Best Book for Beginning Soapmaker?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by CountryGoalie, Jun 20, 2006.

  1. CountryGoalie

    CountryGoalie Well-Known Member

    Aug 31, 2004
    Hello, everyone! I wasn't sure what forum to post this on, so I thought I'd put it here and in the Cooking and Crafts forum.

    I am looking to take another step toward proper nutrition and healthcare, and the step I'm going to attempt is to start making soap. We do not own any dairy livestock (well, it would be mighty hard to milk a rabbit..), so milk-based soaps are out at the moment, although I am looking at talking to a homesteading family we know, about acquiring raw milk, so I am not against a book that includes milk-based soaps along with other types.

    I have heard of lye soaps, and hand-milled soaps, etc, but am not incredibly familiar with the differences, etc. What would you recommend as a good beginner soap?

    Furthermore, the big question: which book(s) would you recommend as being the most inclusive and informative for someone who's just starting off? I'm going to be ordering from Amazon in the next couple of days, and would like to know what you recommend - the reviews on their site seem to vary over each book, and I thought I'd come to the homesteading quadrant for some opinions. Thanks muchly!
  2. Jen H

    Jen H Well-Known Member

    Jun 16, 2004
    The Soapmaker's Companion by Susan Cavitch. Not only does it have some good recipes to get you started, she goes into the properties of the different oils themselves and the different additives and essential oils you can use. That way, you have the tools in front of you to make your own recipes and tailor your soaps to be just what you want them to be.

    Any soap recipe can be made with milk instead of water - you're just using different liquids.

    Lye soaps, or cold-processed soaps, are made from scratch starting with the basic oils.

    Hand-milled soaps are what's also called re-batching. You grate already made cold processed soap, melt it down, and glop (it's kind of jelly like) it into a mold. I usually rebatch only when I've really messed up a recipe.

    Melt and pour soaps, or glycerine soaps, are a chunk of soap made in a lab specificaly so it melts easily and smoothly. You melt them down, add your fragrances, colors, and other goodies, and then pour them into molds. There are people who do amazingly beautiful things with melt and pour soap.

    Remember that all of the measurements in a soap recipe are by weight. Also remember to run any recipe you come across through a lye calculator to double check that measurement.

  3. AprilinTx

    AprilinTx Member

    May 10, 2005
    Just wanted to second The Soapmaker's Companion. Also, check out Kathy Miller's site

  4. halfpint

    halfpint Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 24, 2005
    I give a third Thumbs up to Susan Miller Cavitch's books. You might find them in the library to check out before you purchase. Keep away from "The Complete Soapmaker", there is at least one dangerous error in that book.

    The two most common types of soap are cold processed, and hot processed. The major benefit to cold processing is that it is easier to pour, but you usually need to wait about a month before using your soap. Hot processed soaps take a little longer to make, and are more difficult to pour (very clumpy), but do well in shaped molds and can be used as soon as it is taken out of the mold. Also, with hot process you can use some fragrance/essential oils that are more difficult to use with cold process, and can often use less scent as it is put in after the soap is cured by the hot processing so is not consumed by the lye. All that said, I still prefer cold processing.

    If you want to start with an easy soap, look for a recipie with lard, coconut oil and olive oil, all of which you can get at most grocery stores. You can get sodium hydroxide (Lye) at most Lowes, its usually with the cleaners or plumbing supplies and is labeled Roebic Drain cleaner. Read the back of the label to make sure it is 100% sodium hydroxide.

    Unless you want to stir for a long time, a stick blender is worth the purchase price - often you can get one for around $10-12. WalGreens had them last Christmas season on sale for $5.99, so it may pay to look around. To be on the safe side, all of your equipment that touches lye or soap mixture should be glass or stainless steel, although you can use a wooden spoon but some people say the you may get wood splinters in the soap from this. I found a stainless steel spoon at Freds for $1 that I use exclusively for soapmaking.

    There are lots more recommendations to follow as lye can be very dangerous, but these will be included in a good book.

    Caution: Soapmaking is very addictive, but it is also one of the few things you can 'cook' and not gain weight with.