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Rose water is one of several products your can buy or make that retains the fragrance of rose petals. It is used in perfumes and cosmetics, plus it has slightly astringent properties, so it makes an excellent facial toner. Because the commercial process used to make rose water is labor intensive and requires a lot of roses, it's an expensive product to buy. However, if you have roses, you can make your own rose water quite easily. It's an easy example of distillation, an important chemical separation and purification process.
Rose Water Materials
- rose petals
- small pan
- cotton balls
Experiment with different types of roses, since each rose has its own characteristic scent. Damask rose has the classic "rose" scent, but some roses smell like citrus fruit, spices, or licorice.The resulting rose water won't smell exactly the same as the original flowers because distillation only captures some of the volatile compounds present in the petals. There are other methods used to capture other essences, such as solvent extraction and more complex distillations.
- Place the rose petals in a small pan.
- Add enough water to just barely cover the petals.
- Gently boil the water.
- Collect the steam that boils off using a cotton ball. You may wish to place the cotton ball on a fork or hold it with tongs, to avoid getting burned. Once the cotton ball is wet, remove it from the steam and squeeze it out over a small jar. This is the rose water.
- You can repeat the process to collect more steam.
- Store your rose water in a sealed container, away from direct sunlight or heat. You can refrigerate it to keep it fresh longer.
Large Scale Rose Water Recipe
Are you ready for a more advanced version of the project? If you have a few quarts of rose petals, you can collect much more rose water using a slightly more complex home steam distillation apparatus:
- 2-3 quarts rose petals
- ice cubes
- pot with rounded lid
- bowl that fits inside pot
- Place the brick in the center of the pot. There is nothing magical about the brick. Its purpose is simply to hold the collection bowl above the surface of the roses.
- Put the rose petals in the pot (around the brick) and add enough water to barely cover the petals.
- Set the bowl on top of the brick. The bowl will collect the rose water.
- Invert the lid of the pot (turn it upside down), so the rounded part of the lid dips into the pot.
- Heat the roses and water to a gentle boil.
- Place ice cubes on the top of the lid. The ice will cool the steam, condensing the rose water inside the pot and making it run down the lid and drip into the bowl.
- Continue gently boiling the roses and adding ice as needed until you have collected the rose water. Don't boil off all the water. You'll collect the most concentrated rose water in the first few minutes. After that, it will become more and more dilute. Turn off the heat when you notice the condensation isn't as rose-scented as you would like. You can collect between a pint and quart of rose water in 20-40 minutes using 2-3 quarts of rose petals.
Other Floral Scents
This process works with other floral essences, too. Other flower petals that work well include:
You can experiment with mixing the scents to make custom fragrances. While rose water, violet water, and lavender water are edible and safe for use in cosmetics, some other types of flowers are only good as fragrances and shouldn't be applied directly to the skin or ingested.
- This is a fun project for kids, but adult supervision is required because boiling water and steam are involved. Kids can collect flowers and squeeze liquid from cooled cotton balls.
- If you are using the rose water (or violet or lavender water) for cooking or cosmetics, be sure to use flowers that are free of pesticides. Many gardeners spray flowers with chemicals or feed them with systemic pesticides. For a simple fragrance project, it's fine to simply rinse off the flower petals to remove any residue, but avoid using chemically treated flowers for food projects or cosmetics.
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