This is the way we wash our hair…

Liquid Soap, ready to be used

Lately I’ve been washing my hair with either a peppermint tingle shampoo bar or a bit of babassu liquid shampoo/soap. I took a long break from using the shampoo bars because we had several sets of commercial shampoo and conditioner laying around and I decided to use up the ends of those bottles but now, because I’m trying to reduce breakage and get healthier hair overall, I’m back to shampoo bars and homemade liquid shampoo because it’s more gentle.

Homemade shampoo bars and liquid shampoo, like handmade soap, still contains glycerin which is great for your hair and skin. It also is free of harsh detergents and all synthetic ingredients like parabens and phthalates. I recently formulated and made a new batch of shampoo bars especially for my hair type with cinnamon and patchouli essential oils, and they are curing right now. Meanwhile, here is the breakdown for the liquid soap I’m using:

Babassu Oil liquid soap

# √ Oil/Fat                   % Pounds Ounces Grams
1 Babassu Oil          30  0.750   12.00    340.19
2 Canola Oil            15 0.375   6.00      170.10
3 Castor Oil               15 0.375   6.00     170.10
4 Olive Oil pomace 25 0.625 10.00     283.50
5 Shea Butter         15   0.375   6.00      170.10
Totals.               100 2.500 40.00     1,133.98

Finished shampoo, with botanicals and other goodies in it.

Once it’s made and turned into soap paste, I like to take about 100 g of it, and 50g of very hot water, 25g aloe vera liquid, and mash it together with a fork in a Glad ware container and let it sit overnight. It will soften into liquid soap.

Then add

1 tsp silk peptides, silk powder, or silk amino acids. Silk proteins are the same size proteins as our skin and hair and easily absorbed as a useful humectant. 

1 tsp wheat gluten-found in the baking aisle. You can also get fancy and use hydrolyzed oat, wheat, rice or quinoa protein in liquid form. 

1 tsp phytokeratin, or liquid hydrolyzed keratin. Keratin is what makes up our hair and nails, and adding a bit of it back into products to help repair damage is always helpful. Phytokeratin is plant based, hydrolyzed keratin is not. 

1 tbsp broccoli seed oil, castor oil, or jojoba oil (I use 2 tbsp castor oil and skip the coconut oil as castor oil is good for oily hair). Adding a little oil is like adding a “moisturizer”in a commercial shampoo only without chemistry wizardry. I could use cetyl alcohol, which would be a pretty good chemical moisturizer, but there are great oils out there so I’m doing that. 

1 tbsp melted coconut oil- coconut oil is terrific if you have any hair problems like thinning hair or dandruff. It actually penetrates the cuticle of the hair follicle 

2 Tbsp vegetable glycerin-manages moisture without weighing hair down

1/2 tsp d-panthenol liquid (B5 vitamin)-strengthens hair shaft, promotes hair growth 

 30 drops essential oils of your choice. (I’m using “Green Smoothie” oil by Brambleberry a lot lately because it smells like fresh cut grass and because they gave me two free samples that aren’t good for soap and aren’t true essential oils so I can only pretty much use them on myself. But it’s still good stuff, Brambleberry is a great company.)

I also add:

 1 tsp powdered horsetail (also known as shavegrass)-natural source of silicone 

1 tsp powdered chamomile-shiny

1 tsp powdered calendula-vitamins and healing

1 tsp powdered bamboo (I use bamboo tea bags because it’s most cost effective)-full of natural silicones 

If you don’t have these things in powder form, turn to a handy dandy coffee bean/spice grinder, preferably one you use for food and not for DIY cosmetics (I have the need for one of each). Grind your herbs by pulsing them until they reach desired consistency. Get them as fine as possible since you’ll want to be able to rinse them out easily. . 

