So now we know how to combine (and why to combine) the different surfactants… but how to calculate the Active Surfactant Matter we want in our product? (which also mean: how much surfactant we have to add to our product to have the surfactant concentration we want to obtain?).
As I already explained the Surfactant Matter of a liquid surfactant which we buy is not 100%: the surfactant is made of the Surfactant Matter and Water (and probably other ingredients like glycerin, for example); therefore every surfactant we buy has a “Active Surfactant Matter” percentage which is what we have to consider.
As I wrote in the previous posts about formulation of detergents (shampoo, bubble bath, shower gel, face wash), the amount of the TOTAL Active Matter of surfactants has to vary according to the purpose of our detergent.
Generally this is the scheme:
– face wash: <10%
– detergent for intimate use: <10%
– shampoo: 10%-15%
– shower gel: 15%-20%
– bubble bath: 20%-25% (in case you really use it only to make bubbles in the bath tub and you never use it directly on your skin, you could even reach 35%… but I don’t suggest it).
Now let’s learn how to formulate the detergent.
Let’s say we want to make a shower gel, with an Active Matter (once again, the effective concentration of surfactants) around 18%.
We have also already decided which surfactants we want to use:
– Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate (Concentration 29%)
– Cocamidopropyl Betaine (Concentration 36%)
– Lauryl Glucoside (Concentration 52%)
There are two different approaches in the formulation to obtain 18% Active Surfactant Matter:
We can choose which share/quota of the total ASM (active surfactant matter) we want to give to each surfactant.
For example this is my choice:
Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate 10
Cocamidopropyl Betaine 5
Lauryl Glucoside 3
Total ASM = 18 (as decided)
Now we need to calculate the effective grams of each surfactant that we need to add to our shower gel formula:
We divide the quota of each surfactant by the ASM of the surfactant (in decimals: the ASM of each surfactant is a percentage so if it is 29% we divide per 0.29 OR we divide per 29 and multiply the result for 100… up to you).
Anyway it is easier done than said:
Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate (29%) = 10/29*100 = 34,44 (you can add 34.50 gr)
Cocamidopropyl Betaine (36%) = 5/36*100 = 13.88 (you can add 13.50 gr or 14 gr)
Lauryl Glucoside (52%) = 3/52*100 = 5.76 (you can add 5.5 gr)
You can also reason the other way around: you try to guess approximately how much grams of surfactants you want to add to the detergent and then calculate the effective total ASM; if the result is not close to 18% total, you change the grams and calculate again until you are satisfied.
For example this is my initial choice:
Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate 40 gr
Cocamidopropyl Betaine 15 gr
Lauryl Glucoside 5 gr
Now I calculate the total ASM of the detergent:
Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate (29%) = 40*0.29 = 11.6
Cocamidopropyl Betaine (36%) = 15*0.36 = 5.4
Lauryl Glucoside (52%) = 5*0.52 = 2.6
Total ASM = 11.6+5.4+2.6 = 19.6
I can either decide that 19.6 is fine for me or I can decide to lower a little bit the grams or one or all of them and recalculate the Total ASM.
I decide to calculate again changing the value of grams:
SLS (29%) = 35*0.29 = 10.15
Betaine (36%) = 14.5*0.36 = 5.22
Lauryl Glucoside (52%) = 4*0.52 = 2.08
Total ASM = 10.15+5.22+2.08 = 17.45
Now I decide it is fine and I can proceed in the formulation of the Shower Gel! 🙂
Here I post a list of the most common surfactants you can purchase online, with their average Concentration (ASM) and for the most common I will add also few words on how to use them:
(Notice that the value may vary of few points % so the best thing would always be to ask the supplier which is the precise percentage for the exact batch of surfactant you are purchasing: suppliers always have this information, so you are not asking for something impossible; however you can also use these data 😉 ).
IMPORTANT: surfactants may have different commercial names from the substance they are, therefore always check the ingredients list when you purchase 😉
Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate – anionic (29%)
One of the most commonly used eco-friendly surfactants. Improves the foam of other surfactants (specially betaines) making it more smooth and soft. It becomes viscous at pH 5, but only if used in high percentage in the detergent (so remember to acidify your detergent with drops of lactic acid or citric acid). It becomes liquid if in contact with oils (perfume oils included) so synthetic thickening agents or xanthan gum have to be used (you have to consider this in the formulation because the xanthan gum goes in the water phase). Not good in shampoos.
SLES – Sodium Laureth Sulfate – anionic (27%)
It becomes very dense once combined with betaine and salt (betaine can be enough). It is very good in shampoos because it has high wetting properties.
It is not eco-friendly.
SLSA – Sodium Lauroyl Sulfoacetate – anionic
It is not aggressive (this term of course is relative) and it is a powder. It is good if used in the making of Bubble Bars (recipe soon ok 😉 ?)
Sodium Lauryl Glutamate – anionic (36%-40%)
Very delicate and used in products for kids. Unfortunately it tends to melt down the viscosity of many other surfactants (therefore formulate accordingly).
Sodium Comopolyglucoside Tartrate/Citrate – anionic (30%)
Delicate and eco-friendly. Used in products for kids and for people who have very sensitive skin. Very low viscosity.
Cocamidopropyl Betaine – amphoteric (30%-38%)
Alone it is not delicate but it makes other surfactants more delicate (specially anionic surfactants) in a ratio of 1:3 or 1:4 with the primary surfactant of the recipe. It is eco-friendly. Combined with SLES it is a viscosity builder.
Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate – amphoteric (36%-40%)
Delicate. It is used in shampoo because it has conditioning properties to the hair (however for thin hair it might be too much). It doesn’t burn the eyes (therefore it would be good in a shampoo for kids or in a face wash). Usually it is used around 5%.
Lauryl Glucoside – non-ionic (50%-53%)
It is a thick, white paste so it needs to be heated a bit to be combined with other surfactants; the good news is that it helps the viscosity of the final product. It is quite delicate and it reduces the harshness of the primary surfactants. Usually added in low percentage.
Decyl Glucoside – non-ionic (63%-63%)
Good foam booster. Unfortunately it tends to liquefy the other surfactants. Usually added in low percentage.
Coco Glucoside & Glyceryl Oleate – non-ionic (50%-55%)
This is a combination of the surfactant Coco Glucoside with Glyceryl Oleate (Glyceryl Oleate is the ester of glycerin and oleic acid. It is produced from oils that contain high concentrations of oleic acid, such as olive oil, peanut oil, teaseed oil or pecan oil. Source Here), which limits already the harshness of the first. It is added in low percentages (3%-4%)
Lauryl Glucoside and Cocamidopropyl Betaine (43%)
This is made of already two combined surfactants
Coco Betaine (29%-33%)
Coco Glucoside (51%-53%)
Disodium Laureth Sulfoccinate – anionic (35%)
Hope this was clear enough 🙂
Next time I will show a full recipe of a detergent (I still have to choose between a shampoo and a face wash but anyway sooner or later I will post both).
If you want more posts about how to formulate Shampoos check HERE
Let me know if you have any questions 😉
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
177 thoughts on “On Surfactants and Formulation (face wash, shampoo and shower gels)”
Hey, great! Maybe sometime I’ll write about all the decisions & compromises that went into my formul’n of the stuff I linked to here. Susan Barclay-Swift is the only other writer I know of online for DIY of such mixtures.
I would take issue, though, with your use of the catch-all term “detergent”, because although it fits the other products you categorize, it’s a little off base for bath foams, because when used in bath water they’re too dilute to be effective cleaners for skin. However, I have no short alternate term that encompasses skin & hair detergents along with bubble bath.
