I love soap!!! Not the kind you get at Wal-Mart, but the handmade kind. I make all of my own soap, and that's all my family has used for at least 10 years.
Many people have asked me if I would teach them how to make soap. While I would be willing to, I also have to explain that it's NOT a money saving process. In years past, it may have been, although that is questionable. Let me explain my life's experiences and why I make it, even though it is relatively expensive. How can it a money saver? It depends on how you look at it.
About 27 years ago, I made my first batch of soap. I think I followed the directions on the back of a Red Devil Lye can (which you can no longer buy). It was a little scary. The soap was OK, but didn't smell that great, was crumbly and I couldn't cut it into nice bars because is broke off in chunks. I was so unimpressed that I didn't try soap again for 12 more years.
I got the bug again and tried with a new recipe I found in a wonderful out of print book. It was much nicer, and for a few years, I would try new things. I bought books, tried new recipes, tried different molds, etc. I still wasn't happy. We ended up using the soap and giving some away, but it was inferior. Then I found a soap site on the internet (yeah!!!! for the internet) that gave me hope, just as I was going to throw in the towel. Suddenly my soap came to life. I could make the bars that looked beautiful, cut well, smelled like I wanted to swim in it, and felt wonderful on my skin. I crossed the "great wall" and entered the soap world. I am not referring to the melt and pour kind of soap that you buy at a hobby or craft store. ( To me, that is not truly soap making, although I have seen some pretty creative people use it. It is fun and quick and I have done it, but it does have some drawbacks, one of which is shelf life.)
I had to have my carpenter husband build me some beautiful maple soap molds as they were expensive to buy. I have gathered tools and supplies over the months and years that worked well for me and have had to order large quantities of supplies over the internet to get the best prices. And still, my lovely bars of soap cost me about $1.00 each to make. I changed from using lard because it had a smell I didn't like and now make a vegan soap. Not because of principle, but only because of the smell.
Now for the big question! How does that save money? Sometimes, or maybe lots of the time, money is wasted by purchasing cheap stuff. Cheap furniture has to be replaced often because it wears out fast and looks terrible. Cheap pans (yes, pans) wear out fast, and burn food a lot, and have to be replaced every few years. I guess if you're not a cook, that isn't an issue. Cheap soap, that has all the naturally occurring glycerin removed and additives put in and artifical or chemical smelling fragrances may seem like a bargain, but what is it you're putting on your body to absorb? As a registered nurse we learn that the skin is the largest organ of your body. It absorbs whatever we put on it very well. Notice the skin patches with medications we use now days? We absorb lotions, medications, poisons, artificial WHATEVERS, into our skin along with anything good that is used. What are the long term effects?
I like the fact that I use soap that is natural, with real oatmeal, cornmeal (for exfoliating), and natural fragrances, mostly essential oils. I use natural colorants like clays, chlorophyls and such. My soap lathers up wonderfully, smells divine and makes a shower extra special. It even works good for spot cleaning laundry for really hard stains. I taught my friend how to make soap and that is all she uses too. She even makes her own laundry soap. She also sells it, as do I.
Bottom line: It isn't cheap to make. It takes time. It is worth it. If you want some, you have to commit time and a chunk of money, and the slight risks (as you are working with one caustic chemical - sodium hydroxide), or you can find a friend who makes it and work out a swap, or find a soap maker online. Etsy.com has some beautiful soapmakers selling their wares, as does artfire.com. There is a whole new shopping experience out there without having to leave your house. Please feel free to ask me questions or comment!