Tuesday, March 17, 2009

soaping site "guide" and thoughts

when i started soaping nine years ago, it was because i figured soap had been around for hundreds of years and people were making it themselves long before big companies started manufacturing it. so why couldn't i make soap too? if pioneers could do it two hundred years ago then surely i had the technology at my fingertips to make a bar of soap for myself. i love that you can find out anything on the internet so that is where i turned to for instruction. here are some sites that i have used and loved:

- kathy miller's soaping site. tons of information and recipes for the new and experienced soaper. i especially like her page on the properties of oils which has been invaluable when creating my own soap recipes.
- the dish forum, a gathering of "soaping minds" from all around the world. you do have to register to get access, but it's free. there is a wealth of information there and they never mind answering the same old questions from newbies.
- majestic mountain sage's lye calculator. i've heard there are other lye calculators out there, but this is the one i always heard recommended and what i always use. you just punch in the amounts of each oil you are using and it will automatically calculate the amount of NaOH you need to use, depending on your amount of superfat. or you can calculate NaOH the old-fashioned way, using a pencil and paper and sap values. (imho it's good to know how to do this anyways, but the mms calculator is awfully convenient.) i calculate my NaOH for every single batch of soap i make, after measuring my oils. maybe a bit tedious but i figure it is better to be safe than sorry. the mms website also has great information on fragrances and recipes, and the lye calculator includes basic instructions, water ranges (depending on the discount you prefer to take - new soapers should take less of a water discount/use more water), and a convenient resizing tool.
- teachsoap.com, anne-marie faiola's teaching website. anne-marie is magic behind bramble berry, one of my favorite supply sources. this is a great website.
- ann bramson's book, soap. it was published before i was born but basic soaping techniques have not changed since then. she also has interesting information about rendering your own tallow and suet. i did that once, just to see, and it was more work than i care to do. besides, though i am not a vegetarian so have nothing against eating meat... i like the idea of all-vegetable soaps better.
- susan miller cavitch's book, the soapmaker's companion. somewhat controversial and can be problematic so i'd recommend reading all the reviews, especially the bad ones, as well as getting as much information from other sources before digging into her book. that said, it was helpful for me as a beginner soaper... but i don't refer to it that much anymore. also, her recipes make somewhat large batches (and use a lot of exotic oils) so if you do make one of them, use the resizing tool on the mms website.
- anne l watson's book, smart soapmaking. i have not read it personally but it gets great reviews. when people have nothing bad to say about something, there's got to be something to it, right?

supply sources i love:
- bramble berry. have i raved enough about them yet? i especially love their fragrance oils and that anne-marie now carries cybilla's line. also way back when, they used to include a sample-size of a fragrance oil in each order. (i have not ordered in forever - just put in my first order in a long time actually [been using up my "stash"] - so we'll see if they still do!) i always thought that was neat and really appreciated it. it worked, too - got me to try fragrances i might not have otherwise tried. there is a lot more than just fragrance there so poke around some.
- camden grey. great source for essential oils and other supplies at great prices. beware though, they are usually best as a "bulk" supplier. for example, the smallest amount of 76º coconut oil you can buy from them is 7 lbs. that's nothing for the small business soaper, but it lasts me a long time.
- the essential oil company. i could go completely overboard ordering from them. i have in the past. i think camden grey might be cheaper though.
- sweet cakes. delicious fragrances. yummmmm.
- upland soap factory for molds. obviously this would be a bit of an investment so i wouldn't spring for one until you're completely addicted to soaping and have enough experience to know you're never going back to mass-produced soap. i do adore my 12-bar slab mold from them. next to my stick blender, it is probably the best (and only?) investment i have made for this addiction.

obviously there are a ton more great websites for information and supplies, these are just the few i use most. hopefully they will work as well for you as they have for me.


Anne-Marie said...

Thank you so much for the awesome shout out. I'm thrilled you like the Bramble Berry site as well as our TeachSoap.com instructional site. Yippeee! =)

Tabitha (From Single to Married) said...

that's so cool that you makes soaps! I love the homemade stuff, it's the best.

Lavender said...

Great list of resources on making soap! More and more I am making my household products so that I can be sure they are safe and healthy. I may try my hand at soap next, thanks to your resources! Thanks!

Jaimey said...

One of the coop's I am on does Camden grey, I will try and figure out which and let you know. Might be worth it to buy through there, its usually at LEAST a 30% discount.... off to search.