Soap results from the saponification of fats with an alkali.
Lye or caustic soda (sodium hydroxide)- Used to make hard soaps.
Potash (potassium hydroxide)- Used to make soft soaps.
If animal fats are to be used, then they need to be cleansed of impurities. To do this cut up the very finely and heat it with some water. When the fats melt and the most of the water evaporates strain the mixture. This can be achieved with a cheese cloth or a metal strainer. The remaining liquid should resemble oil.
Fill a bucket with fresh wood ashes. For best results use recently burned wood, charcoal ashes do not work very well. Submerge the ashes in boiling water and allow one to two days mixing every few hours. The water will take the sodium hydroxide from the ashes. When the lye is of adequate strength for soap making, a raw egg will float in the solution. Pour off the lye. If a large batch is made the water can be boiled off and a white power will remain. Store this in dry place and then add water until appropriate strength is obtained when it is time to make soap. Add dried lye to water, not water to dried lye.
Click here to see pictures of lye making
*SAFETY NOTE* Lye is a harsh chemical. Strong Lye can cause chemical burns. If lye comes in contact with the skin toughly wash hands with water to remove it. Heat is generated when dried lye is added to water. Avoid mixing powered lye and water in plastic containers.
Potash is a mined material. It is commercially used in farming systems to increase the amount of potassium in a farm field. The chances that you are going to be able to find naturally occurring potash are not likely. Potash is mined in Botswana, Canada, Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Peru, Spain, and the United States.
*SAFETY NOTE* Potash is a harsh chemical. Strong potash can cause chemical burns. If potash comes in contact with the skin toughly wash hands with water to remove it. Heat is generated when dried potash is added to water
For these instructions "lye solution" and "oil" will be used. Any fat or alkalis can be used in these ratios.
Step 1: Measure equal amounts of lye solution and oil.
Step 2: Bring the two solutions up to 1000 F (370 C). picture
Step 3: Mix the two liquids. If another pot is available, constantly mix one spoonful of oil with one spoonful of lye until both are empty. If this is not possible, then an alternate method can be used. Whilestirring the oil in a circular motion SLOWLY pour the heated lye solution into the pot. picture
Step 4: After the lye solution and the oil have been mixed, stir continuously in a figure 8. Stirring can last for 15 min to and hour depending on the purity of the ingredients. When the fats and the alkalis come together a paste like substance will start to form above a translucent liquid. The paste is the soap and the translucent material is the spent lye and glycerin. picture
Step 5: Put the soap in molds. picture
Step 6: Two or three days later the soap should have set. If hardened take the soap out of the mold and allow a fortnight for curing.