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There are a lot of reasons why you might want to make your own shampoo from scratch. The big two probably are wanting to avoid the chemicals in commercial shampoos and just simply wanting to make shampoo yourself. Back in ye olden days, shampoo was soap, except with additional moisturizers so that it didn't strip the natural oils from your scalp and hair. Although a shampoo can be solid, it is easier to use if there is enough water to make a gel or liquid. Shampoos tend to be acidic because if the pH gets too high (alkaline) the sulfur bridges in the hair keratin can break, damaging your hair. This recipe for making your own gentle shampoo is chemically a liquid soap, except vegetable-based (many soaps use animal fat) and with alcohol and glycerine added during the process. Make it in a well-ventilated room or outdoors and be sure to read all of the safety precautions on the ingredients.

Shampoo Ingredients

  • 2 lb 10 oz olive oil
  • 1 lb 7 oz of solid-type vegetable shortening
  • 1 lb coconut oil
  • 10-1/4 oz lye (sodium hydroxide)
  • 2 pints water
  • 1-1/2 oz glycerine (glycerol)
  • 1/2 oz alcohol (I'd use vodka or other food-quality ethanol and call it close enough. Do not use methanol.)
  • 1-1/2 oz castor oil
  • essential oils (optional), such as peppermint, rosemary, lavender, for fragrance and therapeutic properties
Let's Make Shampoo!
  1. In a large pan, mix together the olive oil, shortening, and coconut oil.

  2. In a well-ventilated area, preferably wearing gloves and eye protection in case of accidents, mix the lye and water. Use a glass or enameled container. This is an exothermic reaction, so heat will be produced.

  3. Warm the oils to 95°F-98°F and allow the lye solution to cool to the same temperature. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to set both containers into a large sink or pan full of water that is at the correct temperature.

  4. When both mixtures are at the proper temperature, stir the lye solution into the oils. The mixture will turn opaque and may darken.

  5. When the mixture has a creamy texture, stir in the glycerine, alcohol, castor oil, and any fragrance oils or colorants.

  6. You have a couple of options here. You can pour the shampoo into soap molds and allow it to harden. To use this shampoo, either lather it with your hands and work it into your hair or else shave flakes into hot water to liquefy it.

  7. The other option is to make liquid shampoo, which involves adding more water to your shampoo mixture and bottling it.
You may have noticed that many shampoos are pearlescent. You can make your homemade shampoo glittery by adding glycol distearate, which is a natural wax derived from stearic acid. The tiny wax particles reflect light, causing the effect.


January 1, 2009 at 8:22 pm
(1) Ira says:

A low cost, green eco friendly, healthy natural way to

January 5, 2009 at 4:36 am
(2) Kebede Taye says:

Hello there, I am one of the users of this website. I have got a lot about chemistry since I started subscribing your web. I realy wanna appreciate Dr.Anne Marie Helmenstine for what she did. I am not commenting here actually. But I wanna get her E-mail adress (Dr. Anne Helmenstine) so that I can ask her for help. I am a postgraduate (MSc.) student. So can you help me in providing this please? I will hear you soon. Thanks.

January 8, 2009 at 6:57 am
(3) ashraf fakhr says:

Dear Anne
Thank you for this methode but I have an objection about the use of sodium hydroxide in shampoo ( Itis protein attack ) and I prefer to use Triethanol amine or dirthanol amine. because we use it in cosmatic and many other substance contact with eye .
Best regards
Dr. ashraf fakhr
ph. D in chemistry

August 29, 2009 at 7:35 pm
(4) kris says:
October 5, 2009 at 1:05 pm
(5) Mobin says:

Thank you so much Dr. Anne Marie Helmenstine, you are just great! Just wanted to say you’re awesome.

February 5, 2010 at 10:02 pm
(6) Meagan says:

This is so cool! It’s neat to see a fun and practical application of chemistry that one can technically do at home. I’ve been thinking about making soap for awhile now and this is an easy-to-follow recipe. I agree with Mobin, you are awesome!!

February 6, 2010 at 10:22 am
(7) doctorfrank says:

The use of 14.4 oz of potassium hydroxide in place of the 10.25 oz of sodium hydroxide in the above formulation will give a much softer, more soluble soap.

March 30, 2010 at 11:05 pm
(8) Lisa says:

Its a realy smart idea instead of buying your own shampoo for around $6-$15 its a lot cheaper!!! i was also wandering can you scent it? and if you can, can you buy it from a store or does it matter what kind of ingredients are in it? One more question would you be able to put food dye or some thing in it to change its color with out dying you hair? Thanks- sincerely Lisa

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