Mix all the dry ingredients with the essential oils and a small amount of the soap in a small dish. Mix until you get all the lumps out, adding a tsp or two of aloe if needed to thin it.  Put the remainder of the soap in a 8 oz container-I use a repurposed bug juice bottle because it has a pop top. Using a small spatula and a small funnel if necessary, add the herbal mixture to the bottle, then cap and shake gently to mix. Just use like any liquid shampoo! I suggest leaving it in for a few minutes to let all those extra ingredients penetrate the hair shaft and do some good before you rinse it all out.

This works for regular liquid soap paste I described in a previous blog post, not just the babassu based one. You can also leave all the extras out or just use some of them. I  would suggest at least using a little oil of some kind and hair happy essential oils like lavender, tea tree, and rosemary. 

 It’s shampoo. It’s a complex shampoo because of all the ingredients, but you can double the recipe and make it in a pop top water bottle and then not have to make shampoo for ages and ages because it lasts forever. A little goes a long way. This shampoo lathers gorgeously and you’ll have suds for days all in your hair. Keep it out of your eyes, it’s real soap and real soap is not gentle on the eyes or “no more tears”. It burns. Eyes shut tight.  

I know I harp on preservatives, especially where I use a lot of botanicals like this. Ideally, the high pH of the soap and the fact that it’s in a sealed container should keep it safe, but… I have concerns, so I will use a preservative, but there’s only a few that can handle the pH of hot process soap (mine is testing around 8.5), which is why it has a preservative in it. Bacteria are active up to pH of 9, and mold and fungi to 10. It’s the last thing I want to worry about, so I prefer a tiny amount of preservative over a risk of infection. It’s the only time I use preservative in soap. Bar soaps’ pH is higher, so it doesn’t need preservative. Also, we don’t add this much botanical stuff to bar soap after the saponification process. 

Be sure to follow with an acidic rinse, either 25% Apple cider vinegar, 50% lemon juice, or 5% citric acid (about 1 tsp in 8 ounces water). Apply the rinse, wait 2-3 minutes, then rinse again with cool water. Follow up with a conditioner if necessary. You can use a little grapeseed oil as a conditioner, or make a great conditioner yourself. There are DIY conditioners online. has GREAT conditioner tutorials. I have discussed making conditioner before, and I’m tweaking my conditioner recipe. I’ll review conditioner science and ingredients soon and give out the recipe I use. 

My favorite conditioner, to be examined again at another date. Obviously I love it, it’s mostly gone! It’s full of good stuff, much like this shampoo, but it stays in your hair leaving it soft and shiny! 


Soap Challenge Anticipation! 

I signed up for another soap challenge!  It’s like a contest, where you learn a new technique then enter the results of that technique in the challenge to not only potentially win prizes, but also connect with other soap makers and cool people around the world who are crafty. Although $100 grand prize gift card would be cool, and the actual prizes being offered this time are nifty. It’s all soap making related stuff. (Geeks out)
This month we are taking on the soap pictured here, which uses the “dancing funnel” technique. I can’t go into it more (contest rules, yo) but I’m frankly kind of worried I may be in over my head. Not only is the technique itself difficult, there are two categories, natural and synthetic. This means if I use any of my micas or oxides for colorants I will also have to use a fragrance oil-and I hate fragrance oils- to be in the “artificial/synthetic” category. This puts me in a pickle. I want mica (and personally don’t consider them true synthetic)…and I want essential oils, because almost every fragrance oil I’ve ever worked with accelerates trace and with this technique, that’s simply not an option at all. Sigh. To be in the natural category, I CAN use essential oils for fragrance, but I will have to figure out an all natural colorant like using spinach, paprika, cocoa, alkanet, wode,  activated charcoal, cinnamon, henna, or indigo. These are examples, there are other ways to naturally color soap but it’s limited as the lye solution will wreak havoc on colorants and turn a lot of things black or murky brown (ex: lavender tends to look like little mouse droppings in cold process soap so I don’t put it in the soap, only on top). I haven’t worked with all natural colorant in soap very much, so I don’t have jars of extracts of these food based items ready to go, and while making rapid extractions is possible it’s time consuming and not as effective as the slow extractions and neither is as vibrant as a mica or oxide. I have an idea that focuses around three shades of indigo and some activated charcoal but I’m not sure it would work the way I have planned. I guess all I can do is try. Alternatively, I could try to pick out a fragrance oil that isn’t totally gross and kind of fun, like satsuma or something else that’s fresh and fruity for a kid soap. My final option is to leave the soap unscented and use micas or oxides. I recently bought some new micas and oxides from Brambleberry and have all these new colors I can choose from. It seems ridiculous to add the stress of working with natural colorant to the mix on this soap
Well, I should be busy researching this, learning about this, planning this, and making this all through the whole month of August. The only other soaps I have planned are pumpkin pie soap (it needs a long cure time to be ready to give away in December for Christmas presents), possibly laundry soap, and citrus beer soap-using Wichita Brewing Company’s BerLemoner Wheat Beer. I’m looking forward to making beer soap and blogging about it. 
Wish me luck in the Soap Challenge! 

