Learn To Make A Natural Homemade Shampoo Bar

Homemade Shampoo Bar DIY

As a soap maker, I get asked to make all kinds of soap. Lately I’ve been getting requests for a solid shampoo bar. I have a great recipe that will leave your hair soft and shiny.

Why Use a Solid Shampoo Bar?

There are many reasons someone might want a solid bar as opposed to a liquid shampoo.

Solid bars are great for traveling because you don’t have to worry about them spilling in a bag. These bars can also help you save money and take up less space in the shower. Some people like a solid bar for easier handling; shampoo bottles can get slippery and can be heavy for people with weakness in their hands. Furthermore, I love them because I can add exactly what I want to the bar and leave out anything I don’t want. They’re gentle on hair and perfectly customizable!

Basic Soap Making

If you haven’t made soap before, or read my article on basic soap making, you’ll want to familiarize yourself by reading this first: Homemade All Natural Soap. This recipe uses a novel way of making soap – all the weights have been converted to measurements to simplify the process.

This method has been used with much success and can be doubled or tripled easily. The oils are the ingredients that change the most when making a shampoo bar.

Choosing Oils for Hair

There are some great oils for adding softness and luster to hair. These oils are suitable for all hair types (even colored hair):

  • Sweet Almond Oil
  • Avocado Oil
  • Macadamia Nut Oil
  • Castor Oil*
  • Palm Oil (see this article on sustainable palm oil)
  • Wheat Germ Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Rice Bran Oil

You can find most of these oils in your local supermarket, or online here.

Considerations When Choosing Oils

There are many other oils available to make soap, but you’ll want to stay very close to the same SAP value. Consult a SAP chart to be sure the oil you use is within the same range.

*Castor oil is excellent for hair, but is a bit low on the scale. If you decide to use it, you’ll want to decrease the amount of lye by about a teaspoon. This will even out the proportion, otherwise you would end up with a hard crumbly bar due to excess lye.

Solid Shampoo Bar Recipe (Cold Process)

First, use the link above to familiarize yourself with soap making. Wear protective gloves and goggles and cover all work surfaces. Use caution when mixing the lye and water as the fumes can cause a choking sensation in your throat. This will diminish after a minute or so.


  • ⅔ cup olive oil
  • ⅔ cup coconut oil
  • ⅔ cup other oil (see list above)
  • ¾ cup cool distilled water
  • ¼ cup lye – also called 100% sodium hydroxide (find it here)
  • 2 tablespoons essential oils, optional (find pure essential oils here)


Have everything laid out and ready to go before beginning this project. You’ll need to be prepared to move quickly for some of the steps.

1. Cover your work area with newspaper. Put your gloves and goggles on. Mix oils in a large glass or stainless steel bowl. If any oils are solid, melt them prior to measuring.

2. Measure water into a glass or stainless steel container. (Be sure to use a heatproof container when mixing, as the exothermic reaction when lye is added can cause heat around 200°F.) Measure your lye, making sure you have exactly ¼ cup. Have a spoon ready. Stirring as you pour, slowly pour the lye into the water, NEVER the other way around. Continue stirring until the mixture begins turning clear. Stand back while you stir to avoid the fumes. Allow the lye/water mixture to cool to about 125°F.

3. When the oil mixture is at 75°F and your lye/water mixture is around 125°F, slowly pour the lye into the oils and stir. For the next 5 minutes, stir by hand. This will allow as many of the oil molecules to come in contact with as much of the lye as possible. After 5 minutes, use a stick blender (like this) to mix, being careful not to introduce air. Blend until the mixture is thick like vanilla pudding; this is called “trace.” (Watch this video to see what trace looks like.)

4. When you have achieved trace, you can add a tablespoon of another oil. This could be grapeseed, castor oil, or any one of the others listed in the oil section above. This extra oil will add extra moisture to your bar and the oil will not be used by the lye, thus allowing it to add extra conditioning for your hair. You can also add optional essential oils at this point. Stir thoroughly to combine.

