Suitable soap making book?

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Liner81

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Hey all. As a regular Lush customer, I've decided to give soap making a go myself. I'm gleaning as much info as I can from this forum and available Youtube videos, but I find I learn best by reading and referring to books or manuals. I've been looking at the various soap making books for sale online and was surprised at how many are actually available. There is quite a range. But I am wary that not all books are created equally and that some will prove more comprehensive and instructive than others. I've always found the "For Dummies" range of manuals exceptional for any topic I have wanted to immerse myself in. But is it the best choice in this case? Can anybody recommend it from experience or another book in its place? I'm particularly interested in making soap that is suitable for sensitive skin (as a sufferer myself) so this is a factor I would need to take into account when choosing a suitable manual. Could anybody point me in the right direction? Many thanks in advance.

 
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crispysoap

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I don't have any books but Kevin Dunn books get recommend a lot on here.
 

The Efficacious Gentleman

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The biggest issue with books is that no one person is perfect. Books are the views of only a few people and are totally static, so you're getting a narrow view and no updates unless they reprint (and once you have bought it, that's it!)

There are many "how to make soap" threads on the forum which have the benefit of a lot of input, corrections, and (most importantly) why certain things are what they are to improve the learning curve.

Recipes, scent ideas, colours and swirls - there are more than enough to be found in the threads, again with discussion around it which helps you learn.

I am also usually a manual type person, but if I have to refer to paper or to screen it makes little difference, except a screen is easier when actually making soap
 

reflection

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i've been looking for a good soap book too. you might want to ask yourself a few questions to help narrow things down. such as:

•will you primarily be doing HP, CP or M&P? are you going to try more than one approach fairly early on?
-i have found a lot of books focus primarily on CP and have much smaller sections on HP

•are you interested in doing things like swirls in soaps? M&P decorating?

•will you use fragrance oils or essential oils or both?

•are you interested in using lots of additives (herbs, etc) in your soaps? organic or inorganic materials like plant-based coloring or FD&C dyes,micas or oxides or all of the above?

a great beginner book is anne watson's smart soapmaking. she really breaks down the basics wonderfully and is an excellent teacher. one thing she doesn't cover though is what can go wrong in soapmaking and what to do to fix those problems. her kindle books are $.99 so they can't be beat but sometimes it's nice to have a hard copy. so far, i haven't yet found an all-inclusive soapmaking book that i want to purchase.

i found another book at my library that fits well for me but unfortunately it's out of print. the book is only on HP which i will be starting with and has lots of good info on using additives & essential oils. if that is what you are looking for i'd recommend getting from your libe a copy of handcrafted soap by delores boone. one i haven't looked at yet is pure soapmaking by the lady from soap queen. that might be a bit Lushlike.

this forum is great & people are incredibly helpful. i do wish though there were a lot more stickies in the beginner section. e.g. basic equipment lists, info on lye water solution, oil properties for various types of soap, safety info, things that accelerate trace, all things lye, additives, where to buy which supplies, making a mold, etc. *hint, hint*
 
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Liner81

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thanks for the replies and input everybody. i'll take a look at the Kevin Dunn books as suggested but it's also a fair comment that the info here on the forum is dynamic as opposed to static and therefore constantly up to date. I'll give it some further thought and let you know how I get on. Cheers.

i've been looking for a good soap book too. you might want to ask yourself a few questions to help narrow things down. such as:

•will you primarily be doing HP, CP or M&P? are you going to try more than one approach fairly early on?
-i have found a lot of books focus primarily on CP and have much smaller sections on HP

•are you interested in doing things like swirls in soaps? M&P decorating?

•will you use fragrance oils or essential oils or both?

