Saturday, October 15, 2005

Are you using soap?

Sometime ago I made an amazing discovery...all those lovely bars of soap at the local store were not actually bars of soap...they were bars of detergent! The "soap" companies had actually removed the glycerin, because they could sell that for a higher price, and sold us the leftovers. The most important part of the soap, the part that moisturizes our skin, was missing.

As I began to investigate further, I found all sorts of nasty chemicals, additives, dyes, perfumes etc. were added to our "detergent" bars. Since the skin is the largest organ of the body, and since what we put on our skin finds its way into our bloodstream, it posed the question of how this was affecting our health. The more I read the more concerned I became.

I have a friend named Julie who was making soap at the time and she and her husband offered to spend an afternoon teaching us about soap making. Julie and Michael are some of my favorite people, they are the only like-minded, Christian, agrarian friends we have locally.
We met at their house and they walked us through the mechanics of making soap. Somehow seeing it done was much easier than just reading the book and "flying blind". It really wasn't that hard!

Thus began our journey into soap making....I began to study oils and what effect they had on skin, were they moisturizing? were they drying? (It was funny to me to think of an oil that would dry??). What other properties did that oil have? Did it lather? Then I began to study essential they could benefit us, heal us, relax us or just plain make us feel good. We bought some basic books for recipes and searched the internet for the same.

We committed to making pure soap. Pure oils, no color unless it came from herbs, pure essential oils instead of perfumes, no preservatives and no chemicals of any kind. We began with some simple soaps, our first was Castille, which is the purest, mildest soap, if made properly. Then we began to have fun! We made soaps that lathered tremendously, soaps that relaxed and soaps that invigorated.

We came up with a soap that would kill viruses and bacteria. When someone in the family starts to come down with something, we put this soap at all of our sinks. We made a soap for working outside, it has essential oils that repel bugs and it has an exfolliant to help get the dirt off when you are done working. We made a soap that cuts grease for use at the kitchen sink.
We got the boys involved and let them each pick an essential oil that they liked. Those soaps were named after the boys who created them. We made a soap that moisturized the skin and one that was drying, for those teen acne problems.

By this time we were having FUN! We noticed that we didn't suffer with dry skin as we used to..our skin felt great! We ran out of soap at one point and had to use one of our "detergent" bars. It was awful! So, we became more diligent at our soap making and continued to create as the mood hit. We gave them as gifts for birthdays and Christmas....and the response was good. Now people wanted to buy so they could give gifts...and they told people....who told people and thus our little soap making business was born.

Soap making is NOT difficult. You can do it in the smallest apartment or on a farm. You can make a small batch of just a few bars or make 40 bars at a time. I encourage all of you to try it.

Some of our favorite soapmaking books are: Natural Soapmaking by Marie Browning, The Everything Soapmaking Book by Alicia Grosso, The Complete Soapmaker by Norma Coney and Milk-Based Soaps by Casey Makela.

So, remember to ask yourself....

Are you using soap?


  1. Can you make soap from cow's milk? I have wanted to do soap making. Brian thinks I am crazy. I am looking forward to getting a new essential oil in called Thieves for the winter months. I so want to move away from chemicals etc. Just a little slow about it.

  2. Milkmaid,
    You can use cow's milk! Be sure to use whole milk and raw milk is the best! You would enjoy the book Milk-Based Soaps by Casey Makela. Email me if you have any questions. It would be a great added value for your customers. I make 42 bars at a time and it only takes a couple of hours.

  3. We have a few bars some friends made; I've used it for only 9 or 10 days, and the difference is incredible. I'm anxiously waiting to order the book she used as her main reference, so the kids and I can start making our own (which needs to be soon; we're going to run out of theirs way too quickly!)

  4. TNfarmgirl,

    My husband(Scott from Homesteader Life) has been reading your blog for quite awhile. He told me about this post so I just had to come read it! My mom and I have made soap in the past. She is busy doing other things now and has kind of left the "business" to me. With two little ones ages 3 and 19.5 months, I find it difficult to make time for soapmaking. I'm also having a hard time figuring out where to buy supplies! I'd love to get some advice and suggestions from you if you don't mind sharing! Thanks!

  5. TNFarmgirl,

    Yes, I sure do use real soap. The whole family does. Marlene has been making soap for 4 or 5 years now. And she sells it too. I made her some break-apart brick molds and help her cut it into bars. It is a nice little home business for her and I've been meaning to write about it at my blog.

    I'll have to have her stop by here and read this.

    One more thing.... since Marlene has been making soap, I have not used any storebought shampoo. I just use a bar of soap. It works for me!

    Herrick Kimball

  6. Hello Herrick!
    We make a "gourmet" shampoo bar and sell it as fast as we make it. It has essential oils that clean the hair shaft while moisturizing it at the same time.

    We all use it and I have fairly long hair.

    I am so happy you are back...I missed reading your blog!

  7. Soo... I'm waiting for your book on soap making. :)

  8. Bradshaws,
    I hope you will share which book your friend recommended and how your soap turns out!

    I hate to disappoint but there are so many great books on soap making...and I have only been doing it for a short time....and my time is so short....

    I did however write a perpetual garden calendar....I'll tell more about it in another post!

    I would be more than happy to help! I'll contact you!

  9. Hello,
    There is an interesting collection of old soap recipes at

    The "toilet soap" recipes are for the body.

  10. The name of my friend's book is The Natural Soap Book (with a subtitle that I didn't write down) by Susan Miller Cavitch, and it is available at Amazon.

    Mary Susan

  11. I was wondering what you meant by "all natural". Do you use lye at all to help with saponification? I'm very intersted. Thank you.

  12. Danielle,
    Yes, we use lye. To make soap "from scratch" you must use lye. But during the saponification process and cure time the lye dissapates. What I mean by "all natural" is that we do not use "fragrance oils" which are chemical/synthetic. We do not use artificial colorants, we use herbs to color our soaps.
    We do not use any preservatives, or anything else to enhance our bars. Many soapmakers use artificial fragrances, colors, preservatives, hardeners, softeners etc.
    And most times these are not put on the label - you just have to ask lots of questions.

  13. I am very glad to see so many people interested in making soap. The soap I make is taken from Sandy Maines book. I have been making soap probably for about 5 years. Glycerin soap is also a good one for the winter months.

  14. Does anyone out there make milk from their Jersey cows? I'm investigating the possibilities and would like to talk with someone who has done this.

  15. Hi Kristen,
    Did you mean soap or cheese from the milk? We do both here!


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