DIY Body Wash and Liquid Hand Soap

As you can imagine, a home with five sons, an evil genius handyman husband, two dogs, an elderly cat and fifteen chickens can get a little -how to say- malodorous. Don’t misunderstand, I love every one of the aforementioned scent producers, but people… it can be a little hard on the nose around here.

Par example: I sent one of my children (name redacted for the sake of their future pride. We’ll refer to him here as Stanky Hank.) to the shower. Stanky Hank was in the shower for ten minutes. He emerged soaking wet and still covered with dirt. The conversation went a little something like this:

Me: You were in there for ten minutes. Why are your hands, feet, arms, and knees still covered with dirt stains?

Stanky Hank: Oh, I was supposed to get rid of those?

If I told you this was the rule rather than the exception, would you faint? Because I’m feeling a little faint thinking about it. And before anyone offers me smelling salts, remember, I live with a bunch of walking smelling salts.*

*Free social history lesson. Do you know what smelling salts actually were? They were bottles of ammonia solids mixed with aromatic essences. In short? They smelled like cat pee mixed with perfume. Remember, they were designed to wake you up. Now I’m not accusing my kids of smelling of cat pee, I’m just saying they have the potential to wake you up. But I digress.

Foodie With Family Trivia Moment: I’m obsessed with triple-milled French castile soaps. For those not equally obsessed with soap, castile soap is made with olive oil (translation: great for your skin). And the triple-milled soaps? Lush. Lush is the best word. My obsession extends most specifically to my favourite soap brand: Pre de Provence.

These massive bars of soap are unparalleled in the world of pretty smelling things. In scents like Coconut, Rose, Linden, Sage, Mint Leaf, Honey Almond Lavender, and my favourite- Green Tea- this soap makes me want to strap a bar to my nose just to get through life a little more happily. Although, upon reflection, walking around with a bar of soap strapped to my head might provide it’s own set of challenges…

…But I’m belabouring the point. I have used these soaps for a long time. The guys, however, didn’t want to use my pretty smelling soaps because they favour body wash over bar soap. They favour liquid hand soap over soap dishes. Sigh. My adorable cretins.

I’ve already told you about my happy, happy, super cheap and mega-effective homemade laundry detergent and my allergy-sufferer friendly unbelievably easy homemade air fresheners. You know I love to make pretty smelling things. Between that and the description I just gave you about my menfolk you can imagine that when I ran into this over on Pinterest, I was ready to make it immediately. STAT. Right away. Now. Time was a-wastin’.

Thanks to a proclivity for collecting lovely smelling soaps and a stash of vegetable glycerine from my previous Grand Marnier making forays, all I needed was to boil a gallon of distilled water.*

*Since even we cannot go through a gallon of soap in a week, I opted to use the boiled distilled water to slow any potential microbial growth in the soap. Distilled water has minerals removed (I used this because our water is hard) but still needs to be brought to a boiling temperature to kill any bacteria in it. I think we can all agree that a petri dish full of soap does not sound appealing, right? “Hi. My name is Rebecca and I’m a germaphobe.”

That’s right. It’s just three ingredients. THREE.

And because it is just three I have three pieces of advice about the choice of soap:

  1. Use one whose smell you love in the bar form because it will intensify a bit in the liquid form. It doesn’t have to be my beloved Pre de Provence. Just choose one that you adore.
  2. Choose a non-lotion soap. The lotion will prevent the soap from setting up well.
  3. Don’t choose a soap based on colour. Whichever colour soap you choose, your liquid soap will pretty much end up the same pearlescent shade of white.
  4. Did you know WordPress doesn’t recognize pearlescent as being spelled correctly? But by the same token WordPress doesn’t recognize itself as being spelled correctly. Yes. I know this is a fourth bullet point, but it’s not advice. So there.

I followed instructions and let the soap set up overnight. This leads me to two very important pieces of advice.

  1. Do not  put a lid that can absorb odours on top of your pan. Mainly because it will.
  2. Don’t panic if you have what looks (and feels, at first) like a solid mass of soap because it will loosen up.

Regarding that second piece of advice, I do not own a hand-mixer. WHAT? Yes. It’s true. I got rid of it because my husband insisted that he make mashed potatoes with them. After I made mashed potatoes with a ricer and a wooden spoon, he agreed, but I decided to remove temptation and thus avoid gluey potatoes from here on in… but again? I digress.

When I removed my now permanently scented lid from my pan, I touched the top of the soap and thought, “Well, that’s nice. I have a giant disc of soap jello.” After I jabbed at it a few times with my whisk, it started breaking down a bit. It was still a little too, er, chunky for our liking.

I found my egg beaters and set my very energetic six year old to mixing up the goo.

Do you have a six year old lying around? They’re dead handy.

