Introduction: How to Make a Gentle Ph Balanced Shampoo

Picture of How to Make a Gentle Ph Balanced Shampoo

There are not very many homemade shampoo recipes here on instructables; so I decided to try my hand at creating a shampoo that was a little different than what has been shared here. This shampoo is the results of my experimentation; after a few fails of course.

More and more people are concerned about the ingredients that go into hair and beauty products. There are an increasing amount of people who have allergies to certain products causing them a lot of discomfort. My sister recently had to change shampoos because of allergies. Medications can cause this to happen. My sister has switched to a baby shampoo which is very alkaline.

Finding commercial products that do not cause irritations can be difficult. Finding recipes for some of these problems can be found on the Internet but unfortunately there are some recipes that are not that great for the hair because they are not pH balanced. Follow through and I will share a shampoo recipe that meets some of these concerns.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional so any information here is based on my personal experience and experimentation and for educational purpose only. Please before making this do a little research for yourself to be on the safe side.

Step 1: My Experiment and the Results of Dr Bronners

Picture of My Experiment and the Results of Dr Bronners

A couple of years ago I made a shampoo from yucca roots. I was very happy with the results of the shampoo except for a couple of things. It was not very sudsy and it had a runny consistency. I added some Knox gelatin to it; to make it thicker and it was OK but I wanted to tweak it a little bit more. I ordered some powdered yucca root online and planned on experimenting with the shampoo recipe BUT when the powder arrived it was not any good. I was very disappointed and my money was refunded. I have not re-ordered. When the hair and make-up contest began; I decided to make a recipe using Dr. Bronner's soap. I have read a lot of articles about homemade recipes and the downside is; some are much too alkaline.

Many homemade shampoos using Dr. Bronner's or baking soda causes the hair cuticle to lift and become very un-manageable. It can cause drying and hair breakage.My daughter-in-law uses a lot of natural beauty products and I read the label on a jar of shampoo that was in the shower. One of the ingredients listed was Xanthan Gum, which is used as a thickening agent. I checked the ingredients on the label of a shampoo I had and noticed it had Castor oil and citric acid so I decided to try some of these ingredients for the shampoo that I would be making.I wanted to see if I could thicken the shampoo, give it more lather, and make it pH balanced.For this experiment I used Dr. Bonner's lavender soap and the unscented baby formula.

I added water, Dr. Bronner's, Castor oil, and citric acid to the first batch and tested the formula after each ingredient was added. I added the water and Dr. Bronner's and the mixture turned a deep purple. I added the citric acid and Xathan Gum and did not notice any change in the color. I had a hunch the citric acid might be the ingredient to change the pH levels and provide more lather and the Xathan gum was the ingredient that would thicken the formula. I kept the other ingredients the same but added citric acid and Xathan Gum the second time around. I noticed a miner change. There was not a noticeable change until the third time around when I added more citric acid and Xathan gum. I noticed the color changed from a deep purple to a dark green; I was on to something. After I added enough citric acid to bring the numbers down, closer to the 4-7 range the oils began to separate.

I made another batch omitting the Castor oil and used jojoba oil instead. Same results. I made another batch with just water, Dr. Bronner's and Citric acid and the oil began to curdle. I read the label on the soap bottle and it contained various oils.The experiment failed for both types of Dr. Bonner's soap. I even tried adding aloe Vera and Glycerin with bad results. I was so disappointed ~

Last year I purchased some soap berries online to use for laundry soap. I read that soap-berries can be used for shampoo, body wash,laundry and as a household cleaner. I made up a batch adding citric acid and Xanthan Gum for a shampoo. Continue reading for the results.

Step 2: The Soap Berry Tree

Picture of The Soap Berry Tree

I live in an area where the western soap-berry tree is a native tree. I was interested in the tree for harvesting soap-nuts so I could use the nuts for an Eco friendly laundry soap. Soap-nuts have been used for washing clothes for thousands of years.They are used for pet shampoos and deter fleas and ticks.Soap-berries are safe for septic tanks and HE washers.They are great for people who have allergies.

I called my friend who owns a seed store and she told me where a soap-berry tree was in our area. I took pictures to share with you. The western soap-berry tree grows in zones 8-10. Sadly it takes ten years before they produce berries.

