Homemade “Seawater”

Some recipes for making your own “seawater” for when you can’t get to the beach.

Grade B

Some psoriatics would like to try the “sun and sea” approach, but have little time for a vacation, let alone a complete visit to the Dead Sea. But is pouring a lot of table salt into a tub full of water enough to mimic the “ingredients” of the average ocean?

The answer seems to be “maybe.” This is, of course, the same answer anyone will get when asking if soaking in salt water does anything more than soaking in tap water. Both will make the scales of psoriasis swell up and float away, and both may make the skin more sensitive to UV light, but do the extra salts in sea water do it better, or act in some sort of therapeutic way? There isn’t enough evidence right now to say, one way or the other.

But the question came up in the Newsgroup back in July of 1999, about what is actually in sea water. While the major constituents include nothing that psoriatic skin has a known lack of, some people feel that it might do “something” that normal tap water may not. What this “something” is varies from person to person.

So, since some folks would like to try sea-water bathing without the expense of a real trip to the beach, or would like to try conditioning the skin with a sea-water spray, John Popelish, a Newsgroup regular, was enterprising enough to work out “recipes” which come close. The ingredients listed below cover around 99% of the dissolved materials in sea water, theremainder may very well come out of your tap water (the amounts are very, very small).

While there’s no real evidence for any real therapeutic effect from ocean water over tap water, there is extremely little risk involved with using something close to the real thing, either. Obviously, you don’t want to use this stuff on broken skin, as the salt will probably sting (though John has written that he’s sprayed this into his eyes with nodiscomfort — but I wouldn’t try this myself). And, also obviously, if you have problems going into the ocean, avoid this mixture, as well.

Probably the biggest problem using this mixture is simply the expense, but the ingredients really are dirt cheap. Spending any money on a “treatment” which has no evidence of efficacy is not, in reality, a good thing, but this information is presented here for those who are curious, and not as a recommendation for treatment.

Of course, if real sea salt is available to you, cheaply, it’s probably the best thing to try.

Notes on the Ingredients

Calcium is ignored, since, as John points out, it exists in large amounts in most tap water (I think, though, that you might want to turn your water softener off). Also, as no readily-available source of Bromine sits on the supermarket shelves, John didn’t include it, either. But, as said above, these recipes aren’t exact, they will just get you closer to the real thing than filling your tub with table salt will.

John also says that pickling salt is the salt of choice, as it lacks anti-caking ingredients and so is more “pure.” Rock salt and table salt are choices two and three, respectively.

The “salt substitute” called out below is used primarily for its potassium chloride content.

Also note that the amounts used are not really critical. As noted above, the recipes aren’t exact, anyway, so attempting to be precise in your measurements would be silly. These values also haven’t been checked and double-checked with a truly critical eye.

The Recipes

If you want to fill your bathtub (40 gallons or 150 liters of water, your bathtub may vary), add

13 cups (3.12 liters) of salt,
4 cups (0.96 liters) of epsom salt,
1/3 cup (80 milliliters) of salt substitute,
and 5 teaspoons (25 milliliters) of baking soda.

For a 5-gallon (19 liters) batch of homemade sea water, add

1 and 2/3 cups (0.4 liters) of salt,
1/2 cup (120 milliliters) of epsom salt,
2 and 1/4 teaspoons (11 milliliters) of salt substitute,
and 2/3 teaspoons (3.3 milliliters) of baking soda.

If you’d like to make a pint (0.48 liters), add

2 teaspoons (9 milliliters) of salt,
2/3 teaspoons (3.3 milliliters) of epsom salt,
1/20 teaspoons (0.25 milliliters) of salt substitute,
and 1/62 teaspoons (0.08 milliliters) of baking soda.

Since the measurements in the pint version are ridiculously small, it would probably be easier to make larger batches of the stuff, and use a pint at a time. In general, and regardless of the measuring system or total amount required, you need

6,000 parts tap water,
125 parts salt,
38 parts epsom salt,
3 parts salt substitute,
1 part baking soda.

If you’d like, you can mix up large amounts of the dry ingredients, in the above proportions, and then scoop out 167 parts of the mixture to every six thousand parts water. For every gallon of water, you’d add a little more than 7 tablespoons of the dry mix (for every liter, add 28 milliliters of the mix). For the pint-sized mixture, add a shade more than 2 and a half teaspoons of dry ingredients.

Once a reliable resource on the ingredients of the Dead Sea can be found, “recipes” for that will be published here, as well.

Reader Comments.


Newsgroup post about Small Amounts

Newsgroup post about Bathtub-Sized Amounts

USGS ArticleBroken Link which details the typical ocean water ingredients.