The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Making Natural Soaps

A step-by-step guide to making homemade natural soaps

Soap: Laundry soap, dish soap, hand soap, body soap, shampoo. Until I thought about it, I never realized how much soap I bought and used on a regular basis.

What if I started making all these different types of soap at home? With The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Making Natural Soaps by Sally W. Trew and Zonella B. Gould, I not only learned how to make the household product, but how to do it in an environmentally conscious way.

Homemade natural soaps have tons of benefits compared to commercial soaps: Commercial soaps can contain synthetic lathering ingredients, artificial colors, and triclosan, which is a toxic chemical linked to cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption, and other problems.

The soap recipes in this book also contain larger amounts of glycerin, a key moisturizing ingredient. With homemade natural soaps, your skin won’t feel dry and itchy after lathering up.

After learning that natural soap is better for my skin and the planet, I had to know how to make it at home. The book dissected the complicated process into easy-to-understand chapters. The first chapter starts with the four basic ingredients of soap (oils/butters, lye, distilled water, and borax). The middle of the book seamlessly leads soap-makers from the most basic aspect of the process to the most complicated. And the last section teaches readers how to make swirl, marbleized, and plaid designs; soap cutouts; and soap confetti.

I was hoping to create my own soap bars; but I live in a small, two-bedroom apartment in a crowded complex with sparse windows, and the process has some safety precautions. When lye is added to water and stirred to dissolve, it produces a vapor that is dangerous to inhale; so, when making soap, you need to be in a well-ventilated area. It’s also very possible to sear your skin, so the book recommends always wearing safety glasses or a face shield, gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and shoes. I can’t safely make soap in my apartment, but when I live in a house one day, I am going to become a soap-maker.

The book includes recipes for so many different types of soap that, if I were properly equipped for making them, I wouldn’t know where to start. There are DIY instructions for making baby soap, shampoo soap, face soap, goat milk soap, liquid soap, laundry soap — and the list goes on.

A chapter explaining the benefits of adding in different essential oils tells readers that lemon is antibacterial and antiviral, jasmine is an antidepressant and aphrodisiac, lavender helps burns and headaches, and peppermint is a decongestant.

Essential oils, which are extracted from plant matter, are more useful than simply adding scent. They’re also safer, given that scents are often linked to health problems, such as cancer.

With more and more antibiotic-resistant bacteria, mutating viruses, disease-causing parasites, and infectious fungi in the news each day, it can be comforting to know we have essential oils to rely on because, although the mutating bacteria in viruses can become resistant to Western medicines, they never become resistant to essential oils. When essential oils were tested by diffusing, the report was that the essential oils killed 100 percent of bacteria and viruses in the room. A study in France showed the antiseptic qualities of 34 essential oils. Among them, thyme, origanum, sweet orange, lemongrass, Chinese cinnamon, and rose were so antiseptic that one part of these rendered 1,000 parts of raw sewage free of all living organisms (pg. 29).

I recommend The Complete Idiots Guide to Making Natural Soaps to anyone who is concerned about synthetic add-ins to commercial products. It’s easy to find and, for $14.95, it gives readers a complete overview of every aspect of the process. Instead of buying different books for the basics, the recipes, and ways to get creative, it’s all included in one handy guidebook.

Brigette Fanning

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

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