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Homemade Bath Salts – What you need to know

Homemade Bath Salts

There are thousands of articles on homemade bath salts on the internet. Unfortunately there’s a lot of misinformation and hype out there in the cyber world as marketers try and sell you their products. You’re not going to find that here. In fact, you’re never going to find that on this site. We think our readers deserve better. Ready, set, let’s do some exploring into the ingredients that go into homemade bath salts!


Sea Salt

What you sprinkle on your celery or mashed potatoes is a salt. It’s purified sodium chloride (NaCl). Sodium chloride is the primary salt found in our oceans. In fact, roughly 80% of the minerals in seawater consist of sodium chloride. It’s primarily the other minerals that benefit your skin. That’s why you should use sea salt rather than table salt in homemade bath salts.

Not that you care, but we’re going to tell you anyway. To produce sea salt, the water is evaporated away leaving the salt and residual minerals. It is sold as Pacific sea salt, Mediterranean sea salt, etc. However, regardless of where the salt comes from, the bulk of what you are buying is sodium chloride.

When making homemade bath salts, the main benefit of adding sea salt is its ability to help prevent prunification (my word). Who likes wrinkled up toes and fingers?

Epsom Salts

There are numerous benefits of Epsom salts for homemade bath salts. In fact, there are too many to cover here, so to get the full skinny on this marvelous (and cheap) bath salt click here.

Dead Sea Salt

Dead Sea salt, like Epsom salts, have so many benefits that we have made a separate article dedicated to Dead Sea salt. To read the full story on Dead Sea salt click here.

Sodium Bicarbonate

Sodium bicarbonate, better known as baking soda is an interesting salt in that it forms carbonic acid and an hydroxide ion in water making the solution slightly alkaline. Carbonic acid neutralizes bases and the hydroxide ion neutralized acids. Keep in mind that carbonic acid is extremely weak and very unstable when exposed to water (it converts to carbon dioxide gas and water), therefore it may lose much of its ability to effectively neutralize a base when exposed to the natural humidity in air.  Sodium bicarbonate can be produced by adding  sodium hydroxide (NAOH)  (a strong base) with carbon dioxide (CO2) which gives you   sodium carbonate (soda ash) and water (Na2CO3 + H2O). When you add more carbon dioxide, you get sodium bicarbonate (2 Na2CO3).  Now that’s enough chemistry for now, let’s move onto the uses for baking soda. Suffice it to say that sodium bicarbonate is indeed a very interesting substance.

Baking soda will neutralize the pH of  water. Internally,  sodium bicarbonate is an important component in our blood chemistry. In addition it is used as an antacid. Externally, sodium bicarbonate is used to treat  poison ivy, oak and sumac and other other rashes and as an exfoliant. It is also used as a treatment for hemorrhoids. However, in homemade bath salts, its  primary function is to soothe rough skin.

Borax

We don’t recommend using borax in bath water. Borax softens bath water and is often used in homemade bath salts, however borax can be absorbed through the skin. Borax may be toxic (causes liver damage), it’s best not to use it in your bath. However, it’s antifungal properties may make it useful as an occasional foot bath.

Borax shouldn’t be used in homemade bath salts. But wait, there’s two more. Sodium hexametaphosphate is a heavy duty water softener that is used in some bath salts. Its dry form can be irritating to sensitive skin. Sodium Sesquicarbonate also used in some bath salts can cause skin irritation and the dust may be an irritant to mucus membranes and the upper respiratory tract. Hey, you don’t need to use these salts anyway.

In summary, here’s what we know. To simply soothe your skin, you can make homemade bath salts with baking soda alone. To enjoy the many benefits that magnesium affords, use either Dead Sea salts and/or Epsom salts. We recommend using a combination of Dead Sea salt and Epsom salts. These two salts will afford you the maximum benefit of increased magnesium, potassium and sulphate in your bath. (Be sure and read the more extensive articles on the benefits of Dead Sea salts and Epsom salts.) Regardless of which salt or combination you use, be sure to rinse your skin well after your bath.

If you stick with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), Dead Sea salt, and Epsom salts, you can make the perfect bath salt that will benefit your body the most. No troubles for our readers!!

