DIY soaps and sanitizers

two bottles of homemade hand sanitizer sitting on counter

In many parts of the country, commercial brand soap and hand sanitizer were in short supply this spring. If you’ve worried about running out of these staples, you no longer need to. With a few supplies and a small time investment, you can make your own. Here’s how to do it:

Liquid soap recipe

Making liquid soap from an existing bar of soap takes significantly less time (about 10 minutes), tools and ingredients than it does to make from scratch. Here’s our easy recipe:


  • 4-ounce bar of soap (scented or unscented, any brand)

  • Knife, cheese grater, potato peeler or food processor

  • Water (distilled water is optional)

  • Essential oils (optional)

  • Soap coloring (optional)

  • Saucepan or pot

  • Empty non-food soap dispensers/bottles


  • Take the bar of soap and grate or finely chop it up by hand or food processor to make soap flakes.

  • For one bar of soap flakes, boil a half gallon (64 fluid ounces or eight cups) of water (filtered if possible). Put the grated or chopped soap into a large bowl that will be used for making the mixture.

  • Bring water to a boil.

  • Turn off the heat, pour the boiling water into the bowl of soap flakes and stir to melt using a whisk or a large spoon.

  • Keep stirring to combine. At this point, the mixture will have a thin consistency. Allow the mixture to cool for at least 15 minutes. Then, stir it again. The mixture should be slightly thicker now.

  • Let the soap rest by covering the bowl. Allow to cool for 12 to 24 hours.

  • After the soap has rested, stir to check for consistency. The goal is to have a bowl of congealed soap. If the mixture seems too thin, reheat it and add more soap flakes. If the mixture seems too thick, reheat it and add a bit more water.

Finish your soap

  • Before pouring your soap into dispensers, you can make its consistency super smooth by running it through a blender or using an immersion blender.

  • Once you have the desired consistency for your liquid soap, add a few drops of essential oil and/or coloring, if desired.

  • For foaming hand soap, put your liquid mixture into a special foaming soap dispenser, which you can buy at a craft or household goods store.

This soap stores well, so you’ll be good to go for several weeks of handwashing action.

Hand sanitizer recipe

Washing your hands with soap and water is the preferred way to stop the spread of germs and viruses, but hand sanitizer is a good alternative. Making your own hand sanitizer is simple. However, you do need to make sure that the tools you use for mixing are properly sanitized to prevent contamination. The World Health Organization recommends letting your homemade sanitizer “sit” for a minimum of 72 hours after it is made in order to kill any bacteria that might have been introduced during the mixing process. Here are two recipes for homemade hand sanitizer, depending on whether you want to use things you already have on hand or shop for extra ingredients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that any hand sanitizer must be at least 60 percent alcohol to be effective.

Ingredients and preparation for “under-the-sink” sanitizer gel

  • Isopropyl alcohol

  • Aloe vera gel

  • Tea tree oil or essential oils

Mix 3 parts isopropyl alcohol to 1 part aloe vera gel. Add a few drops of tea tree oil or other essential oil. Place the mixture in an empty cosmetics-safe (new) lotion container or pump container.

Ingredients and preparation for “extra ingredients” hand sanitizer spray

  • Isopropyl alcohol

  • Glycerol or glycerin

  • Hydrogen peroxide

  • Distilled water

Mix ingredients together and follow the “sitting” instructions above. You can add a splash of essential oil for fragrance if desired. After the spray solution has time to sit for 72 hours, put it into spray bottles. You can use it on your hands or you can also spray it on a paper towel to us it as a disinfecting wipe.

These recipes are not only cost-effective but also fun to make. Experiment with colors and scents to create your very own line of custom cleansers!

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