How to Make Soap

Sure. I’ve made soap, the old-fashioned way:

Boil three quarts (ok, make it a gallon) of ashes from a hardwood fire in two gallons of rain water for half an hour. Remove from heat. The ashes will settle. Skim the liquid lye* off the top. Set aside.

Render beef fat into a half cup of tallow by heating over a fire. Add a roughly equal amount (half cup) of vegetable oil. Set aside and accumulate.

Simmer the liquid lye* down until it’s fairly thick.

*Yes, it’s LYE, so use protective eye wear, gloves, apron and never use anything made out of aluminum. Cast iron, steel, stainless steel, and copper kettles only. If you get any on your skin, wash it off FAST and KEEP washing under running water for at least 10 minutes. After you’re done, douse with vinegar to neutralize any that’s left, then rinse of the vinegar.

You should have roughly half a cup of concentrated lye bubbling on the heat.

Slowly pour in your heaping cup of tallow/oil mix, stirring constantly until they’re very thoroughly mixed, then reduce heat to warm, about the temperature of a hot tub (105 deg). Use a thermometer, NOT your finger.

Stir the soap every 10 to 15 minutes for about a minute until it turns a golden brown. Might take half an hour, might take three hours. It’s read when it’s ready. It’s not ready until you can drag the tip of a wooden spoon across it and the gouge remains. If the gouge fills back in, it’s not ready.

Pour into a wooden mold lined with wax paper. Cover with wax paper. Wrap in towels to slow the cooling.

The next day, unwrap the cakes, but don’t use them for a week. They need to harden.

A lot of people say cure it. I say, “Huh?”

Also, once the soap turns golden brown, you CAN use it then. It’ll be more like liquid soap, though. No, it’s not really solid. Our founding fathers didn’t use soap cakes. They ladled out whatever soap they needed.

NOTE: If your lye content is too high, you’ll know it rather quickly. You skin will slough off. The soap will eat holes in your clothing. You know, things like that. Remember, you want more than twice as much tallow and oil than lye.

Leave a Reply