Tips and Techniques

Helpful Hint to keeping the cost down

One thing i've fond is if you plan on making a bunch of bath teas it can get some what expencive depending on the herbs.But you can use oatmeal as a filler. Note: Do not compleatly fill the bag or it will explode. (oatmeal expands).

Alli 8/23/03

Scent Tips
Please be VERY careful using citrus eo's in lotions. most of them (the cold pressed citrus oils) are photosensitizers. This isn't much of a factor in soaps, wehre they are rinsed off, but in lotions they stay on the skin and can cause damage if the wearer goes out in the sun or is exposed to ultraviolet light.

If you want to anchor the scent of a light, top note, it needs to be blended with some of the more lasting middle and base notes. There's a brief introduction to scent blending at:
Marge Clark 3/22/99

Marking Toiletry-Making Tools
Since many of my toiletry-making tools and cooking tools look the same (and in fact are pretty much the same, ie., blenders, measuring spoons, pyrex measuring cups) I decided to label them so that my husband and I don't use the toiletry ones for cooking--much as I love my creations, I don't want to eat them!

What I did was, I marked all the stuff I use for lotion-making, etc., with a big red nail polish "T". Since I store my toiletry stuff with my cooking stuff this is a really easy and quick way to tell them apart, and the nail polish doesn't wash off.
Cindi Cho 2/25/99

Frozen Ice Packs
Mix 1 cup water with 1/3 cup rubbing alcohol. Pour into ziploc and freeze. The alcohol keeps it gel-like. Keep one in the freezer for emergencies.

Make sure you label it well as you wouldn't want to use these as ice cubes. (I suppose you could use vodka if you were very concerned with accidental ingestion.)
Raina Dobson 5/22/98

Drying Flowers
This is the way I dried my rose: I used two parts corn starch to one part borax. (I used the regular old laundry stuff, as opposed to cosmetic grade, since the dried flower is not coming in contact with my skin in a cosmetic).

I mixed up this solution, and poured some gently between the petals of my rose, to sink down into the rose head. Then I gently covered the rest of the rose in the mixture, and left it in there for two weeks.

When it came out, it was nicely dried out, and still had its original color. (It never had any scent to begin with, so I can't comment on how the scent holds up). I brushed all of the cornstarch and borax off of it, and it's just beautiful!
Ela Heyn 5/22/98

Infusing Oils
Get a crock pot and place your herb into it and cover with the oil of your choice. Olive oil is good, but I personally don't like the smell. Put your crock pot on and let it sit on very low for about 24 hours. Another way is to place your herbs into a pot, cover with oil of your choice and put on stovetop. Set on VERY low heat and let it sit there for 4-6 hours. At this point, you can strain your herb and repeat the process until the oil is of the strength or smell that you want. The more you repeat the process, the stronger the infusion will be and the less you will have to use of the oil for the desired effect. Yet another way is to take a jar and fill with your herb and cover to about and inch or two above the herb and seal the jar. Place the jar in a sunny window or sunny spot and let sit for about 2 weeks, making sure that you shake gently everyday. Then open the jar and strain your herb and repeat process again for a stronger infusion. There are many different ways that people make infusions, you just need to choose which one is best for you.
There is a problem with fresh herbs growing bacteria and spoiling the the whole infusion. The problem with dried herbs is that you don't know how fresh they were. So if you grow your own, take your fresh herb and remove parts you don't need and dry before using.
Roxy 9/2/98

Testing Oil Blends
When blending eo's and fo's for my soaps I wanted to find a way to try different combinations without wasting $$. The solution: TOOTHPICKS (clean ones of course ) Say I'm making a blend with two parts lemongrass & one part cedarwood. I dip 1/2 of two toothpicks into the lemongrass and 1/2 of another one in the cedarwood then hold them all together to smell (you can also keep them together for a few days to see if one scent overpowers any others. That's an example using a known ratio, but when I'm experimenting I use the same method (also keeps you from having to worry about contaminating your oils by crossover)
Abe Izen

What can I do with clay?
You can mix your dead-sea clay with any of the same wonderful ingredients you would use with regular clays of white or green or red or ...purple. These might include but are not limited to:

Various oils such as Jojoba, Kukui Nut, Sweet Almond (the *carrier* oil, not the essential oil of almond), Fractionated coconut oil, etc. (watch the nut oils as some people are allergic to them)

Waters and Distillates: Distilled water, fragrant hydrolats, milk, cream, yogurt, honey, ice cream and fudge sauce.

Herbs and other ingredients: oatmeal, lavender or chamomile buds pulverized, calendual petals, dried whole milk powder, organic juniper berries, fennel seeds, ....