I also take issue with people who distinguish soaps from detergents in these contexts–because if you’re using soap to clean, it is a detergent–as well as with scientists who use “detergent” as a synonym for “surfactant”, even when the material isn’t intended for cleaning. And there are detergents that aren’t surfactant-based. It’s a functional category, not a chemical one.
Thank you for your comment!
Indeed I wasn’t sure about using the word “detergent” but I am not English mother tongue and I couldn’t find a better word to refer to what I am talking here 😀 Suggestions? 😀
Since the only other major toiletries product I can think of that uses similar surfactant compositions to the detergents are bath foams, you could say “detergents and foamers”. To be a little more specific you could write “water-based detergents and foamers” if you wanted to leave out oil-based products and adsorbents such as dry shampoos. But the description starts to get unwieldy, so if you just write “detergent” or “cleaner” or “cleanser”, you cover most of the ground in few words.
Hi, please i need some help.. im trying to make a sulfate free shampoo by using sodium lauroyl sarcosinate in replacement of the sodium lauryl ether sulfate but i cant get the product to thicken at all.. i thought that lauroyl glucoside would of thicken the product but it didnt.. Can you guys guide me with which chemical is needed to thicken sodium lauryl sarcosinate..
Here is the list of ingredients im using:
Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate
Hello there! 🙂
Eh… Lauroyl Glucoside HELPS to thicken but it won’t thicken your Sarcosinate… cause THAT is the problem.
You see, Sarcosinate thickens only at pH 5 and I think it works quite well combined with Cocamidopropyl Betaine; the Lauroyl Glucoside is fine but shouldn’t be used at high percentages so it won’t make the trick.
Anyway, as I said, Sarcosinate thickens at pH 5 sharp… but the problem is that it doesn’t “bear” any kind of oil (if you add even just few drops of fragrance oil – the shampoo is liquid again!! 😀 ).
If you wanted to make it thick I would suggest you use a gelling agent of the water phase (xanthan gum, for example… or maybe Sclerotium Gum! I think it might work great!).
However, just my suggestion, I wouldn’t make a shampoo based on Sarcosinato simply because it has an awful wetting ability (all the opposite of SLES)… but that’s cause I have long thin hair 😀 so if you have short hair it might just work great for you! 😉
Hope it was of some help 😀
Have a great day!
It’s true that sodium lauroyl sarcosinate doesn’t have great wetting power and doesn’t “bear oil” in concentrated solution, but it has a virtue as shampoo in that it works very differently with oil once diluted: its lather stays thick and on your head as it picks up scalp oil, rather than breaking and running off as most do. Pretty expensive stuff, last I checked, as surfactants go, but usually even expensive surfactants don’t turn out to be the major cost in products like this.
As to thickening, other than the pH adjustment suggested above, the trouble with sodium lauroyl sarcosinate is that it doesn’t want to jell, but simply to precipitate out, so you can’t just add a sodium salt to get the common-ion effect for viscosity. So I’d go with a gum, a polymer carbohydrate, a carbomer, or something, if the formulator doesn’t want to switch surfactants.
Thank you Robert 🙂
Hey thanks for the quick response!
After some various tests we have noticed that the reaction of Cocamidopropyl betaine with sarcosinate and lauroyl glucoside seems to thicken the formulation to certain extend..
Also Adding Cocamide(DEA) to the formula seems to thicken it as well… on the other hand adjusting the pH sounds like a great idea! I havent tested it yet.. my only concern is that the pH is going to be too acidic.. the shampoo is going to be aimed as dog shampoo.. so a neutral PH would of been ideal for their skin.. We are trying to develop a sulfate free shampoo thats delicate and not harsh to their skin.. for that reason we chose sarcosinate and lauroyl glucoside as main ingredients in the formulation..
Its true basing the formulation with only sarcosinate might be an expensive way to do it..Can you guys suggest which other surfactant can i use in conjuction with sarcosinate and lauroyl glucoside to reduce costs??
hmmmm I am not sure actually of which other surfactants might be cheaper, to me, in fact, they all cost very similar – except for the very cheap SLES which you don’t want to use – the others have similar costs where I buy. 🙂
However… about the pH being too acid for dogs… I don’t know cause I am not an expert about dogs but pH 5 doesn’t sound very harsh to me and, also, consider that you have to rinse it off completely (therefore there is water bringing the pH back to neutral), so I am not sure but I wouldn’t worry too much about that! 🙂
IF the pH adjustment works, I would just go with it! 🙂
Usually cocamide DEA (or any alkanolamide) is going to bring in some alkali, so I wouldn’t be concerned with its lowering pH (may raise it, though). However, the ethanolamides tend to sting eyes, which you wouldn’t want in dog shampoo. By my direct observ’n, lauric DEA stings eyes worse than soap; coconut diethanolamide less so, but still considerably.
Many pro dog washers use human baby shampoo on dogs. The ingredients of those are also slightly expensive, though maybe less so than sarcosinate. Typically no-eye-sting shampoos have been heavy on highly ethoxylated derivatives of glycosidic and/or of monoglyceride surfactants, and have been buffered to neutral pH with citrate, borate, or phosphate buffer, and don’t concern themselves too much with viscosity. In fact, you probably would want a less viscous liquid for washing dogs, because you want to pour on a lot of it and spread it quickly on wet, squirmy bow-wow. An adult human user may want to put a little viscous liquid on wet hands and pre-lather it before putting it on the head, but a dog washer is going to be holding the wet dog in one hand and pouring shampoo on it with the other.
I have read the articles and used Approach #1 in the above article to figure out how many grams of each of the surfactants I could add to my bubble bath. I used your 25 ASM as the goal. I assigned values to the 3 surfactants and ended up with 37gm; 21 gm and 12.7 gram. What do I do with those numbers of grams? I would like to experiment but I dont want to waste ingredients. Do I make a surfactant that is topped up to a 100 ml surfactant AND THEN use the BLEND as the surfactant in my bubble bath? For instance, a recipe asking for 50% surfactant of my choice-Would I use my BLEND at 50%?
It would be correct but there would be two problems:
If you do like that, you would end up with a mix that you could never change.
Secondly, surfactants are preserved so it sounds like it would be fine but it is not: the different pH and the different composition (plus the probably different preservatives used) dont make for a stable mixture to be kept in the shelf just like that. You would have to add some kind of preservative and then, once you make your final bubble bath, you would have to add preservative there as well. Doesn’t sound like a very good option.
So, do like this: formulate your bubble bath and make just one batch of it.
Now you know the amount of grams of each surfactant that you need to use in order to make your bubble bath…
Just remember: you have to reach 100 grams total 🙂
So you can add a gelling agent, if you want a very thick bubble bath, you will have to add water (but you calculate its amount in the very end), and then you can add other things as well… 1% oil? (but remember your bubble bath will make less bubbles 😉 ), 0.25% caffeine? (for a good wakeup 😀 )… just anything you want.
Don’t forget you have to add the preservative as well.
Then a good smell 🙂
I made many detergents (mostly shampoos, but the procedure is the same) so you can find a recipe on my blog just as example and then you can make your own 😉
thanks, for the reply. It was a big help. I appreciate your site and I will enjoy following it as well.