•are you interested in using lots of additives (herbs, etc) in your soaps? organic or inorganic materials like plant-based coloring or FD&C dyes,micas or oxides or all of the above?

a great beginner book is anne watson's smart soapmaking. she really breaks down the basics wonderfully and is an excellent teacher. one thing she doesn't cover though is what can go wrong in soapmaking and what to do to fix those problems. her kindle books are $.99 so they can't be beat but sometimes it's nice to have a hard copy. so far, i haven't yet found an all-inclusive soapmaking book that i want to purchase.

i found another book at my library that fits well for me but unfortunately it's out of print. the book is only on HP which i will be starting with and has lots of good info on using additives & essential oils. if that is what you are looking for i'd recommend getting from your libe a copy of handcrafted soap by delores boone. one i haven't looked at yet is pure soapmaking by the lady from soap queen. that might be a bit Lushlike.

this forum is great & people are incredibly helpful. i do wish though there were a lot more stickies in the beginner section. e.g. basic equipment lists, info on lye water solution, oil properties for various types of soap, safety info, things that accelerate trace, all things lye, additives, where to buy which supplies, making a mold, etc.
Thanks for your input reflections. A lot of your questions went right over my head showing my ignorance of the subject matter. So I obviously need to be doing plenty more reading and research on this forum before moving forward.
Thanks for your help.
 
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Susie

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i found another book at my library that fits well for me but unfortunately it's out of print. the book is only on HP which i will be starting with and has lots of good info on using additives & essential oils. if that is what you are looking for i'd recommend getting from your libe a copy of handcrafted soap by delores boone. one i haven't looked at yet is pure soapmaking by the lady from soap queen. that might be a bit Lushlike.

this forum is great & people are incredibly helpful. i do wish though there were a lot more stickies in the beginner section. e.g. basic equipment lists, info on lye water solution, oil properties for various types of soap, safety info, things that accelerate trace, all things lye, additives, where to buy which supplies, making a mold, etc.
If you are starting with HP thinking you can avoid curing the soap 4-6 weeks, it is not true. HP soaps need just as long a cure time. They are also more difficult than CP to make for a beginner.

There are stickies in both the beginner and Lye Based Soapmaking sections. Also, scroll down to recipe feedback and Soap Making Recipes and Tutorials, as those are loaded with good interaction on recipes. As for equipment lists, you can Google that, as well as peruse almost all beginner soapmaking books. Even Soaping 101 has a basic list:

[ame]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYhH20vWxvc[/ame]

And a video tutorial (I would not use that recipe, but something like this: Lard/Tallow/Palm Oil 65%, Olive Oil 15%, Coconut Oil 15%, Castor Oil 5%, Superfat 5%. All oils available at Walmart, which is where I mostly buy them.)

[ame]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWnqXTqZTvU[/ame]

I bought my stickblender at the thrift store, permanently "borrowed" a 1986 crock pot from my sister-in-law as she never used it, bought back up from thrift store. Bought back up stick blender that is now my main stickblender from Walmart-stainless steel bell and shaft that you can remove from the motor to be able to wash it well is worth it. Got my current scale (you need to invest in a decent quality digital scale!) from Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00VEKX35Y/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20

I bought what I mix in from a restaurant supply store-be sure to get either a plastic bowl or paint cup with a 5 in the little triangle or stainless steel. This is what I use, but it is not necessary to buy. I just prefer the shape:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B013S1M8HK/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20

There are mold making instructions on the forum, just do a search. Also, you can purchase a mold if you prefer.

There are loads of instructions on this forum about lye and concentrations for various purposes.

Oil properties are listed in most beginner soapmaking books, but you can also search this forum for one. I saw one, I think, about a year or so ago.
 
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reflection

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If you are starting with HP thinking you can avoid curing the soap 4-6 weeks, it is not true. HP soaps need just as long a cure time. They are also more difficult than CP to make for a beginner.
susie, can you say more as to why you think HP is more difficult for a beginner? i haven't heard that before. i've usually heard 2 weeks for curing HP which means i can start at least trying one bar and the rest will be cured long before i finish that first bar (way longer than 2 weeks). tia.
 

Susie

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susie, can you say more as to why you think HP is more difficult for a beginner? i haven't heard that before. i've usually heard 2 weeks for curing HP which means i can start at least trying one bar and the rest will be cured long before i finish that first bar (way longer than 2 weeks). tia.
HP is basically CP that has been cooked. Cooking is an extra, unnecessary step. You will need 4-6 weeks cure time for HP, no matter what that lady on YouTube says. You can start testing any CP or HP at the first week, then once a week until cured. I often suggest doing exactly that for beginners so that you will then know for yourself that cure takes as long as it takes, and it is worth waiting for it.
 