Essential oils: Lavender, roman chamomile, patchouli, rose otto, palma rosa, juniper, cypress, neroli, frankincense, sandalwood, geranium, ylang ylang ...

Tips for blending Bath Salts
Mix a few drops of essential oil with the herbs you use or another one of the dry ingredients. This will help "fix" the scent as well as aide in the dispersal of the eo's so they are not all together in one place.

Never mix *wet* ingredients with the clays or salts till you are ready to use them and ... especially with clays ... never keep them for more than 2 days in the fridge. NEVER keep them unrefrigderated period, once the moist ingredients have been added. Bacteria just come to life!!!

Using Beeswax and Borax to Emulsify
One tip on emulsifiers (that I haven't even tried yet) I think it's from Erich Keller's book, is to use borax in conjunction with beeswax. According to the author, both are emulsifiers but each supplies qualities the other doesn't have.

Adding Borax
From what I understand, the borax solution has to be added very slowly or it will separate. I've made the cold cream and gardner's cream in Kelly Reno's book and if you add the borax water too quickly, it's a mess!!!!!

Shaping Bath Bombs
Dry out the citric acid by spreading it in a shallow baking dish in the oven on warm for about an hour.
Kari Reynolds 12/8/98

Puffy Bath Bombs
I found a really easy way to shape bath bombs. I had no luck making them into little balls. after I mixed it all together, I drop the whole thing on a cookie sheet and mash it down with my hands. After I get it as thick as i want , I used cookie cutters. All different shapes. Boy, was that ever easy, I just moved the finished ones down and started again. Best of all no waste. I just left them on the cookie sheets to dry... couldn't be easier.
Janice Waterstradt

Baking Bath Bombs
Depending on your recipe, baking can help firm them up. The caution on baking is if you have too much oil in them, they start fizzin' on you. Same goes for the nuker (though I didn't personally find the microwave helped make them harder, like the traditional oven did).
The "curing" time helped mine firm up a little too, for what it's worth.

Curing Bath Bomb Problems
Like anything else, chemistry (and hence, the manufacture of bath bombs) requires pretty tight controls. When you switch the amount of type of oils and/or scents, you also effect the outcome.

I learned this lesson with bath bombs the hard way. I had found the perfect recipe, but went ahead and switched the oils. The result was OK--but not the perfect specimen I had originally come up with.

Best advice I can give is to back off the oils a bit til the least amount needed to hold your mix together is found. Mist them after removing them from the moulds with a little witch hazel (very lightly).
Trina Wallace 7/31/98

Coloring and Scenting Bath Salts
I find, that when making bath salt, adding a small amount of glycerin to the color and scent helps to hold both.

Deodorizing used bottles
To get the smell out of bottles that have contained fragrances.
I tried vodka first, since I had some 80 proof. I had better results though with rubbing alcohol.
Judy Phillips

Harvesting and Preserving Herbs
The best way to harvest is just simply to cut! For lemon balm and mints, just cut the stems as far down as you want (since it is toward the end of the season, it won't grow much now, so cutting most of what you have is okay). Take a look through the leaves and pull off any that look brown, yucky, buggy, etc. For lavender, just cut the flowering stem, don't take any leaves from the plant. it is best to cut the lavender either just before the buds open or when they have opened; I don't cut them for keeping if the blooms are spent and brown.

If you plan to use the herbs in any food products, rinse them well first. If you plan to use them in bath/body products, you don't need to wash them unless they really look dirty.

Then, grab a bunch of the lemon balm, mint, lavender, etc., (about a 1/2 to 1 inch diameter bunch), and put a rubber band around them. I always attach a small piece of paper stating what the herb is to the rubber band (sometimes you can never tell what the heck you have dried in a couple of weeks!)

Hang them upside down in a cool place. I use my basement, and I attach the rubber bands to a clothes pin and hang from a clothes line. Most herbs will dry within two weeks, but if you are uncertain, let them hang a little longer. You know they are dry when the leaves are crumbly.

Then ... take a bowl or a paper bag, or something else, and hang the dried herb over the bowl or bag and crunch away. You can always get finer pieces as you need them by putting them in a coffee mill.

You can use your lavender, lemon balm, and mint in just about anything -- tea, salts, soaps, whatever your imagination wills.

I store my dried herbs in brown paper bags. Last year, I tried storing them in plastic ziplocs, and there must have still been a little bit of moisture in the plants, because they got moldy (I lost almost my entire harvest from 1996.). I always write the latin name of the plant on the bags, along with the American name and the year I harvested. I keep my mints separate, and I try to keep my lavenders separate. Lavender flowers won't really contribute much color at all to your soaps, but they will give it a nice texture (yes, I grind these in the coffee mill, too).

