There is no mystery to making soap - it's simply lye and grease or oil, mixed and cooked with a little water
added until it thickens to where it holds its shape for a moment when dripped back onto the mixture with a
- If made from a commercial lye such as a drain cleaner, the proportions are 9 parts grease and/or oil, 1 part
lye, and 3 parts water. If made from lye water made from ashes, the proportions depend on the strength of
the lye water, so one goes by the consistency of the mix to determine when enough lye water has been
- Making lye water from ashes is similar to making drip coffee. Place paper or corn shucks to act as a filter
along the bottom of a V or funnel shaped container and simply pour water in the top until it drips out the
bottom into a pail. The Foxfire Book series, which is in the Troubled Times Book List and is highly
recommended, contains diagrams and instructions on how to do this.
- "And then we'd carry th' water - nobody ever had running water in those days - we'd carry th' water and
throw over th' ashes and drip th' lye. Then we'd put th' grease and lye in a pot and boil it down 'til it got
hard; and then we'd use that for soap." Foxfire Book, page 157, Mrs. Carrie Dillard Garrison
- The mixture, which is stirred continuously, should turn white or whitish and thicken. The mixture should be
stirred while lye or water is being added. When using lye water made from ashes, the soap mixture must
boil longer before the water is reduced to where the mixture will make solid, rather than soft soap.
- If one desires a scented soap, spices or flowers can be soaked in water for a time prior to soap making, and
that water added to the mixture while it is being cooked. Or spices or scented leaves can be added to the
soap mixture just before pouring, and pulled out during the curing process before the soap completely
- Pour the mixture into a pan lined with cloth and let it sit for a couple days. This curing is an important step,
as uncured soap can contain free lye in places that will irritate the skin. The cured soap may be covered
with a white powder, which should be brushed off as it likewise may irritate the skin. When hardened the
soap can be cut into bars or blocks and stored indefinitely.
Authored by Nancy.