How to make your own solid shampoo for men

We estimate that there are sixty four million shampoo bottles thrown out in the UK each year thanks to men washing their hair.

Our goal at Tidy is to help get that number to zero.

We believe that by offering our Tidy solid shampoo for men in an under-served market, we can help convince at least some men to switch to bottle-less shampoo.

We are realistic though. We know that even if we could convince every man in the UK to switch to a solid shampoo, we'd not be able to produce enough bars, fast enough to meet everyone's needs (currently...).

So with that in mind, we're publishing our solid shampoo recipe here, free for the world to see and use, in the hope that while we can't make enough for everyone right now maybe we can accelerate towards our goal by helping folks make their own.

The more ways men have to access solid shampoo, the better.

So, read on to see what you'll need to make your own solid shampoo, and what the step by step process is for making them.

 

Ingredients

To make a single batch of 5 handmade Tidy style solid shampoo bars for men you will need the following ingredients:

  • 150g organic olive oil
  • 60g organic coconut oil
  • 30g organic sweet almond oil
  • 20g organic jojoba oil
  • 10g organic shea butter
  • 115g distilled water
  • 39g NaOH (Sodium hydroxide, in powder form)
  • 3ml sodium lactate (plant derived)
  • 5g organic peppermint essential oil
  • 2.5g organic tea tree essential oil.

 

Equipment

You will also need the following bits of equipment (some of which you may already have in your kitchen / home):

  • safety goggles
  • safety gloves
  • an apron to protect your clothes
  • one large stainless steel mixing bowl
  • one ~1.5 litre, heavy bottomed stainless steel cooking pot, ideally with a pouring spout (something like this milk pan)
  • a silicone mould for 5 bars (something like this baking mould)
  • glass stirring rods x2
  • a glass beaker for measuring the sodium hydroxide power
  • weighing scales that will weigh grams and millilitres
  • a wand blender
  • silicone spatulas x2
  • plenty of workspace to have everything to hand as you need it.

 

How to make a batch of Tidy solid shampoo bars for men

⚠️ IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION ⚠️

Making shampoo is not a you-might-blow-your-house-up kind of risky endeavour. But it is a you-might-cause-yourself-some-serious-damage-if-you-are-not-careful type of undertaking.

If you're not comfortable handling corrosive chemicals or measuring and controlling how said chemicals are mixed, please do not try this at home.

We will not be held responsible for any damage or injury caused when attempting to make your own shampoo. We're all adults* so please act reasonably.

* if you're not an adult reading this and thinking that you'd like to have a go at making your own solid shampoo: please seek the assistance of a responsible adult.

 

Back to how to make solid shampoo bars

As the warning above makes clear: this process can be dangerous and so you need to read through the all of these instructions and really understand the steps before you start. Timing is critical at several points, so be prepared.

You need to make sure you have the plenty of uninterrupted time to complete this process in one sitting. Give yourself at least an hour the first time you do it to get a feel for how long it might take you.

 

Making solid shampoo step 1: making the lye

The first stage in the process is to make the lye that will be mixed with the fats to make shampoo.

This is the first potentially dangerous step in the shampoo making process, so be very careful about how you do this.

You should wear protective goggles, gloves and clothing while handling the sodium hydroxide and the resulting lye. You should make your lye in a very well ventilated area.

You will need to put your distilled water in a the stainless steel mixing bowl and then add the sodium hydroxide. DO NOT do this the other way around as the chemical reaction between water and sodium hydroxide is highly reactive.

Once added very gently stir the power into the water using a glass stirring rod. The bowl will heat up as the sodium hydroxide dissolves, so make sure it is on a heat resistant surface.

As the sodium hydroxide dissolves the water will become cloudy, making it hard to see if all the powder has dissolved. Once you think it has (after 2-3 minutes of gentle stirring) carefully tip the bowl to see if there are any remaining solids at the bottom of the bowl. It's important that all the sodium hydroxide is fully dissolved to ensure the saponification process will work once mixed with the fats we'll add shortly.

One all the solids have dissolved, leave the lye to one side while you complete the next step in the process. Make sure it will not be knocked over or disturbed. Lye is highly corrosive and can burn your skin and eyes and damage surfaces.

 

Making solid shampoo step 2: making the fats liquid

Next you will need to mix the following fats in your cooking pot ready to be melted:

  • olive oil
  • almond oil
  • jojoba oil
  • coconut oil
  • shea butter.

Once all the ingredients are added, place the pot over the lowest possible heat on your hob and gently stir the mix with a glass stirring rod until all the solids have melted and everything is very thoroughly combined.

Be as gentle as possible while doing this to avoid getting any air bubbles in the mix.

When we do this stage of the process making our Tidy solid shampoo bars we turn the heat off before the last of the solids have melted, allowing the residual heat to complete the melting process. This helps reduce our energy use and lower the environmental impact of our shampoo making.

Once all the fats are liquid and well mixed, you're ready for the next stage in the process.

 

Making solid shampoo step 3: adding the sodium lactate

It's at this stage that we add in our sodium lactate to help the shampoo bars harden while they cure.