Three Basic Homemade Bath Salts

  • To make bath salts with Epsom salts, add 1 to 2 cups to a full bath.
  • To make bath salts with Dead Sea salt, add 1 to 2 cups to a full bath. Higher concentration of this salt are needed for treating psoriasis and other skin conditions such as eczema
  • To add bath salts with baking soda, add ½ cup to a full bath.

Now go have fun and relax.

Related articles:

Bath Salts for Dry Skin
Homemade Bath Salts – Lavender
3 Amazing Bath Salt Recipes
Dead Sea Salt Benefits

 

21 Comments on Homemade Bath Salts – What you need to know

  1. Guest

    sodium bicarb is not an acid

    • SpaFromScratch

      Sorry, my wording was misleading. You’re right, it is not an acid, it’s a salt. What I meant to say was that when it is dissolved in water it becomes an acid (carbonic acid) and a base (OH ions).

      I fixed the problem. Thank you so much for pointing that out.

  2. Guest

    A 1/2 cup of Borax is added to bath water is 100% safe as our body uses the trace element of boron absorbed thru the skin. Now if you mixed a 1/2 cup of borax in water and then drank it then yes it would cause liver dammage. It turns out table salt is also dangerous if swallowed and we use that in our bath. If one drank 1 cup of salt mixed in water that could be fatal but we don’t have people telling us not to use salt.

    • SpaFromScratch

      Thank you so much for your comment. We love to hear from our readers.

      Here’s my take on the borax issue. You are absolutely right in that 1/2 cup of borax in bath water is not toxic. In fact, boron is one of those trace minerals needed in our bodies. However, since boron is found in water supplies and since boron is bio-accumulative in mammals and since total absorption through the skin with long or frequent soaks is unknown, I stand on my conclusion that it’s best not to use it in bath salts.

      As a side note, it’s also not environmentally friendly.

      I know I have the mother hen syndrome in that I usually tend to be very cautious in what I recommend you use in your formulations. That’s because I love you very deeply and want to keep you safe.

  3. Guest

    What about sodium carbonate, slightly more alkaline than sodium bicarb, I have seen it in bath soaks but don’t know how much to use.

    • Guest

      Sodium bicarbonate will raise the pH of water slightly while significantly raising the alkalinity.

      Sodium carbonate will raise the pH of water significantly and raise the alkalinity.

      You’re adding two OH ions to the sodium carbonate vs only 1 to sodium bicarbonate. Thus the pH goes up fast when using sodium carbonate. What ultimately happens is dependent on the pH of the solution in which you dissolve the carbonates. That said, I strongly recommend you stick to sodium bicarbonate. It’s a safer option for home use.

      However, if you want to use sodium carbonate anyway, do it right, add 1 tsp sodium carbonate to 8 ounces of water and test the pH with a test strip. Now do the same with sodium bicarbonate. This will give you the exact ratio to use based on the water you will be using in your bath.

      Hope this helps.

  4. Guest

    I made some homemade bath salts for Christmas. Sea salt, Epsom Salt, backing soda, fresh cut up rosemary, and a bit of lavender essential oil. At first I put them in little plastic jars with rubber stopper lids. But they were cheap and started to crack. So I used my Food saver and sealed them in bags yesterday. Now I just looked at them and the bags are all bloated to the point of potentially exploding. Is it the rosemary that off gassed? I’m just scared to give them out now. Any ideas?

  5. Guest

    You are wrong about Borax. I read the EPA studies as well as other studies and the dosages administered were astronomical. If it’s safe for you to err on the side of caution it would be good to acknowledge your lack of knowledge rather than attempt to pass it off as truth. It is stated borax is poorly absorbed by skin, also. I have read of doctors prescribing borax/hydrogen peroxide baths. It is also a naturally occurring mineral so as for bad for the environment, sure it is like most things – including water or sunlight – in high volumes. Also, it is easily researched that one of the first symptoms you will have from overexposure /toxicity of borax are gastrointestinal (nausea/vomiting/etc). I personally have used borax in baths without these incidents. Your ‘story’ about its bio accumulation is also incorrect. It clears easily and well from the system.

    • SpaFromScratch

      Hello wonderful goddess,

      Sorry you felt the need to slap me around. That really wasn’t necessary. I’m also sorry you felt that I was trying to falsely pass the information as truth. I assure you I would never do that.