I took some shortcuts in formulating my bubble bath because I wasn’t originally intending to make a commercial product, plus I got a little lucky. To figure out the proportions of 3 surfactants (sometimes I used 4), the way I experimented was by starting with free sample solutions of the surfactants (which manufacturers were more eager to supply in those days), and pipetting each separately into bath water, recording the amounts. So in the experiments, the ingredients wound up mixing only in the bath. Then I splashed & saw the foam’s characteristics. A few rounds of that, and I’d figured a range of proportions and overall quantity of active matter. I actually shipped the components separately to the family I made it for, and had the children mix it in the bath, which they loved doing. (When it comes to solutions for blowing discrete soap bubbles, it turns out the surfactants & other ingredients benefit from time sitting mixed together in concentrated solution, but when it comes to foam-making solutions, not so much.)
When it came to making it as a product that could be sold, my task was simplified by the fact I wanted an unfragranced & uncolored product. I got lucky in that the surfactant solutions all had the same preservative, and in the same concentration; but that’s not a great streak of luck, because that’s not an uncommon circumstance. I decided to add no water, which meant the mixture would have the same concentration of preservative each surfactant started with. It meant the total active matter would be in the range of 30-40%, which is certainly no problem with bubble baths. (I’ve read that Badedas, which was to be used either in bath water or on a wet cloth, was at one time around 60% TAM.) I wasn’t aiming at a precise concentration of total surfactant actives, but only the proportion; TAM calculated out nominally to 36.7%. I also got lucky in that the solutions mixed well without dilution, as long as they were mixed in the right order; gelation was a problem if a certain couple ingredients were mixed first. Also, the betaine surfactant included was a good pH buffer, and although different samples of it came in at different pH, they were all in an acceptable range. Eventually the mixture did become nonuniform, but that was after many years, due to the slow breakdown of the sulfosuccinate surfactants included, and my inability to sell much of the stuff!
If you’ve already determined that your surfactants foam together the way you want in a certain proportion, then your approach of making a blend & using it in different mixtures is OK if all you want to vary are minor ingredients. It’s still possible that one fragrance oil (or mixture thereof) will affect the foam or viscosity more than others, especially if you need to add more of one than another in different versions of your product.
Thank you Robert.
I never liked foam in the bath, so I never thought of taking advantage of the fact that, if not mixed together, surfactants are “stronger”. I always saw it the opposite way: to make a milder detergent, i mix certain surfactants that, if taken alone, would be more harsh!
So thank you!! 🙂
I wasn’t trying to take advantage of any increased harshness or “strength”, far from it! What I meant was that if you’re making a solution for blowing discrete bubbles, it helps to let the mixture age for a while. This is well known to makers of bubble blowing solutions. At one time I scoffed at that notion; I figured, these are all small molecules, they should equilibrate quickly, unlike large molecules like proteins, with no big free energy barrier to their flipping around at an interface. But while that may be true on the level of individual molecules, apparently when it comes to a mass of even small surface-active molecules, statistically it takes them a while to settle into a structure in solution — like at least overnight, maybe days.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case for foaming solutions such as those of bubble bath, maybe because they’re used at high dilution or maybe because it’s different when you’re not trying to blow large bubbles. So you can dilute the ingredients separately in the bath water (or test cylinder), stir the water to mix it, and it acts the same as if the foaming ingredients had been pre-mixed. At least I haven’t been able to tell a difference. It speeds up testing a lot when you can do this.
And I did test a lot. My aim was to make a foaming composition that could be tolerated at relatively high concentration for long periods by a friend’s daughter without causing the urogenital irritation she’d experienced when taking bubble baths with her younger brother & sister, or when playing with shaving cream in the bathtub. I took a guess that sulfosuccinate-betaine mixtures would be at least as mild as a linear combination of their properties separately, and I hoped they would be even milder, as had been shown with ether sulfate-alkamidopropyl betaine mixtures. The sulfosuccinates would be the primary foamers, the alkamidopropyl betaines secondary foamers and also foam stabilizers. At first I tried lauryl sulfosuccinate & lauramidopropyl betaine, and found that if the sulfosuccinate predominated, the resulting foam was very dense, which would be good for children who liked shaving cream (Don’t they all?), but not so voluminous to begin with & not very stable, which was a disadvantage because these kids stayed in the tub sometimes for literally hours at a time. So I tried adding variable amounts of laureth-3 sulfate, and found definite tradeoffs between density and volume + persistence of the foam. I found a proportion they liked and which the one with the sensitive crotch tolerated no matter how much or long she sat in the bath.
But once friends encouraged me to try to do more with this, I found sensitive-crotch test subjects for whom it made a difference whether ether sulfate or ether sulfosuccinate was used, and I settled on a mixture whose anionic surfactants were all sulfosuccinates. I found other anionics could be used instead along with the lauryl sulfosuccinate, but it seemed using the ether sulfosuccinate would be my best bet in terms of mildness. I also played around with the alkamidopropyl betaine, and found that a ratio of 3:2 or 2:1 lauric to palmitic amidopropyl betaine made it more skin-softening and produced a more cottony foam while sacrificing very little in foam volume and nothing in foam persistence. However, palmitamidopropyl betaine was too hard to obtain in an affordable small production quantity. Other alkamidopropyl or alkyl betaines gave inferior foam in these mixtures.
To get a US patent (which has expired), I came up with an objective test of the density of the foam in a cylinder shake test, which was to weigh a fixed volume of the foam. However, it took an assistant at a lab I engaged for the purpose to come up with a practical way to pack foam into a vial: drill 5 small holes in the bottom to prevent an air pocket.
So I encourage people trying to formulate such products to play around like this with surfactant solutions using graduated pipets and a bathtub, sink, or clear plastic cylinder to see how the foam acts. If you have friends with young children, they’ll tell you how it behaves when they splash & play with it, get it in their eyes, etc. I believe some of the newer formulas (such as using sucrose esters & various synthetic glycolipids) surpass mine in terms of mildness for a given foam height or persistence when allowed to settle, but I doubt they beat it yet for density or resistance to breakage when being played with, for the same degree of mildness.
Some people are now moving away from ethoxylated surfactants because of contamination with 1,4-dioxane, which is a probable weak carcinogen. I still believe in using ethoxylates, whose dioxane content can be considerably reduced, but mostly because even if all ethoxylated surfactants were taken out of toiletries and hand dish detergents, they’re practically indispensable for now in formulating low suds laundry detergents, which are all the more needed with HE washing machines, and there are many uses for polyethylene glycol, which even shows promise in, of all things, cancer prevention! I’m afraid taking ethoxylates out of baby shampoo, etc. to reduce dioxane exposure would be something like a smoker who stops barbecuing to reduce exposure to smoke.
Thank you Robert 🙂
To It’s all in my hands: I have another questions concerning the formulation of my bubble bath. I am trying to duplicate a bubble bath that I already use. Water is the first ingredient on their label. When I calculated the grams of each surfactant using the ASM calculations above based on use of the same surfactants that they have listed on the label, I am finding my surfactants are taking up to 78% ( with the larger at about of the surfactants calculated at about 45 grams) and obviously I can’t proportion water a higher gram than that. QUESTION: How are they able to make water the largest ingredient by weight? I wondered if it because they recognize that the liquid surfactants are mostly comprised of water or is there another explanation I haven’t considered? Thanks
That’s exactly the reason 🙂
In the ingredients list they write in order of the concentration of a certain ingredient, so obviously it is also considered the water inside the liquid surfactants 🙂
thanks so much; You do make my life easier. 🙂
Thank you for this piece, very educating especially for some of us who do not have any chemistry background. I am trying to make a bath/shower gel. kindly correct me if i have done the wrong thing. i mixed industrial salt -10 grams with texapon, (SLES)- 150g together and then added 784 g of water, cocoabetain – 30 g, ascorbic acid -4g; glycerin -4g and then perfume – 4g all to make one liter of bathing soap. this is my first time trying. Kindly correct this formula. thank you.
