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Best Sources for Beginning Soapmakers

 
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I am another one who really wants a soapmaking forum, so here is my contribution to the cause.

When I first started making soap a zillion years ago, about the only things I could find were the useful, but hard to follow articles in the old Foxfire books (who remembers Aunt Airie?) I remember creating a first batch that basically stayed semi-liquid for months and burned my hands every time I tested it. I finally threw it out. It took several years for me to get over thinking lye soap was something no one in their right mind would ever want to make. Then along came the internet and I decided to try again ...

The very first website I landed on turned out to be solid GOLD for a beginning soapmaker and I still think it is one of the best out there for the sheer volume of information it contains. If you have about a month with nothing else to do, you can sit and read from dawn to dusk onMiller's Homemade Soap Pages The information there is written and/or compiled by Kathy Miller, who is a true old-fashioned expert on soap. What she has forgotten about the subject is more than most people will ever know. If you have time for nothing else, start there.

Here are some other (fancier and more colorful) websites with beginner info ... A Beginner’s Guide to Soapmaking, Soap Queen tutorials and How to Make Soap

This is a good explanation of the types of chemicals you need for hard bars or liquid soap ... Sodium-hydroxide vs Potassium-hydroxide

And, of course, you will want some reputable places to buy your more exotic oils and other ingredients from (you DO want to create exotic soaps, right ). These are two really great companies with high quality ingredients that I have purchased from myself. I was very happy with all their stuff. Jedwards International and Essential Wholesale.

Finally, when you are ready to make soap, you may want to use a soap calculator to make sure your lye to fat ratios are correct and to customize your bars (or liquid soap) for whatever qualities you prefer (like cleansing, conditioning, lather, etc.). These are great for making exactly what you want to make THE FIRST TIME so you don't waste all those expensive ingredients on a dud batch.
Soap Calc and Brambleberry Soap Calculator and Majestic Mountain Sage Lye Soap Calculator

There is a fun video that every beginning soapmaker should watch as well. I never quite understood how oil and lye made soap until I watched this. It is childishly simple but a perfect way to understand the process ... unfortunately, I can't find it right now. I will keep looking ...

Have fun!

 
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IMO the absolute best resource for a beginning soapmaker is Smart Soapmaking by Anne Watson. A lot of soapmaking resources are cargo-culting based on things other soapmakers have said in the past, but Anne bases her work on experience and dispels a lot of common myths in the book. To use a totally random analogy, I'd say she's the Sam Thayer of soap. She even has another book about how to make Castile soap that isn't gross (which I haven't tried yet, but she does explain why Castile soap tends to be so gross and yet such a classic of at-home soapmaking).

I'm not a huge fan of Soap Queen because they use a lot of unnecessary tools and artificial ingredients (they make their $ selling materials and tools, so their recipes tend to use way more than is needed to turn out a good result), and there's been more than one video from them where they insult the viewer's intelligence. I'm a STEM nerd and it annoys me beyond belief to have some woman assure me that it's okay that I'm too dumb to do basic math and chemistry.
 
Deb Stephens
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Meg Mitchell wrote:IMO the absolute best resource for a beginning soapmaker is Smart Soapmaking by Anne Watson. A lot of soapmaking resources are cargo-culting based on things other soapmakers have said in the past, but Anne bases her work on experience and dispels a lot of common myths in the book. To use a totally random analogy, I'd say she's the Sam Thayer of soap. She even has another book about how to make Castile soap that isn't gross (which I haven't tried yet, but she does explain why Castile soap tends to be so gross and yet such a classic of at-home soapmaking).

I'm not a huge fan of Soap Queen because they use a lot of unnecessary tools and artificial ingredients (they make their $ selling materials and tools, so their recipes tend to use way more than is needed to turn out a good result), and there's been more than one video from them where they insult the viewer's intelligence. I'm a STEM nerd and it annoys me beyond belief to have some woman assure me that it's okay that I'm too dumb to do basic math and chemistry.



I'll have to check out Anne Watson--I've not come across anything by her, but I think you would like Kathy Miller's site too since you prefer to get the basics without all the expensive equipment and ingredients hawked on some of the more glitzy sites like Soap Queen. I actually agree with you on that score--I make all my soap from simple ingredients and use no colorings or fragrances aside from an occasional 1/2 ounce or so of pure essential oil of some sort when I'm feeling a bit decadent. I don't use fancy molds either (mine is made of wood and I made it myself) and I hope someone shoots me if I ever even hint at putting glitter in soap!!! Please note that is only my opinion because I do not like glitter. If you are a fan of glitter, have at it.