Would this be easier using a hand mixer? You betcha… but an eggbeater and a six year old is an equally effective if slightly slower solution. If it had been any thicker, I might’ve heated it back up, added a bit more water and stirred it in then let it cool again to test the viscosity before bottling. As it was, I was happy. The now lovely smelling six year old and I ladled the liquid soap (which has a bit of a stringy consistency that doesn’t effect the overall product but takes a bit of adjustment if you’re using to the usual liquid soaps) into the gallon jug that had held the distilled water and found we needed more containers. We went on to fill an empty liquid hand soap container and an empty mid-sized body wash container. The breakdown on cost is:

  • For a gallon of distilled water ($0.69)
  • A bar of Pre de Provence Green Tea Soap ($6.69)
  • Two tablespoons of vegetable glycerine ($0.75ish)
  • Yield of about a gallon and a quarter, give or take a bit ($8.13).

My guys smell good. Really, really good. As in, “DAD! Mom keeps sniffing me!” good. $8.13 for a giant jug of body wash and hand soap is reason enough to make it, but the way they smell is priceless.

And lest you worry about nostril bombing with perfume, let me reassure you. My husband, as part of his Evil Genius job qualifications, is a super sniffer. His nose is very sensitive indeed. If this was overwhelmingly perfumey you wouldn’t be able to get him near it even with a ten foot pole. Whether it’s the fact that this particular soap -Pre de Provence Green Tea- is just a straight up wonderful and mild manly scent, I can’t say. But I can promise that Mr. Twitchy Nose and the five little urchins love it. And me?

Well, I get to swoon for an entirely different reason now.

Recipe and method gently adapted from The Farmer’s Nest.


1 (8 ounce) bar of castile soap (Pre de Provence, Dr. Bronner’s, etc…)
1 gallon distilled water
2 tablespoons vegetable glycerine


Bring the water to a boil in a large non-reactive pot (stainless steel or glass). Grate the bar of soap on a metal box grater. Add the soap shavings and vegetable glycerine to the boiling water, stirring frequently, until the soap shavings are completely dissolved into the water. Remove the pan from the heat, cover tightly, and let rest undisturbed overnight or for at least 8 hours.
After it has rested, break up with an egg beater or with a hand mixer until smooth. If it is too solid, warm over the heat again, add a little distilled water and let cool again to test the consistency. Repeat until you reach the desired viscosity for your soap.
Put a funnel into the now empty distilled water jug and ladle the soap into the jug. Ladle any extra soap into empty hand soap bottles or jars with tight fitting lids.
Use like you normally use body wash or liquid hand soap.
Store unused soap in a cool, dark place. If you’re a nervous Nelly type, you can store it in the refrigerator.







  1. Gaby says

    I’ve used this recipe to make body wash but had a problem with it not lathering and i feel like I have to use 3-4 times more than regular body wash to do my entire body! ….any suggestions?

    • Jessica says

      Hi Gaby. Don’t worry if it isn’t foaming up like an off the shelf product. If you research the subject a little bit you’ll see that foaming agents are chemicals added in as a part of marketing. Most of us feel like suds = clean, but that isn’t the case. If you’d like it sudsier though, try a foaming soap dispenser, and maybe a little less water. I’ve read recipes that call for much less (32 ounces of water for the same amount of soap), but those won’t be as money saving.
      I switched to no ‘poo baking soda shampoo and vinegar conditioner, and used my remaining conditioner as body wash to empty it out faster, so I definitely relate to the lack of familiar suds, but when I looked at what I was doing I realized I was actually covered with more soap (conditioner) than I’d ever normally use.

  2. Gerilynne says

    That’s really cool. A few years ago, I took an adult continuing ed type class offered at the high school. The class was taught by a chemist who gave us “recipes” to make our own soaps, laundry soap (not detergent) and baby stuff. It was alot of fun. I wish I could find that booklet – too many moves :-( Sigh.

  3. Brandy says

    I used a 5 oz bar of dr. Bronners unsented soap and half a bar of his pepper. mint soap. My body wash came out as a thin liquid is there any way i can make thicker?

  4. Amy says

    I just read about xanthan gum as being a thickening agent, as I have had the same issue (well, complaint from the boys as I work to wean them from Axe..ugh. I was concerned about “polluting” my natural soaps, so I did some research. One helpful article stated:What you need to know:

    1. Xanthan Gum is made by fermenting corn sugar with a bacteria, Xanthomonas campestris. It’s the same bacteria that creates black spots on broccoli and cauliflower. The result is a slimy goo that is then dried up and ground into a fine white powder.

    2. Xanthan gum is an emulsifier. It helps ingredients blend more effectively and stay blended while waiting on a shelf. For example – water and oil mixtures, as well as bits of spice in a salad dressing.

