Making Lye Soap

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by CATO, Jan 9, 2012.

  1. CATO

    CATO Monkey+++

    Great post:
    making lye soap
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 29, 2015
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  2. -06

    -06 Monkey+++

    Good recipe, thanks. Hope to have a lady coming to the spring gathering in April to put on a class.
  3. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    tulianr likes this.
  4. Kathy in WV

    Kathy in WV Just runnin' the ridges...

    I am dying to try my hand at this. One of the things I'm saving for early Fall wen the weather is cooler and the canning is mostly done. I want to try putting herbs in some of it...
  5. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Source: How to Make Basic Lye Soap | Lehman's Country Life

    Soap Making Kit

    Time-Saving Plastic Soap Molds


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 2, 2014
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  6. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    I have been looking into making soap. I have read the recipe posted above by @Brokor and wonder if anyone has made lye soap this way. This paragraph bothers me:

    Because I have lots of distractions, I have been hesitant to make soap from scratch. So I researched and found that it is not possible to make soap without lye. Further research has given me the option to make my own soap with scents and herbs of my choosing without having to use lye. Basically you can buy a melt & pour kit. You just melt, add what you want and pour into the molds. Sounds simple- maybe or may not be, but it is safer for people that want to try their hand at creating their own products but not ready to completely start from scratch. Please note you can buy the soap base from craft stores but I have read that the ones at Micheal's or Hobby Lobby are not the best. If you look on line you can find a variety of bases- aloe, goats milk, shea butter to name a few.

    For those that would like to try real soap making, I found a kit that has great reviews. There are videos from the Soap Queen that are helpful.

    Beginner's Cold Process Soap Kit | Bramble Berry® Soap Making Supplies
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  7. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    From my perspective, those melt and pour kits are for hobbyists, which is not a bad thing at all. That said, I have some serious doubts that they'll do much good when things have been pear shaped for a while, so knowing the recipe for soap from scratch would be good. Pear shaped living is going to have a LOT more risks needing taken than lye exposure, and practice under controlled conditions (as while things are still round) seems prudent. I have to say as well, as useful as scratch kits might be, they are pricy relative to starting with the raw materials, including making your own ashes and experimenting with different wood. (No, I haven't done it from kits or scratch, but scratch IS on the want to do list after I master two more fire starting methods.)

    Thus spake me, and maybe me only.
  8. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    Not only do I have distractions, I have eczema which I kindly passed onto one of my kids. We can only use Dove soap or we get really bad patches. I read Doves ingredients and there are lots of words I cannot pronoun. So I figure make soup that is healthier and will be okay with my skin. I am looking at baby steps first melt and pour- find base that works with my skin then they have rebatch bases, then cold process with is using the lye, then @Falcon15's way 100% from scratch. If I experiment enough I should find a homemade soap that will not inflame my skin. I am looking forward to experimenting with coconut oil because that is a eczema healer. Plus coconut oil is used in the kitchen and has may other uses. I like what I store to be multipurpose.
    ghrit likes this.
  9. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    I have made soap with lye, both commercially available, and from wood ash extraction. The precautions I list are common sense precautions, but also to limit any liability I may have - it is very much a precaution so I or the site does not get sued because someone does something stupid, then blames ME for posting the recipe and proceedure.

    Melt and pour soap of ALL STRIPES are made with lye or a derivitive of lye. THey may have additional ingredients, like shea, coco butter, goats milk etc, but even the "glycerine soap" is made from a lye base.
    Motomom34 likes this.
  10. CATO

    CATO Monkey+++

    Some good tips in here . . .

    DIY Rendering Fat & Making Soap

    In 2009, I took Beginning Soap Making at a local adult continuing education class. It was a one-time Saturday morning class. I took the class because I wanted to have the knowledge for SHTF purposes, so I’d have a product that I could barter with. I’ve been making our family’s soap ever since.

    One thing brought up in class, that I had never thought of before, was that your skin readily absorbs all things it comes in contact with. So, everything you use in the shower from shampoo, conditioners, body washes, to soaps, all are in contact with your skin from head to toe. Even during the quickest of showers, your skin is absorbing all those chemicals that you can’t pronounce. That made me think a little and gave me a second reason to make our soap.

