Coming clean

The irony of soapmaking is that it’s a messy business. The oils involved slime everything. Bits of raw soap cling to your kitchen cabinets, molds, cutters and self. Equipment must be washed and put up. And everything smells of lavender. For days. (Obviously, it could be worse.)

Once you go homemade, though, you never go back.

It’s what the soap doesn’t do that makes it special. It doesn’t make you itch like a mad dog from head to toe. It doesn’t encourage angry raw places to appear on winter skin. And it doesn’t smell like horse piss and gardenias. At the risk of sounding like a Calgon commercial, it makes showering a lathery, sensual delight. (Get two soapmakers together and they'll talk suds and bubbles like spinners talk staple-length and microns.)

Unfortunately, I make butt-ugly soap. I’ve invested in molds, slicers, colorants. I take pains when I line my molds to smooth any creases in the wax paper. Still it’s ugly like a mud daub on an old fence. But ooh boy, get it into the shower…like butta.

You wanna see some pretty soap? Check out the work of this soap blogger. Lovely. If you want to treat yourself to some homemade bars, visit local farmer’s markets, indie health food stores or check out the amazing offerings at Etsy. (I’m partial to DesertBlends of Taos.)

And get ready to kiss your Dove bar, goodbye!

1. Soap curing in molds 


2. Soap log languishing, ready to be cut.


3. Soap log awaiting the knife in cutter.


4. Soap cutting in process.


5. Three more weeks of curing and it’s bath time!


Comments (5) -

February 27. 2007 01:42


I've been enjoying reading the last month or so of your blog. It's really interesting, and it sure sounds like you are busy.

I'm one of those people who thinks about soap making and actually has all the supplies (including lye0 in her garage, but just haven't done it yet.

However, I have made an excellent skin balm, which I found to be easy. My skin gets itchy in the winter, too, and it's sensitive, so I don't want icky chemicals on it. I just melt olive oil and beeswax together, and infuse lots of chickweed (it grows wild this time of year in CA) which turns it very green. Then I pour it into those little Altoids containers I save up, and I have a great salve for almost nothing.

When my skin's less sensitive, I add lavender and etc.

Your blog's inspiring; maybe I'll make some soap after all. I just can't use that awful commercial stuff, and the rest is really, really pricey.

Beth |

February 27. 2007 01:50


Hey Beth,

If you need any info on soapmaking, books, lye mixing (add the lye to the water, ask me how I know), email me.

Leslie |

February 27. 2007 11:25


Wow.  You did make ugly soap.  I was actually happy to see your ugly soap, because I also make ugly soap.  It still feels great.  

Cindi |

February 28. 2007 00:49


Thanks so much for your kind words and the link to my blog and site.  Your soap doesn't look so bad!  It takes a little bit of practice to get your technique down.  But I'm happy to share any tips or hints on the whole mess.  And available to answer technical questions too, to anyone out there teaching herself (himself) how.  I used to teach classes, but just don't have the time anymore.   Just email me.  I've been doing it for 11 years full time, and I think I've made just about every mistake in the book.  Still do sometimes.

Soapgirl |

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