What are the concentrations (meaning the active matter) of your surfactants?
Why are you adding ascorbic acid? It will oxidize in a very short time making your shower gel yellowish/brownish.
To It’s all in my hands: I am a mother who is interested in making an organic hair shampoo for my daughter, however I have little information on organic ingredients. On the list of surfactants above, is there an organic surfactant?
Hello Gugu. There are many so called “organic surfactants” and if you check some online resellers of cosmetic ingredients they should give you all the data. However: if your daughter has long hair it can get tricky: the surfactants with the best wetting ability are not “organic”. On the other hand, it is true that nowadays you can even purchase shampoos with good ingredients at a low cost.
I wouldn’t worry too much about “organic” surfactants in a shampoo, I would worry more in finding a delicate shampoo (with “as good as possible” ingredients). This is just my idea but if you think about it: a shampoo touches our skin for a very short amount of time, the worst thing it can do is to irritate and dry the scalp. I have posted a recipe of a No SLES shampoo (SLES is a great surfactant for a shampoo, however it can irritate in the long run) that should have good ingredients (actually I have no idea if a surfactant can be “organic” but those in this recipe are at least “eco-friendly”).
The only system I know of for classifying products as “organic” apply to foodstuffs according to rules regarding how they’re grown. Surfactants of the kind you want may be available from fats or oils that would be considered organically farmed, or not. However, is that actually your concern in making your daughter’s shampoo, or are you meaning “organic” in some other way?
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hello ..im trying to make free sls shower soap with olive oil &koh..but the problem is that the foam is not enough .can i add any surfactant like coco amid propyl betain &lauramid ? To increase the foam
Please reply ..
You want to mix a liquid soap with a detergent. Not a very good idea.
Why don’t you make directly a detergent without sls? Most detergents don’t contain sls anyway, but at least the pH would be better than the one of liquid soap!
A mixture of potassium olivate (the liquid soap solution Eman is contemplating) with other surfactants may not be the BEST idea, but it’s not necessarily a bad one. Various mixtures of soaps with other detergent surfactants have been commercially or at least technically successful. In particular, soap + cocamidopropyl betaine, and soap + lauric diethanolamide, both suggested by Eman, have been done, although the soap wasn’t pure olive oil soap in the examples I know.
Olive oil soap is known to be a rather low foamer, and is usually chosen for mildness. (Also for label or ad appeal, being expensive.) Cocamidopropyl betaine will almost certainly boost its foam, promote rinsing, and possibly even enhance mildness. Lauramide DEA (lauric diethanolamide) will boost foam & viscosity of the solution, and requires only small amounts, but may increase eye sting & waterlogging of skin. Lauramide DEA’s been out of favor for some years due to a cancer scare resulting from a routine test in rodents, but I believe that result to have been a fluke and not to reflect any actual danger. Either of those ingredients mix well with soap solutions and may be preserved by the same preservative as soap solution; one’s choice of preservatives active at the pH of a soap solution are limited, but once you’re satisfied with whatever you were going to preserve the soap with, the other surfactants won’t present any additional problem. Both of those surfactants are also stable at the pH of soap solutions.
One possible problem, though, is that if there’s a significant amount of free dimethylaminopropylamine in the cocamidopropyl betaine solution, it will stink when mixed with soap. You might be able to reduce the odor to an acceptable level by mixing in an open container until enough of the amine evaporates, or by overcoming it with perfume. You cannot deal with it by neutralizing it with acid, because of the soap in the mixture.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you Robert! Always so helpful!! 🙂
I never made liquid soap cause I read it ends up being more aggressive than superfatted soap bars. Would you agree with that?
To the extent superfatting works, that would be predicted, because usually liquid soap makers strive for a clear solution, which they can’t get with superfatting. But I think the “aggressiveness” of a soap formula would be influenced more by its fatty chain profile than by superfatting. Just a hunch based on things I’ve read & remember vaguely, rather than much experience. If my hunch is correct, all the superfatting you could manage with, say, coconut soap would not make it as mild as olive soap.
Thanks again!! 🙂
Is it possible to add SLSa to cold process soap? Would I add it at trace?
You can mix soap and surfactants BUT I don’t really think it is done like that: if you add SLSA at trace it means you are adding it when the soaping process has just started and it doesn’t sound right to me.
For what I know syndets are done differently.
But why do you want to add SLSA to your cold process soap? What do you want to obtain?
I’d like to request you to answer me about the ASM value of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.
I am not a Mr. Anyway you can find this data on the MSDS of the ingredient that you purchase. It should be around 30% more or less, but do check on the MSDS because these values vary depending on where you purchase from!
Usually SLS solutions are sold at a nominal 30% actives (w/v) in water, the specs saying something like “at least 28.5%”. However, it can also be obtained in alcohol-water solutions at 60% or 70%; those don’t get promoted much for use in toiletries, but they’re out there. And it can also be gotten as a powder or noodles which might be 88%-97% surfactant, the remainder consisting almost entirely of sodium sulfate. Don’t waste your money buying electrophoresis grade!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’d like to make a shampoo for my scalp. I use a medicated shampoo called Alphosyl 2 in 1 – helps with scalp psoriasis and dandruff. It says the active ingredient is coal tar and alcohol. But the other ingredients aren’t amazing – it does help maintain my scalp and stop the flakijg and soreness but it leaves my hair dry and I have hair loss at the too of my head. Anyway – how would I formulate a nice shampoo with the coal tar added (assuming that is what controls the excessive flaking) – I tried castor oil once and omg within 2 days I had 10 layers of scalp, had to remove it all with baby oil. I just bought sea buckthorn oil to try
This is a cosmetic blog, I don’t have ANY knowledge to formulate medicated shampoos.
What I would suggest you to do, is to make a VERY DELICATE shampoo to use every second time you wash your hair.
Castor oil is a strong emollient, it wouldn’t help the flaking. It would simply attach the layers together.
There are some ingredients which help against dandruff, like climbazole, piroctone olamine, sulphur… But I don’t know if they would help in case of psoriasis. So, once again, if you need a medicated shampoo, buy it. You can just alterbate between your delicate one and the bought one.
Sorry I couldn’t help more.
Thanks for the response! 🙂 I had some genius idea to make a mild shampoo and add coal tar and make some scalp creams / oils with seabuckthorn oil – it’s all an experiment
I checked: it contains an alcoholic extract of coal tar at 5%.
This shampoo says it makes a lot of foam. Often in case of dandruff and psoriasis the shampoos are a little more aggressive than usual, for washing away really well all the flakes. This works, but maybe it doesn’t work for everybody and for a prolonged time, so it might be good to really alternate this shampoo with a very mild one that you make.
If you really want to attempt replicating this, you shouldn’t add coal tar to your homemade shampoo, but you could think of making a hydroalcoholic extract of coal tar and add that at 5%. But I would avoid trying to make a medicated shampoo at home.
You can make an hydrating scalp gel, but I would really avoid any oils because they make the scalp greasy, they are difficult to wash away and I don’t believe they would give you the feeling you wish to get. I would really stick to a simple hydrating and soothing scalp gel. I have seen in some salons Hyaluronic acid scalp treatments. You could start from there, maybe?
Wait a minute…it said alcohol was one of its active ingredients? Ordinary ethyl alcohol? I strongly doubt that would be active. You might feel something if the instruction was to apply it undiluted to a dry head; if it had a high percentage of alcohol, you might feel a sting, which might be a kind of counter-irritant effect, though not one I’d recommend.