    3. Xanthan gum is also used as a thickener. Add a bit to water and it becomes more viscous. Many fat free salad dressing maintain and oily visosity by using thickeners such as xanthan gum. In pastry fillings, it prevents the water seeping out and soaking the dough, thus protecting the crispness of the crust.

    4. Xanthan gum is used in ice creams as well to prevent the formation of ice crystals and keep the product “smooth”.

    5. Xanthan gum has become popular in the gluten free circles. It helps give the dough a sticky consistency.

    6. Only a small amount of xanthan gum is necessary to achieve the desired result, usually less than 0.5% of the food product weight.

    7. When mixed with guar gum or locust bean gum, the viscosity is more than when either one is used alone, so less of each can be used.

    8. Nutritionally, xanthan gum is a carbohydrate with 7 grams of fiber per tablespoon. This may cause bloating in some people.

    9. Xanthan gum may be derived from a variety of sources such as corn, wheat, or soy. People with an allergy to one of the above, need to avoid foods with xanthan gum, or to ascertain the source.

    10. Xanthan Gum was “discovered” by a team of USDA researchers in the 1960′s. In 1968 it was approved for use as a food additive in the US and Europe.

    What to do at the supermarket:

    So is Xanthan Gum safe to consume or not? It’s perfectly safe to consume if you don’t have any allergy issues as mentioned above. However, most people wouldn’t prepare a salad dressing at home with xanthan gum, nor add it to a pastry filling. When you see xanthan gum labeled on products at the supermarket, you realize that you are buying an industrial processed product. In this case the health/nutrition consequences are minimal, but check what other, more sinister additives are lurking in the product as well.

  5. emily W. says

    I, too, used Dr. Bronner’s bars, 2 at 5 oz each (one lavender, one unscented), and ended up with the thin version. At first I was concerned about the texture, but then realized that there was probably a pretty good difference in ingredients between that and your Pre de Provence. I also remembered the texture of the liquid Dr. Bronner’s and realized I had something very similar to it. I have every reason to believe it will clean as well as I wish it to. Just thought I’d make these notes for the any others who may encounter the same differences. Thanks again! I really love your site.

  6. Jane Hoover says

    Can you substitute glycerine (skin protectant) instead of vegetable glycerin in making homemade Body Wash and Liquid Soap?

  7. says

    Looks like fun. I’m going to try this…first I need to find some yummy smelling bar soap! Actually I’ll probably need to find vegetable glycerin first…not sure how easy it is to buy in Dubai.

    One question I have is, does the body wash leave a filmy type of feeling that normal bar soap does? That is the main reason I dislike bar soap.


  8. Candice says

    I’m excited and will be making the body soap soon! If I decide to use xanthan gum to thicken it up a bit, how much should I add to the gallon? Before or after boiling? Thank you!!

  9. Candice says

    Hi!! I’ve been looking for a plastic liquid container like the one you have in your pic, where can I find one? I’ve used an old dial bottle but it got white & dingy.

  10. Ericka smith says

    Recently I was given a bar of soap from lush which I know cost around $20 pretty ridiculous in my opinion but I would love to make it last by turning it into liquid soap. I was curious if the quality of the soap really comes through once you’ve turned it to liquid soap though I would hate to waste such an expensive bar on an experiment that didn’t work. Also the soap from lush is extremely soft would that affect the quality of the liquid lotion? Thanks!!

  11. mpbusyb says

    Rebecca – you say to use a non-lotion soap. What kind of ingredients do I want to look for that makes a bar a lotion soap? I picked up some triple-milled (delightful) soaps from Dr. Woods (my favorite castile guy) w/which to make my body washes. But now I’m wondering if they are going to prevent a good set-up, as you mentioned.

    PS. I really love your style of writing. Digress away.

    • says

      Thanks so much! What ingredients make a lotion soap is a little hard for me to define, but most bar soaps specify whether they contain lotion. If you look at the bars in the soap aisle, there are quite a few that say that.

      • mpbusyb says

        Okay. So if the ingredients say coconut oil or palm kernel oil or shea butter or olive oil, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are made with lotion? The bars I have all say they are made with organic oils. Thanks again.

  12. maggi says

    thanks for having this recipe. I use goat milk soap because I am allergic to everything else. I have wanted to make a nice liquid soap for myself and just found your site in my search. this will get done this weekend.

  13. Tracy says

    I just came upon this while struggling with making my own body wash. “Stanky Hank” made me laugh out loud which is not something I do often. In addition to the precious pseudonym making me laugh, the recollection that my grandson did the same thing in the shower made me smile. He managed to get the entire room wet with the exception of his washcloth. Oh little boys….what would we do without them. Thanks for the warm fuzzy feelings.


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