I am a big fan of bath salts as a gift idea, and here’s why:
1) They’re easy to make
2) They’re inexpensive to make
3) You can make loads of them in a single afternoon
4) They look like they took way more time, money, and effort than 1-3 would suggest
Despite how simple and cheap they are, they’re a gift you can be proud of giving: It’s fun to create something that looks like it came from a high-end spa, and recipients are generally pretty enthusiastic. Some interesting containers, a clever label, and a few simple ingredients are all you need for a splendid last-minute hostess gift, party favor, or stocking stuffer.
There are a zillion recipes for bath salts, some of them involving an astonishing number of ingredients, but all you really need is Epsom Salt. It’s the basis for most bath salts, and I suppose if you were in a real hurry you could just bung some into a jar and call it a gift. However, a few additional ingredients make things a lot nicer: Salt (of the sodium chloride variety) is better at absorbing fragrance and coloring than Epsom Salt, and different-sized grains can be used to vary the texture of the finished product. Sea salts add trace minerals and natural color. Even table salt can be used, although be aware that some people’s skin may be sensitive to the added iodine and/or anti-clumping agents. Baking soda acts as a skin softener and water conditioner. All of those can be found at your local grocery store or, if you plan to make a large quantity, can be ordered online from soap- and skincare suppliers (I like From Nature With Love). The other ingredients you might want are skin-safe fragrance oils, colorings, and botanicals (like dried flowers or herbs).
An easy recipe with a spooky twist is this Poison Ivy Bath Salts from Paging Supermom: Dried mint provides wicked-looking green flecks, and they even have a downloadable label if you don’t want to design your own. These Blood Orange salts are also attractive, and even includes instructions for a little witch-hat bottle topper. These Pumpkin Spice Bath Salts are just Epsom Salt with fragrance and coloring.
If you want to get a little more ambitious, you can layer different colors of salts in a clear container: These single-serving Candy Corn Bath Treats are adorable. You could just use three colors of bath salts, but if you want to make it fizzy as the recipe suggests, that’s easy too. (Citric acid is available from soapmaking suppliers, but it’s also used for canning fruit and can be found at some grocery stores.) For another layering idea, the fragrances and colors suggested in this Halloween Foaming Bath Salts recipe sound nice (it’s based off of the same site’s Foaming Fruity Layers recipe, which has some helpful pictures); the “foaming” part is optional if you don’t want to bother with Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate.
Once you’ve got your salts, you can choose a suitable container. You can find all kinds of interesting bottles and jars at craft stores or online; if you’re giving just a few gifts you might select a container that can be re-used later: A pretty salt cellar or sugar jar, for example (or really go nuts with a themed sugar shaker). If you’re making a large quantity of bath salts as gifts, you can find a variety of containers at wholesale specialty suppliers like SKS.
You can also get creative with labels and decoration: This packaging for Halloween Bath Salts is attractive and easy, and I love this set of Halloween Party Favors, each with a different label and scent.
If you want to gift a whole set of differently-scented bath salts, take a leaf from the seasoning salts sold by Hoxton Street Monster Supplies (whom I’ve covered previously): Their Tears in a Bottle series boasts:
Salt Made From Tears combines centuries-old craft with the freshest human tears which are gently boiled, released into shallow crystallisation tanks, then harvested by hand and finally rinsed in brine. Experience the full range of these flavours in this exclusive collection.
~ Salt Made From Tears of Anger
~ Salt Made From Tears Shed While Chopping Onions
~ Salt Made From Tears Shed While Sneezing
~ Salt Made From Tears of Laughter
~ Salt Made From Tears of Sorrow
Each variety has its own description, which could be easily modified for scents rather than flavors: “This delectable salt, made from tears of abject sorrow, is collected only at moments of complete misery. With its delicate lavender flavour, it’s the perfect seasoning for limbs and organs.” “This robust salt is made from tears that sprang forth during explosions of anger. With a rich and smokey flavour, it can help to induce fit of uncontrolled rage, as normally experienced only by Ogres and Trolls.” and so on.
Finally, check out this super-awesome “Blood Bath Salts” canister which I can’t seem to find out much about other than that they were some sort of limited-edition Halloween home decor item and are widely sought after. (Click to embiggen.) A reasonable facsimile might be created by hot-gluing a novelty plastic skull to a canister lid and then spray-painting it with metallic paint. A similar label could be created in the graphics program of your choice and either glued on or (if you’re particularly ambitious) used as a template for stenciling. Color bath salts red and add some dried rose petals or hibiscus flowers for additional color, and you’ll have an extremely cool bathroom accessory.
Bonus link: For a Christmas rather than a Halloween gift, The Idea Room has a neat set of Myrrh Bath Salts and Frankincense Sugar Scrub. (The “gold” was represented by chocolate gold coins, but you could substitute a little bottle of Goldschläger.)