Thursday, April 11, 2013

Earth-Friendly Liquid Soap Part 1

Here at Voyageur we try to be very conscious of being environmentally friendly and leaving as small of a carbon footprint as possible.  With Earth Day coming up on April 22nd, and it's got us thinking of ways that we can help our customers be environmentally friendly as well!

A huge way that we can all do better for the environment is by reducing the amount of chemicals used in our homes.  Taken from Health Canada:  "Chemicals can enter the air, water, and soil when they are produced, used or disposed. Some chemicals can be harmful if released to the environment even when there is not an immediate, visible impact. Some chemicals are of concern as they can work their way into the food chain and accumulate and/or persist in the environment for many years.".  Using products that are high in synthetic chemicals can cause negative effects for the environment and for the health of you and your family.  In this two part blog post we will be using our Natural Castile Soap Paste to create totally natural and safe products to use in the home with no chemicals!  This post will focus on the dilution phase and next week we'll post some great recipes using the diluted soap.

Castile soap is made traditionally with just olive oil.  It is one of the most popular natural soaps around right now because of how well it cleanses and how gentle it is on the skin.  It is incredibly versatile and can be used in body washes, shampoos, cleansers, hand soaps, dish soaps, laundry soaps, and to clean the bathroom, kitchen and more!  And the best part about our castile soap is the cost.  To make about 3.6 litres of liquid castile soap from 2 lbs of soap paste (which is the recipe below), the cost is about $4.75 per litre.  Compare this to a very popular castile soap that is on the market for $17.00 per litre!  All it takes is a little time and patience and you will have a product worthy of being on a store shelf.  


To start the dilution process you will need a large double boiler, or you can use a large pot, with a lid as well as a large whisk and a clean work space.  Start by weighing out your water into the pot and castile soap paste into a separate container.  (Note: for those of us living in the lower mainland, regular tap water is just fine because the quality is so fantastic.  For those with hard water or water with a high mineral content we recommend using distilled water.)  The ratio of water to paste is roughly 3 parts water to 1 part castile soap paste, which will produce a soap of about 20% actives.  

                                                        25%  Castile Soap Paste - 908 grams
                                                        75%  Water - 2705 grams

Start by pouring the water into the pot.  Making sure the lid is on, heat the water on high until just before it starts to boil.  

Add the castile soap paste to the water by breaking it up into small pieces with your fingers.  It is time consuming, but try to break it up into as small of pieces as possible.  Turn the heat down to medium.

After you finish breaking up the paste the pot should look like this:

Give the mixture a good whisking (but not too vigorously as this will cause lots of bubbles!) and put the lid back on.  

Continue to check up on the soap every 15-20 minutes, whisking regularly, until the soap has little to no chunks left.  Try not to have the lid off for too long at a time, you don't want a lot of moisture to evaporate.  Depending on the temperature and how small the paste chunks are, this process could take anywhere from 1-4 hours.  This is the soap after about 45 minutes:

Once the paste is completely dissipated, whisk it, put the lid back on, and turn the burner off.  Keep the pot on the stove and cover with a towel or two.  This was the soap ready to cool down after about an hour and 15 minutes:

Leave the pot on the stove overnight, or for at least 12 hours (no peeking!). After that, peel back the towels and take a look at your soap!  

The soap should be slightly thickened in viscosity and there might be a thin film on the surface.  If there is simply whisk it back into the soap.  If you are finding chunks of the soap paste that did not get dissolved, strain them out of the soap and add them to about 50 grams of boiling water.  Whisk the mixture with a fork until the clumps dissipate, then pour it back into the soap in the pot.  And there you have it; the soap should be crystal clear, golden yellow in colour, and quite thin in viscosity. 

If you want a thicker castile soap which is similar to commercial soaps you can thicken it with a borax solution; this is done at the beginning of the dilution process.  To thicken the soap add 11 grams, or 0.3%, Borax 5 mol into the hot water before the soap paste goes in.  Whisk the water until the borax dissolves, then add the soap paste as usual.  Borax is potentially an irritant at levels greater than 0.5% so be cautious to not over measure.  This part is totally optional, if you don't mind the thinness of the soap or if you'll be putting it into a foaming bottle you don't have to thicken it!  

The picture above is how much soap you get from using two pounds of soap paste.  It is so easy to use and inexpensive, it's crazy to be buying your castile soaps pre-made!  Check back next week to find recipes using the diluted castile soap!

All the best,

The Voyageur Team 


  1. If you were to store this soap to use at a future time do you have to add a preservative? If so, what would you recommend? I plan to make different scented soaps as I need them over the next six months or so. Thanks.

    1. Hi Barbara, this soap is very stable and we have had some here for many years that has lasted without a preservative. That being said, it's always a positive to have a little more protection, so you can certainly add a preservative if you'd like. Suttocide is the one we'd recommend for use in natural liquid soaps as it's very effective in high pH products.


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