Not every DIY adventure goes as planned.
I’m a Bath Junkie. Always have been. But I generally keep it pretty simple. Once I gave up my beloved bubble bath to get rid of toxic chemicals like Sodium Lauryl(eth) Sulfate in my relaxing tub time I’ve pretty much stuck to bath salts with one or another of my essential oils depending on need or the mood that struck me that evening. But bath bombs are all the rage on DIY recipe boards and I figured with the holidays coming up why not try my hand at something new, and a little more visually appealing than bath salts, for a holiday gift idea. I’ve made tons of recipes over the last couple years, how hard could it be?
……. Apparently, much harder than I expected. See, I had never worked with Citric Acid before and this (mis)adventure was a bit more like a homemade science experiment than I anticipated. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
My (mis)adventure began on Pinterest, as most of my DIY adventures do.
I found this amazing looking recipe on the She Knows blog for DIY Lavender Bath Bombs. I had the exact same mold she used from when I made bath crayons for the kiddos on my holiday list last year plus I had some leftover dried lavender from the garden and her bath bombs were really pretty, not your typical sphere shaped bombs, that I thought would look nice packaged in my favorite reusable holiday gift “wrap” a wide mouth Mason jar. All I needed was some Citric Acid and I was all set.
Citric Acid is a weak organic acid, and natural preservative, found in citrus fruits. It comes in a white crystalline powder which is commonly used in food as a preservative, emulsifying agent, or to make your beloved Sour Patch kids taste sour! It’s also frequently used in personal care products, like bath bombs, bath salts, and cleansers designed to help breakdown grease and makes an excellent, all natural household cleaner (in fact, it was one of the recommended ingredients when I was researching how to clean your toilet without toxic chemicals. Citric Acid alone doesn’t react with water but when it is combined with sodium bicarbonate (or Baking Soda) and water is added this trifecta creates carbon dioxide bubbles, which in turn is what creates the “fizz” in bath bombs. (see, science can be cool!)
When my Citric Acid came in I was super pumped and ready to try out the bath bomb recipe! So here’s the basics:
DIY Lavender Bath Bomb Recipe:
Ingredients & Supplies:
- 1/2 cup powdered citric acid (found with the baking or canning supplies in most grocery stores)
- 1 cup baking soda
- 10 drops Lavender essential oil (more or less based on your preference)
- 1/2 tablespoon almond oil
- Blue and red natural food coloring (optional)
- Water in a spray bottle
- Large glass bowl
- 4 (4-ounce) silicone molds
- 1-2 tablespoons dried lavender buds (optional)
- If using, sprinkle the dried lavender buds into the bottom of the silicone molds (they’ll show up just at the tops of your finished bath bombs). Add the citric acid and baking soda to the glass bowl. Use a whisk to combine the mixture.
- Add the essential oil and almond oil to the mixture. Drop in about 4 to 5 drops each of the red and blue food coloring (if using). Use the spoon to combine the mixture very well.
- Add a few spritzes of water to moisten the mixture. Don’t use too much at once. Use the spoon to mix the ingredients well. The mixture should be the consistency of slightly wet sand, and should clump in your hand if you squeeze it.
- Use a spoon to transfer the mixture to the silicone molds. Pack it in very tightly, all the way to the top.
- Lay a few paper towels on a flat surface, carefully turn the mold over, and pop out the bath bombs.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and transfer the paper towels and bath bombs to the baking sheet. Cover with a few more paper towels and allow to dry overnight.
Sounds simple enough, right? So I set to mixing. Here’s the first lesson:
Always pay attention to the amount the recipe calls for and measure carefully!
I totally misread the ingredients the first time (mostly likely because of the tiny human that seems to provide an endless source of distraction from the task at hand) and convinced myself that the recipe called for 1/2 pound of Citric Acid rather than the 1/2 cup… So I merrily dump in half of my 1 lb bag of Citric Acid and carry on about my mixing. I was very careful to use a spray bottle to add the water to my mixture but it was a new bottle and the nozzle was set to a stream setting rather than that nice full coverage spray. So when I started adding water, however carefully, my mixture started fizzing up pretty good right then and there. But I thought surely this must be normal and carried on. I got my recipe all mixed up decided that it was “the consistency of slightly wet sand” and it “clumped in my hand if I squeezed it” so it must be good to go. It looked like this:
**For the record, this is more than “slightly wet”… If your mixture looks like this, it’s way too wet and you should probably start over. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
After I had my mixture to the consistency that I thought I wanted (see note above), I poured it into my silicone molds and pressed down firmly with my fingers. But try as I might I could NOT get the bombs out of the mold. They were just too wet and clung to the sides. So I figured I would just let them dry out a bit and pop them out later.
