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Smart Soapmaking: The Simple Guide to Making Traditional Handmade Soap Quickly, Safely, and Reliably, or How to Make Luxurious Handcrafted Soaps from Scratch for Family, Friends, and Yourself Paperback – January 1, 2007

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  • Smart Soapmaking: The Simple Guide to Making Traditional Handmade Soap Quickly, Safely, and Reliably, or How to Make Luxurious Handcrafted Soaps from Scratch for Family, Friends, and Yourself
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  • Milk Soapmaking: The Smart and Simple Guide to Making Lovely Milk Soap from Scratch with Cow Milk, Goat Milk, Buttermilk, Cream, Coconut Milk, or Any Other Animal or Plant Milk
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  • Smart Lotionmaking: The Simple Guide to Making Luxurious Lotions, or How to Make Lotion from Scratch That's Better Than You Might Buy and Costs You Less
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Editorial Reviews

From the Author

"Should become THE book for soapmaking. . . . It's about time someone wrote a book like this. Most are idealistic and inaccurate. This book has a wonderful common sense approach that is SO long overdue. . . . I can recommend it with 100% confidence." -- Susan Kennedy, Oregon Trail Soaps, Rogue River, Oregon
"Smart it is . . . . A simple, no-nonsense book that cuts through the curmudgery of stifling soap bibles like no other." -- Shellie Humphries, Harstine Island, Washington
"Quick, safe, and reliable. . . . As fun as it is informative, Smart Soapmaking is a must for anyone who would like to try their hand at this traditional craft." -- Library Bookwatch (Midwest Book Review), Jan. 2007
"Way overdue. . . . A gift of common sense caution, proven methods, tried-and-true shortcuts, and some excellent recipes as well, for both the professional/experienced soapmaker and the eager beginner." -- Deb Petersen, Shepherd's Soap Co., Shelton, Washington
"A great book for beginners, with clear and easy instructions." -- Anne-Marie Faiola, Bramble Berry Inc., Bellingham, Washington
"I learned more from Smart Soapmaking than from any other soaping book, and I have read quite a few. . . . It's written with the average person in mind, not a chemistry major. Directions are very simple and easy to understand. It really takes the mystery out of making soap." -- Jackie Pack, Stuart, Virginia
"Written in an easy, casual style that reminded me of an in-person soapmaking class. The information is practical, helpful, and easy to understand." -- Barb Miller, Miller's Homemade Soaps, Westfield, Pennsylvania
"The directions are more practical than in other soapmaking books I've read. I was also happy to see how many great sources for materials and information the book provided. The book will save soapmakers a lot of time and effort." -- Pamela Paine, Butternut Creek Farm Soaps, Dorset, Ohio
"Written with a delightful voice and humor." -- Kathy Miller, Miller's Homemade Soap Pages, Silverdale, Washington
"I wish Smart Soapmaking had been my first book on soap. It simplifies the process, and it just makes sense. . . . Covers several months worth of questions." -- Phyllis Driggs, Liberty, Indiana
"Excellent . . . . Easy to read, practical, down to earth. Performs the greatly needed service of dispelling myths, which it does with a sense of humor." -- Loretta Liefveld, Nature's Wild Child, Rancho Cucamonga, California
"BRILLIANT to find the recipes are in grams as well as ounces." -- Jude Birch, Aussie Soap Supplies, Bicton, West Australia
"As a long time soapmaker, I can highly recommend this book and wish that it had been written when I was first starting out . . . . Walks you through from start to finish in a logical and practical way, whether you are new to this wonderful world of soapmaking or have been doing it for years." -- tenzicut, Down to the Roots Magazine
"The simplest, most delightful book on soapmaking. . . . I read it in two days and was ready to buy my soapmaking supplies." -- Theresa Powers, Joyous Home, Castle Rock, Colorado
"Groundbreaking . . . . Anne L. Watson [is the] universally respected and loved author/crafter/curator of this lost art for thousands of aspiring soapers . . . . Unquestionably the best book with which to begin. To be precise, it's probably the most accessible, most reader-friendly, and most immediately useful container of information a first-time soapmaker could hope to find." -- Wishing Willow (blog)
"'Smart Soapmaking' finally got me over the hump [of fearing lye]. . . . I think Anne Watson is the Elizabeth Zimmermann of the soap world -- a frugal, common sense gal, who says, 'Don't overcomplicate things. Just make soap.'" -- Amanda Blake Soule, author, "The Creative Family" and "Handmade Home," Soule Mama (blog), Feb. 7, 2012
"This is the book I wish I had read first, years ago. Anne explains the basic tools and steps of soap making better than any [other] basic book on the market today -- and in doing so, dispels many of the old-time myths and fears of soap making. . . . Simply written and illustrated, with a deep experience and wisdom infused through every page." -- David Fisher,
A Few First Thoughts
(Myths About Soap and Soapmaking)
(What It Is and What Goes Into It)
(Gathering the Equipment You Need)
Recipe: Anne's Shea Butter Supreme
(From Prep to Cleanup and Beyond)
(Different Soaps You Can Try)
Recipe: All-Veggie Grocery Store Soap #1
Recipe: All-Veggie Grocery Store Soap #2
Recipe: Grocery Store Shortening Soap
Recipe: Non-Veggie Grocery Store Soap
Recipe: Olive Palm Soap
Recipe: Chris's Avocado Soap
Recipe: Aaron's Hazelnut Soap
Recipe: Almond Facial Soap
Recipe: Anne's Longer-Lasting Soap
(How to Create Great Recipes)
Chart: INS Values Table
(How to Choose or Make a Mold)
(Lovely Packaging for Your Soap)
(Frequently Asked Questions)
A Few Final Thoughts
One thing that puzzles new soapmakers is instructions to stir your soap mixture till it shows a condition called "trace." This is described as when the mixture is so thick that, if you dribble a bit of the mixture back into the pot, a "trace" of what you dribble will remain on the surface.
Beginning soapmaking books often contain close-up photos of soap at trace. I remember squinting at many of them, trying to figure it all out. When I started making soap, I made two successful batches, fretting about trace the whole time. The soap came out fine, but I was sure I was doing something wrong. I hadn't seen anything that looked like the photos.
It was my good luck to have a friend who had been a high school chemistry teacher. When I phoned and told her about my difficulties with trace, she asked what it was. I was surprised a chemist didn't know, but I explained as best I could.
There was a brief silence. Of course I couldn't see her, but she was probably rubbing her forehead -- which she does when anyone says something that makes no sense.
Finally, she said, "You don't need to worry about that. If you just measure correctly, control the temperature, and mix your ingredients well, you'll get soap."
I decided to follow her advice, and I've never lost a batch of soap. Follow mine, and you won't either.
But why the difference? Are all those soap books wrong?
Not really. With hand stirring, you do have to look for trace. That's because saponification -- the chemical reaction that creates soap -- has to thicken the mixture to that point before you can stop stirring and pour it into the mold. Otherwise, some of the fat and the lye solution could still separate, leaving the reaction incomplete.
But in modern craft soapmaking, hand stirring is most often replaced by use of a stick blender. This blends the fat and the lye solution so rapidly and thoroughly that they quickly get mixed down to a microscopic level. That not only gets the mixture saponifying a whole lot faster, it also helps hold the fat and the lye solution together while it's happening.
Of course, the chemistry is more complicated than that, but the bottom line is that you don't have to wait for the mixture to thicken all the way to trace before pouring it into the mold. It will get there after you pour it.
How do you know when you can stop blending? Don't worry, I'll describe the signs for you. You'll be able to tell by sight, by sound, and even by temperature. Yes, you'll be able to gauge it with a thermometer!

