I successfully created some homemade shampoo bars from the recipe generated from soapcal.net. See recipe formulation here. The saponification process went as expected. The only minor surprise was how much my fragrance choice, peppermint essential oil, thickened my soap batter.
How To Make Your Homemade Shampoo Bars
The Water Phase
Since the lye water gets extremely hot and would therefore need some time to cool, I decided to begin with the water phase of the process.
4 tablespoons dry hair blend (see blend here). You can use herbs of your choice.
2 cups distilled water. Distilled water will eliminate any mineral deposits that may end up in your soap from tap water. 2 cups is a suggestion, you can make the tea as strong or as weak as you like. FYI the stronger the tea, the darker the soap bars.
Once the tea is filtered, measure out 6.08 ounces.
I used 2.185 ounces (or 0.137 in pounds) of sodium hydroxide. I switched between pounds and ounces weight on my scale to ensure accuracy because the last thing you want is excess lye in your soap.
I used a small container for the lye and a larger one for the herbal tea to show that the lye goes into the herbal tea (or water). Never add water to the lye it will create a bubbling volcano.
This reaction will raise the temperature to at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit (about 82 degrees in Celsius). A thermometer is encouraged but in case you don’t have one this is a pretty good reference.
The Oil Phase
All measurements are by weight.
4 ounces of Coconut (76 degrees – solid at room temperature)
4 ounces of Shea butter
3.2 ounces Castor
2.4 ounces Avocado
1.6 ounces Olive
0.8 ounces Macadamia nut
Once everything was measured out I melted the entire mix in a double boiler to avoid overheating. The temperature rose to about 137 degrees Fahrenheit (about 58 degrees in Celsius).
Once the two phases were within 15 degrees of each other, I poured the lye water into the oil. You can see the neutralization reaction taking place almost immediately as the fatty acids in the oils react with the lye.
I used a hand mixer to ensure all the oil was in contact with the lye for a complete reaction. You’ll know the reaction is done when the mix turns into a thick gooey creamy solid. When the hand mixer is removed from the mix, you’ll notice it drags some of the mix with it. This is called trace. I added peppermint essential oil for fragrance once I reached trace.
1 ounce of peppermint essential oil significantly thickened my soap batter. No big deal; it just made the pouring into mold process a little messy. I used Japanese peppermint which is potent but pales in comparison to Indian peppermint supreme. Caution is advised while using essential oils as they can irritate the skin. Consider your skin type and use 0.3 ounces of peppermint to keep the soap very mild fragrance wise. Japanese peppermint sits well with this formula. The 1 ounce was toned so much I can barely feel the tingling sensation. I would have used .5 ounces of the Indian peppermint supreme if that’s what I had.
After the fragrance I poured the soap batter into the mold and covered with saran wrap and then a towel to keep it warm.
I removed the soap out of the mold after 24hours. The soap is functional but the ph is about 8, which is too alkaline. 4-6 weeks will be needed to cure – evaporate the excess water and lower the alkalinity. I placed all five bars on a dish rack so that all the sides are exposed to air for even curing.
Watch a step by step of how to make your own shampoo bars:
- Wear gloves and goggles when working with lye.
- Kick kids, pets and maybe significant other out of the house. Okay, maybe just away from the working area.
- Make sure the lye measurement is accurate (better slightly less than more if you can’t get it right).
- The lye goes into the water. Never add water to the lye.
- Fumes might occur when lye reacts with water. Work in a well-ventilated area.
- Make sure the lye water and the oil phase are within 15 degrees of each other before mixing.
- Do not let either mixture cool to below 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 in Celcius).
- Some essential oils like mints will thicken the soap batter a lot.
- If using a silicone mold, use a firm surface (like a chopping board) on the bottom so you can easily move the soap.
- Remove from mold between 24-96 hours. This time frame will depend on your oils of choice. A lot of castor and olive oils might require more time in the mold in comparison to coconut or jojoba which harden pretty quickly.
- Leave bars in a well ventilated area where they are exposed on all sides (like a rack) for 4-6 weeks to allow them to cure and lower the ph.
- Neutralise all tools with concentrated vinegar (I used white vinegar) to ensure any lye that might have been missed or left behind is completely spent. Cleanse and sanitize your tools afterwards.
Overall the process was easy because I was very well prepared ahead of time. I have already revised the formula for use on my dry face. This could very easily become an addiction. Good luck with yours!
And finally here are links to all tools I used to make the soap.