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Soap by Ann Bramson - A Review

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Soap by Ann Bramson

Soap by Ann Bramson

Workman Publishing Company

The Bottom Line

A classic...no... THE classic book on soap making. First published in 1972, Soap by Ann Bramson has inspired generations of home soap makers with its simple, easy-to-follow, pioneer-esque directions. No fancy melt and pour or organic or exotic oils here - just good old fashioned soap making. I wouldn't recommend it as your only soap making book - but I certainly recommend it as one of your soap making books. This book, coupled with Sandy Maine's The Soap Book gives a wonderful history of American soap making.
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  • Wonderful simple old fashioned perspective on the beginnings of home soap making
  • Great, simple, basic recipes
  • Pioneer wisdom not found in other books
  • Inexpensive basic instructions
  • Great old-tyme illustrations


  • A bit dated...
  • A couple of procedures in the book are nowadays seen as unsafe
  • Based on a "world" where there weren't all of the soapmaking options that we have today


  • A good introduction into the basics of soapmaking.
  • Four simple recipes - with several options/variations
  • It's a bit outdated - but is a great window into the fun pioneer spirit behind making your own soap.
  • Great discussion on the history of soap...and even how best to use it!
  • Good instructions on mixing lye, rendering tallow and dealing with problem batches.

Guide Review - Soap by Ann Bramson - A Review

Great Grandma would be proud! Soap was the pioneer book on a pioneer-inspired craft. Ann Bramson describes soap making as an odd marriage with interesting offspring. She's talking about the marriage of lye and fats - and their offspring, soap. Her book has sold over 100,000 copies and inspired a generation of hobbyist soap makers and home-based soap businesses. The book has a wonderful, easy-to-read, homespun feeling. There are four basic recipes - three of which use animal fats - and a dozen more variations like "Cocoabutter Soap", Milk and Honey Soap" and "Dry Hair Shampoo Bar." She has basic sections on scenting and coloring her soaps, though she didn't have today's soapmaking ingredient resources, so this is one of the more outdated parts of the book.

The other thing that bothers some folks about this book is her fairly relaxed approach to soap making safety. It's o.k. for experts to cut corners now and then...but (in my humble opinion) it's very important for beginning soap makers to follow the safety guidelines closely...no cutting corners!

All in all, though, this is a wonderful book that compliments your other soap making texts (or this site!)

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