Sunday, March 29, 2009

Water based fragrance spray

We're going to learn all about emulsification tomorrow (the pre-cursor to lotion making! Yay!) but here's a tutorial to give you some of the basics in the form of a fun, water based fragrance spray.

Oil and water don't like each other, so oil based and water based things don't like each other. But we want them to like each other because that means we can't make lovely sprays with lavender hydrosol or aloe vera and essential oils. So how do we get them to fall madly in love? Cupid is played today by an this case, polysorbate 20.

Polysorbate 20 is a non-ionic emulsifier. This means it is neither positive (cationic, like our conditioners) or negative (like our surfactants). It does not carry a change. It has a hydrophilic (water-loving) head and a lipophilic (oil-loving) tail. It attaches to the oil at one end, the water at the other, and holds it all together. Polysorbate 20 is not the most powerful emulsifier out there, but it does a great job on small amounts of oil - like fragrance or essential oils - and lots of water. We've found the right product for the job - polysorbate 20 is our emulsifier for the day! (Choosing the right emulsifier can mean the difference between awesome lotion-y goodness and oil slick on top of fancy hydrosols!)

If you want to make a perfume spray, this is easy as heck and cheaper than the oil based or silicone based sprays from (the other day).
95% water or hydrosol
0.5% preservative
2% polysorbate 20
2% fragrance or essential oil
Pour your distilled water or hydrosol or combination into your spray bottle of choice. Shake to mix.
In a shot glass sized glass container, mix 2% polysorbate 20 with 2% fragrance or essential oil and mix until clear. Pour this into your spray bottle. Shake. You're done.

If this is a cloudy mixture that doesn't need shaking to use, you've emulsified it well. If it is a cloudy mixture that needs to be shaken before use, you'll need a little more polysorbate 20. Every fragrance and essential oil is different - some follow a 1:1 ratio, some a 2:1 ratio, and some a bizarre 3:2 ratio! Keep notes on how much you used for each fragrance oil.

(If you use water soluble oils, like those at Voyageur, you don't need to include an emulsifier. But that kind of defeats the purpose of this recipe as it's intended to show how much fun emulsifiers can be, so I'm only putting that in as an aside...)

This is a nice spray for freshening your hair or freshening a pet who stinks (yes, the Blondie dog has her reeky moments, although she'd deny that!) but don't use essential oils in mixtures for cats! Put in some lavender hydrosol with lavender essential oil for a headache spray. Use peppermint or spearmint essential oil for a summer cooling spray. Use your child's favourite fragrance and call it a "monster spray" to get rid of anything living under the bed or give it to a precocious child to keep her out of your Chanel No. 5.

This may seem like a really easy recipe, and it is. But it's a good place to start off on the wonderful world of emulsification, something vital to making lotion.

And if you've been following along as I post these tutorials or having a look through the archives, yes, this is a modification of the toner recipe from earlier in the month and the subsequent toner modification recipe (with fewer ingredients). I thought it was a great example of emulsification that anyone could try!

Tune in tomorrow for the first in a series of posts on lotion making! We'll start with emulsification!


littlepanda said...

Polysorbate is really sticky!
Aqua Em is nice but you have to use a ton of it depending on fragrance!

Rania said...

Hi Susan

I love your blog and I bought your books. I try out your recipes all the time whenever I have the right ingredients on.

Stupid question: I only have on hand polysorbate 80 and I substituted it in this recipe and other recipes like the water based facial cleaner and the bug repellent. So the end product is very cloudy. Is this normal? is there a way to have a clear product?

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,

Do you know how to craft any edible water soluable fruit fragrance specially for beverages? Am very interested in fragrance but as a beginner.. if you can help me, my email is

have a good day!


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Sorry, Keith, but you want a flavour, not a fragrance.

Mystic Aromatics said...

dear after spending few years in my lab i have developed a formula by which i can dissolve any fragrance oil into clear water perfume. No cloudy solution, its going to be pure water like perfume.

Mystic Aromatics

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Sounds wonderful. Are you planning to share or did you just come here to boast? :-)

Chloe said...

Hello Susan,

Let me start by saying I LOVE your blog it has increased my wealth of knowledge tremendously and continues to everyday (yes even with 2 under 2 I find time to read it everyday) My question is that I am looking to create a fragrance spray but I often see recipes that include vodka and glycerin( helps the fragrance last?) if you would please shed a little light on if these are fundamental in creating a lasting body mist. Also I currently have Cyclomethicone in my cabinet, what are your thoughts on this in a spray as well.

Thanks again for all you do!!


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Chloe. Thanks for your kind words. I prefer not to work with alcohol and I can't really work with this in my youth programs, so I have nothing to suggest for working with it. I don't like glycerin in spray things because it feels sticky, so I can't reflect on that either. Cyclomethicone doesn't play well with a lot of fragrances, so I wouldn't suggest using that as a fragrance spray base.

derrick dulay said...

What's a good preservative to mix and what is it for? I know it's to preserve but how long would it lst without the preservative?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Derrick! It will last about three days without a preservative before you see contamination. You'll want a preservative that works well with water only products, like liquid Germall Plus. Check out the chart in the preservative section to see get some ideas of what might work for this.

Unknown said...

Hi I was wanting to add water soluble fragrance oil to the rinse cycle in my washing machine. How much should I add?

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,
I am hoping to save myself some money making my own homemade quick detailing spray since I became a bit obsessed with cleaning my new car. A lot of research tells me these products are 99% water with a tiny amount of water soluble wax or synthetics and sometimes alcohol to help faster evaporation. Most of the joy in using my favourite product is the awesome scent so I'm wondering if using an emulsifier to blend in a fragrance oil is going to be a problem. What do you think?

mansoor nathani said...

I am interested in making roll on perfume, but which solvent is the best for it.

I am not asking for non alcoholic.

Alfez Memon

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I'd suggest using oils and fragrance/essential oils in a roller ball.

Mohit said...

Hello everyone,
I am trying to make a emulsion of rose essential oil in water. I have tried mixing Polysorbate 20, alcohol,glycerin and essential oil in water. It's mixing well but the solution is cloudy. Is there any way we can get a clear solution? Any feedback would be really helpful.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Mohit. May I make a suggestion to do a search for solubilizer and water or something similar? The short answer is that you're unlikely to get a clear solution with polysorbate 20. The longer answer awaits you when you search!

What are you using as a preservative in this? I don't see one listed in your comment.

Jamie Ferguson said...

Hi Susan,

I'm new here and very new to making DIY products. I recently got into making my own perfume and I tested out a recipe that is basically yours but with 91% rubbing alcohol in it. Curious what the purpose of putting that in there was?

Alberto Orta said...

Hi Susan.

Your blog has helped me a lot to make my own recipes. I would like to consult your opinion about the use of propylene Glycol in body splash. I want to make a splash of low cost with alcohol, water, fragrance and propylene Glycol. Thank you

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Jamie! The alcohol is the base of the spray. I use water with a preservative; they used alcohol in its place.

Hi Alberto! What did you want to know about propylene glycol?