Soap Bars vs Shampoo Bars

Someone asked me recently why I don’t make shampoo bars anymore. The short answer to that is that I do make shampoo bars. Every one of my soaps has the ability to be utilized as a quality shampoo bar (provided you follow it up with an acidic rinse, like ACV, citric acid, or lemon juice, with water).


You see, I try to formulate each bar with enough high quality oils and fats to get your body clean but also provide luxurious lather in quantities necessary to work as a shampoo bar. In addition, I add clay to every bar in case you use it for shaving to add slip and decrease the chances of razor burn. My shaving bars are packed full of the stuff; that’s a different post.

If you’re interested in the ratios I use to formulate my bars on average, they generally look like this:

Olive, canola, sunflower, or peanut oil: 20%
Avocado, grapeseed, apricot kernel oil, or shea butter: 15%
Castor oil: 10%
Coconut or babassu oil: 25%
Lard or grass fed tallow: 30%

If I’m making a vegetarian bar, the lard portion will be replaced with a higher percentage of coconut oil, and then usually a combination of sunflower and avocado oils. This makes a softer bar which gets an 8-10 week cure time instead of four. I prefer not to do this because of additional time incurred, expense, and so on. I also believe it makes an inferior bar of soap. There are plenty of people who make vegetarian soaps but typically they use palm oil, which I refuse to do, and that helps harden their soap like lard does. Alternatively, some soap makers use products like sodium lactate or stearic acid to achieve a harder bar of soap when using a lot of oils. I don’t. I use a long cure time and patience. Well, impatience. Whatever.

As you can see, there’s room for variance in the ingredients I choose, but they rotate around stuff that’s relatively inexpensive and readily available for the most part. I can buy most of that stuff at my grocery store in a pinch, and off Amazon if desperate (although I prefer to use a great company called Bulk Apothecary for all of it-except the lard and tallow, which I can get at a local meat packaging plant that services a grass fed ranch; it’s about an hour’s drive, but you get 40lbs boxes of fat scraps to render so it’s worth the occasional trip…and there’s a nice winery on the way ;).

And that’s that. Rub a dub dub, suds head to toes in the tub.

The end result is a pretty versatile all in one bar, although I just call it soap. So if you ever want to wash your hair with my soap, go for it. To make the bars last, I suggest cutting them in half before you start using them so only half is exposed to water at a time and you get more life out of the soap, but it’s up to you. That works for the square bars, but not for the smaller round ones.

In addition? I recently made and sold spa salt bars. They are the exception to this. They won’t wash your hair. They are body only bars. Unique and fun soaps for the body, but body only spa bars. They just don’t make enough lather and the lather is too salty for your hair.

PS: The soap pictured is some coffee and cream bars I made up. The fragrance oil of the coffee and the vanilla caused the soap to trace into glue like batter in seconds, so my plan for swirled layers went out the window. It smells great, but I’m disappointed. Next time I’m buying vanilla from Brambleberry and splurging on coffee essential oil instead of fragrance oil. Meanwhile? This is how we learn. I know fragrance oils are bad news and to stick with pure essential oils. Why don’t I listen to myself?


