Would a preservative work in a completely water based formula?


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Jul 3, 2020
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I’m talking about this recipe for oat hair gel. I’ve used it before and it’s wonderful, but before when I made it I knew nothing about preservatives and how refrigeration isn’t enough. Oatmeal Hair Gel Recipe For Curly Hair

It’s completely “bug food,” meaning no oil, no regular water, all oat stuff, but I was wondering if a broad spectrum preservative would work or if I should just make small batches for single use.

I have the same question about tea hair rinses. I often do tea hair rinses but I do just enough for one day and I make more. Is it too much “bug food” to make more and preserve it w/ a broad spectrum preservative for later use?

Sorry for the question if it’s an obvious one! New at this :)


Well-Known Member
Feb 20, 2013
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There are 3 aspects to making a water-based product that stays reasonably sanitary over time --

Sanitary manufacturing methods
Preservative if appropriate
Limiting the amount of "bug food"

The product you're looking is water based and it has an abundance of bug food. It's going to be really tough to ensure it stays sanitary especially at room temperature. You cannot count on the preservative alone to do the job.

If I wanted to make this, I think I'd opt to make small batches, use a water-based preservative, and refrigerate the product.

I would also look into pasteurizing the gel after it's been strained and packaging the hot gel in containers that have been sanitized. Cover the containers with a clean paper towel while the gel is cooling to minimize contamination from the open air during cooling. Cap securely with sanitized caps, and don't open a container until you intend to use it. These steps will help the product start out as "bug free" as possible.

The preservative and refrigeration would discourage any remaining bugs from growing to further lengthen the safe shelf life.

Not to say I have the only answer here ... and I realize it sounds kind of paranoid ... but this is how I'd approach the problem. I've had lotion with real basic ingredients go bad within days and that's a humbling experience. And it's also kind of icky since I know microbes can be happily growing away before the signs of their growth are obvious ... that's just ewwww!

Oh, and be sure you have a water-soluble preservative like liquid germall plus -- some are oil soluble. (I learned this lesson the hard way!)


Staff member
Oct 14, 2007
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The recipe lists 1 tsp of oil. You can use Liquid Germall Plus for the preservative. Here is what I think would be a better option for a hair gel.