soap without lye? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Alright, for those of you that make soap, this question probably seems silly, but is there any way of makin soap without lye? Also, does using vegetable shortening instead of rendered lard or tallow make a big difference in the soap? Thanks!

-- Elizabeth (, March 28, 2001


This describes the method used to make soap when lye is not available. It's how our ancestors did it before the convenience of shops.

Wood Ash Lye In order to make wood ash lye you will need three large containers. Clean dustbins, wooden barrels etc. will do. Two of the containers remain whole while the third has tiny holes punched or drilled through the bottom.

In one of the barrels collect rain water. In the barrel with the holes, collect wood ash from hard wood sources. It is essential that only hard woods are used, and don't burn any rubbish with the wood.

Place the empty barrel on the ground with the ash barrel on top of it.

Gently pour rain water over the ash and let it soak slowly through the tiny holes into the bottom barrel. The rainwater will leach out the lye contained in the potassium salts of the burnt wood.

When you have finished you will need to test the strength of the wood ash lye.

You will need a fresh hen's egg.

Place the egg into the wood ash lye. If it sinks like a stone, the lye is too weak and you will need to pour it over the ashes again. If the egg floats, then the lye is too strong. You will need to dilute it with some rainwater.

If the egg sinks slowly - like in slow motion, then it's just right.

You now have a usable wood ash lye, and to make soap all you need to add is rendered fat.

To render fat. Trim the fat from any convenient animal (cow, deer, goat etc). Chop the fat into fine pieces (or pass through a mincer). Place the fat in a pan with a little water in the bottom to stop burning. Bring to the boil and simmer slowly until all the fat has broken down. Allow to cool a little and strain through muslin or similar cloth to remove the crunchy bits of meat, bone, grissle and hair. You now have rendered fat that can also be used to fry food with (if cholesterol isn't a problem). Butcher's sell this as dripping.

To make soap. Place the wood ash lye in a large pan. Add the rendered fat and boil. When the mixture reaches a consistancy like mashed potato, it's ready to put into containers to set.

Pour the mixture into a wooden box lined with a plastic bin liner or similar. Allow to set for a couple of days before turning out, cutting into bars and storing between sheets of newspaper.

That's the way soap used to be made when there were no shops.

A Recipie 9lbs fat (rendered) 2 lbs wood ash lye 5 qts rain water 1/4 lb rosin (optional - it does make the soap softer)

Boil together for about 2 hours or until it looks like mashed potatoes. Pour into mould and allow to set for three days. Turn out and cut into bars. Store between sheets of newspaper for six weeks before using.

You can add herbs, essential oils etc, before pouring into moulds to provide a variety of soaps. (The addition of liquorice root extract in soap will hide human scent and is ideal for hunters.)

You can use vegetable shortening (hydrogenated vegetable oil) instead of tallow (rendered fat) and add many other scents. The adition of oatmeal (rolled oats) makes an excellent exfoliant. (Oatmeal is a good treatment for excema).

Hope this helps,

-- Eric J Methven (, March 28, 2001.

Wow! That's extremely informative! Thanks!

-- Elizabeth (, March 28, 2001.

Hey, Eric! I like your signature. Way cool. And nope, Elizabeth, you cannot make a soap without a caustic to react with the fat. Companies make detergents, but soaps are made with a caustic and a fat. Vegetable shortening makes a different hardness and feel but still makes soap.

-- Gailann Schrader (, March 28, 2001.

you can use just about any fat,, shortening oils,, each will make a different soap,, as will a differnt strenght of lye

-- stan (, March 28, 2001.

Not a silly question at all... As a matter of fact, I have even asked a university chemist... Nope... can't make soap without lye.

Some folks will ask you if you can do this... This is generally because some soaps don't bother to list ingredients (which - I THINK - is illegal... don't know) and others get around the problem...

Sodium Tallowate (and all derivatives thereof)is soap. But, listed as an ingredient. Sodium and Potassium hydroxide... lye.

When I tried selling my soaps at a health food place (I don't use tallow in some) I was told that they wouldn't use them because they contained lye. So much for the value of honesty.... I left.

-- Sue Diederich (, March 29, 2001.

hi all; Thanks so much for helping me learn howe to make without using draino based lye. You guys are the coolest thanks and may the rest of your lifes be the best experience for you all.

-- Bruno Steven Trimarchi (, August 03, 2001.

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