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Book Review: Basic Soap Making

I picked up Basic Soap Making: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started by Elizabeth Letcavage, Patsy Buck, & Buck Alan Wycheck a long time ago when it was free. Wouldn’t you know that recently my melt and pour supplier went up in price so much that I started considering making my own again? I never wanted to mess with lye and waiting six weeks for soap to cure. But I like good soap. And I have sensitive skin. And I need another hobby??? Okay, probably not that last one.

At any rate, the book is nicely detailed with lots of pictures. The pictures aren’t in color on my kindle and that hinders their resolution/clarity. For example, when they show the consistency of the soap, it’s a little hard to tell whether it’s at trace (pudding or just dripping). For a kindle book there are really too many pictures–they often take up a whole screen so this can mean lots of “paging” and we all know the Kindle is not lightning fast at page turns. Even my slow brain outruns it.

So while pictures are nice, for kindle, a few less of them would have been better. The recipes are great because they are mostly simple ones that make small batches. The one thing I hated–and I think this would be true of any reference books–is that I can’t quickly flip pages to go back to something. I didn’t bookmark the recipes. Ten pages later, I wanted to go back. ARGH. Kindle is not fast when going page by page. Where were they anyway? And what did it say about this particular ingredient…I don’t remember where it was…so paging around looking is time consuming and frustrating.

If you are ever reading a reference or how to book on the kindle, use notes and bookmarks LIBERALLY. That way you can get back to the interesting stuff in a hurry.

I liked the book and the recipes, but to be useful, I’d have to buy the actual paper book. Perhaps that is the plan. I picked this up for free, but to make any of the recipes, I’d want to buy the print copy. The print copy appears to have a nice spiral and probably has pages to keep notes. Making soap seems to require a lot of note taking.

It’s a good book for reading about what goes into soap. (Hint: To the person who left a two star review because the book only covered soap made with lye, ALL soaps require lye. It or a caustic cousin are needed for the basic chemical reaction that results in soap.) It covers the safety an tools. One thing about the tools. In this book a lot of plastic containers were used. I would probably not use plastic. It’s nice to know they can be used, but I think they would make for messier cleanup and the idea of chemical reactions going on with plastic around doesn’t comfort me for some reason. I have these visions of chemicals leaching out of the plastic…

If you want to learn about soap making, this is a good starting place on Kindle.

Here’s a recipe book for Making Your Own Deodorant.

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Posted: February 21, 2013
Filed in Book Reviews


  1. I’ve come to love the search feature. If I have to page more than one or two, I search. And I think highlighting will serve your purpose better than bookmarks. That way you can see better what you are heading towards. Of course, I use the kindle smart phone app, so search & highlighting may be different experiences on the kindle hardware.
    As far as soap goes, I’m so allergic to it I can’t use it. So as hobbies go, I can’t even imagine it. Where do you find the time? I suppose that if I didn’t spend so much time doing nothing (ok, sleeping and reading) I’d have time for a quarter of the things you do.

    Comment by Elisabeth — February 21, 2013 @ 9:52 am

  2. I was just writing to my SIL to see if she had ever tried castor oil soap. It’s only about 5 percent castor oil, but supposedly it is used in treating skin problems. I have some (I got a sample of various cold pressed from a local soaper to try–I’ll be blogging about that later). It’s a very creamy soap. I have no idea if it will help with my skin problems.

    What are you allergic to that is in soap? Soap is made from so many different oils and then it changes chemically…so I wonder what you are allergic to? Glycerin is a byproduct of the process. Perhaps that is it?

    I’d like to make a soap from mostly olive oil. It can be made from olive oil and lye alone, but I think it would be too soft (that could be one you could try, but finding it might be hard. Olive oil is VERY expensive so not too many people make it.) Olive oil is used to make castille soap, but these days most people mix other ingredients in. I did see some out on the web, but it was about 7 to 10 dollars a bar if it was only made with olive oil and lye.