Apparently the active ingredient is an alcoholic extract of coal tar at 5%.
Ok that sounds like a good Idea – I will try to make a mild shampoo and alternate with the medicated one – I am still learning about shampoo from your blog. I am not sure how to make a gel yet. would that need to be washed out? I’d need a gel or a scalp lotion that I can apply and leave on daily (I have afro hair so can’t wash daily)
Thanks for the advice I really appreciate it 🙂
You can make a scalp gel that you can leave in, but I am.not sure if reapplying it everyday would be a good idea. I believe applying it just once could be enough (and then reapply only after you have washed the hair again).
The scalp has its own oil production that protects the skin so the hyaluronic acid gel would simply help the hydration of the scalp, without adding extra oils! 🙂
I have a very simple HA gel formula here! (Use medium weight Sodium Hyaluronate! If you use low molecular weight SH it will stay liquid)
Good luck with experimenting! 😉
Hi! Just yesterday I got my hands on these surfactants (Polish DIY stores only sell the glucosides and cocamidopropyl betaine; one has Plantapon SF, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate and Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (granules)). There’s no chance of buying other anionic surfactants 😦 So I had to buy these from German store:
* Sodium Coco Sulfate (granules) – 90-95% WAS
* Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSA) – 65% WAS
* Disodium/Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate – 24-26% WAS
* Sucrose Cocoate (which is rather a “sebum restorer” than surfactanct)
I wanted to buy Sodium Laureth Sulfate, but I could not find it in near european online stores. So I chose Sodium Coco Sulfate. It is in solid form and thus has more than 90% of actives. But the manufacturer doesn’t give precise % amount. It states: 90-95%….
And I want to make my diy shampoo, based on your recipe (with SLeS, CAPB and lauryl glucoside). But I know that I have to keep that maximum 15% of active matter in the product. So what should I do if I don’t know the precise percentage of WAS of Sodium Coco Sulfate and Cocamidopropyl Betaine (30-38%)?
Another question is: it is said that the optimal ratio for SleS/CAPB is 4:1/3:1. But are we talking about the ratio of WAS or the ratio of the sub-products? You know what I mean?
If you could help me again, I would be very grateful. I’m on the higher level (as I’m not using only Lauryl/Caprylyl-Capryl/etc. Glucosides). After many years of trials and fails I realised that I need anionic surfactants in my daily personal care routine. But I want my personal care products to be made sensibly, so they can do me no harm and make my life better 🙂
There are many shops in Europe that sell SLES! I am from Europe too 🙂
However what you bought is fine!
It is normal to not know precisely the ASM so just use a medium amount: for example 93 and 35 respectively.
The ratio is about the ASM 🙂
You will need a small amount of your SCS, whatever is left you should substitute with water. It probably will need heat to melt! 🙂
Let me know how it goes
Thank you for your help. I’m gonna play around with the new surfactants tomorrow and I’ll let you know.
When I look at your recipes I see SLES to CAPB ratio at about 2:1 (of course I’m talking about the ASM ratio). I’m confused… Which ratio is the best?
Have a nice day!
That’s simply because I don’t like to follow the rules too much 😀
The beauty of surfactants is that you CAN play around with them and find what you like more. Is it more foam? With bigger bubbles? Smaller bubbles? Silky feel? Dry feel?… and so on 🙂 you are free to make your own calculations and try the “advisable” ratio first and see how things change after 🙂
Oh, I get it. I think I’m being too annoying. But I’m that kind of person who likes to get everything in black and white to avoid failures, etc. Especially when it comes to health-related topics.
I love your blog and I wish you posted more frequently here 😉 You’re a great inspiration for me.
And the same goes to Robert.
Thank you, guys.
I send you a lots of love from Poland.
Cesc! (I think it is written wrong 😀 but I can also say a tongue twister in Polish… something like V schebjashign schounsc b vsmi… oh well I cannot write it down! Ha!) 😀
Good luck with surfactants 😉
ps. I wouldn’t use too many good ingredients in a shampoo cause you wash them away soon after (a little is fine, just don’t add the expensive stuff). If you want to apply some good ingredients to your scalp, you could create a light gel or fluid serum to apply to the scalp after washing your hair 😉
Cześć (It’s “Hi” in Polish) 😉
I know, I know…. I shouldn’t be using this and that in a shampoo… Etc. A shampoo is only for removing dirt from our scalp/hair. If so, why like 99% of the drugstore shampoos don’t click with me? Flat hair, itchy scalp, increased greasiness made me search for something that I could make myself and hope it would work for me. I don’t want my shampoo to be filled with unnecessary ingredients, believe me. I don’t care about the scent, etc. I want a simple solution with some nice things added, like “zinc pyrithione”, betaine, maybe 1 or 2 herbal extracts. And if the shampoo is made the way it should be, why not to keep it on the scalp for 1-5 minutes, so that the active ingredients have the chance to do something good? I need to shampoo my hair every single day. I want this product to clean my hair well and leave it in good condition.
Well drugstore shampoos aren’t formulated on you! And there’s also another factor: our head and needs and season change, so the shampoo that might work a moment before, might not work well the moment after.
This happens both with drugstore shampoos than with the ones you are going to make.
That’s just how it is: you won’t find THE FORMULA that will work great ALL THE TIME. You can find a formula that works well most of the times… But it will still need constant tweaking and changing to make it better.
About leaving the shampoo on for 5 minutes… It depends on the formulation but generally speaking surfactants can be quite strong on the skin so it is not a good idea to leave them on for more than necessary to wash the hair: it is more likely the surfactants will reach deeper rather than the extracts 😉
So really, if you want to add good ingredients to the scalp, do so after the shampoo is rinsed! A leave on gel will be a great solution!
Could you give an example of the formulation of such gel, please? Only an idea of how to make it. I mean.. what would be the base of the gel?
The easiest thing would be using gums (they have no issues with electrolytes) so for example xanthan gum and then the extracts you want to use and a preserving system. That’s all.
I would add a little glycerin too (1%-2% or it gets sticky).
Thanks. I have xanthan gum. I always use it for thickening glucosides based shampoos.
I will play around with it.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I do have one ingredient recommendation for shampoo to remove flakes, and that is, if you’re going to include an alkamidopropyl betaine, the palmitamidopropyl (cetamidopropyl) has been shown superior in removing skin flakes. This was in the Bisset-Mao patent that was used in Ivory Dishwashing Liquid, and removed more dandruff from swine (as shown by protein recovered in the rinse water) and left human hands smoother, and made my own skin feel softer. I don’t know why it hasn’t been used in shampoos. It won’t prevent dandruff from occuring, it’s just better at removing flakes that are there. However, there are fewer suppliers of it than there are of cocamidopropyl, lauramidopropyl, and oleamidopropyl betaine. Even in Ivory Dishwashing Liquid, it was used for only about 3 years, possibly because of its expense.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Where did you get the idea you had to keep TAM to 15%? maximum? If it’s more concentrated than that, you’ll just use less of it each time. People even formulate shampoos as solids, with much higher TAM by weight. Consider, for instance, how much soap there is in a cake of soap, yet there’s no problem with using it directly.
Also, the ratios of the various surfactants are not critical. The difference between 90% and 95% will make very little difference in how the product acts. Since you stated an optimum ratio of between 3 and 4:1, you can see that’s a broad range. If anything, in some cases I’d be concerned more about the difference between 5% and 10% that implies of other materials in there — probably mostly sodium sulfate, glycerol, and fatty alcohol. That won’t matter to your shampoo, but it might in some things.