5. Pour the soap mixture into molds and cover with plastic wrap. (These silicone molds are the perfect shape.) After 24 hours, turn it out onto a piece of parchment paper or baking rack. Leave in a dry place and turn once a week or so (which is not necessary if using a baking rack). Shampoo bars can be used after curing for 4 weeks. The bars will be more mild the longer they are allowed to cure. A month-long wait is well worth the end product!

How to Use a Solid Shampoo Bar

Thoroughly wet hair. Rub shampoo bar from scalp to ends, covering each section of hair, OR rub between hands to create a nice, foamy lather. Work shampoo into hair, gently massaging scalp and working through to ends. Rinse thoroughly and follow with your normal conditioner or one of the following rinses:

A Few Notes

  • Remember to be very careful using lye. It can cause burns if not handled correctly. Keep some white vinegar handy in case spills occur.
  • For this soap, I wouldn’t add dried herbs. They can get stuck in your hair and be difficult to remove.
  • This soap can also be made in a large mold. Cut it into bars after the first 24 hours when you remove it from the mold. They will be too hard to cut if you wait too long.
  • Using one of the conditioning rinses listed above will help restore hair to a healthy pH level, add shine, and prevent buildup.
  • Love the idea of natural hair care, but don’t want to make your own? Here is a line of hair care products DIY Natural has tested and LOVES.

Have you ever used a shampoo bar? Let us know about your experience!


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  1. I have made soap using your recipe similar to this one with excellent results. I can’t wait to try this! I think that my sunflower oil has found its purpose! Do the essential oils serve a purpose other than making the shampoo smell nice?

    • You can add essential oils that you know have benefits for hair (many of them do!), or you can just use your favorite ones for scent. Have fun making this new recipe!

      • Thanks for chiming in Jan! It is true that you can’t make soap without lye, Cat, but there is no lye left in the soap when it is done curing. This process takes between 2-6 weeks, depending on the recipe used. If you don’t want to handle lye at all, you can use a melt and pour base and add some castor oil (or another nourishing oil) and your essential oils to it. Be aware though, that added oil will cut down on the lather, although it will still work fine.

  2. Could you ground the herbs tova fine powder? Just curious, because I am going to try this and a few other recipes ( body wash and laundry detergent and dish detergent) once I’m settled in my new apartment.

      • Thanks again Jan! I’m pretty sure you can too, KaDesha. I’ve never tried it, but I’ve done so many other things with hot process, that it makes sense that it would work. Let me know if you try it!

  3. Can you give exact weight measurements for this recipe please? I personally prefer to use weight rather than cup measurements.

    • Sure can Marie! I know a lot of people prefer to weigh the amounts. I’m actually working on an article right now on weights vs volume. For this recipe, the oils would all be 4.75 ounces, the water would be 5.75 ounces and the lye would be 2.5 ounces. I had to look for my recipe since i’ve made soap by volume for so long!

  4. Thank you for the recepie! I’ve been making soap for a while now but never shampoo bars.
    I am interested in the weight measurements as well!
    And another question: do you have any experience with shampoo bars in hard water? I’ve read that it might be problematic to use in hard water and that’s what kept me from making shampoo bars because I have super hard water at home…

    • Hi Juliane. I posted the weights in the question above for you and Marie and any others who might want it. As to your other question, yes, hard water can cause issues, not just for making them, but for using them too. For making them, always filter your water so that none of the minerals interfere with the actionof the lye. Lye will attack minerals first, so in hard water, there may not be enough lye left for your oils to turn to soap. Then, in using it, you may not get a lot of lather, again, due to the minerals in the hard water. A filter on your shower head may help, but it may not. You could add a small amount of liquid glycerin at the trace when you make the bar. A tablespoon may help to increase lather somewhat. But, all is not lost. Lather is only aesthetic. You don’t need lather for soap to work right. It’s just been there for so long that we think it needs to be.