      You are absolutely correct in identifying me as not an expert. No one can have such a vast array of knowledge as to be an expert in all fields. However, in my defense, all posts in Spa From Scratch are as carefully researched as is possible in order to make them as reliable as possible.

      I review all the evidence I can find and make recommendations based on those findings. And yes, I do tend to err on the side of caution if there is any question and I shall continue to do so.

      You are also absolutely correct in stating that the scientific studies on animals include dosages of borax far above those that would be normally consumed by either humans or animals. However, there have been sufficient studies and opinions of scientific community relating to the negative effects of borax that I stand with my original conclusion. I have included two for you to check out.

      Here are a few unknowns:
      1 Studies indicate low skin absorption, they do not indicate how much boron is absorbed.
      2 Studies indicate average boron found in some subjects to be fairly low. However, that number may increase dramatically in areas where higher boron is found in water supplies or food.
      3 A nice bath using a bath salt containing borax might be fine for the person taking a long bath once a week, but it’s unknown what affect taking a daily long soak may have.
      4 Some studies indicate that boron is beneficial in preventing bone loss, but increased hot flashes in post menopausal women. One study indicated that boron had a negative effect on enzyme metabolism at the cellular level. Result – benefits and toxicity unknown.
      5 Excess boron is apparently stored in the bone, but the long term effect is unknown.

      I could go on an on, but I’ll leave it here.

      Allow me to make just one more comment on accepting the FDA’s evaluation as gospel. If you remember, Thalidomide was approved by the FDA with dire consequences for many families.

      I’ll close with this. Thank you again for commenting here. We appreciate the opinions of our readers and I apologize if I offend anyone. That is not the intent.
      —————–

      From: http://www.enviroblog.org/2011/02/borax-not-the-green-alternative-its-cracked-up-to-be.html

      Borax: Not the green alternative it’s cracked up to be
      February 17, 2011

      Rebecca Sutton, PhD, EWG Senior Scientist

      2. Personal care products
      Boric acid or sodium borate can also be found in personal care products. The cosmetic industry’s own safety panel states that these chemicals are unsafe for infant or damaged skin, because they can absorb readily into the body. Despite this guidance, boric acid is found in some diaper creams. See EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetics database for other personal care products containing borax or boric acid and click here for diaper creams that don’t contain it.

      Both the European Union and Canada restrict these ingredients in body care products made for children under three years of age and require that products containing these ingredients be labeled as not appropriate for broken or damaged skin. No similar safety standards are in place in the United States.
      ————–
      From: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wat/wq/BCguidelines/boron/boron.pdf

      4. Bioaccumulation and Biomagnification
      Bioaccumulation and biomagnification of boron in the environment is not clearly
      understood. There are numerous studies indicating no evidence of either of these, as well
      as studies indicating evidence of such action.

      In general, the literature suggests that aquatic environments are not likely to experience
      boron bioaccumulation or biomagnification (Wren et al., 1983; Butterwick et al., 1989).
      In particular, studies performed by Thompson et al., (1976) found no evidence of active
      bioaccumulation of boron in sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) tissues or Pacific
      oyster (Crassostrea gigas). In the salmon, they found that tissue boron levels were not
      vastly different from water boron levels. In the Pacific oyster, it was apparent that tissue
      concentrations approximated the levels in the water within 36 days exposure. However,
      following the cessation of dosage, tissue boron levels returned to background levels by the
      71st day of the study.
      It has been found that migratory and resident birds bioaccumulated boron in their tissues,
      apparently from irrigation drainwater contamination. Setmire et al.(1990) conducted
      biological sampling and analysis that showed drainwater contaminants such as selenium,
      boron and DDE were accumulating in tissues of migratory and resident birds using the
      food sources in the Imperial Valley and Salton Sea, California. Boron concentrations
      were at levels that potentially could cause reduced growth in young. Boron appears to
      bioaccumulate in mammals, as seen from studies by Weir and Fisher (1972) and Beyer et
      al.(1983). Weir and Fisher (1972) found that toxic effects of boron included male
      infertility in rats and dogs due to accumulation and cytotoxic effects on germinal tissues
      in the testes with over 1 000 mg/kg boron equivalents (in diet). Beyer found that boric
      acid accumulated in the brain, spinal cord and liver after ingestion.

      • Guest

        Yes, I did read all of that. In particular I found the more current (than Weir’s) study by the WHO interesting (as well as reading the MSDS):

        ‘..by the 71st day of the study, indicating a
        fairly rapid clearance of boron with no evidence of long-term
        retention.’