As far as the stems -- compost 'em!
Pat Stang

Quick and easy DREAM PILLOWS:
NO SEW ones!!! (I *hate* to sew)

Cut (with pinking shears) 2, 4 or 6 oblong pcs. of material ... about 6" X 4" I like cotton muslin or flannel.

Combine herbs such as:
Lavender buds
patchouli leaves
lemon verbena
melissa (lemon balm)

Mix seperately in a small bottle:
3 drops Vetiver or Sandalwood OR patchouli essential oil
6 drops lavender
3 drops clary sage
3 drops roman chamomile
6 drops tangerine (optional)

Allow to sit for a day or 2 then add these oils to about 4 cups of herbs above. Stir. Place in a tightly closed jar for another few days (away from light and heat).

Using your cut fabric and fabric glue, glue 3 of the 4 edges together. Fill the "pouch" with the herb and essential oil mix. Glue the remaining edge of fabric together.

If you use cotton muslin, you can also decorate with a stamp ... or do a herbal print on the fabric to "dress it up" or ... use lace on the outer edges. Glue or sew the lace to the edges.

Place the "pillow" under your regular pillow ... or inside your pillow case at night for a good nights sleep.

For children, I suggest only using lavender and chamomile.

Happy dreaming,
Copyright 1998 Susan

How to make:

Preparing an infusion is as simple as brewing a cup of tea. The water should be just off the boil because vigorously boiling water disperses volatile oils in the steam. Use this method for flowers and the leafy parts of plants. Standard dose consists of 1-2 teaspoons of herb to one cup of water.

Place the recommended amount of the herb in a cup or mug. Pour hot water into the cup. Place a saucer over the cup to prevent the steam from escaping. Use a strainer while pouring the infusion into another cup. Larger quantities can be made using a pot with a close-fitting lid. Store remainder in a cool place.

This method involves a more vigorous extraction of the active ingredients of the herb. This is the preferred method for roots, barks, and twigs. Heat the herb in cold water and simmer for up to an hour. Standard quantities are 30-60 grams of the fresh herb to 750 ml water.

Place the herb in a sauce pan and add cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour. Strain through a sieve into a cup or other container. Store in a cool place.

A compress is simply a cloth soaked in a hot herbal extract and is applied to the painful area. A cold compress is often used for headaches. Infusions and decoctions can be used for a compress; the cloth can be soft cotton or linen, cotton ball, or gauze.

Soak a clean piece of soft cloth in a hot infusion or decoction. Squeeze out the excess liquid. Hold the pad against the affected area. When it cools or dries, resoak in the liquid. Repeat.

Similar to a compress, but the whole herb rather than a liquid extract is applied. Chop fresh herbs finely or boil in a little bit of water for about four minutes. Dried herbs can be decocted before use.

Boil the fresh herb, squeeze out excess liquid, and place the herb directly on the affected area. Smooth a little oil on the skin first to prevent the herb from sticking. Apply gauze or cotton strips to hold the poultice in place.

An ointment contains only fats or oils, but no water; it does not blend with the skin but forms a separate layer over it. Melt 500 grams petroleum jelly in a bowl over a pan of boiling water or in a double boiler. Stir in 60 grams of the dried herb and heat for about two hours, or until the herbs are crisp.

Pour the mixture through cheesecloth into a pitcher or bowl. Wearing rubber gloves, squeeze it through the cheesecloth into the pitcher or bowl. Quickly pour the strained mixture while still warm into clean, glass storage jars.

Soap Mold Tip
Check out what your pringles cans are lined with before merrily packing them to the brim with just traced soap.... lye and aluminium make hydrogen (amongst other things) and guess what, if your pringles can is lined with an aluminium-backed plastic foil (as mine was) you end up with the soap oozing out and up, the inside centre fading away to a few strands of soap in amongst lots of hydrogen (naked flames watch out) and moonlike craters on the outside of your previously perfect soap cylinder. Not a pretty sight. Scraping off the moondust, I am sure that soapers in NY heard me yell NEVER AGAIN WILL I USE PRINGLES CANS! (are they lined with something different in USA? Or do you just use them for rebatches?) and today I went out and bought a few feet of plastic piping (in neat, 6inch high sections)and some endcaps. My luck and the eos will attack the plastic next time.... sigh.
Melanie Dunstan

Removing soap from molds
If the mold is glass or metal you can get stuck soap out by putting it in the oven at 100 degrees Celsius. When the soap next to the walls starts to take on that semi-transparent gelled quality it should slide right out. Smudge over the rough bits with your finger and later, with the edge of a knife to take off the uneven areas.
Melanie Dunstan

Soap Seizures
Care should be used when trying to incorporate extracts (alcohol based ones, the glycerine based ones do work ) into CP soap. More often then not the alcohol will cause the batch to seize.

