Why do you make soap?

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Well-Known Member
Jul 8, 2015
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There is so much "how" on this board, let's talk "why" a little bit!

It seems like when soapmaking comes up in conversation (and I alway manage to bring it up) it feels......random. There just aren't many people who make soap and it's always either a real conversation booster, with lots of questions tossed around, or kind of an "oh" oddness and people don't know what to think. I talked with one, somewhat belligerent, person who very quizically asked "But, WHY?"

I personally think that making soap at home boarders on almost being a lost "art". Without the lovely folks on this board, I don't think too many people in the general public would realize soap can be produced outside of a Dove factory.

I also think over the past couple of decades that shower gels have become more popular than bar soap. I remember when the first Bath & Body Works store opened in my hometown. All of the sudden our shower was full of bottles.

So tell me, how do you answer the question "Why do you make soap?" And do you generally encounter interest or tilted-puppy-dog-head sort of weirdness?

I'll post my own answer in the responses.
The 'why' for me, at the start anyway, was that I had moved from Britain to Austria and didn't know any of the brands. I didn't want to waste money trying things that I didn't like so stuck to the same old things. Then I came upon a recipe for soap that looked interesting, but wanted to know how to actually make soap, not just follow a recipe for it so that I could change it up - that led me here and in to this crazy world. I wanted to make some classically based products, hence the user name!
For me, it was a bit random. But, my sister has some pretty significant allergies to synthetic fragrances and certain preservatives. Making stuff ourselves meant it was easier to control the allergens.
The why for me started out as necessity. Store bought soaps would make me rash and itch...even the most "gentle" would cause blotches. I started making my own MP with glycerin and botanicals. That was back in the days before SBs and I refused to sit around stirring for hours, so CP was not a viable option for me back then. Then a few years ago, I stumbled on a video using the SB and I tried CP. I found after a few tweaks, a recipe I liked and never went back to MP...although now I can see a real value in it for imbeds and some of the designs that can be made with glycerine are stunning so I may just have to play with that someday. This is the first year I've done anything but single color and I've been having a blast thanks to all the help from the members here. I don't sell, I donate and gift my soaps. After years of mainstream medicine and intensive care, I've gotten disgusted with the corruption and poor quality of care since obamacare came into being and I was offered a job in hyperbaric medicine...a private practice that fit really well with my lifetime study of herbology and alternative medicine. I am a former Marine and the practice treats veterans with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and traumatic brain injuries for free...that sealed the deal for me. Since I treat a lot of cancer patients who are also doing a lot of alternative treatments and grow their own vegetables, I've been getting a bounty of gorgeous veggies as gifts from patients and I will often give them a bar of soap as a thank you...so all my patients know I soap and always ask me to show my latest pics...which of course I display like a proud parent...taking only a second seat to my adorable grandson.
A couple of months ago, I finally decided to try homemade laundry detergent made with Fels Naptha. I really liked it, and from there it led to other homemade cleaners. Then I had that lightbulb moment.... if I could make homemade laundry detergent and cleaners, I ought to be able to make the soap that goes in them too! Did some research, made my first batch of soap, and got sucked in!! . I'm still a newbie, but I am loving every minute of it!
For myself--I like crafts/skills/arts that have their roots in utility. I've been learning how to quilt, as well. I like to think I'm carrying on knowledge that my great-grandparents and their parents had.

I think its a good idea to avoid coating my skin in surfactants and detergent and preservatives everyday. My skin is healthiest when I avoid mass-produced skin care items.

I've come to think of the bar form of soap as pretty much perfect. It keeps a long time without preservatives.

