Today I’m sharing a formulation for a Super Simple Natural Foaming Hand Wash. You’ll need just five ingredients, and I’ve tried to be really conscientious of global ingredient availability so hopefully you can make this hand wash no matter where in the world you live. I’ve also kept things all-natural, and have worked to make sure all the ingredients interplay perfectly so the making part is really simple. I’m pretty proud of this—let’s dive in!
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Distilled water and vegetable glycerin form the bulk of this hand wash. Glycerin is a great, inexpensive, readily available humectant, and at 30% it really helps boost preservative performance by reducing water activity.
The surfactant blend features two very accessible surfactants; coco glucoside and Cocamidopropyl Betaine. When I hear from readers that they have limited ingredient availability, they often list these two surfactants as some of the only ones they can buy. They are both lovely surfactants and when combined we get a gorgeous, rich, gentle lather.
And our last ingredient is the preservative; Lonza’s Geogard Ultra™. The INCI for this preservative is Gluconolactone (and) Sodium Benzoate (and) Calcium Gluconate, and it is sold under quite a lot of different names like NeoDefend™, Gluconolactone SB, and Nat Defense (among others, I’m sure). It’s an ECOCERT natural preservative that I’ve found for sale in a lot of countries. It’s a dry powder that is water-soluble but takes a while to dissolve. As it is not heat-sensitive you can gently heat it with the water in the formulation to help it dissolve, or you can just cover it and leave it for a few hours. As with many natural preservatives, it is most effective in an acidic pH range; from looking at the primary surfactant (pretty darn basic coco glucoside) you might think this formulation would need some acid to lower the pH, but it comes out to ~4.75 on its own. Nice and easy!
In the interests of “super simple”, that’s it—which means there’s nothing in here that smells pretty, though you could modify the formulation to include something if you wanted to! The easiest option would be swapping 20–30% of the distilled water for a hydrosol. If you’d prefer to use an essential oil, I’d reduce the water by 0.5% and whisk 0.5% essential oil (or fragrance oil) into the coco glucoside before proceeding with the formulation. Make sure you follow maximum usage rates for a rinse-off product for whatever essential oil or fragrance oil you choose. 0.5% in a rinse-off product should be fine for most common essential oils, but it’s always a good idea to know your essential oils and double-check 😊
Autumn 2023: Formula Botanica is offering a free formulation masterclass where you can learn even more about formulation! You can sign up here 🙂 I highly recommend it, especially if you're wanting to see how Formula Botanica works.
Part of the simplicity of this formulation is its foamer-top bottle presentation. Formulations designed for foamer top bottles don’t require thickening, and thickening surfactant products naturally can be challenging. Different combinations of gums and surfactants can be quite cantankerous, especially if you start incorporating essential oils. Leaving the mixture water-thin means we have the luxury of not worrying about any of that!
Making this is very simple; it’s a stir-and-let-it-sit formulation. I’ve included pH testing in the instructions, but if you don’t have a pH meter I’m pretty confident the pH will land within the 3–6 range required for our preservative if you make the formulation as written. Package the hand wash in a foamer top bottle, and you’re done!
Relevant links & further reading
- Vegetable Glycerin in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Geogard Ultra in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Coco Glucoside in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Cocamidopropyl Betaine in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- pH meter in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- pH measurement in cosmetic lab: why we dilute samples? from Skin Chakra
- How to adjust the pH of your cosmetic products from Skin Chakra
- Preserving Botanical Formulations Naturally – Part 1 from Botanical Formulations
- Preserving Botanical Formulations Naturally – Part 2 from Botanical Formulations
- Everything you wanted to know about Natural Preservatives from Formula Botanica
- How can I make a pump-top surfactant formula work in a foamer top bottle (or vice versa)?
- Can I add a surfactant to this mostly fat-based formulation (or vice versa)?
- How much essential oil can I add to this recipe?
- Can I add a carrier oil to this formulation?
- What’s up with hydrosols, distillates, and floral waters?
- Other hand wash formulations:
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Super Simple Natural Foaming Hand Wash
108.75g | 43.5% distilled water
Weigh the glycerin and Geogard Ultra™ into a beaker. Whisk to combine.
Add the coco glucoside and Cocamidopropyl Betaine; whisk to combine.
Add the distilled water and gently stir to combine. Cover the mixture and leave it to dissolve.
Once the mixture is uniform, you’re done!
Before packaging, we’ll quickly test the pH to ensure it’s correct. Create a 10% dilution by weighing 2g product and 18g distilled water into a small bowl or beaker and whisk to combine (wondering why?). Check the pH with your pH meter (I have this one [USA / Canada]). Depending on the shape of your bowl/beaker you may need to tilt it in order to fully submerge the sensor on your pH meter. The pH should come out to right around 4.75, which is great—no need to adjust. (Please read this article to learn more about pH adjusting.)
Package the handwash in a bottle with a foamer top; the foamer top is a must. Refer to the list of further reading for an article containing more information. I used a cube 250mL foamer bottle from Yellow Bee for my 250g batch, and that worked really well.
Use as you’d use any hand wash. Enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this foaming 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 may 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 250g.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this formulation, including why they’re included and what you can substitute them with, please visit the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia. It doesn’t have everything in it yet, but there’s lots of good information there! If I have not given a specific substitution suggestion in this list please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- If you make any changes to this formulation beyond incorporating a hydrosol or essential oil I recommend testing the pH and adjusting if neccessary. This is especially true if you change the surfactant(s).
- If you’d like to learn more about the surfactants used and compare them to ones you might already have so you can make substitutions, check out this page and read this FAQ.
- Other glucosides would be my first choice for swapping out the coco glucoside; remember to check and adjust the pH if you’re making changes.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart.
- It would be really easy to use Liquid Germall™ Plus instead; use it at 0.5% and add 1% distilled water.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
The foamer top bottle was gifted by YellowBee.