Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Shampoo, Shampoo, Shampoo!

Let me bring you up-to-date with my shampoo making efforts - oh boy have I been having some fun! Ok so I did expect that I was going to make the perfect shampoo first time round, so the first disaster was a bit of an...errr surprise. LOL But I've really started enjoy the journey. :)

Have you ever looked at the ingredients on a commercial bottle of shampoo? Oh my! There's a list as long as your arm of weird and undesirable sounding chemicals. I'm not a chemist, so I won't go there, but the one that most people have heard of is sodium laureth sulfate which is used to create the lather (and is also used to clean commercial garage floors! Yuk!). So I thought it would most likely be healthier, much more liberating, and a great deal of fun to see if I could make our own shampoo. :)

Recipe No.1

After hunting around on the internet for a while, I found the following recipe which sounded quite appealing:

And here's the recipe:

A simple castile shampoo is made with 4 ounces castile soap flakes and one quart water. Bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat and pour water over the soap flakes. Stir until the soap flakes dissolve. Once the mixture has cooled, store it in a plastic bottle.

You may vary this recipe by adding essential oils to the shampoo. Lavender is very calming and makes a good addition to the shampoo. Peppermint and citrus are invigorating. Experiment with different oils to find the ones you like best. If you wish to add essential oils to your shampoo, mix 4 to 8 drops of the oil in a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol. Stir it into the soap mixture just after all the soap has dissolved.

This sounds simple, I think to myself, and immediately go hunting to find a suitable supplier, which turns out to be The Soap Kitchen. So I make the recipe and it looks to me like it's quite thin, so I pour it into some lovely blue glass bottles I've found on eBay and leave it to cool. Uh oh... it didn't stay thin for long. I turn the bottles upside down and have a bit of a Heinz ketchup moment. LOL! But to no avail. My friend Onnik helpfully suggests microwaving the bottles, which we do and manage to extract the shampoo, after a few volcanoes which cover the microwave in the lovely rose shampoo I'm feeling so proud of. I now unceremoniously dump the stuff into little pots to give to my friends to try out. Anyway, to cut a story that is becoming long a bit shorter, it's terrible. It doesn't really clean the hair, and it doesn't lather. After cooling off from my disappointment, I leave it in a bowl by the sink to use as hand soap. Eventually it gets sacked even from this humble role. Oh well, it was fun and I have at least learnt something - about what not to do! :)

Recipe No.2.

So I look around for another recipe and find a lovely book that comes with great recommendations on Amazon: Natural Beauty at Home by Janice Cox (you'll find other recipes from her book scattered about my blog). So I try her herbal shampoo recipe. This is a mixture of the basic shampoo recipe, plus your herbs of choice (funnily enough):

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup liquid soap
1/2 teaspoon light vegetable oil

Mix together all the ingredients above. Then take 2 tablespoons of dried herbs (I tried lavender and chamomile as two separate shampoos) and steep them in 1/2 cup of water for at least 20 minutes. Then add this to the shampoo mix along with 2 tablespoons of glycerine.

It smells gorgeous and looks good, but again it doesn't lather or really clean the hair properly. So I come to the conclusion that I need to find a recipe that doesn't use soap, as this just isn't suitable for cleaning hair, and (dare I say it) is a bit more complex or sophisticated.

Recipe No.3

Ok, so I hunt around again and find a recipe online that uses a combination of different oils and one chemical, lye, to create a gentle shampoo. I haven't tried it yet, but I will in the next couple of days, and report back. I have a good feeling about this one...

Update 19/07/07

My puppy-like excitement about finding a lovely, natural homemade shampoo is history! LOL I'm going through a chemical revolution (see my latest post about Sodium Laureth Sulfate). But the shampoo quest continues in full force!

The last recipe I found was, in fact, in an eBook from costing $24.00. I know, it's a lot of money for a recipe. I can honestly say that by the time I produce a shampoo that I'm satisfied with, it will be the most expensive bottle on the shelf. LOL

This recipe was fairly complex to make, and was based on heating and combining different oils (safflower, soy, coconut and peanut), along with a little bit of help from Potassium Hydroxide and Borax. It turned out to be really thick, so I had to re-heat it and add more water before we could use it. It was very effective at cleaning the hair, and lathered up a treat. But when we came to rinsing it off it felt a bit like petrol. :( I tried adding honey to improve this and it did help, but not enough. When you dry your hair, it felt OK, if a little thick. My other complaint was the smell of this shampoo. Despite the addition of essential oils, it retained a pretty undesirable smell. Very "natural" one might say, but not actually all that pleasing on the nose buds.

So by this time I was coming to the conclusion that all this natural stuff was fun, but it just wasn't enough. I then came across a very interesting web site call Aromantic which sells both recipes and ingredients for cosmetic products. They use certain chemicals, which I need to find out more about, and some more natural products. I'm just about to make my first batch...
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Lavender Cordial

I'm just trying this recipe out as I write! I came across this on a discussion forum: and just loved the enthusiasm of the participants. :)

The recipe is:

110g Golden Granulated sugar
50 lavender flowers
300 ml water

Put the water and sugar into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved completely. Add the lavender flowers and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat; cover the pan and leave to infuse for 30-45 minutes. Strain the liquid into a pan and reheat, stirring all the time, until the mixture is syrupy. Cool completely. Pour into a sterilised bottle, seal tightly and leave to cool. Store in the refrigerator. Dilute with chilled sparkling mineral water.

Ok, so here are the results. Personally I don't like it, it's just too flowery and sweet (and I'm quite a sweet tooth). As my friend Alexandros said, it's a bit like drinking pot pourri. LOL I'm wondering though if it might work when mixed with a completely different flavour. I tried squeezing half a lime into a glass of the cordial with sparkling water. It's a bit better, but still not right. Hmm... mint perhaps?

I'm also wondering if it would be better with some citric acid in. The best cordial recipes I've seen so far are the ones from Thorncroft (see my post on Nettle Cordial as an example) that all contain citric acid. Wikipedia says that citric acid "is a natural preservative and is also used to add an acidic (sour) taste to foods and soft drinks." This might help with the floweryness. If, and it's a big IF at the moment, I try this again then I'll definitely add in the citric acid.
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Rose Cordial

From the cordial-making experience I've been gaining (see Quest for Ginger Ale and Nettle Cordial posts) I decided to get adventurous and try out my own recipe! I used similar quantities of sugar, water and citric acid as the Nettle Cordial recipe, but instead of the nettle and blackcurrant leaves, I used dried rose petals and a tiny bit of vanilla. I let this brew for a week. The colour is great and the taste is quite nice, if a bit on the subtle side. I'm thinking that the delicate rose flavour needs another flavour to contrast and complement it.

I came across one recipe suggesting rose and coriander: which I want to try. Here is the recipe:

1 quart rose petals
"a little more than 1 quart" water
Another quart rose petals
1/2 to 1 pound sugar
1 to 2 quarts brandy, vodka or grain alcohol
1 ounce broken stick cinnamon
1 ounce coriander

Pour lukewarm water over petals. Cover and let stand for 24 hours. Strain, squeezing the petals as hard as you can muster. Add the second quart of petals into the rose water. Stand for 48 hours. Strain and squeeze hard again. If you've got more petals, consider doing it another round or two until you have strongly rose-scented water. Then add all the other ingredients (obviously, add to taste, and your first attempt will be a blind guess). Stand for 3-4 weeks. Strain and bottle.

I'm also on the look out for other rose cordial recipes, but I only have dried rose petals available to me, which is never going to be quite the same.
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Nettle Cordial

I found a lovely recipe on the Thorncroft site for Nettle Cordial, and unlikely sounding but delicious drink.

Here is the link:

And the recipe:

100g freshly picked nettle tips
100g freshly picked young blackcurrant leaves
1 kg granulated sugar
40g citric acid
500ml boiling water

Add the sugar, citric acid and water to a large saucepan. Heat to 60 degrees C. Add the leaves and remove immediately from heat. Cover and leave for a week, stirring daily. Strain and bottle. Add one Campden tablet per batch or keep in refrigerator.

The nettle leaves are readily available at this time of year, and it just so happens that we have a blackcurrant bush in the back garden. I suspect it's the latter that really give this cordial it's great taste, but I'm going to try making it just with nettles to see what it's like. I have another reason for doing this: whilst the nettles are in abundant supply, I only have a limited supply of blackcurrant leaves, so I want to try some different substitutes. All ideas would be greatly appreciated! As usual, I'll update this post with any new developments I make. :)
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The Quest for Ginger Ale

What got me started on experimenting with cordial recipes, you may ask? Well, we drink a LOT of ginger ale and I was getting fed-up with being dependent on the supermarket to buy endless 1l bottles containing... well, what exactly? Flavourings, preservatives, colourings - not very uplifting! We use the ginger ale as a mixer to go with scotch whisky (strangely enough) so the end result we were looking for was something quite smooth and light.

