Monday, July 22, 2013

Saponification Sunday...The Super Secret Soapmakers Club


Over the years I have been to more than my share of family picnics, church pot-lucks and grief buffets. Those tables are often filled with the same old green bean casseroles and Italian Beef filled crock pots but on occasion an apple creme pie or a Napa Cabbage Coleslaw will elicit the highest of compliments.

The asking and receiving of The Recipe.

Cooks like to be recognized and they like to share their successes most of the time. Woman will gather up all their snicker and doodle recipes, bind them up tight, plop a generic cover on top and even SELL these recipes for homeless shelter funds of other charities.

Food recipes are in fact gifted without even being asked for. A neighbor drops off a tuna noodle concoction to help you bear the sadness of the garbage man running over your prize rose bush...again and tuck the not so coveted recipe right into the overcooked crusty noodle corner.

But soap makers?  Not so much.

Yes, the ingredients are listed on our labels and if asked we may release the percentages of the oils we used, which is kinda the same thing if you don't mind doing the reverse math on a lye calculator, but to actually give away the recipe is rare.

I stumbled onto that fact the hard way. When I first started making soap I asked for such info and was told "I don't just give out my recipes to anyone" and more vaguely "Oh I'm sure you'll be creating your on recipes soon."

I did find lots of recipes on blogs and websites that SOLD those products which makes sense, since you have to know how much  Babassu Oil  you are going to need before you start making your Hippie Hemp Bars, but very few on other soapers blogs.

I understand that there is a pride factor and a "It took me a long time to perfect this recipe, do you think I'm just going to give it away?!?  But there are so many other secrets, so many other techniques we have developed that will still make our soap unique no matter how many might use the same amount of Rice Bran Oil.

Techniques like trace thickness, gelling or not gelling, length of cure, timing of fragrance and essential oil additions, our mold types (wood, plastic, cardboard, Aunt Betty's old denture box), the list goes on and on.

So I would like to suggest that we break out of this oh so secretive world and start sharing a few more recipes. Sure, someone might rip us off and make a soap similar to ours but it will never be exactly the same and folks who use others recipes for their own selfish benefit are often the same folks who cheat in other areas like using Crisco instead of pure coconut oil or Hawaiian Blue Crayolas instead of Indigo Powder, or lab colors that meet cosmetic standards.

I'll go first and maybe a few of you could share one of your very favorite recipes. Remember too, like with photos and articles it would be great if when we make soap using another soapers recipe we could give them credit on our label.

We'll all come out smelling like roses if we did that!

The Midlife Farmwifes Very Favorite "Basic 13" recipe

     13 oz of Coconut Oil (Extra Virgin, Certified Organic)
     13 oz of Olive Oil  (Pomace)
     3 oz Sweet Amond Oil (refined, cosmetic grade)
     3 ox Castor oil
     Lye 4.5 oz
     Filtered H2O  10 oz


  1. 16 years ago I took a soap making class, instructor was so detail oriented about being exact down to checking temps with a thermometer. Put all my recipes and notes away and forgot about them. Bought 3 or 4 books too. Then 2 years ago friend had a class, instructor was very easy going and we made a great bunch of soap. That got my interest going again. Loved the olive oil bottle she had, I had never seen one like it, since the store was off my beaten path I bought 8 bottles. Gave one to my s-i-l cause she liked it. Then I asked where to get the coconut oil and was told to go to an Asian Market. Well after going to 3 and nothing I found it at Wally World. So bought 8 of those too. Then I bought a bunch of fancy soap molds. Before I could get a block of time to make soap I had company come for 3 or 4 days. Every thing went into a large plastic bin, had to keep my supplies organized. Been in the bin for 2 years now. Since then I bought a spinning wheel and am finally committing to learn to spin. I have a lot of things on my bucket list. Now you have me interested in soap again ... but 3 oz of Sweet???? Never heard of it.

  2. Donna, what an excellent post. It's been eons since I made soap regularly, but at the time I found most of my info from soapmakers' forums and email lists. It is true, however, that everything on the internet has become more and more commercial, and geared more toward selling than helping. I've found that to be true of all things homesteading. So I can't help but agree that we'd all come out ahead if we shared more, and worried about losing profit less.

  3. I think I'll just run off now with your soap recipe and make my millions:))) Thanks Mrs. Farmwife!

  4. I am far too lazy to try to do the magic you do, Donna! Instead I will order the wonders from you!

  5. Sorry Tombstone, it is sweet ALMOND OIL. What an eejit I am

    Leigh,, you share so much you role model you. I adore your blog and learn mega amounts each time I stop by

    Crazy. You go right ahead, Just please after you make your millions name a bar of soap after me. You know, in the name of Elder Respect!

    Susan. I don't know how magical my soap is, but it is wicked fun sometimes. Thanks for the nicities!

  6. When I started to make soap I read (and read and read) several soap message boards. While I found the information beneficial, I also found a bunch of catty, bratty, and secretive folks. People were quick to judge, quick to scold and slow to be really helpful.
    Kind of ruined it for me.
    So, for now, I make a few bars a year for my personal use. I may venture back down that rabbit hole again one day -- until then, I'll take my back talk from my Cairn terrier.

  7. I KNOW! I posted earlier this month the recipe for my tea soap and had some good responses for it. When I do craft shows and such I'm always so surprised by how standoffish and quiet the other other soapers are - all I wanna do is yak and trade recipes and blither on for hours. Oh, well! (I have met some super nice soapers, such as yourself, who love to talk shop as much as I do and for that I'm grateful...)

    I'm with you, lady. Sharing is good karma.

  8. Ravenous. I follow one soapmaking group on FB and love it for all the info that is shared but, like you I find more and more negative comments. Not just from soapmakers but from so many other FB pages business type pages. The world is changing or my standards are too high or I'm just getting old or all of the above.

    Lindsey. We'll just start a new trend. We'll chat it up with everyone, Give away our recipes, share our top secrets and pretend we don't hear them talk about the eejits we are. None of us gets out of this world ALIVE, anyway do we? And I for one do not plan on taking my world famous Cro-bar soap with me. I may however pre-gift a bar of it to my mortician so I'll smell good for my last trip!

  9. Made my first soap tonight and all the thanks goes out to Donna. We'll see how it turns out tomorrow.

    The Secret Recipe...LOL
    96 oz Lard
    12.85 oz lye
    31.68 oz water

  10. So glad i can buy it from you. The ingredients and measurements make my eyes glaze over.

  11. I started making soap about 7 months ago. I am absolutely addicted. And yes there are some catty soapers out there. I am extremely grateful to all of you generous soapers who are so very helpful to us newbies when it comes to troubleshooting.
    You can see some of my soaps at