Vegetable Shampoo Soap Recipe

Homemade shampoo soap is a nice addition for the soapmaker.   It may seem odd to those used to a liquid shampoo, but shampoo can be made into hardened bars that produce a glorious lather.  The recipe below acts as both a shampoo and a conditioner.  Castor oil is a key ingredient in the following shampoo that differentiates it from body soap; as it offers a rich and lustrous lather  commonly equated with shampoo.  To use  bar shampoo, rub the bar back and forth across the top of the head to work up a lather.  Distribute the lather throughout the hair and massage.  Rinse as usual.

Any shampoo can leave a residue in your hair that weighs it down and dulls the shine.  Make your own rinse using 1 part apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice, to 1 part water, boiled and cooled.  Add 15-25 drops of your favorite essential oil and store in a spray bottle.  After shampoo and water rinse, spray and distribute the vinegar rinse through hair and scalp, then rinse well with water.


3 pounds cold water (distilled water optional)

510 grams sodium hydroxide

2 pounds 13 oz olive oil

2 pounds 4 oz castor oil (Make sure to purchase detoxified castor oil as the raw oil has a protein that is poisonous)

4 ounces jojoba oil

2 pounds 4 oz coconut oil

2 oz each of the following nutrients, (optional*):  shea butter, sweet almond oil, apricot kernal oil, avocado oil

30 grams grapefruit seed extract (natural preservative), optional

40-50 grams (approx 15-18 teaspoons) pure essential oil of your choice.

*If you do not use the nutratives listed above, increase the jojoba oil from 4 to 8 oz, and the olive oil to 3 pounds 1 oz.

Note:  The amount of sodium hydroxide has been increased to compensate for the use of castor oil.   

This recipe makes approximately 40 (4 ounce) bars.

This formula is for normal to oily hair type.


Please refer to my soapmaking post for specific instructions on safety considerations, equipment and mold preparation.  Measure out essential oil, preservative, if used, and extra nutrients and set aside in separate tightly sealed containers.

Mixing Ingredients

1.  Put on goggles and gloves.

2.  Weigh out sodium hydroxide.

3. Put the 2 quart glass container or stainless pot on the scale (make note of weight) and add the required amount of water.

4.  Add sodium hydroxide slowly, mixing after each addition, until all the lye is dissolved.  Do this in a well ventilated room because there will be fumes!  Avoid breathing the fumes.  Set aside to cool.

5.  Set the soap making pan on the scale and weigh out olive oil, castor oil, jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, and avocado oil.

6.  In a 3-qt sauce pan, set on scale, and weigh out the coconut oil.  Heat on low heat until most of the solids are melted.  Remove from heat and add shea butter.  Stir until all the solids are melted, and pour into the olive oil mixture.  If you are using a natural preservative, add at this time and stir to incorporate.

7. With both solutions at 80 degrees F, add the oil to the lye mixture slowly and stir after each addition. (Use an electric mixer on low/stir speed or a stainless steel wisk).  Continue to stir  to keep the solution in motion.  Do not scrape the sides of the pot.

8.  Trace occurs when a drizzle over the surface, sits briefly before melting into the solution.  Depending on the olive oil type used you can expect o stir for 10-40 minutes before trace occurs.

9.  Try to anticipate when you are getting  close to trace.  Add the nutratives and essential oils and incorporate entirely.  Essential oils frequently speed the trace, so work quickly to incorporate before it sets up too much to pour into molds.

10.  Quickly pour into mold.  Mixture should be smooth with no lumps, and a uniform texture.  If it begins to set use a spatula to spread over the mold in a uniform depth.

Cure & Cut

Cover the mold with plastic, heavy cardboard, or stiff board of some type, and top with a blanket to insulate.  Newspapers also help to insulate.  I usually place several inches of newspaper over the board and then top with a blanket.

Leave undisturbed for 18-24 hours!  During this time the soap will heat up to complete the saponification process.

After the required time, open the package and check for firmness.  If too soft, wait until they are firm enough to cut. These bars firm up quickly so don’t wait too long or they will be too hard to cut into nicely shaped bars.

I usually lift the soap from the mold with the freezer paper, then cut to desired size bars.  Trim the bars and then place on a screen frame to cure for 4 to 6 weeks. Cover with a towel to protect bars during the cure.

Wrap as desired in a breathable material.

*Recipe taken from The Natural Soap Book, Cavitch, 1995.

I hope this product enriches your appreciation of Life’s Simple Pleasures!  Please let me know what you think.

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