So I set about making a ginger cordial that we could then mix with carbonated water (that's a whole other story!). So far, I have to report that I haven't found one that we really like, they all taste too fiery, or too lemony. Here are the recipes I've tried, I thought that the pink ginger one sounded promising, but my first take didn't come out pink. I will write off to Thorncroft and see if they have any idea why, and will tell me the secret. :) I'll update this post if/ when I get a response.

Recipe No.1

This was the first recipe I tried: I've summarised it here.

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 piece lime rind or fresh lemon rind (no white)
1 large gingerroot, chopped
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup lemons or lime juice

1. Boil the water, sugar, ginger, rind and cream of tartar for 5 minutes.
2. Add the lemon or lime juice.
3. Bring to the boil again.
4. Take off the heat, strain and pour into a sterilised bottle which will hold approximately 6 cups of liquid.
5. Use like ordinary cordial, either with iced water for a cooling drink, or hot water for a warming drink on a winter's night.

Too fiery and too lemony for our taste! How do you get a smooth, Canada Dry- type taste, I'm wondering?

Recipe No.2

Then I found the following recipe, which looked quite promising:

I was excited by the idea of replacing sugar with the natural substitute stevia. But, we found the stevia really didn't taste good. Perhaps it's the way I used it? If you have a different experience I would love to hear.

So, the recipe:

3 1/2 cups water
4-inch long piece of ginger, peeled & chopped
2 Tbsp vanilla flavoring
3 tsp lemon flavoring (non-alcoholic)
1/2 tsp stevia powder (or to taste)

Boil down the ginger in water for 10 minutes. Strain out ginger pieces and pour ginger juice into jar. Add vanilla and lemon flavorings and stevia. Let cool and store in refrigerator as a syrup concentrate. Add 1/8 - 1/4 cup of syrup to 6-8 oz of sparkling water and serve.

This one didn't really work out either, apart from the stevia, it was a rather strange mix of vanilla flavours and still the fieriness of the ginger. Are we just being too fussy? LOL So the quest continues with...

Recipe No.3

Next I found a recipe for Pink Ginger, which sounded very promising: My first take of it definitely isn't pink and doesn't live up to their description " It has a superbly refreshing flavour, not at all fiery". However, I'm sure this is user error, so I will buy a bottle of their cordial just to check, and let you know how the real McCoy tastes.

300g fresh ginger root
1 kg granulated sugar
2 sliced lemons
30 g citric acid
350 ml water

Grate the ginger and immediately add the citric acid. This is what gives the pink colour. Then add the sugar and mix well. Leave for about an hour, then add the sliced lemons and water, mixing well. Stir occasionally until all the sugar is dissolved, then cover and leave for a week, stirring daily. Then strain and press the pulp gently by squeezing it against the side of the sieve with a ladle. Bottle adding one Campden tablet, or refrigerate.

Quest to be continued... :)

Update 01/07/07
I bought a bottle of Thorncroft Pink Ginger from Waitrose at the weekend and did a taste test against my homemade version. They actually taste remarkably similar, even if theirs if a gentle pink colour whilst mine is bright yellow! I noticed that on their ingredients list they additionally have "colouring fruit and vegetable concentrates". I found some information on what this means: I've also written to Thorncroft to try and find out why my cordial didn't go pink. LOL! Could this have something to do with that final ingredient? Anyway, I think I will try the cordial again, perhaps without any lemons, and then with just a small amount.

Update 02/07/07
Thorncroft got back to me today (very friendly, BTW) and apparently the "colouring fruit and vegetable concentrates" are blackcurrant and a special variety of black carrot grown for the colour.

Apart from that, I made a new batch of Recipe No.3 today without any lemons in it, so we'll see in a weeks time how that tastes.
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Air Freshener Spray

This is an adaption of a recipe from the book 'The Kitchen Cupboard Healers' for a bathroom air freshener. It's just gorgeous, a very fresh and uplifting smell.

We bought a couple of spray bottles from the garden centre (the type meant for misting your plants with), as they're quite big it means less time spent refilling. But you can also buy something a bit more elegant quite cheaply from somewhere like the Soap Kitchen.

Ok, down to brass tacks. The ingredients are:
1 x teaspoon of baking soda
2 x tablespoons of white vinegar
2 cups of clean water

This is a bit 'bare bones' and I wanted something scented so I also added some essential oils. So far I tried a mixture of tea tree oil, peppermint and lavender - an unusual but lovely mix. I can remember the exact amounts I put in, so when I refill the bottles I'll check and update this posting.

You put the baking soda in the bottle, and then add to it the vinegar, water and essential oils. Once the mixture stops foaming replace the lid, and it's ready to go.
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