Over the summer I was working with a client who I knew needed to get back into the tub.
This person used to take baths galore, but ceased to do so since moving to New York City (read: small bathroom and a not-so-ideal-sized bathtub). I needed to deliver a synergy of essential oils to her via the bath but did not want to bog her down with dilution instructions and cautions that might have kept her from using this beneficial modality (e.g., diluting in a lipophilic substance at x number of drops/dilution rate and why). So where did that leave us? Bath Bombs (a.k.a., Aromatic Bath Fizzies)*! *There is NOTHING therapeutic about using the word “bomb.”
The thought behind using essential oils via “Bath Bombs” is to:
- Ensure the safe delivery of essential oils to the bather
- Not make the bather worry about “doing things right” (stress is anathema to a relaxing bath)
- Make it a fun (fizzing!) and therapeutic bathing experience
So, I needed to do some research. How do I make these? What are the ingredients and why am I using them? What are the correct ratios? What is the best order of operation for making these crazy things? I did the research for you–read on for the results and have fun! (By the way, these fizz because of the acid/base reaction when the two are catalyzed by water.)
Essential Oil Safety Tip
Always remember: solubilize essential oils in a lipophilic solubilizing agent (e.g., honey, milk, a nut/seed oil) before adding them to a bath as some essential oils may be dermal irritants and/or mucus membrane irritants.
Ingredients for Aromatherapy Bath Fizzies
|Baking Soda (Sodium bicarbonate)||4||ounces||Mild alkaline|
|Citric Acid (substitute: cream of tartar)||2||ounces||Mild acid|
|Magnesium sulfate||0.5||ounces||Inert (keeps chemical reaction from happening as water is added in the mixing process)|
|Corn Starch (substitute: Arrowroot powder, Milk powder, Coconut Milk powder)||0.5||ounces||Inert (helps soak up liquid/solidify the ball)/Corn starch helps “float”|
Over the years I loved using Coconut Milk Powder! If you use this you will reduce the amount of nut/seed oil as the coconut milk is “oily”.
|Nut/Seed Oil (use a light/less dense oil)||20-25||ml||Acts as your dispersing agent; adjust amount accordingly|
|Essential oils||1-2||ml||(20 drops of EO in 1 ml)|
The water element helps “glue” the dry ingredients together (as does the carrier oil). Though beware, as it is a catalyst for the chemical reaction!
Note: I find that you don’t need to use the hydrosol at ALL, just add a TINY bit more fixed oil if needed. See below for notes on using alcohol instead of water!
Equipment needed: (You might not have all of these-what matters is the ratio–see below in the end-notes)
- Graduated cylinder
- Fine sieve or sifter (to remove clumps)
- Non-reactive mixing bowls (preferably glass or stainless steel)
- Non-reactive mixing spoons
- Molds of your choice (Note: silicone is easiest to work with)
- An airtight, glass, container for storage
Steps for Making DIY Aromatherapy Bath “Bombs”
- Measure out the Baking Soda, Magnesium and Arrowroot powder using a scale.
- Combine the three ingredients together and run through a sieve to ensure no clumps remain.
- Mix well with a non-reactive spoon to ensure the ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Measure out the Citric Acid in a separate bowl and set aside.
- Measure out the Carrier Oil and Essential Oils in a beaker or graduated cylinder.
- Ensure your essential oils are solubilized in the carrier oil.
- Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix to thoroughly distribute the oils.
- Spritz the mixture with the hydrosol of your choice and mix thoroughly to distribute the moisture amongst the dry ingredients.
- Remember, you can always add but not subtract—spritz a few times, stir and then see how well the “dough” clumps together. If the “dough” is too wet, add a tiny bit more arrowroot powder.
- Add the Citric Acid to the mixture and stir evenly to distribute.
- The citric acid is added at the end of the process as it reacts with the baking soda if water is present. If the water (hydrosol) is incorporated into all of the other ingredients first, it is “tempered down” and will not react (as much/minimally) with the baking soda.
- Once thoroughly mixed, pack the dampened mixture into your molds of choice.
- Once firmly packed and formed, place the aromatic fizzies onto a tray lined with parchment paper.
- The aromatic fizzies will be firm within 2-3 hours; allow 24-48 for them to fully dry before storing them.
- Once dry, store the aromatic bath products away from moisture, in a sealed, non-reactive container. (Moisture/Water is the catalyst for the acid-base reaction!)
*Don’t get too fancy—shelf stability matters (e.g., I thought of using liquid coconut milk as a dispersing agent (as opposed to jojoba oil) and determined that would be a bad idea unless I planned on freezing the end product).
Tips & Ideas
**Ratio guidelines: 2 parts Sodium Bicarbonate: 1 part Citric Acid: (Optional: 0.5 part Starch: 0.5 part Salts); Dry ingredients should be 90-98% of the product whereas wet ingredients should be 2-10%; NO MORE THAN 2 ML of EOs should be used in a bath fizzy–more than that is wasteful, disrespectful of the plant and could be harmful depending on the EOs used. The therapy of EOs lies in their subtlety (i.e., less means more).
Note: Many recipes call for only using the base, acid and alcohol-based witch hazel, many recipes also call for spritzing the product with alcohol (as a fixative), adding dyes and other objects like glitter. While always thinking about the therapeutic nature of the product (e.g., organic ingredients, using coconut milk powder and jojoba for skin softening) you are using/making, also consider how some substances should NOT go down the drain (glitter), how others may stain your tub (e.g., dye) and how it might not be a great idea to immerse your body in questionable substances.
Aromatherapy is subtle and therapeutic—this is why I chose to use hydrosols instead of alcohol and/or the witch hazel commonly sold in drug-stores.