Thanks a lot for your response!
I want to make my shampoo as delicate as possible, so I’m gonna stick to that max. 15% of active matter in case of the shampoo.
I’m not gonna dilute it before putting it on my scalp because I’m planning to include some active ingredients in it.
“Where did you get the idea you had to keep TAM to 15%? maximum?”
This post is about formulating LIQUID detergents and I have written the general guideline that a liquid shampoo should have a surfactant active matter between 10% and 15%, and I totally stand by this guideline. It is not a strict rule but when people just start formulating with surfactants it is a good place to start from.
” If it’s more concentrated than that, you’ll just use less of it each time.”
Except when you forget about it and then end up with a dry/flaky/itchy scalp.
“People even formulate shampoos as solids, with much higher TAM by weight.”
This post is NOT about solid shampoos (I have written about those in other posts).
However I would like to say that on the market the solid shampoos are in a MUCH SMALLER amount than the liquid shampoos and one of the reasons why is exactly that they are less tolerated than liquid shampoos.
What if the total ASM is higher than best practice? For example, total ASM of hairwash is 18% (should be range 10-15%). Does it always cause surfactant irritation or allergies or it depends on people who use it? My hairwash is 18.9% of total ASM and it works better than the other one which 14% of total ASM. Please for your advice.
Of course the suggested ASM gives just a general idea and you can formulate out of the guidelines of course.
The irritation depends on so many factors, included the kind of surfactants you have used.
There are also commercial shampoos which have a higher ASM than usual, they are usually for dandruff or other scalp conditions like psoriasis. 😉
This is just a matter of fashion in use & marketing. For instance, shampoo used to commonly come in non-pourable gel form squeezed from a tube, or a paste from a jar, advertising it as requiring just fingerfuls to use. Some suppliers of ingredients were seeking to promote versions of finished product that would be anhydrous or nearly so, but that idea didn’t catch on. At the other extreme are face washing products dispensed at their final dilution, the user not needing to add water and lather them, and children’s shampoos dispensed as foam on hair that’s just damp or not even dampened.
Regardless of the concentration of surfactants in your shampoo, people are just going to use as much as it takes for their pre-wet hair to feel “soapy enough” to them. You, the formulator, don’t have any control of the concentration it reaches in use.
The comment you are making is not wrong but it is not exactly on point: while it is true that you cannot control the concentration people use, you can control the concentration in the product and that MAKES a difference.
For instance, shower gels can be applied directly to the skin so they have way lower concentration than bubble baths (which are supposed to be put in the water and make bubbles). Bubble baths have even 35% ASM and it is totally NOT ADVISABLE to use them directly to the skin cause studies have shown that so high % of ASM can disrupt the first layers of the dead cells of the skin and get pretty deep (causing irritation). So, yes, concentration does make the difference.
We can’t control the use people do of a product, but it is not the same thing as to say that one can go ahead and use whichever concentration they please.
That’s why there are guidelines, which can be bent, but which are meaningful too!
Hello, Im making a shower gel with essential oils and I need something that works, because I have oily skin and need to be clean, so mild sufractants are not for me. Can anybody provide info on suitable detergents? As less ingredients as possible.
Hello. I would still avoid making it too aggressive. I think a basic SLES CAPB combination will do the job. I would keep the ASM around 13-15. You can always increase it later.
It has commonly been observed that when cleaners are irritating, skin produces more sebum in response, defeating the purpose of aggressive grease-cutting.
The only extra suggestion I have is that if you can get palmitamidopropyl betaine (also called cetamidopropyl betaine), replacing some or all of the CAPB with it is likely to soften skin better, removing dandruff-like flakes more effectively. However, palmitamidopropyl betaine is not as widely available as is CAPB, and jells more strongly with SLES than CAPB does, so extra work is required in mixing.
And use washcloths with a high thread count. Also make sure the essential oils are not irritating in the concentrations you’ll be using them at.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you wery much.
Now I have cocoa glucoside and decyl glucoside mix 10 and 20%, the rest is water, citric acid for pH control, 5% panthenol and 3% essential oil.
It makes excellent shower foam but I would like to have smoother feeling on skin, what should I add?
“smoother feeling” is a very personal description… Maybe polyquaternium 10 would do the trick 🙂
Ive just bought in some surfactants to make a range of shower gels, shampoos. I have (thanks to your site) managed to get an idea of the ASM of most but need it for Plantapon SF. I have searched for this but can’t seem to find it, I have the data sheets but it is not listed.
Can you advise?
It should be written somewhere. I am not home right now but I believe Plantapon SF is already a blend of surfactants (I might be wrong).
Are you sure there is no range in the data sheet? For example 30-33%? 🙂
According to this site:
Plantapon SF has 30% of actives.
Thank you Pawel!
You’re welcome 🙂
And here’s an example of the anti-hair loss shampoo with Plantapon SF in it (it’s called “IHT9 Natural Hair Loss Therapy” and it’s made in India):
Plantapon SF*, Rose Water (Rosa Damascena), Dehyton KT* (Cocoamidopropyl Beatine), Lamesoft PO 65* (Coco Glucoside & Glyceryl Oleate), Olivem 400®, Bhringraj Ext. (Eclipta alba), Jatamansi Ext. (Nardostachys Grandiflora), Fenugreek Ext. (Trigonella Foenum Graecum), Neem Ext. (Azadirachta Indica), Shikakai Ext. (Acacia Concinna), Ritha Ext. (Sapindus Mucorosai), Amla Ext. (Emblica Officinalis), Aloe Vera Ext. (Aloe Barbadensis), Saw Palmeto Ext. (Serenoa Serrulata), Ginseng Ext. (Panax Ginseng Extract) Henna Ext. (Lawsonia Inermis), Cocoa Ext. (Theobroma Cacao), Tea tree Ext. (Melaleuca Alternifolia), Lemon Ext. (Citrus Limon), Citric Acid, 2-Phenoxyethanol.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiment. I have some questions as I see many shower gels with fruit or flower extracts. How could we combine all the surfactants and extracts?
Once I tried to make rose shower gel with SLES, coco betaine and Nacl and Glycerine and use Rose hydrosol mix with water. But, a few days later there was a thin frothy white layer on surace of shower gel liquid. May I know why this happened? How could I fix it? Smell and viscosity all ok.
And I use Sodium benzoate and Potassium sorbate as a preservative.
There must have been some oil which didn’t get solubilized and so separation took place. However there is a difference between plant extracts and a hydrosol.
Plant extracts tend to be liquid and water soluble and don’t create problems. There are also powder extracts which, instead, can create problems because they tend to be not particularly soluble in water (they may form a deposit). I have never worked with hydrosols so I cannot really say. All I can say is that usually when a frothy layer forms, that’s an oil (for example a fragrance) which wasn’t properly solubilized.
Thank you so much for your reply.
I will try another time to test.
How should I make my liquid fabric laundary detergent smell so good and fragrance last long on the clothes even after washed and dry?
Good question! I don’t know much about fragrances: I just know there are some enhancers on the market.
However, you will have to use a solubilizer and a fragrance oil to add to your shampoo, not an hydrosol for fragrance.
Hello, I’m super excited to have been directed to your site by Jane Barber.
My issue is that my shampoo separates at 113F. Jane suggested that I use a “high yield” polymer to replace Olivem (used for lotion, not shampoo). My formulation is for a conditioning shampoo and the ingredients in question that I am using are: Decyl glucoside (primary surfactant), polyquat 78 (secondary), olivem 1000 (primary emulsifier), glyceryl stearate (secondary).
