We all day-dream about visiting a spa and having an exotic day of pampering, surrounded by the sweet scents, soothing sounds, and warm, invigorating hands of trained masseuses. But spas are expensive, and you can recreate the experience at home with DIY bath bombs.
You might not get the massage, but you can buy scented candles, load your aromatherapy diffuser, and download free recordings of gentle breezes, amazon raindrops, ocean waves, or even whale songs. Then you can dim the lights, run the bath, and drop in your fizzing bomb.
Making these bath bombs is surprisingly easy, and most ingredients can be found at home. You can find the few that are missing at your local store, and most of them cost $10 or less. But before we get there, what exactly is a bath bomb, and how does it work?
What is a bath bomb?
Typically, a relaxing bath involves soapy bubbles, essential oils, natural salts, and scorching water. DIY bath bombs are home-made bath accessories that give you the fix, color, and flavor of an exotic bath experience, but with none of the expense.
They’re made by combining various ingredients to provide the right amount of bubbly fizz. Some of these ingredients include:
- Baking soda: This is sometimes known as bicarbonate of soda. It’s a mildly alkaline powder that reacts with acids to create a sizzle-like foam and just a little heat. Most homes have it for baking. You can also mix it with vinegar for home-cleaning remedies.
- Citric acid powder: This is the naturally-occurring acid found in citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, and grapefruit (which isn’t the same as grapes). The acid will react with your baking soda to release carbon dioxide, which bubbles up your bath.
- Epsom salt: This is the ‘street name’ for magnesium sulfate, a chemical compound that soothes sore muscle, lowers stress levels, and softens your skin. It can also be used decoratively to add a little bling to your bath bomb.
- Corn starch: In some countries, corn flour is the primary ingredient for foods like porridge and ugali. In its starch form, it’s used to thicken soups, stiffen laundry, or for home-made glue. In your DIY bath bomb, corn starch sticks everything together.
- Vegetable oil: These are mostly used to hydrate and moisturize your skin. The oils you choose will depend on the properties you want. For example, castor oil reduces inflammation (swelling from muscles sores and exhaustion).
- Essential oils: These make your DIY bath bombs smell nice, and some have added benefits. For example, lavender is anti-inflammatory and it helps you sleep. Orange oil boosts your blood flow, so it helps alleviate acne and can reduce muscle spasms.
- Rubbing alcohol: This isn’t an essential ingredient, but some home crafters like it because it speeds up evaporation, which means your bath bomb dries out faster, becomes more compact, and holds its shape better.
- Coloring agent: This could be soap coloring or food coloring. Food coloring is tricky. You might worry it’ll stain your skin, bathtub, or towels. But you’re only using a tiny amount, so that unlikely. If possible, get your color in powder form to avoid fizzing too soon.
- Witch hazel: This natural herbal derivative is good for your skin, because it lowers inflammation, soothes irritated skin, and alleviates acne. It’s an organic antiseptic, so it can also prevent infection. Use witch hazel to add moisture to your DIY bath bomb.
Tips and tricks for making bath bombs
In the process of making your DIY bath bomb, moisture (from water) could trigger baking soda to react with citric acid. If this happens, there won’t be enough fizz left for your bath itself. You’ll drop the bomb into the tub and nothing will happen. Your bath bomb will fall flat.
Your bath bomb can also fall flat if you keep it too long without using it. Moisture from the air could dissolve your ingredients and use up all the fizz. To prevent this, get as many of your ingredients as you can in powder form, especially the citric acid and the bath bomb coloring.
The oils are safe, because oil doesn’t trigger the fizzing reaction. Once your DIY bath bomb is done, keep it in an airtight covered container, and use it within six months. Also, while making the bath bomb itself, mix your liquids in a spray bottle so that very little mixes in at a time.
This will reduce the fizzing, so the bulk of your unreacted carbon dioxide will stay safe in solid form, at least until your bath bomb touches your bathwater. Spray bottles don’t have to be expensive – you can re-use thoroughly cleaned bottles of body mist or window washing fluid.
Bath bomb trivia for science lovers
|Scientific name||Scientific formula||Chemicals it contains|
|Baking soda/Bicarbonate of soda||Sodium bicarbonate||NaHCO3|
Sodium, Carbon, Oxygen, Hydrogen
|Tricarboxylic acid||C6H8O7||Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen|
|Epsom salt||Magnesium Sulphate||MgSO4|
Sulfur, Oxygen, Magnesium
|Either Isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol) or Ethanol (ethyl alcohol)||CH3CHOHCH3 (isopropanol) or C2H6O (ethanol)|
Oxygen, Hydrogen, Carbon
Simple bath bomb recipe
- ¼ cup of corn starch
- ¼ cup Epsom salt (you can also use sea salt)
- 1 teaspoon essential oil of your choice (you could use a dropper instead)
- 3 teaspoons vegetable of your choice
- ¼ cup citric acid powder
- ½ cup baking soda
- Food coloring/soap coloring (preferably in powder form)
- 1 tablespoon rubbing alcohol / methylated spirit / surgical spirit (optional)
- 1 tablespoon water (optional)
- 1 tablespoon witch hazel (optional)
- Accessories like flower petals, sparkles, gel capsules, or bath toys (optional)
- Bath bomb mold (you can use designated molds, old Christmas ornaments etc.)
- Whisk for mixing
- Mixing bowls, preferably non-staining ones
- Measuring cups and measuring spoons
- Spray bottle
- Tit dropper (optional)
- Put all your dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. (Epsom salt, baking soda, citric acid powder, corn starch, food coloring powder). Whisk them together so they mix completely.
