All Washed Up

Art of Soap Making cover

The Art Of Making Soap: A Harrowsmith Contemporary Primer

Submitter: For your consideration: one 1979 book on soap making. It still circulates quite a bit but I’m sure borrowers are as disappointed as I was. The age being the main factor, of course – things have changed in soap making at home. I know. I’ve made soap myself. It’s held together with some huge staples along the spine, the pages are yellow, there are very few pictures and what few there are are all in black and white. Seriously, this book is all washed up. So why are we keeping it? There must be more modern instructions out there.

Holly: There sure are! When you open a book that smells like 1979, you’re not exactly inspired to make nice-smelling soaps.

Soapy Alchemy

soap making contents

soap defects causes and cures

pour into mould


  1. Oh, this hits my all gooey for the 70’s do-it-yourself/get-back-to nature, Grisly Adams, Woodwright Shop Foxfire goodness! Soap…I was lucky if my mom made us Tollhouse cookies…..

  2. Tape is a death sentence at my library. If it wasn’t worth getting a rebind, then thats a clue its not worth being in the collection.

    In the case of this book. It would have cost us roughly $15 to rebind. However, it’s only $4 including shipping on Amazon. if it was valuable, and it’s not, I would have just bought a replacement.

  3. “Handmade soap is a living thing”. I don’t I’d feel right washing out my underarms with a living thing. ^_^

  4. Smell is a huge factor when I weed. I have students sniff the books (twenty year old prebinds are the worst offenders) and ask them to describe what. The book smells like. My favorite comment: “It smells like my great grandmother’s living room!” Not exactly a selling (or smelling!) point!

    1. See now, I love the smell of old books. It’s one of my favorite things, instantly evocative of the back shelves of second-hand bookstores, ancient, leatherbound “finds,” rainy days with mugs of tea…

    2. All depends on the grandmother in question. I wonder though, what would I do with a book that smelled like, say, a yankee candle?

    1. There’s different equipment for one thing. Different products to use.

      I tried one of the methods in this book, BTW, the glass measuring cup exploded on me.

      1. That’s somewhat more helpful. As it happens, I just weeded the soap-making section in my library. Most of the books are more up-to-date than this one, but some only by a decade or so. I don’t have a budget to replace the whole section, but I’d want to get rid of anything that’s past being useful.

      2. Jami, contemporary Pyrex things are dangerous. Try not to use them. Google it to see what the issue is (changed formula for the glass). Use old ones or, if you can get them, items from other countries. I hope you were not injured!

  5. “When the spoon stands alone” sounds like a mock-prophetic proclamation after the fashion of the “time of the oval” from Triangle and Robert.

  6. ” It still circulates quite a bit” — Doesn’t that count for anything when deciding what to discard?

    1. It does! If a book is circulating, but in poor condition, then when it is removed, one or more new books are added to replace it in the collection.

    2. y u dislike so much? As Carl Sagan said, “There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question”.

    3. The dislikes are from trolls who don’t like anything old fashion.

      But it needs to be removed based on condition alone. Also there’s new equipment for soap making not covered in this book. You can buy an electric pot that’ll melt it for you. And finally, black and white pictures in a craft book are a big NO.

  7. My dad was wedded to this book in the 80s and 90s–he made several batches of soap from its recipes, and almost killed one of our kitten’s who wanted to see what it tasted like 🙁

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