My friends and coworkers at Live Search have been seeing the results of my latest non-work mania - which is to make bath fizzes, otherwise known as 'bath bombs.'
(If you are too geeky, manly or allergic to keep reading about making your own bath products, leave now. Of course, you will miss out on all the friends you can make by knowing how to do this.)
Anyway, I am one of those high tech people who de-stresses from her job with hot baths, preferably with bath bombs from Lush.
Until I realized recently (thanks to a friend and searching the Internet) that you can actuallly make these at home. Now: your mileage may vary, if you are allergic to essential oils, baking soda, etc - then please DON'T try this at home. Microsoft is not guaranteeing this recipe, your health, my sanity, etc. Consult a physician if you are so inclined before starting any work of art or craft.
Mine is a riff off a recipe at Zenith Supplies which is also where you can get some of the harder to find ingredients if you live in Seattle. I contributed a lot of what's currently on the teeny stub at wikipedia on bath bombs (my famous brown sugar clumping analogy is repeated here). It's oddly a lot like baking without the heat.
Betsy’s Bath Fizzes /Bath Bombs Recipe
What you need
Citric Acid (order online or from a soap/candlemaking store like Zenith Supplies
Baking Soda (any drugstore)
Essential oil (only a few drops – don’t invest in large bottles unless you are serious about making a lot of bath bombs)
Carrier oil like olive oil or almond oil or avocado oil
Misting containers (at least two)
Molds to shape your creations: this can be as ordinary as muffin tins or as extensive as soap/candle molds.
1. Mix one part citric acid and two and one quarter parts baking soda. I used 1 cup citric and 2-2.25 cups of baking soda (if it's a more humid day, I use more soda) . I blended these with a half-cup measure (plastic) that I reserve for only making bath fizzes with. I also mixed in a bowl reserved for this purpose, but that’s because both items are plastic. I am told using a glass mixing bowl is non-porous enough that you can wash and do regular baking it it. I’m using plastic and I’m cautious so separate cooking versus fizzing implements is what I recommend. When I clean this stuff I run it through a dishwasher separately.
2. Prepare molds by layering bottoms with dried flowers. So far I have been using stuff from dried rose bouquets and daisy bouquets. You should be gathering flowers now to hang upside down and dry for your winter projects a few months from now. Lavender likewise. Note: even though the flowers are dried, the majority of scent comes from the oils. If you can, match the flower petals to the kinds of oils you are using (rose for rose etc). Be sure to match flower petal size to size molds. Use petite petals for tiny molds, and the whole buds for the big soap molds. Lush’s Tisty Tosty heart-shaped bath bomb makes use of 7 dried baby roses – and they are really tiny. So keep that in mind when scaling herbal matter to your fizzes.
This is the point where you open all windows and turn on any fans. Some people use masks (like those you wear mowing the lawn if you have allergies) because essential oils can make you sneeze or some folks are just allergic. (Again if you have allergies - do NOT use the oils that annoy you, make substitutions!). The room smells like your creations for quite some time. If you like, make them out on a deck or porch on a sunnny day and leave them to dry there.
3. Select out what essential oils you are using and mix. Note: No matter what your scent is, it is likely you should not use much more than the equivalent of ½ tsp of total essential oil mix + 1 tsp almond, avocado or other carrier oil. Zenith supplies oils so far I have used are *very strong*. (You may need much less than you think you do. Sniff the bowl of dry ingredients as you go to make sure.) Put the scent mixture into a clean spray container.
Some combos of oils I've used are:
a) rose + sandalwood + amber
b) rose + jasmine
Note: if the oil is too small to spray, drizzle it out from the container you mixed it in.
4. Moisten mixture by spraying witch hazel and essential oils (from separate misting containers) at the same time. You are likely to run out of oil before the witch hazel and that is fine. It does however depend on the day – a humid Seattle day and your mixture will start clumping more quickly than normal. The idea is to get it to the consistency you find really good brown sugar in the plastic bags in the store – fluffy like brown sugar that sticks together a bit. Also notice when the stuff starts sticking and clumping to my plastic measuring cup which is what I am stirring with.
This can take up to 10 minutes so be patient -- but don't overdo either, or the mixture will start fizzing in the bowl and not in the bath.
5. As soon as mixture holds its shape, pack into the molds. For decent size soap molds you will use the half cup plus a little extra (see how useful that is). For small items like stars or ducks you will be using less of the cupful but rearranging and pressing harder. Pack it in; the lines will be cleaner if you do.
6. Allow to dry overnight, then remove from molds.
This step varies based on who you consult. Waiting a day with the bath fizzes in the molds, won’t hurt. Some folks say to tap them out of the molds after 2-3 hours so they can dry quicker in the air, or, to bake them at your oven’s lowest setting (This will make scent go all over the house so beware). After some experimentation, I found Seattle air to be too humid/moist – you have to wait overnight and perhaps the full 24 hours. A very oily mixture or a very moist mixture won’t be ready in 2 hours for tapping (it will resemble Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie dough) – that is too soon to tap out. And it really is supposed to be as easy as tapping and it comes out – so if it doesn’t the bombs are not dried yet. Some might take a full 48 hours.
This is where you know whether you did your mixture right: I found star points and detail work broke off the bath fizzes if I didn't have the mixture packed in properly or its consistency was off.
It's best to tap them out onto wax paper: less mess later and if they do have to dry more, the wax paper is the best surface to protect them and your kitchen countertop.
Some other observations
Other Internet sites will advise that you spray with witch hazel the exposed part of the mold to “set” it. I haven’t figured out what difference that makes unless it allows you to smooth the mixture on the exposed end a little easier – it does make that “set” a little quicker but since I’m looking for overall structural integrity, it’s better to just wait. . The more you press the mixture into the molds, the longer it takes to dry but also, the cleaner the lines will be of the bath bomb.
Some variations of this recipe add one part Epsom salts. While I favor Epsom salts for bathing I found that the grains were too coarse to look good in my smaller molds (stars, ducks) though they looked perfectly fine in the bigger cake sizes. They do make things sparkle.
Other recipes call for cornstarch, powdered milk or Shea butter oils. I would alter the liquid aspects of the recipe to match any increase in powder, since the variation of dry ingredients affects oil usage and clumping.
Coloring your fizzes:
Using liquid food coloring is tricky. You have to keep mixing and mixing. One strategy that gives very subtle pastel hues is to mix it into the witch hazel ( use a separate container for this purpose, clearly marked, so you know the witch hazel is colored). Mist it into the mixture with the witch hazel for a subtle effect. If you want strong color add straight to a separate part of the citric acid/baking soda mixture, blend very well, and then use that strongly colored section to accent special sections of your mold ( swirls, layers etc.) Remember that whatever color you put in here goes into the recipient’s bathtub so easy does it. The dried flowers often look better in subtle colors rather than Easter Egg dye bright.
Molds: This is a constant source of experimentation for me. I’ve used stars, individual nautilus shapes, a dual swan bar shape, and plain flat disks to great success. Still experimenting with candle molds to get the “bomb” shape to work.
The plastic pvc ones for soap do allow you to pop fizzes out – sorta like bending an ice cube tray. If you find the mixture too soft as it plops out, form it again as best you can and leave it to air dry.
You can also make bath "cupcakes" or muffins. I'm still experimenting with these as they seem to take longer to dry, though look very cute. You put the muffin cups inside the muffin pan, pack the mixture down halfway, add more on top and spritz that with witch hazel. Add sugar sprinkles.
Sites that have photo essays to show you how it's done: