The kid’s been home sick , poor guy, and yesterday morning, when he was feeling pretty alright instead of a flushed, exhausted mess, we made our favourite thing: bath fizzies. It’s such a fun and messy – but not too messy – thing to do, and the pay-off lasts and lasts.
Bath fizzies (AKA bath bombs) are a pretty standard concept, relying on the chemistry of ye olde childhood volcano explosion concocted from baking soda (a base) and vinegar (an acid). Except in this case, we replace the liquid acid of vinegar with dry, powdery citric acid, so we can save the chemical reaction between them for when the whole shebang hits the bath water.
All told, you can whip up a batch in under half an hour, including clean-up.
Here’s what I put in mine and how to make a batch, with a note about colourants at the end:
Bath Fizzies Recipe
Yield: about fifteen 1/3-cup fizzies (note: I’ve recently picked up a ball-shaped mould for making these; I used to simply use measuring cups – any hard [not bendy, like silicone] small container will do!).
- Large mixing bowl
- (optional: other mixing bowls, one for each additional colour)
- measuring cups and spoons
- set aside a 1/3-cup or 1/4-cup measuring cup to serve as your mould, or find some other sort of hard (not silicone) vessel, or a store-bought bath bomb mould
- spray bottle
- parchment paper
- (optional: cookie sheets with parchment paper on them, so you can easily move the drying fizzies around if you, say, don’t want them taking up half your counter space for a full twenty-four hours)
- 2 cups baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
- 1 1/2 cups corn starch
- 1 1/3 cups citric acid
- 1/2 cup Epsom salts
- 1/2 cup colloidal oatmeal*
- 2 Tbsp turkey red oil**
- ~3 tsp powder colourant or several drops of food colouring (see notes below)
- Small amount of witch hazel in a spray bottle
- Dump the baking soda, corn starch, citric acid, Epsom salts and colloidal oatmeal into a large mixing bowl, and whisk to combine.
- Add the turkey red oil and whisk in immediately and quickly (you may notice some fizzing; do not be alarmed).
- If you want to play with multiple colours, separate the mixture out into other bowls as needed. If using powdered colourant (see notes), add them in appropriate proportions to each bowl, and whisk to combine.
(If using liquid colourants, you’ll need to whisk/mix immediately to prevent the liquid from setting off the chemical reaction. Owen squeezed the tiny food-colouring bottles while I whisked, and we kept the fizzing to a minimum.)
- (Note about scent: We don’t scent our fizzies, since there’s really no reason to, and Owen has sensitive skin. But if you want to add a few drops of essential oil to your mixture, now would be the time. Don’t go heavy, and remember to mix immediately to avoid fizzing.)
- Spray witch hazel into each bowl, one bowl at a time, and use your hands to mix it evenly around. Use just a few sprays at a time, then mix, then spray again as needed until the mixture holds together in your hand when squeezed, like a snowball. (It’s this bit of liquid that binds the mixture together into solid form once moulded; use as little witch hazel as possible, as described.) We used a very small spray bottle, and needed a total of about 30 sprays per bowl of coloured mixture, applied in two or three rounds of spraying. A normal size sprayer, though, will deliver a lot more witch hazel, so be conservative since you can always add more. As you mix with your hands, squeeze a handful of mixture together to see if it starts to stay/stick (as I said, like making a snowball). As soon as it stays without crumbling at the edges, you’re ready to mould. Though it may feel somewhat damp in your hands, the mixture should not feel or look wet.
- Fill the clean, dry 1/3-cup measuring cup (or whatever mould you’re using) to the top with mixture, and pack it in tightly. Be sure your kid uses their gigantic muscles. Add more mixture as it compacts, but don’t overfill the cup.
- When the packed mixture is good and packed – like, hard to the touch – upend the mould onto a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet, holding the mould very close to the surface and tapping gently until the fizzy comes out. Repeat, mixing colours in the mould as desired, until you’re done.
- Leave the fizzies out, uncovered, for twenty-four hours to dry fully. (We totally let Owen use one in the bath the same night we make them, because child.)
(Once they’re dry, you can store them any way you’d like as long as they’re kept away from all moisture (so, like, leaving them on a shelf in a steamy bathroom would be a bad idea). Once fully dry, they’re harder than you’d think they should be (if any end up horribly misshapen, you should be able to take a hammer to them gently to just make bath-fizzy rocks; use more than one per bath!). We store ours in a tupperware.)
- To use, if you’re new to this game, drop a bath fizzy into the bath. Watch in grand amusement while it fizzes and spins. Soak and enjoy.
Note about Colourants
The base mixture for these fizzies, even with the tan(ish) colloidal oatmeal in there, is very white. Not much colour is required, and we’ve experimented with several options.
- Natural powders: We’ve used beetroot powder, which makes for gorgeous, deep pink fizzies. I’d add about 3 tsp to this recipe, and don’t be alarmed if the bath water turns pink – it won’t stain! I’m interested in trying other natural powders like this.
- Clays: I’ve seen clays (like French green clay, Australian pink clay, etc.) used in a few recipes I’ve worked from, and I’m not totally sold on them, for two reasons. 1) They don’t dissolve, which makes it kind of like adding a non-abrasive sand to your bath (unlike with beetroot powder, I have to wipe down the sides of the tub after we use a clay-coloured fizzy); it doesn’t at all irritate, but I don’t think clay’s worth the extra cleaning.
- Food colouring: That’s what we used in the fizzies pictured here. The downside is that they’re liquid, and liquid sets off the chemical reaction, so you need to be vigilant about speedy whisking. The upside is that they’re cheap and vibrant and you can mix them easily. (At the time I’m writing this, we haven’t actually used one of these yet, so I can’t comment on any additional tub cleaning. If I need to clean, I’ll update this.)
* Colloidal oatmeal is a great additive to skincare products. It’s essentially super-ground-up oats, and the powder is very fine and non-abrasive. If you’ve ever taken or administered an oatmeal bath to soothe itchy, irritated skin, this was in it. I hadn’t seen any bath fizzy recipes use this ingredient, but I couldn’t see why not, so I tried it out and have encountered no reason not to continue using it, especially since my kid is prone to eczema.
** Turkey red oil, as I learned from the fabulous Marie of Humblebee & Me, is the only oil around that actually mixes with water without requiring an emulsifier. This makes it a great choice for use in the bath, since it won’t make the surface of the tub slippery. Marie is a genius.