The Efficacious Gentleman

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As above, any soap is "safe" to use once the saponification is finished. When it is "good" to use varies a lot. I find my hp needs to cure longer for the hardness than my cp, even though it is safe much sooner
 

Arimara

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susie, can you say more as to why you think HP is more difficult for a beginner? i haven't heard that before. i've usually heard 2 weeks for curing HP which means i can start at least trying one bar and the rest will be cured long before i finish that first bar (way longer than 2 weeks). tia.
Gelling your soaps will also allow you to test your soap out sooner. The common thing that gets overlooked is that saponification is NOT curing, although it is part of the curing process. With gelled CP soaps and HP soaps, your soap is saponified much faster than if you simply let it cure ungelled. That means you can test your soap out starting from 1 week old until minimumly cured and beyond. All of this is assuming that your soap is zap tested and all.
 

dixiedragon

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The Kevin Dunne book is highly recommended here! It's on my wish list. My understanding is that it's focused on the science and the chemistry - what happens when water + lye meets oils. I don't know if it's a how too book?

I haven't found a soap making book I like. Most of them are heavy on pictures and "recipes" - meaning they will add a new color and fragrance and call it a new recipe, or they will substitute one oil for another oil without telling you why.

I haven't checked out the "For Dummies" book.

OP where are you located?

This kit is great:
https://www.brambleberry.com/Natural-Soap-Kit-for-Beginners-P6607.aspx

It has almost everything you need to make soap - the only thing you need to provide is water, a bowl, a spoon and a stick blender. This includes the scale, the lye, and the mold which are the hardest things to purchase locally for a decent price. It has the oils, the color and the fragrance!

The For Dummies book says it specifically does not cover CP. I think it just covers MP (melt and pour).
 
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Cindy2428

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Scientific Soapmaking - Kevin Dunn is NOT a beginning soapmaking book. He is a university professor chemist who wrote this book to help understand the science behind soapmaking. It is not a beginning book by any means, but once you get beyond "I made soap!", and start to question "why" things happen, this is an excellent resource.

If you have a Kindle, there are quite a few free books out there. The Ann Watson series is good. Another resource for book recommendations is the HSCG - The Handcrafted Soap Makers Guild. They carry quite a few books in their store. They also have a relatively new section where they present basic videos on process.

Again - it was asked above - what are you looking for in a book? Recipes?, process? Bear in mind there is no one definitive recipe that is the best. There is no one method; new takes on designs and modified processes are being developed all of the time. Realizing you are handling chemicals and working safely is the only golden rule there is - Never, ever add water to lye is the only absolute I can think of.

Soaping is a journey. It challenges the mad scientist in all of us. It combines science and artistry. It never gets boring; it rewards patience. If you are thinking about a business opportunity, wonderful. Just realize it will take research, practice and business skills. You need to test your recipes, understand why you are using your chosen oils in your recipe. Once you add color and fragrance to the party, you add even more variables. There is a soaping language to learn.

The only formula I can give someone is read, watch, learn, do - repeat. If you choose to become a good student; parking here and reading as much as you can handle is a good start. Then start watching You Tube videos - It won't take long to figure out the better teachers out there. Finally, when you think you "have it", use a soap calculator of your choice and plug in a recipe you find in a book, or create your own. Next step - shopping. Walmart, Dollar store, and Goodwill are good cost conscious options. Finally - make a basic soap without scent or color. If you start jumping up and down, want to tell, show everyone you know about your new-found obsession, then you are ready to move on. Take a class, go to a conference and make new soapy friends.

Then when you have the basic process down, start being more adventurous. Welcome to the journey.
 

dixiedragon

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If you find a book and a recipe you like, I strongly encourage you to check it with us here. A lot of books, for example, tell you to mix your lye water in a glass container - but they leave out that the lye water will cause microfractures in the glass container and it make eventually shatter. Plastic is best. (look for 5 or 2 on the bottom of the container).

