Soap Making, part 1

December 5, 2011

Skills, Soap Making

Soapmaking as a homesteading skill

For quite some time, my friend Melissa and I have been trying to arrange a soap making class with another friend who is already well-practiced.  The week before Thanksgiving, we finally managed to find a time when we could all meet.

Why make my own soap?

There are actually several reasons why you may want to learn to make your own soap, but here are the main reasons I wanted to.

  1. Commercially produced soap may not always be readily available.
  2. This could be a barterable skill in the future.  People will always need soap for good hygiene.
  3. A lot of soaps commonly sold include ingredients I’d rather not use (like triclosan).
  4. Hand-made soap is a special treat and when you receive it, you know you are loved.
  5. It’s actually pretty fun to make.

On this blog, we’ve mentioned several times the possibility of a supply chain breakdown.  That could come from exorbitant gas prices, an earthquake on the New Madrid fault that takes out interstates and pipelines connecting the eastern US from those states west of the Mississippi River, a union strike, materials shortages- lots of things.  Soap is something I never want to be without for the sake of sanitation.

If stores stop getting regular shipments of goods, being able to produce soap for sale or barter would put me in a pretty good position to get whatever else I lack.  I really don’t NEED a new hobby- I’ve got plenty to keep me busy- but what I do need is practice.  I have the luxury of experimenting with ingredients and techniques now when a failure isn’t a crisis.  I can start out now using easier and preferable materials, but hopefully with experience I would be able to transfer what I’ve learned to what is available later (I’m thinking of wood ashes, rainwater, and tallow like great-grandma used).

There is a lot of debate about commercially made “soaps”.  Most would more accurately be classified as “detergents” much like you use in your dish or clothes washer.  The ingredient list is mostly chemicals rather than things like cocoa butter or palm oil.  In addition, it seems most bar and liquid soaps are “antibacterial.”  They contain chemicals like triclosan that are supposed to kill bacteria on contact.  There is an increasing suspicion that what they are really doing is breeding resistant bacteria.  I’d rather just lather up well with a plain soap and wash the germs down the sink than hope a brief encounter with antibacterial soap will kill them.

Each of the few times I have received a soap made by the giver, I have felt very special and grateful. Handmade gifts are ones that come from the heart.  This Christmas, we plan to give soap we’ve crafted as gifts to the special people in our lives.

So far, I have assisted in the original lesson and made soap by myself three times.  But it was fun every time.  It’s a bit like cooking in that you get to choose the ingredients, measure them, stir them, and pour them into molds.  It’s a creative process and something you can tweak to suit your own tastes.  With the wonderful online lye calculators, you can design your own recipes once you have a little experience under your belt.

In the next installment, I’ll let you know how my first solo soap batches came out (they are “curing”) and give you the recipes I used and info about the book from which I got them.

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9 Comments on “Soap Making, part 1”

  1. Marla Bosworth Says:

    I love making handmade soap too! Sounds like you had fun. Did you know that most handmade soaps are antibacterial due to their pH?


  2. Jackie Druga Says:

    Very good post! I enjoyed this one very much!!


  3. Laura Says:

    Thanks for your comments, ladies.

    Marla, I hadn’t really thought through that the pH of lye-based soaps may make them antibacterial. And I assume then that since we are talking about making the environment on the skin too hostile for bacteria to survive (they must have particular temperatures, moisture levels, and presumably pH) rather then creating a chemical that they may develop an immunity to, lye soap should continue to work. Interesting! Thanks.

    Jackie, it has been fun. I have had some batches turn out more successfully than others and I am also learning that there is great variation between how much essential oil to use for scent from one to another. Some have lost their smell already while one in particular may drive us out of the house! Scenting soap will be really unimportant in a survival situation, but better to learn as many nuances as I can now. The types and percentages of oils used really do matter in the final product. Thanks for commenting.


    • Farzana Says:

      Why do I prep? Was part of Katrina Relief in Mississippi & saw that plepoe with stocks of food & carpentry skills were better off than those without. Guess I should explain my personal \\"threat matrix\\" from top to bottom:Top-Weather disruption, natural disaster. I live up up north & getting snowed in & loosing power is a definite posibility.Middle-Monsanto screws up the food supply/crop blight or flu-pandemic w/ 30+ days of no supermarket trips. Bottom, and I do mean VERY bottom!-MARS ATTACKS!!! or TEOWAKI-SHTF societal breakdown and I need to have my skerry black rifle to hold back the zombie-hordes.Current score: 0


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