In Search of the Perfect Bubble Bath

Bubble Bath

Bubble Bath by Quan Ha

I love all things that smell divine, and that includes a good bubble bath. With two small children, we take a LOT of bubble baths at my house, so I thought it’d be fun to make a deliciously scented one that was good-for-us, too. How hard could it be?

No Effort: Buy It
The effortless way is just to buy the stuff. Some good brands that use eco-friendly and baby-safe ingredients are:

Custom Scent Bubble Bath (Easy-Mode DIY)
But what if you want a custom scent? Well, there’s an easy DIY way to make your own aromatherapy bath:

  1. Use an unscented gentle, eco-friendly kids’ bubble bath (we use California Baby)
  2. For babies and children, mix 6 drops of your favorite essential oils* per 1 oz of bubble bath (for adults, you can safely use 25 drops a.k.a. 1/4 tsp per 1 oz of bubble bath)
  3. Add 1/2 to 1 tsp** bubble bath to running water as tub fills – and voila! – a scented bath with no harsh chemicals and delightful foam!

*Some of the best and safest essential oils for children are lavender, tangerine, mandarin, neroli, frankincense, petitgrain, and Roman chamomile. Source: Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art.
**You can add more bubble bath for more foam, just be aware that with babies and kids – 1/2 to 1 tsp is the recommended amount to keep the essential oil exposure low. Same source as above.

True DIY Bubble Bath
But what if you really want to make your own eco/kid-friendly bubble bath from scratch? The above brands cost a fortune, and you just don’t get the same “I made it myself!” satisfaction from using a pre-made bottle. I bounced around Google and Pinterest and the usual natural/crafty blog suspects, and every bubble bath recipe seemed to be a variation on the Castile soap + vegetable glycerin formula. Some with water, some without. Some with sugar or salt, some without. Some with more or less vegetable glycerin. Hunh.

Crunchy Betty offers two well-thought out bubble bath recipes, so I thought I’d give them a whirl this weekend.

The Castile Soap + Vegetable Glycerin Recipe
This one promised the most bubbles, so I thought I’d try it first. I’ll save you the suspense: in our hard water, the bubbles fizzled out almost immediately. BOO! Bubble disappointment! But, to be fair, Betty totally warned us. That said, the vegetable glycerin (harmless stuff, btw) left our skin feeling soft and silky smooth, and the bath smelled yummy too!

Here’s what you need to make ~5 ounces of not-very-bubbly bath:

Ingredients

Steps

  1. Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Transfer to a jar with a lid.
  3. Let sit 24 hours before using.
  4. Pour ~1/4 cup (2 oz) into running bath water.

This recipe makes enough for ~2-3 baths. Stores up to 3 mos (supposedly, I have not tested this) in a cool, dark cabinet.

Okay, so what about the second option? By this point, I’d dropped all expectation of bubbles. This was another easy recipe that came together in a snap. It smells yummy and makes your skin feel delicious – but, no bubbles.

Creamy Honey Bath (also from Crunchy Betty)
This makes ~7-8 ounces of bath mixture, enough for ~1-2 baths. Store in a cool, dark cabinet and (supposedly) it will keep for 3 mos.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sweet almond oil
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup Castile soap
  • 3 teaspoons pure Vanilla extract (get the kind with no added sugar or artificial flavors)
  • 5 drops essential oils (you can use Vanilla or something else)

Steps

  1. Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Transfer to a jar with a lid.
  3. Pour 1/2 to entire amount into running bath water.

So…now what? I still have not fulfilled my quest to find the perfect DIY bubble bath recipe. Now, some might say that the problem is surfactants – the chemicals that create a nice lather – and that these harsh things are just not what a person with common sense would want in the tub.

And I’d agree, except…a little sleuthing of ingredients revealed that California Baby, Honest Company, and 100% Pure all use gentle/plant-based surfactants that seem like the sorts of stuff I’d want to use!

So now I just need to find a recipe with a combo of those ingredients and figure out where to source them. With the exception of saponified coconut oil, I suspect they are not as easy to get. So, the search continues! Do you have an all-natural bubble bath recipe that actually makes bubbles? If so, I’d love to know!

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2 thoughts on “In Search of the Perfect Bubble Bath

  1. I invented a range of very gentle foaming formulas years ago. See my link, a legacy page now that I’m no longer trying to sell it. Here’s a preferred liquid version, starting with these solutions of the surfactants with the preservatives they come with as bought:

    4 volumes 40% diammonium lauryl sulfosuccinate
    2 volumes 40% disodium laureth(3) sulfosuccinate
    2 volumes 30% actives (35% solids) lauramidpropyl betaine
    1 volume 30% actives (35% solids) palmitamidopropyl betaine

    Mix the sulfosuccinates with each other thoroughly, ditto the betaines. Then mix the betaine mixture with the sulfosuccinate mixture.

    The palmitamidopropyl betaine is the least available of the above ingredients. If you can’t get it, substitute more lauramidopropyl betaine.

    No pH adjustment (usually comes to about 6-6.5) needed, no additional preservative needed. It stays pourable for several years. This stuff doesn’t foam up as fast as many, but kids love splashing it violently to make suds in a shallow bathtub before filling to final depth.

    The trick is getting these ingredients in small enough quantities for a hobbyist. You may want to get together with others for a co-op buy of 40-lb. pails of the ingredients.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I could also say as regards saponified coconut oil, that’s just coconut soap. Coconut oil is the starting ingredient of most sudsy surfactants these days, but when you make it (or any other fat or oil) into soap (as opposed to making into other surfactants), it becomes reactive with “hardness” minerals in bath water, which is why so many people report “no bubbles” from soap-based bubble baths. California Baby isn’t using that in their bubble bath, because It’ll suds easily in a small volume of water, as in body wash on a washcloth, coconut more so than other soaps, but a bathtubful of most people’s water has enough calcium and/or magnesium to turn it the entire amount they’ll use into curds and then scum rather than bubbles. If your water’s “soft” to begin with or you use ENOUGH soap (people used to use flakes or powder for this), you can always make the bath sudsy, but then you’re going to have very soapy, grease-cutting water as in a washing machine, especially with coconut soap. Other surfactants as used in bubble bath are able to foam at low concentrations and regardless of water minerals — concentrations much lower than would be needed for cutting grease in the washer or kitchen sink. You’re not actually trying to get clean just from bubble bath water, are you?

    The glucosides were just coming into use as I began my bath foam experiments for my friends. They are indeed gentle and very foamy, although not as densely foaming as the surfactants in my formula. Possibly even better in terms of mildness and foaminess than the glucosides are the sucrose esters, such as sucrose cocoate sucrose laurate, and sucrose palmitate, which are even newer. This is the same family of sugar-and-fat-derived compounds as Olestra is in.

    To exchange info with others doing this kind of hobby work, look at Susan Barclay-Swift’s blog, swiftcraftymonkey.blogspot.com or itsallinmyhands.com . They may be able to provide connections to get the ingredients in amounts convenient for noncommercial use, as well as formulation advice. Most of this involves just mixing ingredients, not having to do chemical reactions as in soapmaking or biodiesel — but there are plenty of people out there doing those kinds of home chemistry too! (I’m into firework making.)

    Don’t go by the Environmental Working Group’s assessments of ingredient safety. They’re following an agenda that slants their results, and even where it doesn’t, they’re unsystematic. I used to give them credit for at least trying with the resources they had, until I realized otherwise.

    Liked by 1 person

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