I'm a serial hobbiest. I'm not happy unless I'm learning about something. I think learning about soap will keep me busy for a very long time!!
I began making soap, because after years of using Dove, and moisturizing furiously, my skin was still dry. Then a friend went to Europe and brought me back a bar of olive oil soap. It was made in a rooster mold, and probably intended to be used as kitchen soap, but for some reason I can't remember, I decided to try it on my face, and it was such a revelation that soap could make my skin feel like that! By the time there was just a sliver left, I was researching how to make soap on line. I made my first batch of soap, and I've never looked back. I like the idea of having control over every ingredient. I make soap because my skin never felt this good when I used store bought soap.
I as well am a serial hobbiest. Being of a biological background and a horticulturist I was envious of my friends who had hobbies that they could put away in a drawer like knitting; no feeding, pruning, litter boxes,water changes bug control...
I took a class with someone local probably 8 years ago now and I found it mesmerizing.....alchemy if you will..the whole saponification process with an exothermic reaction is akin to me to watching a bean sprout out of the ground..magic!
I had the time this past winter to delve into the hobby and now again this fall...I already knew a lot of the plants used in soap making so I delved into that a lot...disappointing that the lye monster eats up so many botanicals but I guess I'll try them in hot process later on...in the meantime I'm enjoying the hobby immensely, so much to learn with some of the most informative and patient people on this forum...I thank you all!
It all started with purchasing a bar of handmade soap at a craft show.....causing a light bulb to go off in my head and I then started investigating and reading anything I could find. I tried it and fell in love with the whole process of creating a recipe and making it. Then I found this forum and it expanded my knowledge and inspired me to try other things as well.

It's a love thing for me. Kind of like therapy as well.
First try was just out of curiousity - soap was 100% chicken fat, lol - I had rendered the fat and had it left over - results weren't really used but they did work. When I got into it it was because I needed a shave soap that didn't leave me with a rash afterwards or one that just worked better than what was available. I always like making my own stuff, loved chemistry and this kind of just fit the bill of a number of categories.
Why do I make soap?

When I think about it, there are lots of reasons. My family has always had big gardens, raised hogs for the table as well as a business, did our own home repairs, etc. It's what people do when they live in a rural community far from any big city. Soaping fits with this rural Iowa matter-of-fact, self-reliance thing.

More to the point, my grandmother made lye soap for laundry from lard she rendered herself, and I was fascinated by the entire rendering and soap making process when I was a little kid.

An even more direct reason is my friend Renae. She started to make soap some years ago and kept giving me bars of soap to try .... I resisted using her for quite some time, but finally tried some, found my skin was not nearly so dry and itchy as it got with commercial soap. I lived off Renae's soapy generosity for several years more, but felt increasingly uncomfortable to keep taking her soap and not giving back. So I tried it myself and asked her advice about how to improve my recipes ... and now I give her my soap.

Lastly, I keep soaping because I'm fascinated by the technical and science-y side of the craft as well as challenged by the artistic side. Even a simple bar of soap can be a technical feat (long lasting, lathery, mild, properly saponified) as well as an artistic creation (nicely poured, well scented, neatly finished and packaged, maybe even some swirls?)
I think the biggest reason is how much better homemade soap is for my skin.

My friend, Sarah, got me into it by default. She started making GM soap about a year ago and had given me several bars to try. We never talked about how she made it but after hearing stories of my grandmother making lye soap that was very harsh and took so long to make, I really put off trying Sarah's. Once I tried it a few months ago I was amazed at how much better my skin felt, no dryness, itchiness, etc. I was curious about it and the next time she made soap she invited me over to watch...and the rest is history!

The chemistry of soapmaking has been the hardest to wrap my head around but the creative side of me is intrigued. The things you can do with colors, swirls, scents, etc. to the same basic recipe is amazing. Someone, I think it was GiGi, mentioned recently that she thought of soaping with everything she saw. I catch myself doing the same thing. Seeing the colors of flower blooms, my knitting yarn and fabrics, make me wonder how I can get those same colors in a soap! The scents I smell as I ride my motorcycle...fresh mown grass, rain, the warm smell of drying hay....how can I get that into a soap?

So far I've only made GM soap. I keep reading that it's not for beginners, others avoid milk soaps because of the potential problems, but I've found when teaching someone anything, if you don't tell them it's 'supposed' to be hard they don't have a barrier to learning anything. It's just a matter of "this is how you do it". I'm just at the beginning of this new venture and am excited about the future possibilities. I have no desire to sell soap but want to make some good enough to do so.
It all started with the first tub of my handmade body butter. I 'had' very dry and sensitive skin. For almost 2 decades, I had to use moisturizer every single day, as soon as I toweled off no matter which 'mild' soap I used. Now, I am always reading the labels, I like to control what goes in and on my body to the extent possible. So, as I read the labels I kept thinking, so many ingredients! Do I really need these, are they somehow contributing to the skin dryness. So I looked to homemade, with simple ingredients and after I tried the body butter for the first time, I was hooked. Then came the quest to hand make more of my personal care products. I researched soap making quite a bit.The first handmade soap I used was my own creation of my own recipe, it was so much better than anything I had used. So started the love affair. I like creating recipes, working with additives. I have started working on lotions and 'zinc oxide' creams. recently I made my first batch of liquid soap.I love sharing my creations and getting valuable feedback.
I also Love, Love learning from all the experienced soapers on this forum. I enjoy reading about all the experiments that brand new members come up with, feel happy when they succeed. I am officially obsessed with the forum.
Great question and great answers!