Melt & Pour Technique
I have found that if I quickly pour one color after another there isn't as noticeable a line & the soap does not come apart when using. If you wait too long between pours it does. You will need to practice to get it right, if you pour the second color too soon it makes tie dye soap. Now that you are totally confused and frustrated, take heart, you should see my boo-boos!

Various Tips
1. ALWAYS use scrupulously clean hands and utensils. Where appropriate, sterilize bottles and jars.

2. KEEP A RECORD. A journal stating exactly what, how much, when and how will be invaluable in years to come (or even in 6 months' time when you want to repeat the recipe! Don't forget to cost ingredients, too.

3. CHECK UP BEFORE YOU BEGIN. Ensure as far as possible that your ingredients are fresh, wholesome and non-toxic in the quantities in which you will use them.

4. SHARE SOME BASICS. Nobody expects you to part with your carefully-researched and long experimented-upon secrets. But it's nice to share, so keep a couple of recipes on hand that generally 'work' and that you are happy to share with no hard feelings.

5. ENJOY WHAT YOU DO. Whether for a job or a hobby, approach your work with a smile, and that will shine through your products and your dealings with other people - making it a pleasure to be around you.
Melanie Dunstan

Determining the shelf life of your product:
After formulating a new product, use half of it on yourself first. This will introduce any bacteria that would naturally be introduced with normal use of the product. Then put it up on the shelf and leave it there for a couple months, to see if any bacteria, or mold, etc., is going to start happening. That way you can determine what the shelf life would actually be.
Kathy The Petal Pusher
As regards the shelf life of emulsions, I agree it is important to perform some type of testing, and some testing, no matter what type is better than no testing. However, a word of caution (actually several words):
  1. A product that appears (to the naked eye) to have no microbiological contamination, may in fact be wildly growing buggies and be quite dangerous
  2. Just because a few people test the product and don't show any signs of irritation...don't be so sure that others will not show bad reactions.
Ken 7/3/98
While companies test their products at various temperatures (25C, 4C, 45C) for long time periods. There are several tests taht are easy to perform and will be good predictors of long term shelf life:

  1. Put samples of the product in the trunk of you car and drive around for a week...the shaking coupled with the high temperature in the trunk is quite severe.
  2. Put the product in the window and subject it to sunlight (look at color, odor and signs of physical separation).
  3. Place the product for 24 hours in the freezer, then 24 hours at room temperature. Repeat this five times (cycles). If the product still looks will probably have a long shelf life (with respect to physical stability).
Ken 7/3/98
Put the potion in two different bottles. Keep one in the fridge, and one out somewhere and see how long each one took to go bad. You can usually use that as a decent enough estimate.

Sunny 7/3/98

Melting Myrrh
Melt oil and the myrrh together. The oil should keep the myrrh in a liquid state.
Noel Brinkley

Emulsifying Honey
One of the problems with the use of honey in lip balms relates to the incompatibility (from a physical point of view) of the honey to the waxy materials. The honey is rather polar (water loving) and does not like to be with the oil loving waxes that make up the bulk of the lip balm. One way to bring these materials together is to use a coupler material. One that has worked well for me is sorbitan sesquioleate. It is an emulsifier that is (can be) derived from vegetable Supplies. Another possibility (I haven't tried this) is to use beeswax with a very small amount of borax, as if you were making a water-in-oil emulsion. Add the borax to the honey and then incorporate it into the mix with the beeswax. The problem is that the honey must be emulsified into the waxy matrix. If it is not properly done then I would be concerned about high temperature/long term stability. Ken 7/3/98

Preserving your Infusions Leave an inch headspace above your oil and add vodka, rum or brandy, run a knife down the sides to get rid of air bubbles, add more alcohol and shake vigorously. At the end of the infusing time, pour off the top layer of alcohol when you want to use it. This prevents any molding. Rebecca Erisch 7/30/98

Making Desicators Bags Place a heaping teaspoon full of desicant (silica gel) in a empty tea bag then iron the edge closed. Ronald W. Brooks 10/3/98

Bath Boulders Sometimes, bath bombs just won't mould, so try doing bath boulders instead. You can have them any shape you like, and put the different coloured boulders in a jar. Also, to make bath bombs festive, make them in christmas tree or holly moulds. Anon 01/10/03

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