August 14, 2014
Wash Your Hair With Homemade Shampoo Bars - Photo by Jan Berry (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Jan Berry/The Nerdy Farm Wife

Shampoo bars are a solid soap, specially designed for washing hair. By utilizing the hot process soap-making method in a slow cooker, you can create your own in just a few hours.

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces olive oil (34.5 percent)
  • 8 ounces coconut oil (27.5 percent)
  • 5 ounces sunflower oil (17 percent)
  • 4 ounces castor oil (14 percent)
  • 2 ounces jojoba oil (7 percent)
  • 10 ounces distilled water (or cool herbal tea)
  • 3.91 ounces lye (sodium hydroxide)

Preparation
Using a digital scale, weigh 10 ounces distilled water (or cool herbal tea) in a heat-proof plastic or stainless-steel container. (Never use aluminum for soap making as it reacts badly with lye.)

Wearing proper safety gear for soaping (gloves, goggles and long sleeves), carefully measure and pour the lye into the water. Stir with a heavy-duty plastic or silicone spoon until dissolved.

This mixture will get hot, so use caution when stirring. The chemical reaction will also produce strong fumes for a few moments, which you should avoid breathing in. I like to work in my kitchen sink, where any potential spills will be contained and a nearby window provides continuous fresh air.

Set the lye mixture aside to cool for about 10 minutes. Make sure it’s in a safe place where pets and children can’t reach.

In a small saucepan, melt the coconut oil until liquefied. Add the warm coconut oil, along with the remaining oils to your slow cooker, turned on low heat.

Wash Your Hair With Homemade Shampoo Bars - Photo by Jan Berry (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Jan Berry/The Nerdy Farm Wife

Stir the lye solution into the oils, then use an immersion blender in short bursts, until trace is reached. (“Trace” means the mixture is thick enough to hold an outline, or tracing, when you drizzle soap batter across the surface of itself.) This should take about 2 to 3 minutes.

Wash Your Hair With Homemade Shampoo Bars - Photo by Jan Berry (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Jan Berry/The Nerdy Farm Wife

Cover the slow cooker with a lid, and let it cook for about an hour. Your soap will change appearance while cooking. It will roll up some at the sides and turn more translucent or gel-like. Some soap makers like to stir a few times during the process, while others don’t disturb it at all.

While the soap is cooking, prepare your molds. You can use a 3-pound soap mold for this recipe or even a glass loaf pan, such as one you’d use for baking bread. Be sure to line your mold with parchment or freezer paper, shiny side up, to prevent sticking.

Wash Your Hair With Homemade Shampoo Bars - Photo by Jan Berry (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Jan Berry/The Nerdy Farm Wife

Once the hour has passed, stir the mixture. It will be thick. Next, add any desired essential oils for scent. For the batch shown, I used about 30 drops each of lavender and peppermint essential oils along with 10 drops of tea tree oil. For a stronger scent, use more.

Wash Your Hair With Homemade Shampoo Bars - Photo by Jan Berry (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Jan Berry/The Nerdy Farm Wife

Spoon the mixture into the prepared mold, pressing firmly as you go. Be careful, as the mixture is still hot. Cooked (aka hot-process) soaps will normally have a more rustic, uneven look to them.

Wash Your Hair With Homemade Shampoo Bars - Photo by Jan Berry (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Jan Berry/The Nerdy Farm Wife

Allow the soap to harden in the molds overnight. The next day, unmold and slice into bars—you should be able to get seven or eight out of the batch.While you can use them right away, they will harden and last longer if you let them cure an additional few weeks in the open air.

Tips for making shampoo bars:

  • Instead of plain water, you can use herbal teas or infusions, such as chamomile, rosemary, mint, roses, calendula and lavender. Make sure the tea is room temperature or cooler before adding lye to avoid overheating and a potential lye volcano effect.

  • Coconut, sunflower and olive oils can usually be found at your local grocery store, but if they don’t have a high turnover rate, freshness might be an issue. If you don’t have any luck finding oil at the grocery, you can purchase oil from several online soap-supply vendors.
  • Castor oil can usually be found in pharmacies or health-food stores. Its purpose in the recipe is to add lather.
  • Jojoba oil is an excellent conditioner for both skin and hair and is especially effective in shampoo recipes. However, it’s a little trickier to find than other oils. If your local health-food store doesn’t carry any, try an online source, such as www.brambleberry.com or www.mountainroseherbs.com.
  • To find lye locally, check the plumbing section of small hardware or feed stores. Make sure the bottle says “sodium hydroxide” and nothing else. Before purchasing, shake the bottle a bit. If you hear big clumps bumping around inside, the lye is past its prime and won’t measure correctly. Don’t buy or use clumpy lye. You can also buy lye online from www.brambleberry.com or www.brushymountainbeefarm.com.
  • Use a separate slow cooker for soap-making than one that you use for food. If you don’t have an old one you can use, check with relatives or thrift stores.

 

Wash Your Hair With Homemade Shampoo Bars - Photo by Jan Berry (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Jan Berry/The Nerdy Farm Wife

Tips for using shampoo bars:

  • To use, wet both hair and shampoo bar thoroughly then either rub the bar directly against your head (better for shorter hair) or lather up your hands, then rub through your scalp and hair. Rinse well with water.

  • Try cutting each bar in thirds or fourths to create “shampoo sticks” to make them easier to handle and use.
  • Many people find a clarifying final rinse of vinegar and water helpful. Start with a 50-50 ratio of apple cider vinegar to water and adjust according to your hair type.
  • It may take a week or two for your hair to adjust to using a shampoo bar. Give it a fair try before deciding whether you like it. If you decide that it’s not your cup of tea, the bar can still be used as a general all-purpose body or shaving soap.

Make more of Jan’s body product recipes:

Jan Berry, The Craft Hub

About Jan Berry
Jan is a goat-chasing, soap-making, homeschooling farm wife who loves vintage tea cups, word games and turning weeds into beautiful things. She joins the Craft Hub each month with DIY body care recipes and projects. She can also be found at her blog, The Nerdy Farm Wife.

 

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