    Saponification (the process of soap making) is a chemical reaction whereby lye (sodium hydroxide) bonds with fats. Each molecule bonds with the other until all the lye and all the tallow (or lard, or oils) have been changed. It is a new compound. There is no LYE in the finished product (no worries of burning your skin off) and it is not “washing with a pot roast” (as one guy put it). While wearing gloves are recommended in the process to protect skin from the lye as it is processing, I can’t help but think of colonial children who were charged with the task of stirring without the aid of plastic gloves. So, it’s possible, and care is to be taken, but it’s not something to fear.

    Back in the day, sodium hydroxide was made from running water through wood ash to achieve the proper strength (reached when an egg would float). Thankfully, we were born in the era of modern conveniences. Buy your lye at True Value or some other store that carries drain openers. You can order in bulk from companies online as well. Not too much though, or Uncle Sam will come knocking.

    I’ve read that during colonial days all the fat and grease from cooking was saved in a crock or pot and then used on soap making days. For me, it just takes a heads up to a local butcher. Mine saved me 40# of fat from a cow he was butchering that day.


    You could always purchase tallow (beef fat)…restaurant supply stores sell drums/buckets of tallow. ($$$) If you want to save money though, it’s fairly easy to render your own tallow or lard. When we sent our two hogs to the butcher last year, we requested the fat and then rendered that into lard (pig fat) ourselves. I’ve made soaps with either tallow or lard and both make nice, hard, sudsy soaps.

    I’ve rendered fat in two ways: Boiling chunks of fat in water, skimming & straining, then letting the fat harden on top of the water in cooler conditions.




    Or I’ve slow simmer the chunks in an electric roaster pan or crock pot for quite a while, skimming & straining, and then bagging the cooled fat.

    The smell from both ways is that of cooking hamburg for a long time, so perhaps an outdoor summer kitchen would be the best place. We have done it over an open fire, too. Word to the wise when doing this over an open flame, rub the outside of your pots with a coating of Dawn dish soap to prevent the blackening that happens to the outside of pans uses over the fire.

    I have a friend who adds baking soda to her rendering for a whiter color and less odor. I haven’t tried that, but you could. I bag the tallow up and freeze it until I’m ready to make a batch of soap. I have also poured the melted fat into canning jars when hot and they’ve self-sealed. I store mine in the fridge this way for cooking or future soap batches.


    If rendering wasn’t fun enough, let’s move on to the REALLY fun part!! This is the soap recipe that I use. I got it from that adult ed class. It’s simple and makes great soap!

    Press CTRL and + at the same time for larger image.

    You can really get into soap making…adding things like goat’s milk, olive oil and other fancy stuff. For practicality, I stick to a basic recipe. Since we buy coconut oil in bulk from Dutch Valley Foods, I add that too, but I’ve made soap with straight fat & lye which makes a beautiful, usable product just the same.

    Here’s a picture from a batch I made using the self-rendered tallow. In this photo, I was at the 8th step on the above directions… alternating 1 min on stick blender with 5 min of hand stirring until full trace* where I added 1 oz of scent bought from an online company (I skipped the herbs & oatmeal this time). You don’t have to add scent. I sometimes don’t and it doesn’t smell like anything. *Full trace is when you lift the spoon and the dripping line sits on top of the mixture.


    The soap turns out beautifully. I don’t add color so the rendered tallow made a wonderful cream colored soap. I can also mention that when the directions say “pour into mold”… I use a cardboard soda flat. I line it with plastic wrap taped to cover the inside and held to the outsides with masking tape. It works just fine… no store bought molds needed. I cut it, with a non-serrated kitchen knife, into approx 30 bars of soap per recipe. I let the cut soap sit/air dry/cure for one week before using.

    Here’s my bucket o’ soap I keep under the sink. The rest I store in a cardboard box. Unwrapped soap lasts longer…it continues to dry over time and the bar will last longer when later used.


