I’m a bit hooked on making hand washes these days. They’re fun and easy, and something I’ll likely end up using 10–20 times (or more!) in a day, depending on what that day looks like. So, unlike something like lip balm or lotion, which tends to take a while to use up, I feel like I absolutely torch through hand wash. Some people would consider that a problem, but I’m just stoked that I get to make more things! This Vanilla Spice Hand Wash is all kinds of lovely, with creamy, fluffy bubbles, and makes all the hand washing I do a pleasure. Plus, who doesn’t need hand wash? It’s an awesome homemade version of something that’s usually purchased at a store, making it a great gift!
This hand wash is based off of one I made this summer, when I first brought home a shiny new bag of sodium coco sulfate. In order to acquaint myself with it I dissolved/melted it into a bunch of different liquid surfactants in different ratios to create a bunch of different surfactant pastes, and then dissolved those sudsy blobs into water and created a bunch of different hand/body washes, making for very fun showers for the next few weeks as I tested everything. This hand wash is based off of one of those experiments, combining sodium coco sulfate with Cocamidopropyl Betaine to create a fluffy and bubbly surfactant blend that we’ll transform into a Vanilla Spice Hand wash.
For the essential oil blend you’ll notice we’re using vanilla oleoresin instead of benzoin, and that’s because vanilla oleoresin is water soluble, so it works really well here! It’s also because benzoin resinoid is really, really viscous, and I was concerned about it incorporating evenly. To spice up the vanilla I’ve added a touch of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg essential oils—yum!
One of the things I was really excited about this summer was thickening with salt, so we’re doing that here. It works like a charm and doesn’t require anything special, which has to be my favourite combination (cheap + easy + effective, basically haha). The final product has a lovely consistency, too—silky and a touch gel-like without being wobbly (and it’s definitely not slimy!).
The final hand wash is almost too lovely to give away—fragrant with light spice notes, lovely lather, and silky smooth. It’s wonderful and you should definitely make some 🙂
Vanilla Spice Hand Wash
1:1 citric acid solution, as needed
2020 update: Given the irritation potential for this essential oil blend, I’d recommend using a vanilla spice fragrance oil rather than the essential oil blend. Please refer to supplier documentation for maximum usage rates for the particular fragrance oil you’re using when used in rinse-off products; 0.1–0.2% should be more than enough to adequately scent the product.
Salt (NaCl), as needed
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a small saucepan. Weigh the small heat-resistant glass measuring cup you’ll be using and note that weight.
Weigh the surfactants (the SCS and the Cocamidopropyl Betaine) into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to melt everything through; this will take 15–20 minutes, and stirring it will definitely speed things along.
Once you have a uniform, smooth surfactant paste, add the water and vegetable glycerin, gently mashing the paste with a flexible silicone spatula or fork to help break it down a bit. Leave that in the water bath to dissolve, checking occasionally to ensure the water bath does not simmer dry. You can help this part along by gently mashing the paste to help it break down, or you can leave it to do its thing while you do other things; either way, it’ll take at least 40 minutes. I’ve tried it both ways, and I think I prefer just leaving it alone and getting some chores done rather than hovering and mashing.
While the paste is dissolving, do a quick bit of addition to figure out how much your concoction should weigh when you remove it from the heat. In grams, that’ll be the weight of your measuring cup (as noted earlier), plus 247.5. Note that number, we’ll be using it in the next step.
When the mixture is uniform and there are no surfactant blobs left, remove the measuring cup from the water bath. Weigh the entire thing; thanks to evaporation there will be a discrepancy between the number from the previous step and the number on the scale—add some more distilled water to make up the difference, and then leave the mixture to cool.
While it’s cooling, we’re going to get set up to adjust the pH. Be sure to read this great article on the importance of diluting solutions when pH testing them—we’re doing that here! Prepare at least two small bowls by weighing 4.5g of distilled water into them (you’re going to want a scale that’s accurate to 0.01g for this). To make your citric acid solution, weigh 5g of citric acid into a small beaker and add 5g of distilled water. Stir to combine; you’ll probably a couple quick microwave bursts are required to get the citric acid to dissolve as this is a pretty concentrated solution.
To test the pH, add 0.5g of the hand wash to one of the bowls containing 4.5g of water to create a 10% dilution, and pH check that. It should be around 7/8. That is the point you are adjusting form. To the parent batch I added 0.3g of the citric acid solution, stirred, and re-tested in another bowl with 4.5g water and 0.5g hand wash; that was about 5.5, which is about what we want!
Cover the measuring cup with some cling film, and leave it to cool completely. Now it’s time to add your preservative and essential oils, stirring to combine. The mixture will become a bit cloudy as the essential oils solubilize. Our last step is thickening, which we’ll be doing with salt! Add 0.5g of salt at a time, stirring between additions until the salt is completely dissolved, until you’re happy with the viscosity of the hand wash; I added 1.5g total (~0.6%).
Decant into a 250mL bottle with a pump top (I used this one paired with this top from YellowBee; Ivan gifted both to me and they make a lovely pair, though perhaps a touch tall for use next to the sink) and enjoy!
Notes & Substitutions
- You can use Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI) instead of SCS, though this will result in a slightly different end product
- You don’t have to adjust the pH if you can’t be fussed; read this for information on why I pH adjust
- You can thicken with Crothix instead if you want; follow the same method