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Let's Make Some Soap: A Simple Recipe for Lye Soap

2/26/2011 10:12:43 PM

Tags: lye soap, homemade soap, lard, saponification, Sherry Leverich Tucker, Sherry Leverich Tucker

finished soapMaking a batch of homemade lye soap doesn't have to be complicated. I like making a simple lard-based soap to keep on hand. Homemade soap is reliably rich and full of natural glycerin that is stripped from commercial soaps. It is a good cleanser and gentle on your skin. I have friends who like to use it on skin affected by poison ivy and bug bites. Another friend likes to soap up before hunting to clear his skin of colognes or body odors that can be smelled by deer.

SAFETY FIRST! 

Caution should be taken through the entire process, because lye is a strong, caustic chemical that can quickly eat through skin and many other materials. I don't want to scare you, but please be careful whenever you handle lye! Everything that you choose to use in making lye soap must be labeled as such, and from that point on ONLY used for lye soap. Anything that has contained lye must never be used for food purposes ever again.

There are several things that must be on hand to make a batch of lye soap. You should have a glass jar for dissolving the lye in, a kitchen thermometer, a 2-quart (or bigger) bowl for mixing the soap, a scale for measuring the ingredients in ounces, a plastic or wooden stirrer for stirring the soap, and a mold for pouring the soap into. The mold can be any plastic container big enough for the batch; I like to use a plastic Velveeta storage container, it is a long rectangle that when unmolded the soap can be sliced into nice size bars. Lard, lye and vinegar are also necessary. Lye can sometimes be hard to find, I have been able to buy it at a local hardware store. Vinegar should be kept close through the entire process, as it is an acid that can quickly neutralize the alkaline lye. soap equipment 

For this recipe, you will simply need exactly 2 lbs of lard, 4.4 oz of lye, and 7 fluid oz water. The first step would be to accurately weigh the lard and lye using the scale, and the water using a liquid measuring cup. Then the lye must be mixed with the water. Dissolving the lye into the water requires some special preparation. You should do this outside if possible, or in a very well ventilated area inside. The lye should always be poured into the water, not vice-versa. Once the lye is poured into the water it heats the water quickly and intensely, so the jar should be placed on a solid surface where it can be left as it cools to the proper temperature. Care should also be taken that animals or children cannot get near the lye solution. While mixing the lye and water, wear a simple pair of safety glasses to protect your eyes. So, with all those precautions in mind, pour the lye crystals into the water while stirring with either a wooden or plastic spoon. Once completely dissolved you can leave it to cool.soap into mold 

While the lye is cooling, you can heat up the lard and get it to the proper temperature as well. When the lye solution is about 85 degrees Fahrenheit and you have your fat at about 90 degrees, mixing can take place. These temperatures are a general rule, if the fat is a bit warmer and the lye a tad cooler, it will still work out. While stirring the fat in your plastic bowl with a plastic or wooden spoon, slowly stream in the lye solution. Stir constantly until it is thick like a Slurpee. This will take from 30 minutes to one hour. Now you can add any essential oils for fragrance or leave it plain. Pour it into your mold scraping the sides of the bowl.

The emulsion created by combining the lye water and fat creates a chemical reaction called saponification. During this process of saponification the lye and fat create soap. After several days in the mold, the soap should be hard enough to pop out of it. This is when I go ahead and cut it into bars (with a knife or bench scraper) and lay them in a cardboard box lined with brown paper. The soap now must age for at least 4 weeks to complete the saponification process. To test the soap, try washing your hands with it, if it leaves a slimy film on your hands, rinse your hands with vinegar and let the soap cure another couple of weeks. A well-mixed, completely saponified soap has a long shelf life.

After you are through with your soap making equipment, wash everything thoroughly with hot soapy water and also rinse with a little vinegar to neutralize any traces of lye.

Endless Possibilities! 

While this is a pure and simple soap, there are a multitude of options and some wonderful soap making resources available online if you are interested in trying other combinations. Almost any fat can be used, and each kind will add different characteristics to the soap. One I enjoy adding is coconut oil, which creates wonderful bubbles and suds. There are also great recipes for vegetarian soap made without any animal fats. Learning how to render your own fats is helpful for soap making (tallow from beef fat makes a beautiful white soap). Let me know if you enjoy soap making and share any tips or websites you find helpful!

 



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Post a comment below.

 

Chelgo
3/2/2014 6:00:55 PM
Has anyone tried adding lavender, rosemary ect.? If so did you have to adjust other ingredients?

Julie
11/1/2013 9:00:33 PM
How much essential oil do you add? I was thinking of using the coconut.

