Book review: Simple and Natural Soapmaking

by Liz Beavis

One of my favourite websites for soapmaking ideas is Jan Berry's The Nerdy Farm Wife.  I also found her Natural Soap Making eBook really useful (see my review back here).  And she recently published a couple of real books:

101 Easy Homemade Products for Your Skin, Health & Home: A Nerdy Farm Wife's All-Natural DIY Projects Using Commonly Found Herbs, Flowers & Other Plants (affiliate link)


Simple & Natural Soapmaking: Create 100% Pure and Beautiful Soaps with The Nerdy Farm Wife’s Easy Recipes and Techniques (affiliate link)

Both are packed with useful recipes based on natural ingredients, especially herbs and botanicals.



There are two things I like to get from soapmaking books.  One is actual recipes that I can use and the other is ideas for ingredients that I might incorporate into new recipes.  I don't expect to make all the recipes in a book, but I do like to be inspired with some new ideas.  I like soap books that include tallow and lard recipes as those are my preferred oils/fats for soapmaking (and while the previous eBook did not include animal fats in the recipes, this one does).

I have spent a lot of time perfecting the recipes that I use for the handmade natural soaps in my online store and I make them over and over again so that they come out close to the same each time (as much as possible with small batches and natural ingredients).  However, I miss experimenting with soap recipes and that's why I get excited when I get custom soap orders and I can make something a little different (although I try to stick to what I know will work!).



A few ingredients that I have been thinking about trying, but haven't had time or the right recipe:

  • aloe vera gel
  • eggs (!)
  • different oils (I always use tallow, sometimes coconut and olive oil, I wanted to try something with shea butter)
  • avocado (we have a local avocado festival here, it would be fun to sell Avo soap there!)
  • natural colours like madder root and woad, seaweed and annatto seed, alkanet etc
  • coconut milk
  • shampoo bars

This book has fifty natural soap recipes, plus a full explanation of basic soapmaking, and more advanced techniques such as hot-process soap, different swirl methods and a troubleshooting guide with photos.  My favourite part is the photos of soap made with different natural colourants so you can get an idea of how they are going to turn out.

I read the entire book as soon as I received it, and marked all the recipes that I want to try.  One that really stood out was the Soothing Comfrey and Aloe Soap.  This is made with comfrey-infused olive oil, aloe vera liquid, hemp seed oil, shea butter and NO tallow!  This is very unusual for me as all my soaps contain tallow, I had never made a soap without tallow.  I was very interested to see how this soap turned out.

I happened to have a large jar of comfrey infusing in olive oil and a tub of aloe vera gel (I was thinking of making a lotion, but I haven't got around to that yet).  The comfrey had been infusing for some time (months), and that combined with the green of the hemp seed oil made the soap very green.  I found that I had to bring the oils to around 50degC to melt the shea butter and then wait for it to cool down.  I know some people use a microwave, which would have been good for just heating the shea butter.



Although the recipe was for aloe vera liquid and I had aloe vera gel, I decided to go ahead assuming that they were the same thing (not sure what the difference is, if any).  I really wasn't sure how the caustic would mix into the gel though.  I had been making my normal soaps all day, so I just dumped the caustic straight into the gel like I do with the water (I wear a mask and its quicker that way) and it made a loud hissing noise as it overheated.  I really should remember to add caustic slowly to new liquids if I don't know how they will react.  Fortunately I had cold water in the sink and was able to cool the mixture quickly.  The aloe vera thinned out after the caustic was mixed in.

I then combined the aloe/caustic with the oils and blended until trace.  I used individual round moulds and flower moulds to make a nice hand soap. I added essential oils (there were none recommended with the recipe), I like the combination of lavender, cedarwood and frankincense.  This is an expensive mixture, but a nice treat when I make something different.



Usually when I make a new fancy soap they all become gifts and I don't get to use them, so I'll have to make sure that I keep a few of these for myself!

Have you tried any new soap recipes lately?  What's your favourite soap book?


I don't have permission to share the recipe, so if you want to know more you'll have to check out the book yourself.  But if you're like me and half the fun is just the idea of a new ingredient you might try.  See Amazon affiliate links below and thanks again for supporting my book obsession. 



You can find out more about tallow soap in my eBook Make your own natural soap

Other posts about soap:

How to avoid soaping mistakes
How to rebatch soap in a slow cooker
How to use water discount in soapmaking
Natural handmade soap with tallow
Natural handmade tallow soap recipe: big beer 
Natural handmade tallow soap recipe: black magic
Natural handmade tallow soap recipe: coffee grounds
Natural handmade tallow soap recipe: goat's milk and honey
Natural handmade tallow soap recipe: neem oil soap and salve
Natural handmade tallow soap recipe: pure tallow
Natural handmade tallow soap recipe: salt spa
Natural handmade tallow soap recipe: shaving bar
Natural handmade tallow soap recipes: bath soap and cleaning soap
Natural handmade tallow soap recipes: pink clay and greeen herb
Rendering beef tallow in a slow cooker
Soapmaking resources and books
Why use natural soaps and salves


1 comment

  • Selina

    lovely looking soaps; an interesting blend using aloe & comfrey but they both help the skin, so would be beneficial to anyone with skin irritations.
    pretty molds too
    your new site isn’t showing up on my feed; you seem to have the same address though so not sure what is actually different? do i need to redo the addy into my list or something? am not real good with this;
    hoping you’re having a great holiday! see you soon
    thanx for sharing

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