Complete Idiot’s Guide to Making Natural Soaps

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Title:  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Making Natural Soaps
Subtitle:  Live greener and cleaner with your own handcrafted soaps.
Author:  Sally W. Trew, Zonella B. Gould
Publisher:  Alpha (June 1, 2010)
ISBN:  978-1615640225
Pages:  208 pages
My Rating:  4 out of 5
From the Publisher:
Soapmaking has always been a popular craft with a dedicated group of followers, but with the explosion of urban homesteading and people looking to go green, noncrafters are now joining in on the fun. Whether it’s making natural soap to live greener, give as gifts, save money, or make money, The Complete Idiot’s Guide(r) to Making Natural Soaps has everything the new soap maker will need to create organic, natural soaps of all kinds.
About the Authors (From Amazon):
Sally W. Trew is the owner of the online soap maker’s supply business Apples, Woods and Berries ( Sally teaches classes on soap making and bath and body products, and creates her own recipes and soaps. Sally, with Zonella, are the authors of the book Soaps and Other Obsessions: Living Green and Naturally.

Zonella B. Gould started her soapmaking business, Bosque Bath and Body ( in 2002, although she started making soap long before then.

My Review:
Homemade soap makes a great gift and while I have made melt and pour soaps in the past, I have always been a little intimidated by making true soaps from scratch. This book offers a very thorough and in depth look at the science of soapmaking and I found that there were certain things I loved about it and others that I thought could use some changes.
So, to start off, you have a complete introduction into what soap is, the ingredients, the tools you need a ton of safety precautions. Yes, that part did make me a little nervous but working with some of the ingredients CAN be dangerous and I like that the book addresses those issues first thing!
I love the section on essential oils. There are several pages of oils, their characteristics and any known cautions like not using when pregnant or not good for sensitive skin. The book further looks at soap characteristics like hardness and lather, giving us definitions for each term and what type of ingredients and processes effect them.
It is at this point that the book starts heading into the actual math part of soapmaking. This isn’t a process where you just throw a bunch of stuff in a pot and call it done. There are caculations, percentages, and numbers that need to be played with and the author delves into a website called SoapCalc to help with the formulas. It is here that I start to have a few problems, mainly because soap has been made for centuries (at least well before the internet!) and I don’ want to rely on a website to help me make soap. The authors do discuss quite a bit how to play with with percentages of each ingredient to change it’s characteristics but I wanted a formula and just didn’t see one…(1 part this to 2 parts that, etc).
The one other thing I would have like to see, especially since they use the words ‘live greener’ in the subtitle, is some discussion of which oils and ingredients are ‘greener’ than others. Beef tallow vs olive oil for example or some mention of finding organic and sustainable ingredients (shae butter, for example)
The Idiot’s Guide to Making Natural Soaps is very detailed and should be able to walk a beginner through the process as long as they have an internet connection for SoapCalc. It offers a nice selection of recipes and includes not just bar soaps but also shampoos, liquid soaps, and even working with melt and pour varieties. Overall, this is a very thorough look into the basics of making your own soaps.

Disclaimer: As per FTC guidelines, I received one copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I received no monetary compensation. All opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.

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3 thoughts on “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Making Natural Soaps”

  1. I’m not ready to make my own soaps, but it’s good to know the book is thorough and gives you all the basics you need to get started.
    Thanks for sharing!


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