To grow your own soap-berry tree; scarify the seeds and pour boiling water over them and soak them until you see roots. This could take up to 3 months. Plant them and in a few years you will have a great shade tree and in a few more years you can harvest the soap-berries.

The soap-berry flowers can be male or female or both and may or may not pollinate. The tree is a drought tolerant shade tree that attracts butterflies and bees. Soap-nuts contain saponins which are considered an Eco friendly soap; if of course the trees are grown without the use of chemicals.The nuts are harvested in the winter, cleaned, de-seeded, and are sun-dried. Soap-berries are picked when the berries are a dark brown and fleshy.

If you are fortunate enough to live in zones 8-10 you might have a soap-berry tree in your back yard.I read that the china-berry tree is often mistaken for a soap-berry tree. In fact; I thought I found a soap-berry tree and after looking online I am pretty sure it was a china-berry tree.

You may purchase soap-berry seeds from a different variety that do produce larger nuts if they grow in your planting zone. The ones that grow here are rather small compared to the soap-nuts I ordered.

Step 3: Ingredients and Supplies

Picture of Ingredients and Supplies

This recipe is not recommended for color treated hair.

This is what you will need:


5 Soap-nuts with seeds removed

3 Cups Distilled water

1/4 to 1 teaspoon Pure Citric Acid (Please read note below) grocery store

1/4 to 1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum (Please read note below) I got mine at Walmart


Flip top bottle or empty plastic shampoo bottle.

Wooden spoon or non-reactive spoon

Non-reactive sauce pan

Glass bowl


Immersion blender


pH Testing Tape or pH meter; I bought my pH Testing Tape at a health food store. I live in a small town and that was the only place I could find them and they only had 5.5 to 8.0. If you need a very accurate number I suggest getting wide range of testing paper. The pH meter will give a very accurate number but they are quite expensive.

When I added the citric acid and the Xanthan Gum to the soap-nut mixture I added them 1/4 teaspoon at a time because I did not want to make the shampoo too thick or add too much citric acid to change the pH levels too much. I wound up using about about a teaspoon of each for this batch; which was perfect. I suggest when you are making this for the first time; add a little of each at a time and check to see if you like the consistency and measure the pH levels after you add these two ingredients. I did not use tap water but I believe tap water may be used except, it may need to be refrigerated to prevent spoilage. I recommend making small batches so it is used up within a week or so. If you choose to make a larger batch you can freeze the mixture in ice cubes and thaw before using. This shampoo is not as concentrated as the commercial brands so you might have a tendency to use more than normal.

Step 4: Heat Soap Berries in Sauce Pan

Picture of Heat Soap Berries in Sauce Pan


Pour 3 Cups of distilled water into a non-reactive sauce pan.

Add 5 soap-berries.

Bring to low boil.

Reduce heat to simmer and simmer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes remove from heat and cool until you can comfortably touch the mixture.

Step 5: Strain Mixture

Picture of Strain Mixture

I did not take pictures of the test strips before I added the citric acid because it was the same as the Dr. Bronner's mixture before I added the citric acid. A pH 4-7 is a good range for hair.7 is neutral. If this recipe is not working for your hair type; you can adjust the recipe by using more or less citric acid to achieve the correct formula for your hair type. I just happened to hit my formula right on, at least for now. I may need to change it after using it for a while. Keep in mind that 1 number can be a drastic change to the formula so just a tiny pinch of the citric acid (either more or less) is needed when adjusting the formula.

Strain the mixture:

Strain the mixture and place the soap-berries into a shallow dish.

Add 1/4 teaspoon Citric acid

Add 1/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum

Mix using the immersion blender until all the lumps are gone and the mixture is frothy.

Check the pH using the pH testing paper or pH meter.

If the pH is too high add another 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid.

If the consistency is too thin add 1/4 teaspoon Xanthan Gum.

Mix again using the immersion blender.

Check the pH level again. Repeat process until you are happy with the pH and the consistency of the shampoo.

Step 6: Pour

Picture of Pour

Pour the mixture:

Pour the mixture into the shampoo bottle using the funnel.

