Soap Making Recipes and Tips for the Homesteader

Learn about the basic soap making process. Instructions for preparing fats, making a variety of soap types, and rescuing a bad batch are included.

| January/February 1972

Making soap is yet another down-home pursuit that allows you to feel good inside because you get to recycle and create at the same time. It's also an operation that can be just as small-scale and simple or as large and sophisticated as you want to make it ... anything from throwing ashes into the cookout frying pan to carefully measuring rose geranium petals into a precisely controlled batch of bar soap. Perhaps best of all, this homemade cleaner contains none of the phosphates, NTA, still-caustic sodas and other additives that made today's detergents so dangerous to the environment. Real homemade soap is all natural, all organic and as welcome on the homestead as a compost pile.

Tips for Making Soap 

1. Never use lye on aluminum utensils (it acts on them). For small batches of soap, enameled or granite ware is suitable ... for larger batches, an iron kettle may be used.

2. There need never be a failure in soapmaking. If separation occurs, ingredients can be reclaimed.

3. Remember that lard is the melted and clarified fat of swine and tallow the hard, coarse fat from sheep or cows (usually from around the kidneys and loins). Before tallow dries out, it's called suet. Rendering fat is simply clarifying it by melting.

4. The following fats are listed in order of their desirability for soapmaking: tallow, lard, their combinations, olive oil, other vegetable oils. Mineral oils will not make soap and poultry fat should be combined with other fats since soap made from it alone is soft and spongy.

5. To obtain soap with a clean wholesome odor, all grease must be pure and clean.

Patsy Melton
10/10/2012 12:16:49 PM

Could you please update this article, since you can't buy lye in cans anymore? (at least in my area you can't.) I can only get lye online and in a bucket of about 32-40 ounces. How many ounces are in a can of lye?

9/8/2009 2:41:15 PM

Check otu the Queen of Green webpage as well for more tips about soap making. Lindsay is an expert and you can even email her with questions if something goes wrong! Very helpful.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!