No Plastic July – Homemade Handwash

One of my 5 goals for No Plastic July was making my own handwash.



Whilst I generally prefer bars of soap (cheaper and less packaging) we have two slightly awkward basins in the house which need to have soap by them but a bar won’t fit.  A slim handwash dispenser fits perfectly and so I’ve been grudgingly buying handwash for 2 basins for a long time.  I always try to get Ecover as I figure it is more environmentally friendly but I’m still chucking away plastic bottles no matter how much I pretend I’m paying for it with Ecover.

I was suggested this recipe by the Zero Waste Chef and it looked fairly easy and (important with a baby) something I could breakdown into managable steps to fit around naptimes.

I ordered Dr Bronner’s soap from the Ethical Superstore and was delighted to see that it comes in a paper wrapper and the Ethical Superstore re-use shipping boxes and make their own packing material be recycling cardboard.  There was a thin strip of plastic sellotape on the box but otherwise all packaging is plastic-free so far (that is a sneaky packet of disposable nappies you can see – we normally use cloth but we are temporarily doing disposables at night time to help clear up some bottom-related troubles).


The link recipe is for making a (US) gallon of handwash.  Seriously, that is nearly 4 litres of handwash!  I don’t need that much. So instead I started with 1 litre and just over half a bar of Dr Bronner (and to this I grated few tiny scraps of bar soap left from around the house – waste not want not!).

Also there are two recipes but I only tried the first.  The second doesn’t have the cost savings and uses plastic since the handwash is already diluted so comes in a bottle.  The first version is cheaper, plastic free and still really really easy!

I'm coming to grate you...

I’m coming to grate you…


1 litre water (I used tap water)

Essential oils (I used 30 drops of Bergamot (10 drops) and Lavender (20 drops))

1/2 bar Dr Bronner Baby Mild Unscented Soap (plus a few old scraps of bar soap from around the house!)


1. Grate the soap.

2. Bring some water to the boil, reduce the heat until it is no longer boiling and add the soap. Stir until the soap is dissolved.  Turn off the heat.

3. Leave for 12-24 hours to get more solid.

4. Stir in essential oils of your choice (a little bit of plastic in the caps of the oils here).

5. Bottle (use a funnel you will not regret it).

So far it has been pretty easy and the results are really good.  The Ecover Handwash bottles are very sturdy and easy to decant with a funnel. They are going to last through a lot of re-uses and I have a litre of handwash from half of one bar.  That is going to last ages!

But importantly it is about £0.16 (I’m over-estimating here) for 100 ml of handwash.  The cheapest handwash I can find at Sainsburys is £0.36 for 100 ml and Ecover (probably comparable in other ethical ways with a bar of Dr Bronner) is £1.35 for 100ml.

A good reminder that when you buy handwash you are paying mostly for packaging and water!

This is a massive win all round and I’ll definitely carry on doing this once Plastic Free July is over.

Now off to Lush to get back into solid shampoo bars!

Edited to add:

I totally forgot to add the other fantastic No Plastic Bloggers to my post so I’m correcting that now!

There are some other amazing bloggers, going even further than me and I’m going to get a lot of inspiration from them over this month.

Check out their links and cheerlead them to the finish line!



Plastic is Rubbish

Plastic Free UK

Sustainable Witney

Plastic Free July In Croydon

My Zero Waste


14 thoughts on “No Plastic July – Homemade Handwash

  1. Keely

    I was stunned by how easy it was to make hand soap and dish soap once I sat down to try. Are you planning to try making lard soap from your pigs? One batch lasts us for months, even when we give most of it away to friends. It’s a little time consuming, but it’s well worth the return, and I’ve found the quality of soap is much higher than what I’d usually pay for.

    1. Becky A Post author

      We didn’t get much lard from the pigs this time just gone as we only took a half a pig and the rest went to other people. We used all that for pastry and other cooking.

      We are getting a whole pig in September and I might be tempted to try it but I know it is a lot more complicated than making hand soap from Dr Bronner and with the lye I’d be a bit worried about doing it with the baby (almost toddler) charging around.

      Have you blogged about doing it (I don’t think I’ve seen it if you have) as I’d love to read a post about it.

      1. Keely

        I’m working on a post about it. Yesterday we finally got through rendering all of the lard from our oversized fall hog, and we are making soap tonight. No more oily messes in the kitchen for at least a few months!
        Making soap isn’t that complicated if you have a digital kitchen scale and some math skills to do conversions. There are only three ingredients, and the return is worth the work.
        I think it could be done safely with a toddler in the house: the part where you have the lye out and in use is somewhere between one and two hours, and it is mostly just waiting for the lye-water to cool. We tuck it way back on a counter and there’s little risk of its spilling. Uncured soap can burn, but it’s not spillable (it’s in bars, just like any bars of soap, just not usable) and is easy to leave on a high shelf or somewhere else out of the way for a few weeks while it gets milder.
        Do try it if you can: it’s very rewarding to have all of your household soap coming from your land and kitchen, and the quality of the product you get is shocking. I have no idea of the cost to me of the soap that I’m making (at the point where we butchered the pigs, all calculations went out the window) but I know I’d never splurge on something of the same quality from a shop.

      2. Becky A Post author

        Ok – that is really interesting. Damn it – stop tempting me with your homemade soap plans! I would love to read a blog post all about it.

    1. Becky A Post author

      Wow – that is tough, but it will make you very green by necessity! Still with all your homegrown food you’ll be ahead on that at least. I can’t wait to read about it on the blog.

  2. Sue

    This looks so easy Becky!
    I am definitely going to give it a go.
    Made homemade washing powder for the first time last week and so far I am loving it!

  3. The Zero-Waste Chef

    That looks great! I’m glad it worked out (since I didn’t actually try the recipe that I suggested). I’m pretty sure I have a stash of little bits of soap in my cupboard. I’ll have dig them out and try this.

  4. Pingback: No Plastic Round Up | Westwick Dreaming

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