I put mine in the refrigerator to make it last longer. I made a cleaner out of the soap berries last summer and if I recall it was still good after 2 weeks at room temperature.It worked great for cleaning the bathroom.

Step 7: Label the Bottle

Picture of Label the Bottle

I always label my home made shampoos and other homemade products so they are not mistaken for something else.

The soap-berries from the shampoo can be re-used for another shampoo recipe maybe two. Allow them to dry thoroughly and store them in a cloth or paper bag until you use them to make another shampoo,or body wash. I have been very happy using soap-berries for washing laundry however I have not tried the pH balanced shampoo in my laundry so I can't say how well it might clean laundry or if it would work for cleaning the bathroom. It might be worth a try.

This shampoo can burn the eyes so I am not sure I would use it for babies or small children.

Step 8: What to Expect From This Recipe

Picture of What to Expect From This Recipe

I was disappointed I could not add any oils to this recipe. We live in a very dry climate and my hair is on the dry side. I have fine hair and some shampoos make it frizzy and unmanageable. I wet my hair with warm water and poured the shampoo into the palm of my hand and massaged it into my scalp. At first it went on a little sudsy but not much; then the suds disappeared. I added a little more shampoo to work into the areas I felt needed a little more shampoo. I rinsed my hair and repeated the process. It was unlike other homemade shampoos I have tried, because it seemed like it was much easier to apply. I have tried baking soda and did not like it because it felt like I was washing my hair with just water. The soap-berry shampoo had a little slickness to it which made it smoother to work it into my scalp and hair.

After I rinsed my hair with cool water (cool water closes the pores and allows the hair cuticleto lay down) I sprayed it with straight vinegar and worked it into my scalp and ran my fingers through it.I thoroughly rinsed my hair with cool water again. It did not have very many tangles and it felt clean.

I dried my hair using a towel.

Combed it out with no problems.

My hair felt clean and moisturized.

After my hair dried it felt like I had washed my hair with a high quality shampoo with oils. I was totally amazed.

I loved it.

I used more of this shampoo than I would have used from the commercial brands.

If your hair is too dry; I recommend applying a small amount of jojoba oil to the palm of your hand and work it into your scalp and the ends of your hair after it is dried. If that is too oily; try applying it to the scalp before you wash your hair. Applying it to the hair before you wash your hair could reduce the lather of the shampoo.

Step 9: Sunshiine's Final Thoughts

Picture of Sunshiine's Final Thoughts

This recipe is one of the best shampoos I have made so far and is suitable for people who are sensitive to commercially made products. I like it because you can make different formulas to clean the house, wash clothes, body wash, hand soap, or shampoo.Only a few berries are needed to make batches of all purpose cleaner, laundry soap, shampoo and body wash. Chances are you will make enough to use for these purposes. I recommend small batches that will be used within a couple of weeks to prevent mold or keep your shampoo in the refrigerator to make it last a little longer. I left mine out at room temperature in the summer with no airconditioning for 20 days and on day 20 I noticed a small amount of mold. I will be making this again and will try to add essential oils. I avoided added them because of my experience with Dr. Bronner's soap.

I used the shampoo for body wash and it worked great. My skin did not feel tight or uncomfortable.I will be mailing a bottle of this shampoo to my sister in hopes it will work for her. I will be sure to let you know how it worked for her.

I hope this instructables inspires you to try this recipe and I hope it works for you as well as it has for me. If your interested in more uses for soap berries here are two instructables I posted using different recipes for them:

House hold cleaner and Laundry soap .

I wish to thank contributors for making instructables such a delightful place to exchange ideas and creations. Thanks so much for stopping by and do have a safe and happy summer~



ButterflyWorld (author)2016-06-27

I live in South Africa and I found that we grow a type of soap berry tree locally called "Dune Soap-berry - Deinbollia oblongifolia". Its berries are traditionally used for soaping. I hope it works! Thank you for a great instructable! I have started researching this topic as I cannot use normal shampoo - results in a type of eczema with flakes and itchiness. I realized from all my reading last night, the first thing was PH. So glad I found this. Thanks! God bless!

