to making stuff.

The Ever Exciting Bar of Soap

Soap/sink Illustration

I remember visiting my grandmother’s house as a little girl, and seeing little bowls of decorative soap on the bathroom counter. They were usually in the shape of seashells or fish, sometimes flowers. The bowl was full of pastel colors and strong scents. I always wondered what the point was, because the actual soap for hand washing was a plain bar in a dish. I guess I was practical even at a young age.

Today my perspective is a bit different. I can definitely see storing your soap in a decorative dish on the counter, because I love soap. Its practicality and usefulness makes me happy, and when it’s time to buy new soap I am always a little bit excited. Maybe I’m just too easy to please. So be it.

In my house we use bar soap at the bathroom sink, just like my grandmother did. No anti-bacterial stuff with slick lotions that stick to my hands. Who knows what the ingredients are, and I might eat or cook with those hands! We should live in a clean world, but not completely lacking in bacteria. Also, the effectiveness and safety of the anti-bacterial ingredients in some soaps is questionable. [See “Why You Don’t Need Anti-Bacterial Soap”] There are certainly situations where it’s necessary to go that one step further with anti-bacterial products, but not in my everyday life.

Still want to go for the anti-bacterial stuff? You can make a very simple hand sanitizer spray with a spritzer bottle of rubbing alcohol and a little water. Your hand sanitizer should be at least 60% alcohol and no more than 40% water (or a ratio of 6 parts to 4). To complicate things a little more, rubbing alcohol isn’t generally 100% alcohol. Try to buy 90% alcohol and use a bit less water. [See the CDC on handwashing]

My soap isn’t the cheapest you can get, but it is the least expensive without a lot of unnecessary additives. A single $2 bar of soap in the bathroom can last us 1-3 months depending on how often it is used, and we are home using it all throughout the day. You can save so much money, and if you are lucky you can find soap with minimal or no packaging to reduce your waste. I think of liquid soap pump bottles like water bottles. They are wasteful so I will avoid them when I can. Plus, bar soaps take up so little space, you can easily stock up without overcrowding your closets.

Now don’t mistake me! I’m not completely against liquid soap. I have a reusable pump for hand-washing at my kitchen sink, and I use liquid soaps for many other cleaning applications. However, I don’t spend much extra money for my liquid hand soap. The trick is that I make it myself. My last gallon batch of liquid soap, using one 8oz bar, has lasted me about a year. I will admit that is with limited use only at the kitchen sink, but that is still a pretty good track record.

Making Liquid Soap

You don’t have to be someone who is obsessed with making stuff like me to have time for this. You can make a big batch in a stock pot that will last for ages. Set aside a cleaned milk carton, or other storage container to keep your soap in. Double or triple the recipe if you go through a lot of soap.


You will need a cheese grater or food processor with grater attachment.

  • One gallon water
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable glycerin *
  • 1 8oz bar castille soap

* Look for vegetable glycerin in places that sell cake decorating supplies, or a natural health & beauty section of a store. I was able to find mine at the local food Coop.

  1. Grate the soap using a cheese grater or a food processor with the grater attachment.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Heat to medium and stir until the soap dissolves.
  3. Let sit for 6-8 hours. It will look very thin at first, but it’s just like making yogurt. Wait and you will see it is much more like soap once the wait time is up.
  4. Not every bar of soap produces exactly the same results. If your soap is too thick, add a little water and mix it in with a stick blender or hand mixer.
  5. Optional: Add drops of your favorite essential oil until it smells the way you like it.

If you find the texture is a little inconsistent you can use a stick blender, or hand mixer to incorporate things a little more. Fill your milk jug using a funnel, and you will have plenty of liquid soap to last you in the months to come.

Written on August 28, 2013 by Kristin (Yankee Girl).

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