I also don't consider using melt-and-pour products to be true soapmaking since they are already made into bars of soap that can be used as-is if desired. None of the processes of soapmaking are involved when doing melt-and-pour soaps--they are merely melted on the stove or in the microwave and poured into molds to re-set. I included some links for people who would like to learn soapmaking but feel a bit threatened by all the chemistry and the complicated processes involved in actual soapmaking. My hope is that by easing into it in a more fun way, they will learn enough to make a venture into the realm of scratch soapmaking someday. Everyone has to start somewhere and if melt-and-pour gets them started, I am all for it. It should be noted, however, that many of the melt-and-pour products contain ingredients similar to commercial soap products, so if you want to make your own soap to get away from nasty chemicals, melt-and-pour is probably NOT the way to go. Read the labels carefully--there are some good bars out there, but they may be more expensive and harder to find.

Oh, and I agree that being patronized on a subject you know well can be very annoying, however, not everyone CAN do basic math and chemistry, so there is a place for it in beginning soapmaking where one must assume that the viewer has zero experience with the process.

By the way, what have you got against Castille soap? A well-made bar is really the best for making a quick version of homemade laundry soap. I grind my bars and remelt them as the base for my laundry soap (with borax and washing soda added). It works great and is a real timesaver when I don't feel like doing the whole hot-process liquid laundry soap. Personally, I find them too drying for regular use on skin, but they do make for a good cleansing bar.

 
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Meg Mitchell wrote:IMO the absolute best resource for a beginning soapmaker is Smart Soapmaking by Anne Watson. A lot of soapmaking resources are cargo-culting based on things other soapmakers have said in the past, but Anne bases her work on experience and dispels a lot of common myths in the book. To use a totally random analogy, I'd say she's the Sam Thayer of soap. She even has another book about how to make Castile soap that isn't gross (which I haven't tried yet, but she does explain why Castile soap tends to be so gross and yet such a classic of at-home soapmaking).




Anne's book is excellent - probably my favorite book on the subject. She demystified the soapmaking process for me.
 
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We have just begun our soap making journey. Personally I love the liquid castile soap. We make a seperate batch, one of olive oil and the other of coconut. Then blend the finished products together to make a shower/shampoo soap and liquid laundry detergent.

Thanks for the help links! Will def be checking them out this winter.
 
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Soaping 101 on you tube is great. She has A LOT of tutorials that show step by step. Very pleasant voice.  She is great.

I am posting one random clip to get you there, but scroll through them. This one is similar to gojo. A hand cream with grit like mechanics use.

Watch "DIY Orange Pumice Hand Cleanser : Soap for and Mechanics" on YouTube
 
Meg Mitchell
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Deb Stephens wrote:I also don't consider using melt-and-pour products to be true soapmaking since they are already made into bars of soap that can be used as-is if desired. None of the processes of soapmaking are involved when doing melt-and-pour soaps--they are merely melted on the stove or in the microwave and poured into molds to re-set.



You start with 1lb soap and end with 1lb soap. Or start with 10 and end with 10. Seems pretty logical to me that you're not making soap here, just modifying it. If you're not working with lye, you probably haven't made soap.

Deb Stephens wrote:By the way, what have you got against Castille soap? A well-made bar is really the best for making a quick version of homemade laundry soap. I grind my bars and remelt them as the base for my laundry soap (with borax and washing soda added). It works great and is a real timesaver when I don't feel like doing the whole hot-process liquid laundry soap. Personally, I find them too drying for regular use on skin, but they do make for a good cleansing bar.



I haven't tried it for laundry soap. For hand or body soap I find it really slimy and gross, and it doesn't bubble well, and a lot of home soapmakers feel the same way. Might be really great for laundry! I feel like Castile soap has a really weird reputation. The original recipe was invented for use in factory production but a lot of hobbyists go for Castile as their first soap recipe. The recipes recommended to at-home hobbyists aren't quite the same as the ones used in the factories and the soap doesn't turn out quite the same. Factory-made Castile soap is a luxury good, but most homemade Castile soap is kinda icky. To me it just seems like we're trying to duplicate a commercial process using at-home methods and failing badly at it, when we could be turning out something so much better with so much less effort. Maybe I'm just a hopeless lard-soap fangirl but I've never had any olive oil soap that was halfway as good as a lard soap.
 
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I should probably learn a little bit more about soap making before I make another thousand bars. Back in January, I decided it was time to make soap for the first time. So, we bought 50 pounds of lye, and 10 gallons of oil and got started. It all turned out to be pretty serviceable soap, but I'd like to mix up the scent and maybe put something abrasive in there.

After trying numerous stores I gave up on a thermometer and winged It. I still have about 40 lb of lye.
 
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