Do you have any suggestions how to stabilize my formula using a (green) high yield polymer, or just stabilize it in general. Also I just calculated my active matter and it is 12.
Thank you in advance,
Why do you need to use an emulsifier in a shampoo?
Sorry, I don’t understand.
I thought I had to use two surfactants for the cleaning and two emulsifiers to combine the water and oil phase and help with stability. I don’t understand either, that’s why I need your help.
The thing is that surfactants ARE emulsifiers. By adding olivem 1000 you are adding wax which is very difficult to emulsify in a quite liquid formula (and that’s why there is a separation).
What kind of oil phase do you have?
If it is just the fragrance oil, you MIGHT need a solubilizer, but often it isn’t needed.
I have few formulas of shampoo on this website, check them out and see what’s the difference with your formulas.
I’m sure you know this, but just to help explain…sometimes even when an overall formula is emulsifying, it’s convenient to make intermediate mixtures of more than one component, and sometimes to do that a separate emulsifier is needed for some ingredient of that intermediate mixture. People look at the total formula and can see it would be stable even without that emulsifier, especially considering that emulsifier is present only in a small amount. It’s a processing aid.
Yes, for example intermediate mixtures with a solubilizer, in the case of some fragrances, for example.
Thanks so much for the help. I have been working on this shampoo for over a year trying to figure this out! My oil phase (other than the emulsifiers) is an alkyl ester at 3g and during cool down essential oils at 0.5. Last night I remade my formula and left out both emulsifiers and it still looks a little weird. I still need to try it to see how it feels on my hair which is type 4c coily. Maybe I just need to thicken it more? Here are my ingredients: Aloe vera, Decyl glucoside, polyquat 78, polyquat 10, panthenol, edta, hydroxypropyl guar, alkyl esters, silk, preservative
Sorry but without knowing the formula I cannot try to guess which ingredients are in wrong or right amount. Even aloe vera might disturb the balance a little.
Since you are adding an ester, I would suggest you add a solubilizer that takes care of the ester. You will have to do trials with that to find out which solubilizer works best with that ester and at which ratio.
However I have a question: why do you want to add an ester at 3%?
What is the functionality of the ingredient in the formula?
I don’t like polyquat 10 for oily hair, I think it works best on curly or ethnic hairs (yet again, I need to see at which concentration you are using it), never tried polyquat 78 so I cannot say.
I understand. I will do more experiments that require less aloe vera. I am adding the ester at 3% because that is the amount that gives me the best slip for detangling my hair. When I add more, it feels too greasy. Polyquat is added because my hair is dry/curly/ethnic. I would like to give specific amounts in private if that is possible because I will be selling my product. If not, I thank you so very much for all your help. I am so much further along because of you.
Sure you can write to me privately either on my facebook page or via e-mail itsallinmyhands at libero dot it
Thanks for helping to make surfactants more easy to understand. I would like to make a simple shampoo and facial cleanser with minimal ingredients. I have SLSA, coco betaine, cetyl stearyl alcohol and emulsifying waxes. Is there a simple formula that could be effective using these ingredients or can you suggest others that I need to add to my inventory to be able to make products for normal/dry skin and hair?
You don’t need emulsifying wax nor cetyl stearyl alcohol. You can already make a shampoo, but to make it a good shampoo you will wish to add some other ingredients depending on your hair type
I have some shamppo formilas, go check them so you get an idea of what I mean 🙂
Do you have a non-synthetic recipe for laundry detergents?
What do you mean with “non-synthetic”? 😀
I make cosmetics, not laundry detergents, but if by “non-synthetic” you mean without surfactants… No, even soap is a surf anyway! 🙂 You could try washing clothes with ashes (they make a soap out of the greasiness you left on the clothes), like they used to wash clothes in the old times… Just be cautious cause ashes are caustic 😉
You want recipes for soap-based laundry detergent? The ones online are all bad — some very inferior, the rest extremely inferior. The trouble is they all call for a great excess of alkali, and not even the best kind.
Sodium carbonate and borate are readily available at retail in the USA and many other places as laundry additives and for other purposes, and they’re cheap. Seeing this, some writers online started propounding and propagating formulas that were known a century ago to be inferior for laundy, by using a lot of those alkali and a little soap. These alkali-heavy formulas were appropriate in the 19th Century when people wore clothes made of heavier fabrics and washed them infrequently, often soaking them for long periods in solutions near boiling. But in the 20th Century as home washing machines and laundromats became more prevalent, and more fabrics with more dyes became available, the detergent industry started looking at the effects of repeated washing on fabrics. The alkali-heavy formulas degraded them (weakening and/or dulling them) faster. Turned out that although a “builder” (a class of additives that can include those alkali) could help cleaning of soap in hard water, and even to some extent in soft water, the ideal formula was mostly soap with only a little of the builder. Soap is more expensive than those alkali, so the cheaper brands of soap powder contained a higher proportion of alkali, and gave “cheaper” results too.
But better builders were discovered too. Turned out that sodium silicate of moderate alkalinity was best with soap, and later was found to inhibit corrosion in washing machines too. Rinso (named for its ability to promote rinsing of lime soaps in hard water) and Persil (name a concatenation of perborate and silicate) were known for incorporating silicate, but eventually most laundry detergents did. Highly alkaline silicates are caustic (although some got used later in dishwasher powders), and silicates of too low an alkalinity are more suitable as glue, so the right silicate has to be used. Small amounts of sodium carbonate and borax could still be used in addition.
This was all before the use of other surfactants and phosphate builders; we’ll skip that subject, except to say that for a long time the best soap-based detergents were like those used in Brillo pads: soap plus silicate plus alkyl or alkylphenol polyethoxylates as lime soap dispersants. Only thing is, the soaps used in Brillo are chosen for higher molecular weight so as not to dissolve too fast; for laundry you’d want coconut soap such as Kirk’s or your own homemade. If you want to make a detergent like that, you could use any of various no-suds or low-suds liquid cleaners like Lestoil or Shaklee Basic-H as the source of the nonionic surfactant as lime soap dispersant. I doubt you’ll easily be able to find an appropriate sodium silicate in stores, though, but you could use a small amount of the other alkaline builders discussed. Just remember that the mixture should still be mostly soap. Some home laundry detergent formulas also incorporate a percarbonate or perborate bleach, usually by adding Oxi-Clean powder.
In those formulas the other ingredients were mostly to prevent graying and stiffening of fabrics by deposition of lime soap from hard rinse water the way washing machines work now, where they spin out the water thru the laundry, which acts as a filter paper. (Lime soaps had not been as much of a problem in older machines where laundry had to be wrung out.) However, in recent times there’s been a revival of interest in soap-based laundry detergents with added gemini surfactants, which aren’t just lime soap dispersants but actually work together with soap in hard water so they clean together. I doubt you could easily source those surfactants, though.
Another problem with homemade laundry detergent is keeping a batch uniform in either dry or “goop” version. The ingredients tend to sift or separate. You won’t have spray-drying equipment, so if you’re making dry product the best you could hope for is for the flakes of soap (which are slightly moist as soap comes from the cake you’re grating) to agglomerate the powder components. People who make the wet goop recomment re-stirring it before every use. Or you can just add ingredients separately to the washload.
Robert, I see you get my jokes? 😀
And I am sorry but I don’t agree: the problem with homemade laundry detergents is NOT keeping them uniform..
But keeping them safe (nobody adds preserving systems cause peoe who do these detergents are usually part of the “all-natural-community” who believe any chemical thing is bad (ignoring that even water is chemical and even they ate totally made of chemical compounds).