    See, I go down these rabbit holes…

    Comment by Maria — February 21, 2013 @ 9:59 am

  3. During my own recent extended information gathering on soapmaking, I found reference to the fact that lye should be kept plastic because of the nature of the stuff. It didn’t really explain why that is so (does it react negatively to glass?) but you may want to check it out first.

    Shame you don’t have a fireplace, you could make your own potash!

    Comment by April — February 21, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

  4. I hope you can tell that is sarcasm up there when I say “extensive research” this is a personal euphamism for a quick browse through the internet and I realized after I submitted that not everyone can see my facial expressions and may not see the sarcasm there. My apologies!

    Comment by April — February 21, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

  5. Our library had a soap making class/demo as part of their adult ed. series a few years ago. It was fun/educational. We used plain old cooking oil and it seemed to work very well. I have very sensitive skin too, and it didn’t seem to bother mine. Of course, I only used it for hand washing, so there’s no telling what would have done to my face. I added mint leaves/scent to mine and it made the bathroom smell so good.

    If you want better pix/resolution, try downloading the Kindle app to your computer and loading the book. The pix are gorgeous that way. Don’t know if it’ll solve your paging problem, but you would be able to print out the pages if you needed to.

    Comment by Dee — February 21, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

  6. One can never have too many hobbies. Just sayin’.

    Comment by A Voracious Reader — February 21, 2013 @ 2:33 pm

  7. Dee, you are such an enabler!

    My husband said the same thing about downloading to the computer, and that may be doable, but I was really reviewing it as its usefulness for the way I read it–and DIDN’T bookmark or highlight when I should have…

    Comment by Maria — February 21, 2013 @ 3:51 pm

  8. April, the Lye can react with moisture in the air and begin “fizzing.” We don’t want early fizzing. Frankly I’m a little scared to try it, but I bought coconut oil today and castor oil. I just need to find pomace olive oil. Anyone know where I can get some???

    Comment by Maria — February 21, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

  9. I’m not real sure just what I’m allergic to in soap, but it’s gotten to the point where I’m allergic to just about everything. The newest food seems to be canola oil, but it may be traces of other oils that may or maynot be in that particular can of whatever. Soap I’ve been allergic to since college. I’d come out of the shower beet red. Then in my 30s I could only use dial, but now…. Experimenting to discover just what the culprit is is just too difficult. So, well I’ve found one shampoo I can use sparingly once a week or so, so I get along on that. But I’ll keep my eyes open for olive oil soap. What did we do before the internet?

    Comment by Elisabeth — February 24, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

  10. My mom always went back to Dial anytime she had an outbreak/rash. That worked for years, but now her skin is so fragile and dried out, she has been using the glycerin soap. I did find this soap at Swansons–I have not yet tried it:

    I have no idea why salt is in there, but I have seen salt in some soap recipes. I also don’t know why they don’t list lye (although technically most soaps don’t list it. The lye isn’t really lye after it interacts with the oil. Although come to think of it, the oil isn’t exactly the oil either.)

    I would have tried these bars, but I found someone locally who makes cold pressed soaps and we worked out a trade (I’ll be blogging about it soon.) I’ve been able to try several different soaps that she made. So far I like all of them better than the glycerin stuff, but she did make a couple that smell funky (and I could do without funky smells. Yeah, I know some people like some of those funky smells, but I don’t need any smells, really.)

    Comment by Maria — February 24, 2013 @ 7:09 pm

  11. I checked. The salt is in there to harden the bars because olive oil creates a very soft bar. Sometimes coconut oil is used instead, but for a pure olive oil bar, the salt is needed so that it isn’t too soft.

    The article I read said the salt is not going to dry out the skin. I have seen various recipes. Some use a lot of salt, some don’t. I don’t think I’ve ever used a bar of soap made with salt, but now I want to try one…

    Comment by Maria — February 24, 2013 @ 7:32 pm

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