I find I’m quite delighted with hand washes recently, though for a rather odd reason: I use quite a lot of them, so I can make them frequently. This rapid make-test-make-more process means there’s lots of room for trying new things and learning what happens when I use one thickener instead of another, or a new surfactant blend. Make one, reflect on it for a few weeks as I use it up, and make another! Compared to lip balm, where rapid iteration can quickly leave you with four lifetime’s worth of product, this process seems quite sensible with hand wash (and hasn’t drowned me in hand wash… yet…).
This hand wash is a bit of a hybrid of a couple things I’ve done before. The surfactant blend (SCI, Amphosol CG, and Coco Glucoside) is one I’ve used in other hand washes, while using glycol distearate and guar gum as part of the thickening is something I used in last month’s Silky Volumizing Conditioning Shampoo. I really enjoyed the slip and suds of the surfactant combination in my Green Tea Foaming Hand Wash, and I loved the creamy feel of the conditioning shampoo—and so a hybrid is born.
Because this hand wash features less surfactants and a larger water phase the glycol distearate and guar gum didn’t do all the thickening; a touch of salt wraps that up. I did try a version with no guar gum and all salt thickening, but found all three to be necessary to get the texture I wanted. If you prefer to use Crothix you can do that as well, dropping the guar gum and the salt (or just the salt) as you please.
Our essential oil blend is a bright, herbal-yet-sweet combination of calming lavender and crisp spruce essential oils. You are certainly welcome to use other essential oils, or a fragrance oil, but I do quite like the lavender spruce blend and it fits this hand wash in nicely with the other lavender spruce projects we’ve been making.
I sped the making of this along with my MiniPro Mixer from Lotion Crafter—it made the biggest different incorporating the surfactant paste into the water phase. It definitely created some lather, but it also meant the hand wash was done in a fraction of the time. That trade-off was more than worth it for me, but if you don’t have one it’s certainly not a deal breaker. Simply leave the surfactant paste in the water phase to soak and soften, covering it to keep the water loss to a minimum.
The finished hand wash is decidedly creamy, beautifully silky, and quite gentle. It has the loveliest slip and I find I’m sniffing my hands a lot more than usual to catch extra whiffs of lavender-sprucey goodness. Yum!
Lavender Spruce Creamy Hand Wash
Cool down phase
0.4g | 0.2% lavender essential oil
0.6g | 0.3% spruce essential oil
1g | 0.5% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada) (or other broad spectrum preservative of choice at recommended usage rate [why?])
Salt, (NaCl) as needed (I used 4g)
I opted to make this over direct (low!) heat rather than using a water bath as I’ve had difficulty in the past melting SCI and BTMS-50 in water baths. You are certainly welcome to use a water bath if you like, and if you join me in doing this over direct heat, PLEASE keep that heat low, and keep an extremely close eye on your concoction as you work! Direct heat is nowhere near as forgiving as a water bath and you can burn things if you aren’t paying attention.
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a wide, flat-bottomed sauté pan.
Weigh the SCI and Amphosol CG into a small saucepan. Weigh the water phase ingredients into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or beaker, and weigh the oil phase into a second small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or beaker. Place the water phase and oil phase in your prepared water bath to warm them up and keep them ready for action.
Place the saucepan with the surfactants over low heat and stir as they soften, melt, and become uniform. Once you have a smooth, white paste with no visible bits of SCI, add Coco Glucoside. Stir to combine. Once that mixture is smooth and uniform, add the oil phase. Stir to combine. When your mixture is uniform, add the water phase. At this point I used the MiniPro Mixer from Lotion Crafter to blend it all together (more on that here). By keeping the blending disc below the surface I was able to prevent too much lather from working up, and the mixer sped up the dissolving process immensely! If you don’t have a small blender or mixer you can just leave the mixture over low heat until the surfactant paste softens up and dissolves (I recommend covering the mixture to reduce evaporation).
When the heated mixture is uniform, remove it from the heat and stir it as it cools—somewhat constantly initially, but as it gets cooler you can reduce the frequency. Once it has reached room temperature, stir in the essential oil and preservative. Stir in the salt, one gram at a time, waiting a minute or two between additions, until you’ve reached a consistency you like. I found 4g was great; 6g was a bit much.
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this hand wash contains water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. Even with a preservative this project is likely to eventually spoil as our kitchens are not sterile laboratories, so in the event you notice any change in colour, scent, or texture, chuck it out and make a fresh batch.
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the recipe, you will get a different final product than I did.
- As I’ve provided this recipe in percentages as well as grams you can easily calculate it to any size using a simple spreadsheet as I’ve explained in this post. As written in grams this recipe will make 200g.
- A different liquid non-ionic or anionic surfactant would work in place of the coco glucoside
- I wouldn’t recommend xanthan gum in place of guar gum—it’s quite boogery
- If you don’t have glycol distearate or guar gum you can leave them both out, replace them with more water, and thicken the entire lot with Crothix