How to Make Liquid Hand Soap for $1

Liquid hand soap is a great invention, that makes getting your hands clean much easier than juggling a bar of the slippery stuff. Unfortunately for the frugal among us, it’s often expensive. Never fear – here’s a drop-dead easy way to make four litres (a bit over four quarts) of the stuff for just a few dollars.

You will need:

  • One bar of regular soap.
  • OPTIONAL: tea tree, eucalyptus or lavender oil if you like your soap to have that extra antibacterial oomph. Other essential oils will smell nice too, but they probably won’t be as “antibacterial” as these three.
  • One 4L ice cream container
  • One grater or knife
  • One whisk or other stirring implement
  • One kettle full of boiling water


  1. Grate the soap into the ice cream container. Alternatively, use a knife to shave the bar into slivers.
  2. Boil the kettle and add the water to the ice cream container. Mix well with the whisk to dissolve the soap.
  3. Add about 10 drops of essential oil, if you’re using it. The stuff is powerful, so you really don’t need more. I also like to add a splash of commercial liquid soap, if there’s some lying about the place. It’s not essential, but it seems to help it gel a bit better.
  4. Top up the container with water (hot or cold, your choice) and mix again.
  5. Whack a lid on the tub and leave the mix to set for at least 24 hours. It may need as long as 48, depending on the weather. Come along and mix it up every now and then, if you’re feeling particularly productive.

The resulting liquid soap will be fairly solid on top – like jelly – with a runnier, sludgier layer underneath. When you want to fill your hand soap dispenser, take a butter knife and cut through the mix several times to break up the jelly layer and mix it into the bottom goop.

You’ll probably notice your hand soap is a bit runnier than the real thing. This doesn’t bother me, but if you don’t like it I recommend adding less water, stirring the soap more while it sets, and adding a bit of glycerin – say about a tablespoon – to the mix. Alternatively, you can buy pump bottles that have a soap foaming attachment on the pump insert. These work really well with home made liquid soap, and means the variably consistency isn’t a problem. Use a funnel and ladle to scoop the hand soap into the dispenser, and voila! Cheap liquid soap that’s (almost) as good as the real thing!