For those times when you’re travelling light, you don’t want to lug around big bars of soap or containers of liquid soap. That’s where paper soap comes in handy. These one-time use soaps are travel-friendly and dissolve in water. Learning how to make paper soap is actually easy and fun. We’ll show you how to make paper soap with or without water-soluble paper.
Use paper soap just as you would any other regular soap.
Water-soluble paper works exactly as the name implies—it dissolves when it comes in contact with water. This is the easiest way to make paper soap.
The other way to make paper soap involves melting and pouring a thin layer of soap onto a wax piece of paper and allowing it to harden. While not exactly paper per se, this soap is paper-thin.
Ready to get your clean on? Let’s get started!
How does water-soluble paper work?
During the manufacturing process, individual fibers are interlocked. When water-soluble paper comes in contact with water, the fibers unlock, quickly dissolve, and biodegrade.
The more water that’s applied to water-soluble paper, the quicker it dissolves.
You can buy water-soluble paper on Amazon, or other local craft stores.
Tips on how to work with water-soluble paper (because this stuff rips easily!)
Before you dive right into making your own DIY soap sheets, read up on a few tips on how to work with water-soluble paper. As you can imagine, this stuff rips easily!
Travel blog Lattes & Runways made some travel-friendly soap strips and shares a few handy tips:
- Use a big, wide brush: Ditch the small paint brush. In this case, the bigger the better as you’ll want to cover as much surface area as possible. Ensure your brush has soft bristles (so as not to rip the delicate paper), or use a foam brush.
- Work fast: Time is of the essence as the paper dissolves quickly when it comes in contact with your soap.
- One direction, once only: Move your brush in one direction making sure to only go over each section once to avoid tearing the paper.
- Prep your drying area: It’s a good idea to prepare your drying area ahead of time so it’s all ready to go. Just gather a few clothes pins (or something similar), and a line to dry it on.
- Soap consistency: For the best type of soap consistency, you’ll want it not too thick, and not too thin. If it’s too thick, you’ll have difficulty applying it quickly. If it’s too thin, it may dissolve the paper.
Tip: If your water-soluble paper ends up ripping, don’t fret. Just lay it on a flat, non-stick surface, such as a piece of wax paper and let it dry for 15 minutes. Afterwards, hang to dry like normal.
How to make paper soap with water-soluble paper
If you’re using liquid soap, you can skip this next section.
But if you’re planning to use a bar of hard soap, you’ll need to turn your hard soap into a liquid paste first.
How to turn a bar of soap into a soap paste
If you have a bar of hard soap you love, you’ll just have to do an extra easy step before proceeding to the next section.
- A bar of hard hand soap
- A kitchen cheese grater (you could also use a potato peeler)
- A double-boiler (or, a heat-safe glass bowl or jar plus a small saucepan)
- A stir stick (a wooden chopstick or popsicle stick works too)
- Grate your bar of soap into a heat-safe glass bowl or jar.
- Fill a small saucepan half full of water. Bring water to a low boil.
- Place the entire glass container filled with soap shavings into the saucepan.
- Stir the soap shavings continually until the hot water begins to melt the soap contents.
- Remove the glass container with soap paste from heat. Allow to cool slightly.
Now proceed quickly to make your soap sheets!
How to make paper soap: step-by-step
- Sheets of water-soluble paper
- Liquid hand soap or liquid paste from bar soap
- Wide paint brush
- Baking sheet
- A few clothespins and a drying line
- Prepare your drying area first by setting up a drying line and having several clothespins ready.
- Place one piece of water-soluble paper onto a clean baking sheet.
- Spread a line of liquid hand soap directly onto one side of the baking sheet. Using your paint brush, dip the brush into the liquid soap and spread it evenly onto the water-soluble paper. Ensure you work quickly and avoid going over the same area more than once as this will rip the delicate paper.
- Ensure you leave a thin strip, about 1-2 inches (2.5-5 centimeters) wide, of water-soluble paper untouched with the liquid soap. This is the side you’ll use to hang onto the drying line.
- Once you’re done covering one side, quickly flip over and do the other side.
- Gently peel the covered water-soluble paper from the baking sheet.
- Hang to dry.
- Once completely dry, cut into your desired size and store in a small container.
How to make paper soap without water-soluble paper
Now, if you don’t have water-soluble paper handy, you can still make your own paper-thin soap sheets.
This is a melt and pour method which involves melting soap and pouring it in a thin layer onto a wax-lined baking tray.
Tip: You can use pretty much any melt and pour recipe here to make your sheets of soap paper. Or, you could use up any leftover scraps of bar soap you have around the house.
- Melted soap paste (see above, How to turn a bar of soap into a soap paste)
- A rimmed baking sheet
- Wax paper
- Knife to cut soap
- Create a melted soap paste using either the instructions listed above, or any melt and pour recipe.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with wax paper.
- Pour the heated soap on top of the wax paper in a thin layer, about 1/16 inch thick.
- Allow the melted soap to harden for about 15 minutes.
- Gently lift the soap and wax paper from the baking sheet and flip over onto a flat surface with the wax paper on top.
- Gently peel the wax paper from the soap paper.
- Cut the paper soap into small pieces with a knife, or you can break by hand.
How do you use soap sheets?
Now that you’ve gone through the trouble of making your own paper soap, what’s the best way to use them?
First off, here’s what not to do. Don’t hold your piece of soap paper under running water. It will literally dissolve before you have a chance to use it.
Instead, first wet your hands with water. Then use a piece of paper soap to gently rub between your hands like normal. Voilà—instant soap!
Other ideas for making one-time use paper soap
Now that you know how to make paper hand soap, you can get creative and make your next camping, hiking, or road trip easier by making other paper soap strips. Besides using hand soap as a basis for your DIY soap paper recipe, you could also try using:
How to store paper soap
Store your freshly made DIY soap sheets in small metal or plastic containers (such as the ones you use for shampoo bars or regular soap bars). Ziploc bags will also work in a pinch, but won’t protect your sheets from getting crushed.
And of course, keep your paper soap sheets dry until ready to use!
New to making soap? 🧼❓
We have a fantastic overview on the whole soapmaking process here 👉 Read our Timeless Guide To Soapmaking
If you would like to see our soapmaking posts organized by topic type 👉 See our Soapmaking Main Page
- SmartSolve, Soluble Paper, https://www.smartsolve.com/news/what-you-should-know-about-water-soluble-paper. Accessed January 2021.
- BBC, Bitesize, What is cellulose?, https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/topics/znyycdm/articles/z2d2gdm. Accessed January 2021.
- Lattes & Runways, Tips for DIY Soap Sheets, https://lattesandrunways.com/tips-for-diy-soap-sheets/. Accessed January 2021.