    Some final advice…FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS!! Use stainless steel…NEVER aluminum pots or utensils. Aluminum + lye = BOOM And don’t be a hero, wear the gloves and be mindful of splashes as you are stirring and blending.
  11. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

    It is soap! Who would have thought soap could be dangerous? Not me. I thought the only dangers were slipping on it in the shower or getting it in your eyes. But BOOM?
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  12. CATO

    CATO Monkey+++

    You know how the combustion of gas creates CO2 and H2O? Well, making soap in an AL (it's an actual element on the periodic chart!) pot could result in Hydrogen (H) gas. Soooooooo, you have some hydrogen gas in a closed container . . . on the stove. Open the lid . . . and . . . .

    Think "Hindenberg."

    But, store this little tidbit of knowledge away . . . you might have to get all MacGyver on somebody's @$$ in the future.
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  13. Falcon15

    Falcon15 Falco Peregrinus

    Thank you, Cato for the expansion on rendering fat and the additional comments on safety. Excellent information.

    Addendum: cast iron can also be used for soap making, as it was in the 1800's, but that pot would be useless for anything BUT making soap and can impart a dark color to the product. As always, any equipment used to make soap should only ever be used to make soap.

    The methodology for drawing lye from wood ash is at the top of the post, and that is also something you would want to excercise caution with. Lye is a very caustic chemical, it will cause major burns if you are not cautious.

    Just an FYI for folks, modern pressure canners are made from aluminum, and you can block the vent to prevent gases (like steam...STEAM I say) from escaping. High pressure levels of (in this theoretical McGyver case) hydrogen gas, coupled with a rather energetic flame laden material going off (boom) could cause the canner to breach and add mayhem and metal shrapnel to the explosion (BIG BADA-BOOM) just saying...

    Also, pressure canners and cookers can be turned into distillation device for extracting essential oils or other magical liquids from fermenting products with slight modifications. Again, just saying, I do not condone these uses in any way, shape or form. Using a device in a manner not proscribed by it's implicit design and capabilities renders all warranties null and void, and this statement removes any potential future liability from me, my heirs, or my estate.

    Always CYA.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 24, 2014
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  14. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    A note, perhaps obvious: Canning does not expose the aluminum to the food, just to the hot water. Making soap, that is with a caustic like lye, is a different matter. Caustics will attack aluminum detrimentally.
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  15. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Or if you happen to be a Ham, and need to launch an antenna skyward, hydrogen gas in a trash bag will do that, very well.
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  16. TXKajun

    TXKajun Monkey+++

    I've been making soap for several years now. I do both melt and pour and cold process (oils and lye and water). If you use common sense and some care, there is no problem using lye.

    There is a great site called soapcalc that has tons of info, including an interactive chart where you put in the weights of your oils and it calculates how much water and lye you'll need. It factors in an extra 5% for "superfatting" to make sure all the lye is used up. Here's a link. SoapCalc I also second the Soap Queen site. Tons of info and videos.

    There are all kinds of fragrances available online, from simple lavender to complex combos of essential oils.

    The biggies for me are 1) I know exactly what's in my soap....and there aren't any ingredients that aren't natural or that are almost unpronounceable and 2) they are soooooo much better on our skin (me, Sweetie and DS). Sweetie says her skin feels so much softer and not dry after a bath using my soap.

    Use your imagination for soap molds. Line whatever with some butcher paper folded to give you sharp corners. My favorite is a cardboard USPS Express Mail box 12" X 12", bottom taped shut, lined with fresh butcher paper each time. To cut evenly, I got a cheap plastic mitre box from Lowes and use an 8" plaster trowel. Works great!

    Don't forget to let your soap age if you're doing the cold process! Takes from 3-6 weeks to get all the reactions to go to completion.

    Good luck!

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  17. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Monkey+++

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  18. pearlselby

    pearlselby Monkey++

    I posted a rash recipe in another of your threads. It really works for me. I used it on a little puppy that had an

    Equal drops of:

    roman chamomile

    Carrier oil: Grapeseed I used equal drops also.
  19. pearlselby

    pearlselby Monkey++

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