Monday, February 22, 2010

Handmade Soaps

My mother is an avid bather. She loves to sit in a nice hot bath every morning and read books (she's very careful with them!) or magazines. She's already an easy person to shop for, but if you're ever at a loss as to what to get her for any gift-giving occasion, anything highly scented and bath-related will most certainly be a hit. Sadly, I did not inherit my mother's love of the bath, but rather my father's love of the shower. But my mom did manage to pass on her love of soap. I love how beautiful soap looks, smells, and feels. A good bar of soap can make tub and shower time quite the sensory experience!

grapefruit oil with grapefruit zest and dried organic peppermint; poured into a 1-quart milk carton

About a year and a half ago, I decided to try making my own soap. After reading lots of books about it, I finally gathered all of the supplies and jumped in. And you know what? It was fun and surprisingly easy! To date, I have made four batches of soap. I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but it adds up to about 36 bars, and you can only use a bar of soap up so quickly! I know a lot of people think it sounds scary, but as long as you use common sense and proper safety precautions, making your own soap is amazing!

poppy seed and sweet orange oil with chopped clementine peel; poured into a small loaf pan

Now that I'm a seasoned soap-maker (har har), here are some of my tips:
  • Read, read, read up on making soap before you try it. You can probably find recipes on the internet, but I prefer books for stuff like that (you know, dangerous stuff and what-not). Two books I highly recommend are The Soapmaker's Companion by Susan Miller Cavitch and The Everything Soapmaking Book by Alicia Grosso. There are a lot of others, but these are two that are particularly helpful if you're just getting started.
  • The books will tell you and I will too: keep a journal! You don't have to get philosophical or anything, just write down the date, what base recipe you used, what additives you threw in and how much of each, what kind of container you poured your soap into, how many bars it yielded, etc. Because you will not remember it on your own, and it helps to know what you liked and what you didn't.
  • Have everything in place before you start, and maybe even do a dry run to double check. When you are making soap, timing is everything, and the last thing you need is to realize you left a key piece of equipment in the garage when you're in the middle of a step.
  • Be safe: wear the dorky lab goggles; wear serious rubber gloves; wear old clothes that don't matter too much; wear close-toed shoes; pull your hair back.
  • Keep your kids and pets and husbands safe. I have kids, and you know what? I don't make soap when they're around. I either do it when they are sleeping or when my husband has taken them out for a few hours. And we all survive.
  • Don't buy an expensive, hand-carved soap mold on ebay, especially before you've even made your first batch of soap (does it sound like I'm speaking from experience here, because I am). They are very pretty, it is true, but a shoe box works just as well and doesn't cost anything.
  • Just do it! It really isn't scary, and it really isn't hard. After I made my first batch, I said to my husband, "That wasn't any harder than making a batch of cookies." And it really isn't.

oatmeal, milk, and honey bar; poured into a mailing tube

All of the soaps pictured in this post started with the same base recipe from The Everything Soapmaking Book. It uses coconut oil, olive oil, and palm kernel oil, with castor oil for superfatting. I love it and definitely recommend it!


  1. Thanks so much for stopping by Design Candy today! Much appreciated!

    Loving the design of your blog, it's such a happy spot!

  2. oh my goodness, a oatmeal/milk/honey bar sounds so good! i might accidentally eat it...(no i wouldn't but i would love to use it in the bathtub!)

  3. you are so talented... I always wanted to try but never had the courage... have a nice day!