Monday, October 15, 2012

Homemade Bath Bubbles, FAIL

Bug messes with the drain in the bathtub so often that I felt the need to buy some baby bubble bath, so that he wouldn't be able to see the drain under all the bubbles.  ...but most of the bubble bath out there has parabens and other crazy stuff that paranoid mommies like me don't want to buy.  I thought I might try to make my own bubble bath guessed it...Castile Soap! 

Here is the recipe I decided to use:

  • 1 cup liquid castile soap

  • 3/4 cup water

  • 1 teaspoon glycerin

  • essential oil of choice

  • Simply mix ingredients together, then let them sit for 24 hours before using. Read below before trying this recipe!

    So, I ordered a big bottle of Castile Soap on Amazon for $15, and discovered that just as I'd heard, it really is a very earthy, hippie product.  If you ever see a bottle of it, try to read all of the spiritual writings on the label.  Oh. My. Gosh.  It's a novel.  I found the glycerin at Earth Fare for $10.  So, there's $25 so far (I was trying to go the cheap route!), but I have a lot of the glycerin and castile soap left over to use for other things. 
    I chose to use lavender, neroli, and Roman chamomile for the essential oils, because they are relaxing (and safe for mama to use during pregnancy).

     I recycled this sunflower oil bottle to store the bubble bath in.

    I then painted the bottle with chalkboard paint.  This is the bottle with one coat of paint. 

    After it dried completely, I painted another coat, and wrote on it with these awesome chalk markers. 

    These are calendula flowers that I infused into the water portion of the recipe.  I love calendula, because it's relaxing and smells wonderful.

    I anxiously funneled all of the ingredients into the bottle.  I couldn't wait to use the final product!

    Little did I know that this time consuming project would be a flop!  The recipe just didn't work for me.  The bubbles were terribly flat and rapidly disappeared.  I researched and discovered that this is the case for a lot of people out there.  There are tons of homemade bubble bath recipes floating around, and most of them just don't work like you might hope, because they don't contain surfactants. 

    So, in an effort to rescue the bubble bath, I tested the mixture with three more ingredients I had seen in other bubble bath recipes including:
    table salt, nonfat dry milk, and epsom, fail, fail

    Back to square one... I finally broke down and bought some premade unscented bubble bath for $10 at Earth Fare.  It seemed natural enough.  The good thing about it being unscented is that I can add different essential oils to each bath.  Bug LOVES the big bubbles this stuff makes.  They do a good job of hiding the drain, so he doesn't mess with that anymore.  Mission finally accomplished. 

    The point of this failed blog post is to let people know that most homemade bubble bath recipes just doesn't produce large, long lasting bubbles.  Please let me know if you have tried making your own bubble bath, and have found something that really works! 



    1. Oh, your recipe contained a surfactant, all right, just that it's the wrong surfactant: soap. You CAN use soap to foam a bathtub of water, provided the water's either "soft" to begin with or you add enough soap to fully "soften" it -- which can be a LOT -- but I wouldn't recommend it even then, because it's going to be relatively irritating for the amount of foam you get. If your bath water is sudsy with soap, it's going to be very grease cutting; at least it'll get you clean, which bubble bath water generally isn't strong enough to do. And Epsom salt is a water "hardener".

      (I put "hard" & "soft" in this context in quotes because the only ACTUALLY hard water is ice, and all LIQUID water is soft, of course.)

      The sorts of surfactants commonly used in bath foams foam well at much lower concentrations than they would be useful detergents at, and are affected only slightly by water "hardness". People did use to make their baths sudsy with soap powder or flakes before better foaming surfactants came into use, but it wasn't practicable to do so in many waters, and it was relatively itch-producing. These recipes to make bubble baths using soap have gotten around & been copied a lot, but only because most people don't actually try using them, it seems.

      And yes, I have tried making my own bubble bath, and developed a range of recipes that worked spectacularly, for which I received US pat. 5,336,446, but have not made money. My formulas make especially DENSE (as opposed to fluffy large-bubble), lathery foam, all the better to play with, and do not cause urinary or genital irritation even in those most susceptible to such problems with soap or other surfactants. You may read about it at .

      I also make my own fireworks.