        This indicates a very low level of bioaccumulation. In addition to this, I did manage to find research stating that after one single day the boron stored in bones (mammals, birds if I remember correctly, sorry no link) was cleared. In addition to this – it is well-known it is not stored for long in flesh and hence why we don’t worry about accumulating it like heavy metals (e.g. further down/up the food chain).

        Also:

        http://www.greenfacts.org/en/boron/boron-1.htm

        ‘the EPA has classified boron as “not classifiable as to human carcinogenicity” in 1994. ‘

        Perhaps this will allow you to understand bone retention and some of the benefits of it:

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7889887

        In closing, nothing of what you said refuted what I stated. You’re right the studies are inconclusive – unless taken in high doses, of course. The lack of human testing is a huge variable.

        1. I know, this is what I stated. I also know the level of boron absorbed cannot exceed the amount in the environment.

        2. See above. If the subjects were removed from their environment boron levels would return to normal.

        3. You are correct, but we would surmise the flesh would not retain the boron very long, the bone for longer, and it would return to normal as in point #1.

        4. ? It is stated boron may play an effect in hormone regulation.

        5. See my link on bone retention. Also, if you want to dig you will find the study where the boron returned to normal after a single day in control.

        6. You’re right, some of the studies are inconclusive. In your case it would be better to err on the side of caution. You could go on and on, but the ‘facts’ aren’t really facts as you stated yourself. :)

        Thank you and have a nice day.

        P.S. I was not trying to ‘slap you around’. I do also stick by my assertions that it is relatively safe and may provide health benefits that vastly outweigh the risks (in low doses). You can compare the risks at low doses with the benefits just like any other pharmaceutical. I am now going to soak in a bath of Zoloft. Also, no hard feelings, I am a god and not a goddess :)

        • SpaFromScratch

          Absolutely fabulous god,

          Thank you for your comment and interest. With all the conflicting studies on various topis in the posts here at Spa From Scratch, it’s enough to make my head blow up at times. Perhaps I should try a Zoloft bath also.

          Feel free to comment on this site any time. We’re delighted to hear from you.

          Your friend,

          Vic

          • Guest

            Your ability to deal with all types of commentary on this site are remarkable and noteworthy. Thank you for a fabulous site, and for great, well-researched information. It is very clear that you are knowledgeable, and more importantly, that you care about the people who are seeking out (great) information on your site. I can’t thank you enough. :)

          • SpaFromScratch SpaFromScratch

            Thank you. It’s great to be appreciated.

            Love,
            Lori and Vic

  6. Guest

    ” borax can be absorbed through the skin. Borax may be toxic (causes liver damage), it’s best not to use it in your bath.”

    I disagree. The fact is Borax is classified as non-carcinogenic and a mild skin irritant. The high alkalinity of borax (9.5) is what causes skin irritation (just as excessive use of baking soda would cause irritation). There are also several studies in the ToxNet database that show its only a very mild lung irritant and causes no lasting damage. In addition, it does not penetrate the skin well, and is not considered to be bio-accumulative: repetitive use over time does not mean it builds up in your system. Lastly, Borax is less toxic than sea salt and that’s been proven. It is only toxic at very, very high levels, like salt, baking soda, and even water.

    I would recommend more research before writing false information, someone may believe it.

  7. Guest

    I heard you can make soda ash using burnt leaves. Is this poslsbie? I see that the baking soda is cheap, but the leaves here are plentiful, more than I can stack to make leaf mold, so I do burn some.Anyone hear about this method?Mary

    • SpaFromScratch SpaFromScratch

      Hi there Guest,

      Thanks for the question. It’s a good one and it gives me the opportunity to clarify a few things regarding soda ash.

      Burnt vegetation is used to make soda ash by adding carbon dioxide which then gives you sodium carbonate (soda ash). What you get from simply burning the vegetation is sodium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide can chew through your skin right to the bone, sodium carbonate will not.

      If you are making soap, you can create the lye for the process by burning vegetation and then submitting the ash to a lengthy filtering process. There are a few sites with instructions on how to do this.

      I did find some recipes for making soda ash from baking soda. You might want to give that a try. I have not done this, so can’t report on the validity of the recipes.

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