Why make soap? Why bother? You can buy something to wash with for a tenth the price.
I've asked myself this every time I've made another batch. It's a fascination, a sort of alchemy. I've had a hard time limiting myself to making just enough for my own use and for gifts. But since I didn't enjoy my brief time in the soap business, I've controlled myself, more or less.
People believe a lot of weird things about soapmaking. That it's expensive and difficult. That it's dangerous—well, it's true that soapmaking is about as dangerous as frying chicken. That doesn't put it very high on the fear scale, as far as I'm concerned.
The myths just go on from there. In extreme cases, people have believed soap has to be stirred clockwise or with a sassafras stick. Or that it only works in certain moon phases. At this point, we're verging on witchcraft, which is not exactly known for producing soap.
I tried to debunk as many myths as possible and offer a thoroughly modern approach in my book Smart Soapmaking. But the thing about soapmaking is, you never know it all. Every experiment answers one question and poses two more. At a certain point, I realized I'd never reach the end of my inquiries. In the interest of getting that book written, I set the experiments aside.
Once the book was finished, though, I decided to use this page to describe things I was wondering about and trying—loose ends and new techniques. I've also listed many helpful resources—soapmaking materials suppliers, teachers, websites. Contact me if you'd like to comment on any of my thoughts, air any ideas of your own, or suggest a resource.
The picture of me in my soapmaking duds, complete with cat who is not a soapmaker, was painted by Wendy Edelson.
A year's worth of projects, experiments, and investigations in a monthly "magazine."
An occasional log of experiments in soap and lotion making.
An extensive list of suppliers in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
A list of US soapmakers who can teach.
Finally, here's an assortment of helpful links to other websites.