From the Inside Flap

Let's face it. No author can think of every single question you might have while reading the book. No matter how clear and complete it is, there's always a chance you'll find something you don't quite get or that doesn't quite fit your situation. So, what do you do?
If the book is one of mine, you can go to my Web site and ask me direct. I'll be glad to help! (But you might want to look through the rest of the book first, since the answer might come up later -- maybe in the FAQ at the end.)
I also use my Web site to describe new things I'm wondering about and trying and exploring. So, please do take a look!
SMART SOAPMAKING: The Simple Guide to Making Traditional Handmade Soap Quickly, Safely, and Reliably, or How to Make Luxurious Handcrafted Soaps for Family, Friends, and Yourself. Whether you've made melt-and-pour soap and want to move on -- or you've made traditional soap with slow, outmoded methods -- or you've never made a bar in your life -- you'll find "Smart Soapmaking" practical, helpful, and refreshing. Written by a former professional soapmaker, this book explodes the myths about soapmaking and shows you how to make luxurious soap with the least fuss and bother.
MILK SOAPMAKING: The Smart and Simple Guide to Making Lovely Milk Soap From Cow Milk, Goat Milk, Buttermilk, Cream, Coconut Milk, or Any Other Animal or Plant Milk. Anne continues her soapmaking revolution with the first practical, comprehensive book on making milk soap. Experience the rich, soothing, luxurious feel of milk soap you've made yourself. Your skin will thank you for it. 
SMART LOTIONMAKING: The Simple Guide to Making Luxurious Lotions, or How to Make Lotion That's Better Than You Buy and Costs You Less. After helping tens of thousands of beginners learn to make soap, Anne continues her handcraft cosmetics revolution with the first practical, comprehensive book on making lotion. Whether you want to make lotion for personal use or to sell, Anne allays any fears with methods that are proven safe and approved by experts, yet simple and easy enough to perform in your kitchen. 
CASTILE SOAPMAKING: The Smart and Simple Guide to Making Lovely Castile Soap Quickly, Safely, and Reliably. Anne offers the first practical book on making Castile soap at home. With the secrets revealed in this advanced guide, you'll be making lovely, quick-curing, lather-rich Castile with no trouble at all.
COOL SOAPMAKING: The Smart and Simple Guide to Low-Temp Tricks for Making Soap with Milk, Citrus, Cucumber, Pine Tar, Beer, Wine, and Other Special Ingredients. Anne extends the low-temp techniques from her book "Milk Soapmaking" to making soap from a variety of special ingredients. Soaps that have long challenged home soapmakers will now pose no problem at all.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 115 pages
  • Publisher: Shepard Publications (January 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0938497421
  • ISBN-13: 978-0938497424
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (394 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anne L. Watson is the author of a variety of works, including literary novels, soapmaking and lotionmaking manuals, and a cookie cookbook. She is also retired from a long and honored career as a historic preservation architecture consultant. Anne, her husband and fellow author, Aaron Shepard, and their cat, Skeeter, live in Friday Harbor, Washington.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