Hi Butterfly World. I live in Cape Town and have the same scalp problem. I need to source some Dune Soap-berry. Do you have any ideas where to get them from please. How did your shampoo work for you

sunshiine (author)ButterflyWorld2016-06-27

Thanks for the information and I do hope you can try this shampoo. Have a great summer~

SophiesFoodieFiles (author)2015-09-09

This is so cool! :)

EmillyBint (author)2015-08-18

Is it any good for product build-up?

sunshiine (author)EmillyBint2015-08-18

Hello EmillyBint,
You bring up a very good point; I have not considered. I do not use a lot of products on my hair but I have read that vinegar used in the final rinse cycle of the washer removes soap residue and I use vinegar all the time for cleaning a lot of tough housecleaning jobs. It is a good grease remover. I would think that washing your hair with this soap and finishing off with a vinegar rinse should work good together to remove product build up.I am sorry I can't be more helpful. I hope this helps. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting and do have a terrific

EmillyBint (author)sunshiine2015-08-27

Using vinegar might be helpful, thanks! I just need to find a way to neutralize the smell... or maybe just using lemon juice instead?

sunshiine (author)EmillyBint2015-08-27

Do you not like the smell? I did not notice my hair having much of a smell at all but yes, I recommend a vinegar rinse after shampooing . Not sure about lemon juice. I guess it would depend if your hair is color treated. You could probably add essential oil.I also recommend putting the shampoo in the refrigerator. Mine lasted 20 days at room temperature in the summer with no air-conditioning before a small amount of mold was visible.I added this information to my write up. I guess the Xathan gum might have been the cause of this but I don't know for sure.Making smaller batches is recommended. I have ordered more products and will be posting a couple of new recipes for shampoo as soon as I get time to finish those I am working on. Please stay tuned for more.

EmillyBint (author)sunshiine2015-08-28

Oh, it's great that you mentioned the durability of the shampoo, I was just about to ask you xD 20 days at these conditions is a great achievement! I will definitely check again for more instructables on your shampoos.

sunshiine (author)EmillyBint2015-08-28

It is strange that it molded because I have a small amount of soap-berry cleaner left over from about 6 months ago and it is still good. I did not add anything to it if I recall and then I poured my shampoo into two containers and only one molded. Maybe I did not get one bottle sterilized enough, I don't know. Have a great day.


Sunglowart (author)2015-08-25

I dont have the litmus paper so will just follow your method.

sunshiine (author)Sunglowart2015-08-25

You got them~ Awesome. If you have any questions I am here. I hope you like the shampoo as much as I do. I have been using it for body wash also. I love it. Thanks for sharing and have fun.

Sunglowart (author)2015-08-16

Cannot wait till i press the I made it tab!

sunshiine (author)Sunglowart2015-08-16

I can't wait either~ am looking forward to seeing it. Thanks for sharing.


Sunglowart (author)2015-08-16

This is an inspirational ible. I bought a batch of soapberries but had no clue how to work them thru but thanks fr your effforts i can use it.

sunshiine (author)Sunglowart2015-08-16

I am happy to hear that. I hope you love the shampoo as much as I do. I recently purchased more plant type roots to experiment with and will post my results after I am happy with the recipes. Would love to see your version when you make it. Thank you for stopping by and commenting~ Happy creating~


Sunglowart (author)2015-08-16

Cannot wait till i press the I made it tab!

zeyanimisbah (author)2015-08-15

congrats on becoming a finalist, i love love this instructable <3

sunshiine (author)zeyanimisbah2015-08-15

Wow, thanks so much~ I appreciate the comment and for you stopping by to take a peek at my instructable. I am working on a few more very similar to this one. Haven't tweaked them to what I need but I will eventually~ Have a great week~


zeyanimisbah (author)sunshiine2015-08-15

I'm looking forward to seeing your future instructables. you too have a great week xx

sunshiine (author)zeyanimisbah2015-08-16

I will, thanks~

sabu.dawdy (author)2015-08-15

Hey sunshine,
Congrats. It's good to see you in finalists.

sunshiine (author)sabu.dawdy2015-08-15

Thanks sabu.dawdy, I thought for sure I would see yours in finalist. There sure were a lot of good entries for this contest. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend.


