You would basically want to make the soap (again, liquid or bar) without any artificial colors or fragrance oils. Essential oils would be fine, since they are natural materials and will degrade. Natural colorants would be o.k. too, but probably aren’t even necessary in a natural camping soap.
Some articles you’ll find say to use a Castile soap. This is fine, but unnecessary. As long as you’re using natural (animal or vegetable) oils, the choice of oils isn’t going to affect the biodegradability of the soap.
Other environmental purists will recommend to use an organic soap. If you have some organic oils to use for soap making, this is great too…though in my opinion…likewise unnecessary. The natural soaps that we’re going to make are so much more biodegradable and environmentally friendly than the detergent and surfactant based commercial soaps. Going to the extra effort to use only organic oils in your soap is admirable, but not really needed.
If you choose to make liquid soap, I wouldn’t use the “Failor” method that calculates the recipe with a lye excess and then neutralizes it with boric acid or borax. While there’s just a tiny amount of the borax or boric acid in the soap that you’d use, liquid soap can be made just fine without it, using the “Summer Bee Meadow” method which calculates the soap carefully and accurately using their lye calculator and using a 0% lye discount.
So, here are two recipes to get you started:
Basic Bar Soap for Camping
This recipe uses primarily olive oil, but also just uses coconut oil and soybean oil. Since we’re creating a soap that’s more environmentally conscious, I deliberately left out the palm oil due to the controversy surrounding palm oil farming.
The recipe uses:
- 50% olive oil
- 30% coconut oil
- 20% soybean oil
- 16 ounces olive oil
- 9.6 ounces coconut oil
- 6.4 ounces soybean oil
- 4.5 ounces lye (sodium hydroxide)
- 11 ounces water
Basic Liquid Soap for Camping
This recipe uses the Summer Bee Meadow Soap Calculator and uses a 0% lye discount. If you don’t mind the soap being slightly cloudy, and want the soap a bit milder, use a 1-2% lye discount instead.
The recipe is:
- 67% olive oil
- 33% coconut oil
- 16 ounces olive oil
- 8 ounces coconut oil
- 5.4 ounces potassium hydroxide
- 16.2 ounces of water ounces water
And remember that natural and green doesn’t have to just apply to camping. These recipes are perfectly good for your every day bathing and showering too!
More information about bathing and showering in the wild…