      1. Hi Robert,
        I enjoyed reading your reply. Do you tell people the ingredients to your bath bubbles if they are interested in them before purchasing?
        What surfactants are easily available to the public and safe that would work in a bath bubble recipe?
        Making fireworks sounds interesting!

      2. The trouble is that many of the really good ingredients for bath foams aren't available in hobbyist quantities. A few are, and you could check for what Susan Barclay-Nichols there has been able to find. Most of the hobbyists I read of online seem to be working on tablet form products, which is convenient because you can use powders and not have to go to lengths to keep them from separating because the tablet is used intact nor need preservatives because it's dry. But some of the best ingredients are hard to formulate that way. So a lot of these tablets use sodium lauryl sulfoacetate as the foaming agent but no foam stabilizer so they wind up making the bath water very soapy for the amount of lasting foam they produce and hence are relatively irritating.

        My own formula has by now entered the public domain. The ingredients for the liquid version are solutions of diammonium lauryl sulfosuccinate, lauramidopropyl betaine, and disodium lauryl ether-3 sulfosuccinate. And even though I dropped a bundle on what's turned out to be a money-losing effort making a batch of ~100 gals. professionally, even then I had to buy more of one ingredient that wound up not getting used, and would've liked to use some palmitamidopropyl betaine but that would've required a much bigger batch to buy. So you get an idea of the problem here. The hobby would have to become a lot more popular to sustain co-op buys of many ingredients or a supplier who'd break them down into smaller batches at a profit.

        Possibly the best for home users who don't want to make enough even to share with friends would be to check the ingredients of sudsy stuff on the supermarket shelves sold for cleaning purposes -- shampoo, liquid hand "soap", hand dishwashing detergent, liquid body wash -- and by mixing 2 or more of them getting close to what you might want to formulate if you were going from scratch. For instance, squirting about 3 volumes of Clorox Green Works and 1 vol. of Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day (according to the formulas they have now) hand dish detergents separately to the bath water and then splashing them together well is pretty good, if not the very mildest. Many of the hand dish detergents now come in versions labeled as antibacterial hand soaps so they have their ingredients labeled similarly to "cosmetic" toiletries. You can fairly well assume the closest non-antibacterial version to the antibacterial one has the same formula except for the antibacterial.

        The current formulas of Ajax dish "soap" are very similar to ones that've been in long use as shampoos and bath foams -- again, not the mildest, but cheap and mild enough for the avg. user. (From the 1950s to the 1970s it was fairly common for the purveyors of hand dish detergents to compare them to bubble bath for mildness, show babies bathing in them, etc. Many dishwashing liquids have even been MILDER than SOME toiletries.) But bear in mind that these proprietary formulas are subject to change at any time, and frequently do change even many times over the years, so they can become less sudsy and more irritating or vice versa, although the overall long-term trend has been to greater mildness. Also, it's not always clear that there's a consistent ranking of mildness; person A might tolerate what person B can't AND VICE VERSA, and also use under some conditions can reverse the irritancy ranking seen under other conditions.

        But the good thing to realize is that no lasting damage is done by even an adverse rxn to these products, so you can afford to experiment. They do not cause urinary infections, only temporary irritation, worst case.

      3. Found a good link for buying ingredients --

      4. My recommend'n for a home recipe for bubble bath by mixing Clorox Green Works and Meyer's dishwashing liquids is now off because I see Meyer's formula has changed. Previously Meyer's 1st ingredient was an amine oxide foam stabilizer, useful for making the bubbles from Clorox Green Works dishwashing liquid last longer, but now the order of the ingredients on the labels of both products is similar to each other.

      5. My recommend'n to mix Clorox Green Works & Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day hand dish detergents now no longer applies. Clorox changed formula to remove ethoxylates for the "crunchy" crowd avoiding them, but the result is that they're using unethoxylated alcohol sulfates that are not as mild as the "-eth" ones they'd been using. Meyer's changed too to a mixture that's not as complementary with the Green Works for suds making as before. The products aren't bad, but no longer as especially good when mixed as previously; in fact their label ingredients declarations are now very similar to each other.

        People have gotten spooked by the traces of dioxane in ethoxylates now that it's accepted as a probable mild carcinogen. I wouldn't sweat it, but the publicity is driving mfrs. away from the ingredients with "-eth" in them, so they're sacrificing some mildness.

    2. Everyday Shea is a GREAT company! I love their lotions too ;)