Dirty laundry 

If you Google “DIY Laundry Soap”, you’ll get quite a few responses. One of my favorites is to take a bar of homemade soap, and a bit of washing soda, with a little borax, and process it all through the food processor until you have something roughly the texture of commercial laundry detergent but with definite biodegradable properties and awesome cleaning power. When combined with oxyclean, or sodium percarbonate, it whiten whites without bleach and brightens colors. 

I like to scent my soap, and therefore my laundry soap, with lemongrass essential oil. Even though very little, if any, fragrance stays in my clothes through the rinse and dryer cycles, lemongrass is a natural insect repellent and also has mood stabilizing effects, according to some reports. Since I also use this powder for cleaning my bathroom tub and sinks, my kitchen, and for getting tough pots and pans clean, a mood uplifting scent is a must. However, most recently I made my big batch of cleaning soap with a combination of citrus oils and it has a great, cheerful, citrus blast smell. When I processed some of it into “detergent” (lol, this is the furthest thing from commercial detergent!), that citrus scent really filled my kitchen and everything was sunny and cheerful! 

I use about 3/4 c each borax and washing soda for each bar of homemade soap.  My bars of homemade soap are average size for homemade soap but larger than a store bought bar: 3.5″ x 3″x .75″ on average, and weigh 5 ounces. It takes about 1/8th a cup to wash a small or medium load, and 1/4th a cup to wash a large load. For a load of J’s clothes after he’s been working in the yard in the dirt and mud, or has been out at the lake getting muddy and grimy, I’ve learned that the trick isn’t to use more soap, but to brush off all excess mud and dirt ahead of time outside to start. Then I put his clothes on warm wash instead of cool, and for the longest wash cycle possible. Sometimes it’s not about more soap, but more time agitating. Then I give it an extra rinse cycle so all the dirt rinses away. That usually does the trick. 

I store my laundry soap in two spots; in an old coffee can in my laundry room, with a 1/4 c measuring cup in the can for easy measure. Then, in the kitchen I keep some in a repurposed oxyclean container right beside my sink. I can’t emphasize enough how often I use a few tablespoons of this in a pan that has something baked on, in a skillet from the night before, or in a DIY messy pan (which are often filled with oil residue; go figure). Once you add some super hot water and let it soak until it’s cool enough to scrub, the entire mess just practically wipes clean. 

The trick is the combination of the ingredients. The soap and borax are excellent degreasers while the washing soda contains microscopic crystal edges which scrape and cut away at the surface of dried on food. When combined with extremely hot water, this soap mixture loosens dried on gunk and makes it easy to clean tough messes. It saves my skin almost every day. 

And those same properties work on my sinks and my bathtub, cutting through dirt and grime. It’s replaced Comet, which inevitably ruined my clothes and always got clogged or spilled all over the bathroom floor at inopportune times.

This is a piece of cake to make-if you don’t have your own homemade soap, you can even make it with a bar of Dr. Bronners soap, Fels Naphtha soap, or even Ivory. However, if you aren’t inclined, but you still want it, you can buy it in my Etsy shop. I sell quart bags, which is enough for 25 or so (1/4th cup) washes. More if you do smaller loads, less if you’ll be using it as a household cleaner as well. And I do recommend trying it as a household cleanser, particularly on stubborn pots and pans. 
If you’re interested in purchasing just the soap, it’s something I also sell, and at a little cheaper price than I do regular soap. This soap doesn’t have castor oil in it, or shea butter, or any other luxurious oils or butters. Just the basics for a good cheap soap. Coconut oil and lard. 

I want to bring up, in case anyone has qualms or questions about using lard in soap, that it’s very ethical to do so. I could write a whole blog post about that, and I did once. However, Marie over at Humblebee & Me sums things up very well right here. You should go read what she has to say if you have bad feelings about using lard. She’s a vegetarian with strong feelings about the matter, and I fully support her. 

Meanwhile, let’s wash our dirty laundry!