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Welcome to the Farm!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Soapmaking Resource Review

About two years ago, I got it in my head that I needed to learn how to make soap. So, in my usual fashion, I took out every book on soapmaking that I could find at my neighborhood library—all four of them. Unfortunately, three of those books were dedicated to the pretty melt and pour soaps that start with a pre-made base from the craft store. I was more interested in making “real” soap from scratch.

Thankfully, the fourth book had detailed instructions for cold-process soapmaking. Unfortunately, the book contained a lot of errors, including mixing the lye and water solution in the wrong order, which could be dangerous, incorrect lye-to-fat ratios, and claiming that using an immersion blender to speed up the mixing process was dangerous and wouldn’t work. Suffice it to say, my first couple of batches of soap were dismal failures!

I’ve learned a lot since then. In fact, not only does my family have a good supply of plain soap on hand, I’m working on some specialty bars like lavender soap and chamomile shampoo bars. Good resources made a big difference!

After checking out all of the books and DVDs on soapmaking available at the libraries in the entire county, I finally found the best resources that made sense and made soap. If you’re interested in making soap at home, here are my picks for the best information to get you started:

Basic Soap Making by Elizabeth Letcavage and Patsy Buck is, by far, the best beginning soapmaking book available. Not only is everything broken down into easy to follow step with excellent pictures, but the beginner recipes only make six bars of soap. I know I didn’t relish spending the money on enough materials for thirty bars of soap that may or may not actually work. These sample-sized recipes meant I could learn the technique without breaking the bank on ingredients.

Aside from the excellent visuals and recipes, the book also provides detailed instructions for building soap molds and a soap cutter. Yep, this would be my first pick for the beginner soapmaker.

Next, I’d pop the Homestead Blessings Soapmaking video into the DVD player. My goodness, those ladies made soapmaking look easy! This DVD is a must for the beginner. Just remember that their recipe makes a very large batch of soap. You may want to apply what you learned in the video to making a smaller recipe from the Basic Soap Making book.

When you’ve made a small batch or two of your basic soap, I’d turn to the Soap Maker's Workshopby Robert S. McDaniel, an excellent book and DVD set with easy-to-understand information about fragrances, colorants, additives, and SAP and INS values. McDaniel teaches techniques for creating your own natural fragrances and even how to make your lye solution the old-fashioned way, with rainwater and ash.

If you’ve visited here a few times, you know that I don’t spend money lightly. My purchases are well-researched and worth every penny. Even though these resources are available through our county-wide library system, I felt they were worth the money to have on hand all the time.

Thanks for stopping by! Have you been toying with the idea of making or own soap or have you taken the plunge? How did it turn out? Let me know. I love a good homesteading adventure!

Grace and peace be yours in abundance,


  1. Thank you so much for this valuable information! I have alwayswanted to try making soap.

  2. Good to know. I haven't yet ventured into soap making, but it's on my list! Loved the Homestead Blessings series too. Thanks for sharing.

  3. nice post, The homestead blessings video series has a nice one on candle making that I enjoyed very much. Not sure if your into that but I love making candles.

  4. My first soapmaking book was an old book from the 60s that was my mom's. The recipe for soapmaking was about a page long. I can't even share it because it has so little information but i've never had a bad batch but then again I made it with my mom who had been making it for years.
    Glad to hear there are good books out there.

  5. So helpful. Soap is on my to-learn list this year and I love that you pointed out the size of the recipe batch. You're exactly right about that. What if you get it wrong the first time or two and you've got POUNDS of the stuff! :)

  6. I am still not brave enough to make my own soap, lol! But I really want to give it a shot, so I might give these resources a try! I love watching the Homestead Blessings DVDs...I have not watched the soap making one yet. Sounds like a trip to the library might be in order! ;)

    Would you consider adding this post to my new link-up? I know I haven't talked about making soap before and my readers would love it! Thanks!
    ( http://www.likeamustardseed.com/2012/05/01/learning-herbs-rosemary-and-a-new-tuesday-link-up/ )

  7. I should look at these--my favorite boutique booths (and the ones where I always buy something!) are handmade soaps! Thanks for the resources!!

  8. I made a few batches this past year, and still very slow. We use it for our showers, and I really like it. So far, I've only done just the bare basics, not any fancy stuff. Will be taking a look at our local library to see what they have available. Thanks for the list of good resources!

  9. A good online resource for helping with your batch sizes is www.soapcalc.net. You just put in your ingredients and it will tell you how much water and lye to use. It is an invaluable tool to use. Soapmaking is only scary the first time or two. If you use the hot process method you can use your soap right away and not have to wait for it to cure. I do mine in the oven and it turns out perfectly every time. Doing it this way, you just mix all your ingredients (lye/water solution and melted oils) at the same time with no worry about the correct temps. Then it's a matter of cooking your mixture. I prefer the hot process method because I like the instant gratification of being able to use it right away.



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