How to thicken soap, shampoo, and body wash

How to Fix The Viscosity of Body Wash and Shampoo

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Is your shampoo or body wash too watery? Or too thick?

Sometimes as we add ingredients such as essential oils or tinctures to a wash or shampoo, and it can become too thin or watery. Alternatively, products may become thicker than you want for your packaging and you’d like to thin it down.

In this blog post you’ll learn how to correct the viscosity of a wash or shampoo and bring it back to a gel or, conversely, make it thinner.

(Note: You can follow along with one of our expert formulators as she shows you step-by-step how to fix the viscosity of your body wash and shampoo. Check out the video and its transcript below.)


Equipment You’ll Need

• Kitchen Scale
• Stick Blender or high shear mixer


Ingredients For Thickening a Product

Fine Sea Salt
Cocamidopropyl Betaine
Xanthan Gum


Ingredients For Thinning a Product

Deionized Water


Instructions for How to Thicken a Shampoo or Body Wash

Method 1: Add Salt to Thicken Shampoo or Body Wash

The first thing you can do to thicken up you wash or shampoo is to add salt to it. This may be enough to thicken your wash or shampoo back to a gel consistency.

Just be sure to never add more than 2% salt or you run the risk of thinning your wash or shampoo even further.

To calculate the amount of salt you can add, weigh out the amount of shampoo or wash you are correcting and multiply by 2%.

For example: if you have 5.28 lbs of shampoo, the math would be (5.28 * 0.02) = 0.1056. So you could add up to 0.1056 lbs of salt.


Method 2: Add Cocamidopropyl Betaine to Thicken Shampoo or Body Wash

If salt fails, you can use Cocamidopropyl Betaine.

We recommend adding 1% at a time until your wash is thickened.

You can have up to 8% of your final product be Cocamidopropyl Betaine (but you’ll probably get the results you want way before you reach 8%).

To calculate how much 1% Cocamidopropyl Betaine would be, simply weigh out the amount of shampoo or wash you are trying to thicken and multiply by 1% (0.01).

Add 1% at a time until your wash is thickened (up to 8%).


Method 3: Add Xanthan Gum to Thicken Shampoo or Body Wash

If your shampoo or body wash is still too thin, you can try adding 0.25% xanthan gum to thicken the product.

It’s important to add the xanthan gum in a very specific way to avoid clumping.

1. Weigh out the amount of wash or shampoo you are trying to thicken and multiply by 0.25% (0.0025) to calculate the amount of xanthan gum you can add.

2. Begin by high shear mixing your wash with your stick blender.

3. Slowly sprinkle in the xanthan gum while mixing. (Note: You may have to adjust your stick blender to increase speed as the wash or shampoo starts to thicken.)


Instructions for How To Thin a Shampoo or Body Wash

To thin down a Shampoo or Wash that’s too thick you will need Deionized Water and a preservative such as phenoxyethanol added at 1% to preserve your water.

It’s important to use deionized water so that you don’t see any reaction between ingredients in your Shampoo or Wash and the minerals in tap water. Distilled water might be effective, but deionized water is preferred.

1. Add 1% of preserved deionized water to your product.

To get the amount of preserved deionized water you need to add, weigh out the amount of Shampoo or Wash you are correcting and multiply by 1%.

For example: if you have 5.28LBS of Shampoo or wash,  the math would be (5.28 * 0.01) = .0528. So you would need .0528 LBS of preserved water.

2. If your Shampoo or Wash is still too thick, repeat the process until it reaches the correct viscosity.


Watch The Step By Step Video For How to Fix The Viscosity of Shampoo and Body Wash

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Video Transcript:

Intro (00:02): Hello, welcome to Kitchen Chemistry with Essential Wholesale & Labs. I’m Teeneke, and today I’m going to show you how to correct the viscosity of your hair and body wash.

Oftentimes you can add things to your wash, and in trying to enhance it (or scent it) you’ll turn your wash from a thick gel texture into a liquid. In order to show you how to fix it I thought it would help to first show you what it looks like when you break it.

