Introduction: How to Make a Gentle Ph Balanced Shampoo

About: I am married with two children. Spring, summer, and fall are my very favorite times of the year. I enjoy working in the yard, sewing, cooking, quilting, gardening, and creating. I do this to keep my sanity.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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~


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