And it is not just UNSAFE for heath using unpreserved detergents… But it is also BAD FOR THE WASHING MACHINE because soap leaves residues!
When formulating the detergent do you also subtract the grams of surfactants from the water amount as well? Like you subtract the preservative and and thickener?
I am not sure I understood correctly, however I think the answer is yes.
Jennifer, I made a post all about water and the calculations 🙂
I think you might find your answer there 🙂
I UNDERSTAND ACTIVE MATTER NOW AND THE MAKINGSKINCARE ACTIVE MATTER CALCULATOR. THIS IS A GLORIOUS NIGHT – HUZZZAAAHHH
Well, I am glad you liked the post! 🙂
When you talk about CAPB being a ratio of 1:3 or 1:4 to the main surfactant, is capb the 1 or the 3 in the ratio there?
If you think about the word “main” you’ll get your answer.
Also is it possible for an anionic surfactant to not have any active matter? I really want to use foaming apple from lotioncrafters but they don’t list any active matter percentage on it. Usually they are really good about listing everything about the product. https://lotioncrafter.com/products/foaming-apple
I’m trying to find an anionic surfactant that hasn’t been listed with a prop 65 and that can go with capb.
i suppose i could just go with their recommended amount and then just test and see how the product works
They have active matter, if they didn’t, they would be just water 😉
Yes you can use recommended % and then tweak the formula according to your taste
Thank you T_T ❤
I need some advice to make my DIY shampoo more delicate.
Harsh winter with a dry air, air polution and stress made me very dry (dehydrated and oily – it’s NOT a dandruff caused f.e. by Malassezia, it’s just flaky dry skin) scalp. I’ve been CO-washing (DIY Behentrimonium Methosulfate + 0,5-1% Coco-Glucoside) for 3 weeks in order to calm the skin and sebum production.
It’s better (no itchiness, redness, bad smell, nothing. Back of the head is still flaky, but the rest is ok), but I feel that I need to go to the stage 2 with some more cleansing strength like shampooning every other day. I’ve made something like this:
8% Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate
7% Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate
2,7% Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (MCT Oil)
2,3% Hydrolyzed Keratin
0,6% FEOG (Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin)
Citric acid to 5,5-6 pH
Demineralised water to 100%
Can I add something or increase % of some ingredients to make it even gentler? I’m afraid that I’ll make my skin even more dry, I feel that SCI is very effective in cleansing and that it could be to aggressive, and I’ll have to start from the stage 1 again (CO-washing for a few weeks).
Cheers from Poland,
Yes I agree that SCI might be too strong in this case 🙂
Siema, Andrzej 😉
Hi, Andrzej 🙂
Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate and Disodium/Sodium … Glutamate are the most gentle known anionic surfactants. Remember that – still – they have the same “mechanism” of removing fat from our skin/hair as SLeS/SLS, etc.
In your case I would make the non-ionic surfactant (coco/decyl/lauryl-glucoside) as the main surfactant in your shampoo, followed by SCI and Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate. I would also add betaine (2-5%) and 1-2 % Panthenol.
SCI never seemed so gentle to me though, from a testing point of view.
🙂 Personal opinion
Siema, Paweł 😀
Since I already made this shampoo, what can I do now? Should I just add more Coco-Glucoside and other ingredients without increasing SCI %? And what ratio Coco-Glucoside:SCI:Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate do you recommend?
I read that Betaine is nice in making surfactants less irritating, yes. What about Panthenol, I mean – isn’t Glycerin enough? Panthenol is expensive (and washed off anyway), I’d rather add cheaper humectants to a shampoo.
I also read about Cromollient SCE, which can make SLS waay less irritating. I wonder, if it’s true or just marketing.
I can’t tell you anything for sure you could add that would counteract the defatting effect of the SCI. I can tell you something that does NOT work, at least on my skin, to do that: stearic acid. To make my hands feel less dry and irritated from washing this winter, I tried switching from soap to Dollar General’s knock-off of Dove, which is a well-known mixture chiefly of SCI with stearic acid. It made my hands even worse. Judging by how the sink looks where the wet cake runs onto it, the stearic acid is depositing; but no coating of a simple refatting agent like that can reverse the adverse effects of such a grease-cutter on skin. Maybe it’s its effects on proteins that’s the problem.
One thing you might TRY is mixing one or more alkamidopropyl betaines with the SCI, reducing the total amount of SCI while doing so, to take advantage of irritancy reduction of anionic surfactants by these betaines. However, with the disodium cocoamphodiacetate you already have in there, you might not see this advantage. If you go this route, I’d try reducing the amount of the cocamphodiacetate as well as of the SCI. And if you’re going to use an alkamidopropyl betaine in this role, I’d prefer palmitamidopropyl betaine, maybe mixed with some even higher molecular-weight betaine like stearamidopropyl. In fact to the extent they’re available, I’d try moving up in average chain length of all the surfactants from coco- to something higher — solubility permitting.
Thank you all for the answers!
@Robert, I forgot to mention that Cocamidopropyl Betaine makes my skin angry after 1 week. I don’t know, if it’s the allergy or what, but I read opinions of many people with sensitive scalps, that they react very bad to CAPB too
That’s why I use Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate. It’s very hard to buy different surfactants here in Poland
That’s very shocking what you wrote about making your hands worse after Dove :O Maybe it’s just high concentration of SCI as it’s the main ingredient? I read on some blog that creamy syndets are formulated this way, that they have very high levels of surfactants to wash off without leaving any kind of fatty film. I used once Dove syndet on my face a few years ago and this day my skin was sooo oily that I could scratch it off and have it under my nails. It was so aggressive that make my skin full angry mode. But I had no irritations or redness.
I’m lucky (or not) that I have no problems anywhere on my skin except on my face and head – I can wash my hands with any soap and they are not irritated nor dry.
“I’d try moving up in average chain length of all the surfactants from coco- to something higher — solubility permitting” again, it’s hard to buy anything else here than these surfactants from my shampoo, CAPB, Decyl/Lauryl Glucosides and blend of Decyl Glucoside (and) Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate 😦
Of higher average chain length – Behentrimonium Methosulfate, but that’s what I’ve been washing with for last 3 weeks. But it’s cationic (and pretty strong charge), so it’s building up and with each week I have a greater need to use something stronger, at least every other day.
I even can’t use clarifying shampoo with ALS once a, f.e., month, because it makes my scalp a nuked Sahara 😀
I wonder why SCI is considered as one of the mildest and no-irritating anionic surfactants then. There is even a research, which says it’s super mild and it doesn’t penetrate skin (because of its high molecular weight), so it doesn’t wash away proteins like sulfates do.
I used SCI, because I want to believe (lol) it’s true and I think it should make other surfactants wash off with it instead of being adsorbed by skin and irritate. Also PQ-7 works better with anionics, so I thought that PQ-7 could be this “refatting” agent as it’s substantive to the skin and hair or at least make the shampoo gentler.
“These in vitro studies demonstrate that an SCI micelle of radius 33.5 +/- 1 Angstrom (as determined using dynamic light-scattering measurements) experiences significant steric hindrance and cannot penetrate into the SC through aqueous pores that have an average radius of 29 +/- 5 Angstrom”
After rethinking it twice, I’ll probably just make a new one without SCI. I don’t want to risk any more skin irritation/dehydration.
I’m thinking about sth similar to my previous one, but without anionics:
5% Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate
2-3% Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (MCT Oil)
2% Hydrolyzed Keratin
0,6% FEOG (Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin)
I whish I could buy Stearamidopropyl and Palmitamidopropyl Betaine here and try it out.