I find the idea of craftsmanship very romantic - spending years honing skills, using something you made yourself.

I chose soap because a) I always feel really special using handmade bath stuff, b) I have horrible dragon skin and c) it seemed like something I could teach myself with books and online resources (like SMF!).

As a teacher, I have more free time in the summers to work at hobbies and I enjoy things like photography, crochet, etc, but soaping is the first thing I've done that has really taken over. I'm always thinking about soap! I've found a true love!
My daughter started making m&p out of necessity to make some money. She had a toddler at the time and asked me if I would learn to make cp soap. Several years prior, while on a trip to NC we stopped at the Greensboro Farmer's Curb Market and I purchased a lot of soaps, which I immediately fell in love with. I actually ordered from Mimi until I started making my own. Having always loved all types of useful handcrafts it was not a stretch for me to fall in love with soapmaking.
Great question! I have many reasons. I first started making soap because it seemed like a neat hobby. But then I made some iffy soap and got busy with life and didn't do it for many years.

Then my son was born and I started really looking at the things we put on him and in him, and we started making changes in a lot of areas. So I started making soap again. And then my husband developed excema, so I convinced him to give up the Irish Spring and use my soap and what-do-you-know, it helped.

I've also become extremely interested in heritage skills and homesteading in the last few years so it all fit together!
I started making my own soap after spending years with horrible skin problems and finally realising that sls is my problem. Any of the sls free stuff, which is really difficult to find and expensive, also had no scent or very limited varieties so I set about making my own soap to give me more freedom. My skin has never been as soft and problem free as it is now, I don't think I will ever go back to store bought products.
True story - I was binge watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix and there was a scene in one of the first few episodes where the main character and her friend make soap in her kitchen. Honestly, it had never even occurred to me that you could MAKE soap. I was intrigued, so I tried some Melt & Pour kits. It was a fun little afternoon hobby project for me, but I really wanted to be a bigger part of formulating the recipe. Next, I binge watched (see a theme here?) soap making videos online and read everything I could get my hands on about CP soap. I found that my handmade CP soap really eased my son's eczema, so not only did I love making the soap, it had a practical purpose too.

The rest of the addiction is history. I love how chemistry and art combine to make these amazing soaps that friends, family, and customers are absolutely WILD about.
My motivation seems to be similar to a lot of the answers here.

I like hobbies and making things. My whole family is pretty crafty, actually.

I never thought much about making soap (though I knew it could be done). I had bought in a bit too readily to the whole "soap dries your skin, use Lever 2000" schtick, I guess.

But then I read a long thread on the Badger and Blade forum where one of the regulars made his own shaving soap. The same original formula that I used in my first experiments as well. It sounded fascinating. So I started reading up about all the different types of soap making, watching videos, etc.

The practical aspects were cool, but I also really liked the artsy parts of colorants, swirls, etc.

So now here I am. :)
I fell into it by accident, in a way. (Forgive me for repeating this story.) I found a bar of "Grandma's Lye Soap" at my local Ace hardware store a while ago and tried it. It was 100% lard and made the "old fashioned way." Within a few days of using it, I noticed a tremendous improvement in my dry skin. (I have Sjogren's Syndrome. My immune system attacks the moisture-producing glands in my body. I always feel like a dry sponge, but it is worse in the winter.) Well, I got hooked on Granny and my store quit carrying it. Because it "has lye in it and people use it to make meth." OK. Enough about that! I decided to try to make my own lard soap. I went to the library and the used book store, trolled the internet and YouTube for everything I could find and then made a batch of soap. I was not impressed, but I persevered and have come to understand it's all about the cure. The crappiest soap ever will improve with age. Uh, like me, now that I think about it. I'm hooked. I can never use store bought soap again. I had to go to MD for a seminar and took my own soap. Swank hotel soap wasn't good enough for me.

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