momoluv (author)2015-08-14

such a good tutorial, i love all of your instructables, thanks for sharing!

sunshiine (author)momoluv2015-08-15

Thanks so much for your comment and for stopping by momoluv. Have a great rest of the summer~

meismeems (author)2015-08-07

Very well done Sunshine! I suspect the Vit C you put in the formula will act as a natural preservative, but I'll have to try it out myself and see if it lasts. I love new shampoo recipes!

sunshiine (author)meismeems2015-08-07

Hello meismeems,

Thank you for sharing. I am not sure there is enough citric acid to preserve the shampoo because I did not have anything to compare it to. If I recall it seems like I read something about soapnuts having an anti bacterial component but I did a quick search and did not find anything related to that. I hope you try it. I am very happy with soapnuts and love the different uses. I still have a lot left from when I purchased them. It only takes a few soapnuts to make a large batch, and so many uses~ Thanks for stopping by and do have a great weekend~


Oscelot (author)sunshiine2015-08-08

fair warning, citric acid will strip colour like mad. so if you colour your hair, you may want to be careful with that portion of the recipe. I'm definitely going to have to try this though, with a more coloured hair friendly balancer - it looks lovely. :3

sunshiine (author)Oscelot2015-08-09

Thanks so much for sharing this information. Can you suggest a different one I might try? This shampoo is so nice but the pH is very very high unless a balancer is used. Have a great day and thanks again


Oscelot (author)sunshiine2015-08-09

I don't know of anything off the top of my head - when I get some money to experiment with this I'll let you know if I come up with something though. :3

sunshiine (author)Oscelot2015-08-09

I will greatly appreciate it if you do find something. I will be looking for an alternative also and if I find one I will let you know. Thank you so much for your reply~ Have a great week.


Misshelly742 (author)sunshiine2015-08-09

In reference to you not wanting to use essential oils because of the Bronner's experiment...have you thought about using hydrosols?? During the distillation process for essential oils the oil rises to the surface but the water is also collected (which is the hydrosol), and it smells lovely like the essential oil collected from it. However, it should be noted that hydrosols do need to be refrigerated. :)

sunshiine (author)Misshelly7422015-08-09

I just did a search on hydrosols. Thank you so much for this information. I have never heard of them before even though I have worked with homemade products for many years in small batches along the way.There is so much that can be learned. I read some have antibacterial properties and if I recall soap-nuts do as well. It has been a while since I have read about them. Again, thanks so much. I do plan on posting another instructable shampoo so I will probably try it when I do. Have a splendorous week~


Misshelly742 (author)sunshiine2015-08-10

You're welcome. I just love your instructible, I had never heard of soap nuts before, and am wanting to try making my own shampoo now. :)

sunshiine (author)Misshelly7422015-08-10

You sound like me LOL. My husband noticed how much softer and healthier my hair felt. I was surprised I did not need to use jojoba oil after shampooing. I love soap-berries aka soap nuts because they are concentrated enough to reuse at least 2-3 times before discarding them. I am a happy girl~ I hope you can try them and like the shampoo as much as I do. Thanks for the compliment.


Carleyy (author)2015-08-10

Awesome project sunshiine!!

sunshiine (author)Carleyy2015-08-10

Hey Carleyy, I embrace your compliment~ I was so pleased with the outcome;my hair is loving it and I sure hope my sister will be able to use it for her hair. I have been experimenting with an everyday body scrub that has been a little more difficult to achieve what I need. I don't give up easily and hope to tweak it enough to share here one day. It is a process. Thanks so much for stopping by and do have a great summer.


sabu.dawdy (author)2015-08-09

Love it. This was good instructable. I can't find soap berry in India. But I might try something different

sunshiine (author)sabu.dawdy2015-08-09

Hi sabu.dawdy~ There are other plants and trees that can be used and if I find some to recommend I will let you know. Yucca is a very good substitute but I am not sure it grows in India or is available to purchase online. Thanks for stopping by and commenting and do have a great week~


About This Instructable




Bio: I am married with two children. Spring, summer, and fall are my very favorite times of the year. I love the sunshine thus the reason ... More »
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