Thin Shampoo / Thin Body Wash (00:40): I’m going to add a crazy, ridiculous amount of essential oil and show you how to break your gel and then I’ll show you how to fix it. Let’s say I get really heavy-handed and I add a ton of essential oil to my wash. Believe it or not, even adding that much didn’t quite break it. It’s definitely thinner than it was. Anytime you add essential oil to your wash it is going to go cloudy. So I’m gonna add some more Breathe Green Essential Oil Blend to my wash, and let’s see what that does to it.

So there we go. Now, we’re getting to that watery consistency. So now I’ve gone from this super nice thick gel to this watery product.

Thicken With Salt (02:00): So to fix it we have a few options. My favorite option is salt. Salt will work for most washes as long as the surfactants are acceptable for salts.

Basically, we’re adding salt to make those micelles want to form a tighter bond together. The trick to this is you never want to add more than 2% salt. I’ve pre-measured all of this, and I made sure that I don’t have more than 2%. Now I’m going to slowly sprinkle my salt in here until it starts to thicken the wash. And of course, you need to give the salt time to hydrate.

In production, if you’re making a large batch and this happens, you can pour the salt in directly like I’m doing right now. Sometimes in the lab it is easier for us to make a solution with the salt, depending on what we’re working with.

(Related: Responsibly Sourced Salt for Your Skincare Products)

I’m going to add a little bit more. You might be wondering, well, if I add salt, is that going to affect how the wash works? Absolutely not. Is it going to affect my skin? It is a rinse-off product, so I don’t think so. And besides, salt baths are really quite lovely.

The reason we don’t want to add more than 2% is there is such a thing as a salt curve. If we add more than 2% the salt is going to start to break those bonds down and the micelles will start to repel each other. This will make the wash become even more liquid.

If after adding 2%, we haven’t brought it back to that gel consistency, then we need to look at some other options. It’s getting just slightly thicker. And in all honesty, I think we’re gonna have to go with our other options. I’m going to add a little bit more.

It’s always a good idea to wait a few minutes to make sure that everything that needs to happen–all the chemical processes happening in the wash right now–have a chance to actually happen. So we’re just gonna wait on that for just a couple minutes and come back and take a look at it.

Thicken with Cocamidopropyl Betaine (05:00): So the next thing that we can add to make this thick is Cocamidopropyl Betaine.

Before you add it to the wash, the best option is to weigh your container, tare your scale to zero, and then slowly add your cocamidopropyl betaine and until your wash is thickened.

I’ve read some places that you start with 8%. I like to do it this way because then I know exactly how much I’m going to need to add. After I add this and thicken up the wash, I’m going to then weigh my container again, and that will tell me exactly how much I’ve used, because I tared out my scale prior to adding. I know 8% seems a lot (and it is), so we’re just going to keep adding until our wash is nice and thick again.

Thicken with Xanthan Gum (06:29): If you don’t want to add cocamidopropyl betaine, your other option to thicken your wash is Xanthan gum. And we have another video on how to correct your gel that shows you how to add Xanthan gum.

So now we’re getting nice and thick again. We’re just gonna keep adding until we’re back to where we want be. Now we’re getting somewhere. I can feel, I can feel as I’m stirring, it’s really starting to thicken up. I think you can probably hear that my spoon is not moving as quickly as it was before. Okay, here we go. Now we’re back to that nice gel consistency. And there we go. So now, I’m gonna take my container, place it back on my scale and figure out exactly how much I used, and then I’ll know how to fix my wash in the future.

(RELATED: Xanthan Gum – Natural or Not?)

Outro (07:39): So there we go. There are two options for correcting the viscosity of your wash. We hope you enjoyed this video, and please stay tuned for more great videos. Please Subscribe to our YouTube channel so you can keep learning how to make great skin care products.

(RELATED: Tips For Working With Gums, Thickeners, And Natural Polymers In Cosmetics)

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