281 of 287 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 28, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I started to make CP soap I purchased several books and also drove all the way from Philadelphia to DC to take a class. Then I received a magazine that I subscribe to which featured an article by Anne L. Watson. In a nutshell it summerized her book and at the end of the article she listed a awsome recipe for soap.

This article encouraged me to purchase the book. I have read a lot of soap making books. This book is the fist book that I was able to read from cover to cover more than once.

I highly recommend this book, It is consice and to the point, it will get you through your first batch and several more. Ms. Watson's techniques in my opinion are full proof. I have made several batches of soap and never had a failed batch yet.

Not to mention, if you have a question you can always email the author and get a response back.

I love love love this book. BUY THIS BOOK!!!!!!
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146 of 149 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 21, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was inspired to make soap when my daughter shared some shea butter soap with me that she had bought at a farmer's market and because I was concerned about the chemicals in the products we were using.

I read a great deal about making cold process soap during the 2 years I was making melt and pour soap and gathering equipment. It seemed scary and complicated. Everyone said something different and there was lots about "rebatching" soap batches that didn't turn out well.

When I finally had all of my equipment and the only thing stopping me was clear directions and a bit of fear, I read reviews of soap making books on Amazon. This was the book that I was most impressed with from reading the reviews so I ordered it. I shall be eternally grateful that I did.

I have made 2 batches of soap from Anne's shea butter recipe, one of them a bug repellent soap, and they have both turned out perfect. Now I've created 2 of my own recipes using her information and instructions, to use up some extra oils I have, and feel completely confident that they will turn out well. Before reading her book I couldn't imagine creating my own recipes at all, much less this soon.

And like she says, you should never have to "rebatch" a batch of soap. I, too, have read the book several times and continue to reference the excellent information regarding creating your own recipes. I can't say enough good about this book, for either an aspiring or an experienced soap maker. I no longer fear making soap, but find it a totally awesome experience now and feel fantastic every day as I use the soap I've made.

If you're the least bit interested in making soap I would strongly suggest that this be the first book you purchase for your soap making library.
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144 of 149 people found the following review helpful By Susanne Marhanka on April 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
I make soaps, professionally, since about 19 years and tried a lot so far. I am curious and love to experiment. I use this book now to teach my new employees a thing or two about soap an to take the fear.

I particulary liked the part with "shortening the curing time" I did try it before, but it did not work out as wished. Thanks to this book I found my mistake, tried it and oh wonder: it works! Ok, for the size batches we make - about 800 lbs at a shot - the temperatues, etc, had to be changed, but the basics are still the same.

So if your have a small business, larger business, do it as a hobby or are just getting started, the bottom line is: Buy this book, it is worth every single cent and does not contain the usual nonsense other authors write.

Just keep one thing in mind when using the by Watson referred Soapmakers Guide from S. Miller-C.: those recipes are for KOH not NaOH! Kathy Miller's website can give you the conversions (her site is in the references/ resources of A.L. Watson's book)

So good luck and lots of fun making soap!

S. Marhanka - Body & Mind Natural Collection
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70 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Nymeria on October 23, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I started making soap back in 2000 and Susan Miller Cavitch's "The Soapmaker's Companion" was my bible. So I was hesitant when people started ranting and raving about this book. After purchasing it I have to say it is all that is promised and more. While I still adore Cavtich's book, there are a couple of reasons I would recommend Watson's book for beginners:

1) It is completely up to date. Not only does she mention using modern stirring methods (stick blender), all of her resources are up to date and impressive. I am a fan of most of the suppliers she lists and was familiar with them.

2) Her recipes are SO accessible! Cavitch's recipes tend to require more "exotic" oils and have a bit of Julia-Child-laundry-list of ingredients. Anne Watson's recipes are bare bones and truly what they claim to be. Her Grocery Store soap ingredients can be bought at any national chain store. Love it! (my only minor complaint is that her recipes make such SMALL batches. I end up having to double most of them.)

3) She provides an excellent guide to making your own recipes. Most soap books (Cavitch's is a little guilty of this) just assume you'll figure it out on your own, or that you'll only make their recipes forever. Watson walks you through creating your own recipes step by step in crystal clear detail.

4) She expresses the correct amount of caution with lye. Some books bog you down with details on how dangerous it is and make you feel as though you should be wearing a hazmat suit while measuring it, while others have a lackadaisical attitude towards it and don't stress safety. Watson communicates that it needs to be treated carefully, but that you don't need to freak out over it.

5) Last, but not least, Watson is contactable.
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