colored oil to make your soap as usual. Again, gelling any indigo soap will intensify the color.

Green indigo powder and blue will give you very different soap colors

Why is my Indigo Powder Green?

Indigo isn’t widely used as a natural soap colorant but it is used for two other reasons — to dye cloth blue and to dye hair black. You can get a hold of pure indigo in either sector but you’ll notice that the two look completely different. The indigo purchased for hair dyeing is green! Not exactly what a lot of people expect when they order it for soapmaking. Green indigo powder is simply the dried and crushed leaves of the indigo plant. You can use it together with henna to tint hair black, but it will not color your soap blue. Instead, it can tint soap a greenish-tan color that reminds me of dead sea clay powder.

Deep blue indigo powder is what you need to naturally color soap blue. This indigo comes from the same plant as the green indigo but is soaked in water, fermented, and treated with lime to bring out that brilliant blue hue. You can see the entire traditional process of creating blue indigo from leaves here. The outcome of the process is a paste that can be dried and pulsed into powder. Though it is possible to ferment green indigo powder to create blue, I’ve not tried it. I understand that it can be messy and complicated though, and the results (by first-timers at least) aren’t always successful.

Soap colored with green indigo powder left, and blue indigo powder right

Use both Green and Blue Indigo in Soapmaking

I wasn’t able to find any photos of what green indigo soap looked like, so had a go at making my own. The photo you see above has the result of that test batch at left. To achieve that greenish-gray shade I mixed 1 tsp of green indigo into part of the olive oil for that 1-lb soap recipe. I added it at trace and oven processed it to ensure it gelled. It came out of the mold that color and has retained that shade now for well over a month. Not everyone will like the color but I certainly do! It’s a modern and elegant neutral shade that I think would work well for my neem soap recipe.

It got me thinking too. What would happen if I mixed the green indigo with the blue? The result is the third soap (from the left) in the photo below. It creates a lovely sage-blue that again seems very modern and natural. An earthier blue compared to the blues achieved with just indigo. For the sage-blue soap below, I made a 1-lb batch of my eco-friendly soap recipe (I used this recipe for all of the indigo soap batches). At trace, I added 1/2 tsp of green indigo and 1/8 tsp blue indigo that I’d mixed into a Tablespoon of the reserved pomace olive oil.

Two batches of soap made with blue indigo at the left. At the far right is soap made with green indigo only. Second from the right is soap made with both green and blue indigo.

Indigo Soap Recipe

Let’s get to using indigo to make clean blue shades though. That deep blue you see above and the pale baby blue next to it. Both use approximately the same amount of indigo to make, and the darker blue one has tiny specks throughout. The pale blue bar has no specks, so that’s also something to keep in mind if you’d like to make indigo soap. The methods for each are below and keep in mind that some soapmakers have reported the color of their indigo soap fading over time. Others don’t seem to have this issue. It’s purely speculation, but it likely has to do with the quality of the indigo.

How to Make Herbal Soap

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Adding dried herbs to homemade soap is a simple but creative way to add fragrance and beauty to an otherwise ordinary item. Start by melting down a plain glycerin soap base. Experiment with your favorite fragrances by adding essential oils. Then prepare your dried herbs, dried flower petals, and dried plant sprigs for the soap, either by grinding them into fine pieces or by arranging them decoratively within the soap molds. Be sure to use skin-safe, edible plants only, and avoid mixing any fresh plants into your soap. If you make enough bars of soap to share, you and your loved ones will feel oh so pampered!

So Many Homemade Soap Recipes to Choose From!

As you can see, there are a ton of different homemade soap recipes out there. You can combine all sorts of different herbs, essential oils, and other ingredients to make different soap bars for different purposes.

Once you have some experience following some of the soap recipes above, don’t be afraid to get creative and start experimenting with your own favorite ingredients! That’s when the fun really begins!

Do you have experience making handmade soap or are you a complete beginner? If you’re new to this, let us know which soap bar you plan to make first!

Should you use lye to make soap at home?

Many DIY soap recipes call for using lye (the common name for sodium hydroxide) as the base. But lye can be hazardous to work with at home. “Lye is caustic not only when it touches skin, but the fumes it generates when mixed with water are caustic to your eyes and mucous membranes. So, you’ll need to work in a very well ventilated area,” says Charmaine Rodriques, a former chemist in the GH Beauty Lab, mother of a 7-year-old son, and founder of The Sud Bar, a soap and body care products company.

If you do choose to make soap with lye, Rodriques, who has been making and perfecting her homemade soap for 15 years, says this is what to watch out for:

  • Appropriate ventilation is the most important thing to have before embarking on making soap from scratch.
  • Personal protection gear, such as goggles, a mask and heat-resistant gloves are also “musts” according to Rodriques.
  • Rodriques keeps raw materials in a locked cabinet in her basement, which also doubles as her soap-making laboratory.

Always protect your eyes with safety glasses when you are handling lye.

Wear long-sleeved clothing to protect your arms, and wear rubber gloves when handling lye and when making soap. Raw soap, or soap that hasn’t saponified yet, is just as caustic as lye itself.

Avoid inhaling the fumes when you mix lye with liquid.

Have dedicated utensils and equipment to use when making soap. Don’t use these items for food preparation.

Use glass or plastic utensils and pots to make soap, not metal.

Cover the table or countertop with several layers of newspaper, which can be rolled up and thrown away after your soapmaking session.
Keep children and pets out of the room when you are making soap. Not only can they distract you, they can also cause spills and splashes or be the victim of a spill or splash.

Don’t be distracted by the phone or doorbell. Never leave your soap-in-progress unattended.

Work near a source of running water. In the event of spills or splashes, run water over the affected area for at least 15 minutes.

Clean up completely and carefully. Dispose of the newspaper on your countertops in an outdoor trash receptacle, not in the kitchen garbage can. Continue to wear rubber gloves when cleaning your soapmaking equipment and utensils, because raw soap is still caustic and dangerous.

Label your soapmaking equipment and store it on a shelf or in a cupboard out of the reach of children and pets.

Store lye out of the reach of children, such as in a locked cabinet.

While making soap, always add lye to the liquid, and then add the liquid/lye mixture to the fats in your recipe. Doing the opposite – adding liquid to lye – will result in a volcano of caustic liquid that can spew across your work area and all over you.

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