Our shampoo formula has a higher than average amount of super fat in it to add conditioning properties to our Tidy solid shampoo bars. They wash your hair really well and mildly condition it too. One side effect of this is that our bars are not as naturally hard as some others may be, so the sodium lactate helps to stop them being so soft that they fall apart while being used.

 

Making solid shampoo step 4: mix the fats and lye to make shampoo

The specifics of the next step in the process were developed by trial and error over the time we've been making Tidy solid shampoo.

Basically you mix the lye and the melted fats together. 

How you mix them is important though; don't mix enough and the chemical reaction required to consume the lye and make shampoo won't work and your shampoo won't be usable. Mix too much and the shampoo will harden too soon and your shampoo won't be useable. This stage requires just the right amount of mixing to work.

You will be handling the lye again, so will need your protective equipment for this stage.

Add the lye to your liquid fats. Be sure to scrape as much of the lye from your bowl as possible to reduce waste. Carefully place the bowl that had the lye in it in a sink or out of the way, remembering that its contents are caustic…

Then quickly start the blending process.

Do not leave the lye and fat mix unattended at any point once mixed. Once they are added together the chemical reaction that causes the shampoo to form has started, so you're racing against the clock now to make the process work.

Blend the lye and fat mix for one minute with the lowest speed on your wand blender. Ensure that you keep the head of the blender low in the mix at all times so you're not aerating the solution. You don't want bubbles in your shampoo bars.

At the end of the one minute, stop blending, don't stir or mix again. Leave it to stand for one minute.

Repeat this process three times: blend for a minute. Rest for a minute.

From the first blend you should see your mixture start to thicken and change colour to a custard yellow hue.

After the third minute's rest, blend again for a further minute, and then rest for a minute for the forth time. During this resting minute add the essential oils.

At the end of the fourth minute's rest, blend the mixture one last time for a final minute. Make sure to incorporate the essential oils into the mix in this final blend.

Now move fast.

 

Making solid shampoo step 5: pouring your shampoo into your mould

After five cycles of alternating between blending and resting your mixture, it will have thickened significantly. This is the start of the process that will lead to your shampoo bars curing and becoming solid over the next 6 weeks.

After the fifth and final blend you need to move fast and pour your mix into the moulds you are using to cure them.

Clean as much of the mix as you can off your wand blender (waste is the enemy) and place it somewhere for cleaning later. Again, remember that the mix could burn, so leave the wand somewhere safe, like in a sink.

Pour the mixture into the moulds as evenly as possible to ensure they will all cure at the same rate.

You should get 5 bars if you followed the measurements above and are using the suggested mould. Make sure to scrape out as much of the mix as possible with your spatula.

Be careful not to spill any of the mixture on your hands or surfaces as the lye has not been consumed yet and could still burn.

Try to ensure you pour without introducing bubbles to any of the bars.

For a smooth finish, gently shake your mould to more evenly distribute the mix and smooth over with a spatula.

 

Making solid shampoo step 6: curing your solid shampoo

Now move the mould to a suitable dark, covered place in your home where you'll be able to leave them out of direct light and keep them dust and dirt free for the next 6 weeks. We cure our solid shampoo bars in a cupboard on some purpose built shelves.

This process is the "cold press" process, so it will take 6 weeks for the bars to fully harden and be safe to use as shampoo.

You can take your bars out of their moulds as soon as you feel they are hard enough to remove without squashing them too much. We take our bars out of their moulds after 2 weeks and leave them to complete the curing process on plastic trays. Be careful where you put them to cure as they may react with some surfaces ruining the batch and your shelves / worktop...

Remember to wash and dry your hands thoroughly before and after handling the bars while they’re curing.

We turn our Tidy bars every couple of weeks to let the tops and bottoms dry more evenly too.

 

Your finished solid shampoo bars

After 4 weeks of curing the bars may be safe to use. We leave ours for 6 weeks to be sure and to give them that extra time to firm up just a little bit more.

To store your finished bars layer them on waxed paper, or wrap them in unused coffee filter papers (that’s what we use to wrap our bars) or something similar.

How long the bars last after curing depends on how they’re wrapped and stored. They need to be kept in a cool, dry place out of direct sun light. We recommend using Tidy bars within 6 months of purchase. Your bars may last a little longer.

 

Let us know how you get on!

So there you have it, the recipe and method for making your own Tidy solid shampoo bars. The keys to our kingdom, so to speak. Do have a go making your own if you’re comfortable handling the chemicals. It’s not a scary as you might first think, as long as you’re careful.

One more legal note to be aware of: in the UK you can make and use soaps and shampoos for personal use, and gift them to friends and family without any certification of safety. But you must not sell them without getting your recipe certified as safe by a third party cosmetics lab.

If you do have a go at making your own solid shampoo bars, let us know. We'd love to hear how it went, how your bars turned out and if you'd make more in the future.

One batch of 5 bars means at least 5 fewer shampoo bottles being used.

We think that's Tidy.

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