Another issue I noticed in one book was that the author had a 10% or 12% superfat in her soaps. Superfat is the amount of fat (oils are fatty acids), over what the lye will saponify (turn into soap). The "most common" superfat is 5% here at SMF. I put that in quotes because lots of people use 0 superfat and love it and lots use 10 or more and love it. But 5 is a good starting point. IMO, you shouldn't use 10% unless you have tried 5% and you have a specific reason for 10%.
 

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I was just checking out some soapmaking books that an email from Amazon was promoting today and thought "I need to check SMF to see what they say about these books" and found this new thread! I think I'll save my money and continue to read the forum and watch YouTube!
Anne Watson aside, there was only one other book I feel comfortable recommending on a "take a look" level and I can't remember what it is. I just noted that the author did not have a seemingly cut and paste type of book.
 

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I'm reading The Natural Soap Book: Making Herbal and Vegetable-Based Soaps on Scribd. I find it really easy to read, but it explains what soap is and what it does really well. I really enjoy learning from one person/book at a time, rather than constantly searching for information all over the internet. Even if that one person isn't all knowing, it's easier to fact check one person at a time. I've found a lot of great books like this on scribd, which is like the Netflix of books, and I love it. I have spent many an hour with my phone, scribd, and a notebook! Which I've found to be really helpful in soap making: taking notes. Even if I never read them again, the act of note taking helps filter out the most important information. Anyway, not to be advertisey, but if you use this link you can get two months of scribd free. I wouldn't recommend it if I didn't really love it. XD https://www.scribd.com/ga/4vpsyz
 
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reflection

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i also find both books and the forum to be helpful. i don't believe one is better than the other. people have different learning styles and different life circumstances that make spending a lot of time on a forum quite unfeasible. i find it good to remember that just because one method works for someone it may not be the best choice for someone else.

i bought anne-marie's pure soapmaking and it is a great book. it isn't really a book for a beginner though with all that complicated swirling stuff. at first i wasn't sure if i should keep it since i'm not planning on swirling more than a try or two down the road, but she has tons of good info in the beginning on general soapmaking, additives, etc.. the book is very step-by-step with tons of pics, so it's organized exceptionally well. for anyone interested in all the swirling techniques i think they'd absolutely love the book. i initially wasn't going to buy the book due to some negative reviews on amazon, but i found the criticisms to be rather groundless, and am glad i bought it.
 

earlene

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If at all possible borrow soap making books from the library before committing to purchase. I borrowed all (3 or 4) available at my local library and read through them each one carefully. After doing so, I have a better idea of what I want and will find useful for me.

I tend to look through books thoroughly before making a purchase decision. And whenever possible, I prefer to borrow, unless I am sure I will refer to it frequently.
 
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I made soap 10 years ago I forgot so I started over 2020 to open my own company and buy a book once I had earlier but borrowed and never returned to me.

I had purchased The Natural SoapMaking book for Beginners by KELLY CABLE . Let me tell you it’s awesome and fantastic compare to other writers. Just cost me US$11.93+shipping cost US$7.78 to Taiwan.

i also find both books and the forum to be helpful. i don't believe one is better than the other. people have different learning styles and different life circumstances that make spending a lot of time on a forum quite unfeasible. i find it good to remember that just because one method works for someone it may not be the best choice for someone else.

i bought anne-marie's pure soapmaking and it is a great book. it isn't really a book for a beginner though with all that complicated swirling stuff. at first i wasn't sure if i should keep it since i'm not planning on swirling more than a try or two down the road, but she has tons of good info in the beginning on general soapmaking, additives, etc.. the book is very step-by-step with tons of pics, so it's organized exceptionally well. for anyone interested in all the swirling techniques i think they'd absolutely love the book. i initially wasn't going to buy the book due to some negative reviews on amazon, but i found the criticisms to be rather groundless, and am glad i bought it.
Try Kelly Cable Book for Beginners and it’s fantastic very easy and clear to start with
 
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