DIY Biodegradable Soap, Shampoo and Detergent

When I was a kid, I remember my grandma using olive oil (which in Greece is pretty cheap and high quality) to make weird green soap bars which smelled nice. Little did I know that I would use it again twenty-something years later, this time as a DIY biodegradable soap.

Warning: Biodegradable does not mean it does not pollute water sources. Use at least 200m away from streams, rivers or lakes.

Although thanks to globalization and huge brands taking over it’s not that used any more, olive oil soap which is commonly known as green soap, is extremely versatile, has a ton of fantastic properties and can be easily made at home with a few, cheap ingredients. In this post, we will not explore all uses of green soap, but merely list some of its most important properties, the way it can be used outdoors and learn how to make it.

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Uses for this DIY biodegradable soap

Green soap, which was used by the ancient Mesopotamians and Greeks, is an excellent cleanser, moisturizer, natural antiseptic and anti-oxidant. At home, you can dilute it in water to clean the floors, use it to do the laundry, clean your windows, use it in your garden to treat sick plants and more. But since it’s 100% organic, natural and biodegradable, it’s ideal for the outdoors! Here’s how you can use it in the trail or while camping:

  • It’s a great organic shampoo. It is really good for weak hair.
  • Use it to shave. It produces a rich foam which is ideal for brush shaving.
  • Use it to shower. It’s a natural soap, duh.
  • Use it to wash your clothes. Not only they will come out extremely soft, but they will smell great too!

DIY biodegradable soap at home

Convinced yet? Well, I promised you a recipe, so here it is. With this recipe you can make around 600 grams (1.32 pounds) of DIY biodegradable soap, which translates as 6 bars of 100 grams (3.5 ounces) each.

Ingredients and equipment

  • A stainless steel pot and a wooden spoon.
  • Whatever you can find that you can use as a mold. Be creative. If you can’t find anything, buy small tupperware.
  • 500 g (1.1 lb) olive oil (or even better olive oil residue, the dense dark stuff that remains in the bottom of olive oil containers). You could use seed oils, but the denser the better.
  • 150 g (5.3 oz) distilled water.
  • 65 g (2.3 oz) lye. Watch it, this stuff will burn you. Wear gloves and protect your eyes and skin.
  • Ground herbs or 20 drops of the essential oil of your choice (optional). Maybe you’d want to use citronella oil or ground sage for mosquitos? I prefer the plain version.



  1. Heat the water until it’s lukewarm in the pot.
  2. Start adding the lye slowly, constantly mixing with the spoon.
  3. After all of the lye is diluted in the water, start adding the oil slowly. Make sure the heat is low and continue mixing for 10′. Make sure it’s not boiling. If so, turn the heat down.
  4. After 10′, the mixture should start getting denser. Turn the heat off and let cook for a while. Now it’s a good time to add the herbs and essential oils if you have chosen to.
  5. When it’s nice and dense pour it in the molds.
  6. Let it rest in a dry space, away from drafts. If you used a tray or a single mold and you want to cut your soap in pieces, do it after 4 days. Now comes the waiting part. The soap needs to mature.
  7. Depending on the moisture of the air and the temperature, green soap will take 4-6 weeks to mature. During this time, the soap will lose all the acidity of the lye (which will react to the carbon dioxide of the air and form a white powder). Just let it rest for 6 weeks to be sure. It might end up whitish instead of green, but that’s fine (depends on the oil).

Note: Don’t use the pot and the spoon to cook again. Keep them for soap-making.

And there you have it! After you clean the white powder off your soap, powder a part of it to use as shampoo, shaving soap and detergent.

6 thoughts on “DIY Biodegradable Soap, Shampoo and Detergent”

  • Great stuff! I’m planning on buying a desert lot for camping and such. Any idea if there is any reason to NOT have this type of soap in gray-water systems diverted to fruit trees? THANKS!

  • Hi Teo, I am doing a science project on Biodegradable Soaps and your website was quite helpful. Is there a way one could make the soap within a shorter time span? Would making less soap maybe shorten the maturing time?

    • Thanks Mike! Sorry, this is an old traditional recipe which I spiced up with some chemistry stuff I found online, but I’m really not that equipped to answer this question. I don’t think it would though, as it does not really depend on the quantity, I think it’s the reaction that lye has with the oxygen that takes long.

  • Hi Teo,
    Great site.

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