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


Maybe you've made melt-and-pour soap and want to move on to

something more challenging and rewarding. Maybe traditional

soapmaking appeals to you, but you figure that working with lye is

too difficult or...

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Maybe you've made melt-and-pour soap and want to move on to

something more challenging and rewarding. Maybe traditional

soapmaking appeals to you, but you figure that working with lye is

too difficult or dangerous. Or maybe you're already doing it, but

outmoded ideas and methods are complicating the process and slowing

you down.

No matter which of these fits you, 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.

With both customary and metric measurements, plus a list of

suppliers in five countries, "Smart Soapmaking" is the first truly

international book on the craft!


Anne L. Watson is the author of the wildly popular and widely

acclaimed beginners book "Smart Soapmaking" and its companions, "Milk

Soapmaking" and "Smart Lotionmaking." She has made soap

professionally under the company name Soap Tree, and before her

retirement was a historic preservation architecture consultant.

Anne's other published books include "Baking with Cookie Molds" and

several novels. Anne, her husband, Aaron, and their cat, Skeeter,

live in Friday Harbor, Washington.


"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

"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

"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,


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780938497424
  • Publisher: Shepard Publications
  • Publication date: 1/1/2007
  • Pages: 118
  • Sales rank: 211,260
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne L. Watson made soap professionally under the company name Soap Tree before deciding that soapmaking was more fun as a hobby than a business. In her other life, she is now retired from a long and honored career as a historic preservation architecture consultant. Other interests of Anne's have included photography, quilting, scale miniatures, puppetry, and carousels. She is the author of an epistolary novel, Skeeter: A Cat Tale (Next River Books, 2005); and with her children's author husband, Aaron Shepard, a graphic novel, Robin Hood (Stone Arch Books, 2007). Anne, Aaron, and their cat, Skeeter, live in Olympia, Washington.
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Read an Excerpt

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!

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Table of Contents

A Few First Thoughts

Superstitions Galore!
(Myths About Soap and Soapmaking)

What Is Soap, Anyway?
(What It Is and What Goes Into It)

What Do I Use to Make It?
(Gathering the Equipment You Need)

Step-by-Step Soapmaking
(From Prep to Cleanup and Beyond)

More Recipes!
(Different Soaps You Can Try)

Designing Your Own
(How to Create Great Recipes)

Getting Your Soap in Shape
(How to Choose or Make a Mold)

Wrapping It Up
(Lovely Packaging for Your Soap)

Why? Why? Why?
(Frequently Asked Questions)

A Few Final Thoughts

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    An outstanding introduction to the craft of soap making

    Where oh where was this book when I was starting out making soap?!
    Anne Watson delivers a kind, funny and entirely useful introduction to the art of soap making in the very simplest book of its kind on the market. I once considered writing a book to help those who had never made soap or those who had tried and needed some help understanding the underlying principles of the craft. I have abandoned that idea now because Smart Soap making handles the job so eloquently.
    While I do not consider myself an expert soap maker, after almost three years making soap I like to think I know most of the tricks and methods. I have to admit though that I learned a few things reading this book and Anne had me smiling the whole way through.
    If you want to buy a book for a master soap maker then this might not be the best choice but for the rest of us, especially those starting out who need some handholding or those wanting a more thorough understanding of soap making this is definitely the book for you.
    It won't change your life but it will absolutely make you a better soaper!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2007

    I became smarter with this book.

    This book will be helpful to beginners and experienced alike. The author's directions are concise, practical, and descriptive. She also includes recipes!! Having made some handmade soap, I was able to gleam more advanced ideas such as how-to's on CPOP. The resources are up to date and very useful. I keep this book right where I can find it all the time. You will use this resource!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2013

    Great resource! I have used her ideas and recipes for my soap. V

    Great resource! I have used her ideas and recipes for my soap. Very sound advice for beginners and advanced. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2008

    Not great ...

    Not a good beginner or only book in your soaping library. The author bucks a lot of traditional advice, without really supporting her statements. It's published by her husband and has an amateurish feel. Also, the font is large so you don't get your 100 pages worth. Interesting read, but not worth the money.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted January 25, 2009

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    Posted June 19, 2009

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    Posted May 20, 2010

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    Posted November 3, 2008

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