Hot Plate

As of early 2022 I’ve added a hot plate to my equipment lineup. The model I have is a Corning PC-35; I purchased it used for $50CAD. My decision making process was basically “I’ve been looking for a hot plate; this one is available on Kijiji for a reasonable price and the online reviews aren’t awful”. If you’re wondering why I didn’t buy a different one, it’s because it wasn’t available locally for $50 🤷🏻‍♀️

It can heat from 0–510°C (🔥), which is far hotter than I can imagine needing. If I set it to just a few notches about “low” it heats to about 60–70°C, which is perfect for making emulsions without needing a water bath. I use my hot plate all the time, for all kinds of formulations. I do wish it was a bit bigger, but at the same time I’m glad it doesn’t take up too much space while I’m working, or while it’s in storage. I definitely recommend keeping an eye out on second-hand listings to see you if you can pick up something similar.

Micro Mini Mixer (Badger Paint Mixer)

This adorable little mixer is a Badger Air-Brush Co. 121 Paint Mixer; I suspect Badger has discontinued them as they are unavailable most places I checked. Thankfully Lotion Crafter, where I bought mine, still has them!

I used this gadget to mix small batches of things that need a thorough stirring, but aren’t being emulsified—this is usually blending pigments/micas into base ingredients when making colour cosmetics. It isn’t as powerful or as large as the Mini Mixer I use, and I don’t tend to use them interchangeably; I either need the small head and medium blending speed of the Micro, or I need the larger head and strong kick of the Mini.

Dust mask

If you are working with finely powdered ingredients in a way where they will become airborne, a good dust mask is a must to prevent you from inhaling those powders.

The three biggest places a dust mask becomes necessary are:

  1. If you are blending powders together in a coffee grinder or some other high-speed blender (typically making colour cosmetics or powdered face masks). While the ingredients may not be particularly inclined to be airborne on their own, whipping them up in a coffee grinder can really send them flying when you remove the lid.
  2. If you are working with solid surfactants. They are very lightweight and floaty, and will drift into the air and into your airways as soon as you open the bag or tub they are store in.
  3. If you are working with other ultra-light, ultra-fine powdered ingredients. Much like solid surfactants, silica microspheres, nylon 12, and Silica Dimethyl Silylate (SDS) are incredibly lightweight and will float around the room as soon as you open the bag or jar. Make sure you pay attention to any information from your supplier regarding the use of a dust mask, and if you notice powder poof-ing up and floating around when you open a container, go put on your dust mask.

I recommend choosing a dust mask that is comfortable and seals well. You’re a lot more likely to wear it if it’s comfortable, and what’s the point if it doesn’t seal well? I have the Ellipse Low Profile Dust Respirator (USA / Canada), and it’s fantastic. I don’t recommend a disposable mask.

If we need to wear a dust mask while working with these ingredients, why don’t we wear one while we use the finished product?

Because the finished product contains some sort of liquid ingredient that weighs the powders down. Powdered makeup and face masks will contain a small amount of liquid oil, shampoo bars will contain oils and liquid surfactants, etc.

pH meter

A pH meter is a digital electronic device that can be used to measure the pH of our formulations. An electric/digital pH meter is significantly more accurate than pH strips, so if you’re interested in working with pH-sensitive ingredients (some actives, most natural preservatives) I highly recommend investing in a pH meter over pH strips. Strips are generally fine for determining if something is acidic or basic, but if you are working with a preservative that needs to be used below 5.5 or some other precise number, you’ll want to use a meter.

The pH meter I have is made by Apera, model number AI311 (USA / Canada). It is accurate to 0.01pH with a range of -2 to 16, which more than covers the pH range I work within. It came with calibration and storage fluid (a 3M KCL solution), though I have had to purchase more of the storage solution (USA / Canada) since purchasing the meter. I purchased this pH meter back in 2017 and I’ve been happy with it.

When measuring the pH of your formulations you’ll want to create a 10% dilution and test that; learn more about why here.

I’ve made a video on how to test and adjust pH using this pH meter; it’s a patron-exclusive for $10 and up patrons.

All-Purpose Scale

In the world of making, an “all-purpose” scale will be a scale that balances precision with a relatively high maximum weight, at a price point that works for you. It is unlikely to be truly all-purpose if you make a wide variety of projects in all kinds of batch sizes (5g eyeliner to 2kg soap and everything in between!), but it’ll be your 80% of the time scale.

I recommend precision down to at least 0.1g, and a maximum weight above 500g. As the maximum weight goes up and the precision improves, the price will increase.

I started with a Smart Weigh Digital Pro Pocket Scale (USA / Canada). This little scale worked well but tended to break within a year, so after I went through a few of those, I upgraded to something more expensive.

My workhorse scale is the My Weigh iBALANCE 700 (USACanada), and it has been going strong since 2017. It is precise to 0.1g and has a maximum weight of 700g. It also plugs in, so it doesn’t shut off automatically after a certain period of time, and that’s amazing. This scale works for the vast majority of the things I create. I use a precision scale for tiny batches and ingredients that need to be measured very precisely, and I use a less precise kitchen scale (1g accuracy, 5kg maximum weight) to make soap.

To learn more about what to consider when purchasing a scale, please read this.

Coffee Grinder

Coffee grinders are really useful for creating colour cosmetics and powdered products like powdered cleansers. You will need a dedicated, DIY-only coffee grinder—don’t try to make your kitchen one do double-duty! It’s pretty much impossible to get a coffee grinder clean enough that you won’t end up with shimmery or sudsy coffee.

I like blade grinders for DIYing; no need for a fancy burr one. My favourite grinder is one from Krups, but I also have some from Braun that have been great.

To clean your coffee grinder I recommend running some rice through it and then dusting it out with a dry brush. If needed, wipe out with a damp paper towel. Resist the urge to try to clean it like a blender by running hot water and soap through it—coffee grinders aren’t designed for wet things and that’s a great way to destroy it (I’ve done it!). You can wash the lid with hot water and dish detergent.

When grinding things up in a coffee grinder I highly recommend sandwiching a piece of cling film/plastic wrap between the lid and the grinding dish. You’ll still be able to run the grinder, but the cling film will remove the lid from the working area of the grinder, which is brilliant for making smaller batches of things.