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Soap Making

PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2014 1:35 pm
I got interested in making soap at the beginning of 2014. Ive made soap using Drano for lye (very successful) and now sell soap made with local tallow and commercial lye on consignment which is also very nice, and taught a workshop. However I've been trying to make soap with my own lye from hardwood ashes for months now with no success.

I got the ashes from friends who heat with wood, and got lye both from boiling and making a lye-barrel as suggested in the Mother Earth News: ... z33ltCUDVL
The lye is dark orange-brown. It floats the egg, dissolves the feather, reddens the skin and is great for cleaning clothes and bleaching the floor, but it will not make soap. Tallow becomes a caustic greasy substance that leaves a film of fat on anything it touches. I've tried more fat, more lye, more mixing and more heat, to no avail, I've been fiddling with this for months.

Has anyone succeeded in making their own soap from ashes? Can you offer any advice?

Re: Soap Making

PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2014 10:53 am
by BeckaSutton
Hmmm a bit of a late reply but hopefully you're still around.

The most obvious question is what wood are you using? It must be hardwood - a softwood won't do.

I've never made soap myself but it is something I'd like to try so I have a few bookmarks on the subject and this one looks like it might help you:


Re: Soap Making

PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 4:30 pm
Yes I was assured it was hardwood ashes (and really it's unusual to heat a home with softwood if you've ordered several cords to burn).
To update, the soap does work now, it just needed to cure for 6 months.

Re: Soap Making

PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 4:31 pm
If you're interested, I would encourage you to try making soap. With basic precautions it's not dangerous and is a lot of fun. Just start with a recipe so as to get the proportions right starting out.

Re: Soap Making

PostPosted: Wed Aug 03, 2016 1:24 pm
by Bruce Mardle
As I understand it, the alkali in wood ashes is mostly potassium carbonate. (Sodium carbonate in seaweed ashes.)
Hydroxides are stronger alkalis. I've read that one can make them from the carbonates by mixing with a solution of calcium hydroxide (slaked lime); calcium carbonate precipitates out. Not tried this myself. (Might be more complicated than one would like because calcium hydroxide is only slightly soluble in water.)
I recently made some soap from lard and hardware-shop caustic soda (sodium hydroxide). It's OK but a rather unpleasant smell. (Not as bad as hot lard, though!) Might try coconut oil next, though I don't know how long I'd have to wait post-Apocalypse to get it!

Re: Soap Making

PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2017 5:46 pm
I thought I had posted a reply to this. The ashes soap became useable after aging for more than 6 months. I will try the slake lime method at some point.