The Plastic Project: Making Kitchen Hand Soap. Sort of.

I’ve started de-plasticizing my kitchen, because it’s becoming clear it’s going to take more than a month to do it. I’ve had some small victories; for example, I can bring my reusable container to the local produce market, Spiros Pasadena Produce & Deli,  to get feta and brine (also mozzarella and brine), so that’s nice – they don’t mind at all and, in fact seemed pleased to do it.
Other things take a little more time, like hand soap. Bar soap gets gross, especially on a kitchen sink, plus I really like liquid soap. Once upon a time, I was a Bath & Body Works junkie, but the price, the plastic, and the ongoing discussions about whether or not their products could contain harmful ingredients (I’m not endorsing this site, but linking to it to make the point that it’s one of many speculating and suggesting that yes, the stuff at Bath & Body Works may not be the best choice for your health) has led me to find alternatives.
Instead, I’ve started making my own hand soap. I make large batches – it isn’t hard – and save it in an old container so I can refill my countertop soap dispenser as needed.
A quick – and then, a more protracted – search for “how do I make liquid hand soap” gave pretty basic results: equal parts water and Castile soap, then almond oil and, if desired, vitamin E oil. Add essential oils, mix, and – supposedly – voila: handmade liquid soap.
Sort of.
The liquid soap was runny. It worked, sure, but I didn’t like the consistency. The answer, it turns out, is glycerin. Another Google search assured me I could use as much glycerin as I wanted in my liquid soap, and it would give it a better texture.
That did the trick.
Sort of.
It’s still runnier than I’d like, so I went on the hunt for thickeners. Apparently the answer is salt. Specifically, a salt solution. My first two attempts at a basic salt solution were… not good. Apparently you can’t use kosher salt and also the website that suggested a 2:1 ration of water to salt was generous with the salt.
I tried adding some olive oil but that didn’t work as well as I hoped.
Runny or not, it does seem to clean my hands, which is really the point.
There is, of course, one more problem: Glycerin, Castile soap, almond oil, and Vitamin E oil all come in – you guessed it – plastic bottles. So now, of course, I’m on the hunt for places that allow you to refill these, and I’m not finding any. I’m choosing to focus on the positive: Even the smallest of these plastic bottles (the Vitamin E oil) will help replace at least 10 single-use plastic liquid soap bottles.
Ingredients for making hand soap on a counter
Making kitchen hand soap (instead of buying plastic bottles) wasn’t tough, or particularly expensive, but it doesn’t quite have the same texture. After much experimenting, I’m OK with that.
Cathy Salustri

Oh, here’s the liquid hand soap recipe if you want to give it a go:
1 c. Castile soap
1 c. water
2 Tbsp. almond oil
2 Tbsp. Vitamin E oil
30 drops tea tree oil
25 drops lavender oil
20 drops lemon oil
1 c. glycerin
Olive Oil to desired thickness
Salt solution to desired thickness
Add the soap to a refillable bottle, then add all other ingredients. I use a funnel, and add the glycerin last to make sure all the oils get washed into the bottle.