- Pour your wet ingredients into a spray bottle. (Vegetable oil, essential oil). Shake the bottle well to mix these two completely. If you’re using liquid color, add it here too, but don’t add the water, witch hazel, or rubbing alcohol yet. Keep it in another spray bottle.
- Gradually sprinkle your liquid mix into your solid mix, blending them together by hand or with your whisk. You want your result to be damp but stiff, like wet sand. If it’s not damp enough, add water, witch hazel, or rubbing alcohol, one sprinkle at a time.
- Ball up your mixture into and compact it into your bath bomb mold. Ideally, pick a mold with two halves, so that you can split it open and pack your mixture more tightly. If you’re using a toy or flower petals, add them to one half of your mold.
- Put the two halves together, pressing them firmly. Tap the sides of your mold, to get rid of any air pockets. If it’s a flat mold, tap the bottom instead.
- Let your bath bomb sit inside its mold for an hour or two, then carefully tap it out of the mold and let it sit for 24 hours or more. You can freeze it if you prefer. If you’re in a hurry, a half-hour freeze or 1-hour rest will do. Your mold is now ready for use.
Recipe variation for geode bath bombs
Your bath bombs will dissolve into your bath water in minutes, so you might not be too concerned about how they look. But aesthetics are a big part of the spa experience, so using bath bombs with a little bit of bling can go a long way in elevating your bath experience.
Bath bomb geodes can be made using sea salt, Epsom salt, or any coarse salt. Color the salt for added sparkle. The steps involved in making geode bath bombs are the same, specifically steps 1 to 3. Once your bath bomb mixture is ready to go into the mold, you can alter the next few steps.
Instead of using a ball-shaped mold, you can use one half of it, so that your bath bomb comes out in a semi-circular shape. You can also use a flat mold. Pack your bath bomb mixture into your mold, making a thin layer that’s 1 or 2 millimeters thick. Flatten it out with your fingers.
At this point, you need a few additional ingredients for your geode. These are:
- A carrier oil, like coconut oil
- Crystallized salt
- Liquid food coloring or soap coloring
- Edible glitter
In a separate dish, put in 3 tablespoons of Epsom salt or any other crystallized salt. Add a few drops of color to get into the shade you want. Don’t use too many drops, because any water in your crystals could make your bath bomb mold start fizzing. Let your colored crystals dry.
Paint a few drops of your carrier oil onto your now-dry bath bomb. You can paint them on using a brush, or you can apply it with your finger. Coconut oil is ideal, because it easily changes from solid to liquid in room temperature, so it’s a good binding agent.
Pack your dried, colored crystals onto your bath bomb, pressing them down so they’re packed in tightly. Leave it to set for a few hours, or freeze it to speed up the process. Take your DIY bath bomb out of its mold and store in a cool, airtight container, ready for use.
Common questions about bath bombs
My bath bombs aren’t fizzing. What’s wrong?
When did you make your bath bombs? Whether they’re DIY or store-bought, the fizz fades with time as your bath bombs react with moisture in the atmosphere. So even if your bath bomb jar is airtight, bath bombs don’t last forever. Use them within 6 months.
Can I dissolve my bath bomb while I’m sitting in the bath?
That’s really up to you. Some users prefer to let it dissolve completely, which could take anything from two to ten minutes. Others enjoy the feel of bubbles fizzing onto their skin, so they’d rather step into the bath while the water is still foaming.
Will the fizzing from my bath bombs turn the bathwater cold?
The scientific reaction does use up a little heat. If you try testing your bath bomb in a small bowl or glass, you might feel the difference in temperature. But when you’re dipping your bath bomb into a tub, the heat difference is barely notice-able.
Do I need to rinse myself after using a bath bomb?
Again, this depends on your preferences. Some people want to wash off the oily feeling, and may even want to scrub down with a loofah, soft brush, or bath mitt. You may also want to rinse if you used flower petals or glitter. Otherwise, rinsing isn’t mandatory.
My bath bomb keeps getting stuck inside the mold!
When you’re packing your mixture into your mold, tap the outside of the mold to remove air pockets. They might make the bath bomb stick to the sides. When you’re ready to take the bath bomb out of the mold, gently tap the mold to drop the bomb onto your palm.
I want to use my bath bomb right now! Do I have to keep it overnight?
The longer your bath bomb dries, the better it holds together, and the longer it’ll take to dissolve. Meaning it’ll fizz for longer periods. But if you’re in a rush, you can freeze the mold for thirty minutes or let it sit in the open air for an hour. Then it’s ready to use.
What’s the difference between vegetable oil and essential oil in bath bomb recipes?
Vegetable ‘carrier’ oils like coconut, castor, or shea butter help to hold your bath bomb together. They also moisturize your skin. Essential oils are more for scent and aromatherapy. That said, both types of oil can be soothing and anti-inflammatory.
We all deserve a treat, and DIY bath bombs are a great way to do that on the cheap. All the ingredients are already in your kitchen and bathroom cabinets. If you don’t have them, you can easily find them at your favorite store, and this is an activity you can do with little ones.
It’s a good teaching moment too, because the ‘science-y’ bits can help kids and teens appreciate chemistry class. Plus, it’s a fun, low-mess activity that ends in a relaxing hot tub, so whichever way you look at it, it’s a win-win! Enjoy your bath, and tell us how it went in the comments!