Somewhat surprised by this turn of events I calmly pressed the mixture back into the mold and let it sit a bit longer. This time I turned the mold upside down thinking that at least the mixture wouldn’t rise out of the prescribed shape. I had to run an errand that afternoon so I checked my bombs before I left only to discover that the mixture was billowing out from beneath the upturned mold. At this point I’m starting to get a bit concerned but didn’t want to give up on it just yet so I decided to press the mixture back down in the molds, yet again, but this time I was going to outsmart it so I turned it upside down and put a heavy pot on top of the upturned mold and left it to dry out while I ran my errands.
Upon my return I was shocked to discover that the chemical reaction was so powerful that it could still bubble out from beneath the upturned mold even with a heavy pot on top. I had been gone long enough the mixture had, in fact, dried out and was now stuck to the paper towel it had been drying on. When I removed the mold I was faced with the epic disaster you see pictured above. Nailed it!
Not to be daunted by this (mis)adventure I spent some time reviewing the recipe, realized my mistake(s) and decided to give it another go the next day. This time I measured carefully, making sure to only use 1/2 cup of Citric Acid and I made extra sure that my spray nozzle was set to a fine mist so as to not over-saturate my mixture. This time I stopped adding water right when I had the thought that maybe I should add more, just to be sure that I didn’t over-saturate the mixture again. I carefully spooned the mix into my silicone mold and this time was pleasantly surprised when they popped out pretty easily. So far so good they looked pretty close to the picture on the original blog so I left them to dry. I set the bombs to the side and started on another project while they dried. After a few minutes I noticed, much to my dismay, that they weren’t keeping their shape very well and that there were places where they appeared to have more moisture in the mix that it was starting to bubble out a bit. It occurs to me at this point that not only is it almost always humid in Alabama but my house is old and tends to retain moisture so it’s likely not helping my project one bit. So I set out to google alternative recipes that use the oven to dry out the mixture. I found several but one with a similar recipe that suggested
preheating your oven to 170°, turning your oven OFF, then putting your bath bombs in there for approximately 45 minutes.
Please note that exposing essential oils to heat does damage the therapeutic value of the oils but at this point I’m desperate and willing to try anything. Besides, these were mainly for fragrance only. So I carefully remove my bath bombs from the paper towel and set them on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil and put them in my preheated, but turned off, oven. 45 minutes later I returned to this…
Lavender Bath Bomb pancake… (I broke it apart before getting the idea to document yet another failure and thus the inspiration for this blog post was born! lol). So I put the pancake version in a plastic bag to throw in my own bath whenever I find the time to actually relax. I should’ve taken a picture but when I went to the bathroom later in the afternoon I discovered that even despite being dried out and baked in the oven for 45 minutes the mixture was still producing carbon dioxide and my ziploc had swollen up like a balloon! It was crazy town! So I carefully unsealed the ziploc (I’m sure I looked like I was handling a nuclear device while doing so) and left them on the counter to finish whatever chemical reaction they still had going on. I’m pleased to report that more than a week later they no longer produce CO2!
Now at this point I am bound and determined to conquer this recipe and to create something that even remotely resembles the adorable Lavender Bath Bombs in the original recipe. So, I set out to make yet another batch! This time I followed the directions, carefully measuring my Citric Acid, ensuring that my spray nozzle was set to a fine mist, stopping when I felt like I probably needed to add more water, and now putting in the oven while the mixture was still in the silicone mold to help them retain their shape as they dried out. After about 10 minutes or so I’m starting to get curious so I go to my oven to check on the bath bombs. What I discover is that they are still, in fact, rising, but this time at a much slower rate. So I pull my mix and mold out of the oven and carefully press the mix back down into the mold. You can see in the pic that they were starting to dry out and were a bit crumbly. I was starting to get pretty nervous but I practiced my positive self-talk and just kept hoping that I would get a usable product this time. 10 minutes later I checked again. Still rising but starting to dry out more. So I carefully pressed it back down into the mold, packing it in as firmly as I could. Third time is a charm, I guess, because at the end of 45 minutes I was pleased to see that they had finally retained their shape and looked very similar to the pictures in the original blog post!
Winning! I’m pleased to report that the bath bombs were a big hit at my DIY Holiday Gift Guide essential oils class I hosted last weekend, in part, I’m sure, due to everyone enjoying the tales of my (mis)adventures while making them! I offered a choice of any one of my DIY gift ideas to the girl who co-hosted with me and she chose the Lavender Bath Bombs as her gift. I’m pleased to report that she used them and said that she had a delightful bath!
So there you have it. While my (mis)adventure may not have gone quite as planned it was a story worth telling and in the end I wound up with a beautiful finished product! In hindsight, I’ve heard of other recipes that do not use Citric Acid and maybe one day I’ll give them a try. But for now, I think I’m tapped out on bath bombs!
Have you made DIY bath bombs? What recipe did you use? I’d love to hear about your adventures! Comment below!
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Products and techniques mentioned here are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Information here is in no way intended to replace proper medical help. Consult with the health authorities of your choice for treatment.