You can apply chemistry to make homemade shampoo. One of the biggest reasons to make your own shampoo is to avoid unwanted, potentially toxic chemicals. Another reason you might want to make your own shampoo is so you can customize the formulation for your hair’s needs and your preference for fragrance (or lack of fragrance). Here’s a recipe for a gentle vegetable-based shampoo. It’s similar to my earlier shampoo recipe except this one uses potassium hydroxide instead of lye, which produces a shampoo that lathers better and rinses more easily. Mix the shampoo in a well-ventilated room or outdoors and be sure to read all of the safety precautions on the ingredients. Readers have recommended triethanolamine or diethanolamine in place of sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. Choose the formulation that works best for you.
Homemade Shampoo Ingredients
- 2 lb 10 oz olive oil
- 1 lb 7 oz of solid-type vegetable shortening
- 1 lb coconut oil
- 14.4 oz potassium hydroxide
- 2 pints water
- 1-1/2 oz glycerine (glycerol)
- 1/2 oz ethanol
- 1-1/2 oz castor oil
- essential oils (optional), such as peppermint, rosemary, lavender, for fragrance and therapeutic properties
Let’s Make Shampoo!
- In a large pan, mix together the olive oil, shortening, and coconut oil.
- In a well-ventilated area, preferably wearing gloves and eye protection in case of accidents, mix the potassium hydroxide and water. Use a glass or enameled container. This is an exothermic reaction, so heat will be produced.
- Warm the oils to 95°F-98°F and allow the potassium hydroxide solution to cool to the same temperature. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to set both containers into a large sink or pan full of water that is at the correct temperature.
- When both mixtures are at the proper temperature, stir the solution into the oils. The mixture will turn opaque and may darken.
- When the mixture has a creamy texture, stir in the glycerine, alcohol, castor oil, and any fragrance oils or colorants.
- You have a couple of options here. You can pour the shampoo into soap molds and allow it to harden. To use this shampoo, either lather it with your hands and work it into your hair or else shave flakes into hot water to liquefy it.
- The other option is to make liquid shampoo, which involves adding more water to your shampoo mixture and bottling it.
You can make your homemade shampoo pearlescent if you add a little glycol distearate, a natural wax derived from stearic acid. The tiny wax particles reflect light, causing the effect.