Cas
10/19/2013 2:01:57 PM
If I wanted to use olive oil instead of lard, would that work? And what would the ratio be? Thanks.

gina.neal.90
5/28/2013 11:11:13 AM

@ Tom, you can get lard at the grocery store. It is the non refridgerated lard. @ Cheryl, if you cant find it at a local hardware store, Amazon.com has it.. http://www.candlescience.com has AWESOME scents for soaps!!! :D


soliver0145
5/22/2013 4:19:28 AM

Hi Cherly, just wanted to let you know that lye is not illegal in NC - I am the plumbing dept manager for Lowes in Asheville NC and we sell it in the plumbing dept. It's with the drain cleaners, Robic brand 100% Lye, I just sold some to a lady takeing a soap makeing class yesterday :)


soliver0145
5/22/2013 4:17:51 AM

Hi Cherly, just wanted to let you know that lye is not illegal in NC - I am the plumbing dept manager for Lowes in Asheville NC and we sell it in the plumbing dept. It's with the drain cleaners, Robic brand 100% Lye, I just sold some to a lady takeing a soap makeing class yesterday :)


monroe444
4/24/2013 9:36:55 PM

I tried to make soap today for the first time. I don't think my scale was very accurate. Everything seemed to be going well - mixing the lye with water and coconut milk, then pouring it into the melted oils in a crockpot. I turned the crockpot on and five minutes later, a thick, almost solid frothy mass rose up over the top of the crockpot. I turned it down and over the next hour, it just got hard and turned into lumps. 

When I run a lump under water, it seems like soap. Did I make soap? If I leave it a few weeks for the lye to hopefully go away, will it be safe to try it as soap? Is there any way to tell if it could have pockets of lye? I imagine they would burn the skin if there are pockets of lye in it?

There are pics on Flickr if you'd like to see what it ended up like.I tried to make soap today for the first time. I don't think my scale was very accurate. Everything seemed to be going well - mixing the lye with water and coconut milk, then pouring it into the melted oils in a crockpot. I turned the crockpot on and five minutes later, a thick, almost solid frothy mass rose up over the top of the crockpot. I turned it down and over the next hour, it just got hard and turned into lumps. 


When I run a lump under water, it seems like soap. Did I make soap? If I leave it a few weeks for the lye to hopefully go away, will it be safe to try it as soap? Is there any way to tell if it could have pockets of lye? I imagine they would burn the skin if there are pockets of lye in it?

There are pics on Flickr if you'd like to see what it ended up like.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23299717@N04/8679889654/


CHERYL BISHOP VELEZ
4/3/2013 6:43:01 PM
Sadly, they've outlawed lye here (NC). You can't get crystalized lye at the hardware store any longer. You have to have a commercial license to buy it from any distributor. I wish there was another ingredient that could be used.

Tom Bodnar
4/2/2013 11:34:48 PM
where do you find the lard?

BRENDA SHAW
1/7/2013 12:37:54 PM
hello is it ok to double the receipe you have given here?

BRENDA SHAW
1/6/2013 6:59:24 PM
hello, i was wondering if you can use stainless steel or is it better to use plastic bowls for the mixtures of the lye, and final product.thank you b shaw

Joselli See
6/5/2012 9:19:01 PM
Thank you so much, this recipe worked great and I am grateful for the simplicity of it. I will make it again and again, especially as I live around a bunch of hunters and they are clamoring for it for hunting season!

MIMI AKIN
5/31/2012 2:36:30 PM
thank you for giving this information but i could not print it for my files.

Sherry Tucker
3/22/2012 1:08:16 AM
Midgette, thank you for the note :) I'm so glad that this soap works for you. I bet you do have a hard time finding soap without coconut oil. It is the main fat that is used to make soap sudsy! Good luck with your soapmaking!

Midgette Rocap
3/17/2012 9:34:04 PM
Thank you so much. This is the first recipe that I have found that doesn't have coconut oil. I am highly allergic to it. I have been wanting to make soap for a while, now I can. Thanks again.

Dale Haverty_2
3/16/2011 10:20:52 AM
The other way to overcome the water softness issue is to use rainwater where you can. I have rainbarrels under my downspouts and use the water to water the kitchen garden, water flowers, water livestock, etc. My mother always used rainwater from the barrel to wash her hair. I have the bottoms fitted with hose faucets and have a hole in the top so we can dip water from them. I use plastic barrels.

Sherry Leverich Tucker
3/15/2011 8:48:25 PM
DrFood, thank you for the information. Hard water is an issue here as well, I hadn't noticed soap scum, because I am already always battling deposits since I do not have a softener. I will be on the lookout for a stick blender, sounds like a nice addition to my soap making kit!

DrFood
3/15/2011 2:47:55 PM
If you can find a stick blender (small electric appliance that can be used to puree soup in the pot--it has small spinning blades) soap making proceeds much more quickly. The key question for enjoying home made soap is: How hard is your water? In Wisconsin, our water is so hard we have a water softener, so the soap works beautifully. My parents have moderately hard water and no water softener, so I've given up gifting them with my home made soap! Real soap used in hard water leads to "soap scum."










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