The basic ingredients needed for making soap are readily available – fat, water and lye – and the final product can be used for a variety of applications, including shampooing and laundering, and can be modified for dishwashing soap. Below are instructions for making a batch of all-purpose soap, and modifications for various uses.
5:c:i) SOURCES OF FAT
Fat can be either animal-sourced or vegetable-extracted. A combination of rendered beef fat (tallow) plus pig fat (lard) makes the best basic soap. Soybean, cottonseed, corn and sunflower oils produce low-foaming, medium-quality soaps. Reclaimed kitchen grease and frying pan drippings can yield good soaps if processed as outlined below. Soft and vegetable oil based soaps can be supplemented with beeswax to make them firmer and last longer.
Rendering animal fat
Rendering is the process of melting and purifying solid fats. Begin with double the weight of fat called for in your recipe. Cut the fat into small pieces and heat over a low flame. Do not let the fat burn or smoke. After rendering, strain the liquid into a clean container and keep cool. Discard the solid particles.
Reclaiming grease drippings
To re-use pan drippings from frying bacon or fatty meats they must be clarified. Place the fat, and equal amount of water, and 2 tablespoons of salt in a pan and bring to a boil. Remove from the fire, cool slightly, and add cold water (about 1/4 the amount of hot liquid). The mixture will separate into three layers: pure fat at the top, fat with granular impurities in the middle, and water at the bottom. Spoon off the pure fat and save it for soapmaking.
NB: To deodorize fat, cook sliced potatoes in the clarified fat.
5:c:ii) SOURCES OF LYE (Potash)
Lye can be produced by leaching it from wood ashes using water. A large wooden container, such as a barrel, works best. Drill a hole on the side as close to the bottom as possible and proceed as follows:
STEP 1: Place the barrel on cinder blocks or other supports. Set it at a slight angle to have the drilled hole at the lowest point so the lye will run out of it. Place a non-aluminum pot (crock or enamel work best) below the hole to catch the drips of lye water.
STEP 2: Line the bottom of the barrel with straw to strain the ashes, making sure the straw reaches several inches above the drain hole.
STEP 3: Pack the barrel with hardwood ashes (see note below). Then scoop out a crater at the surface large enough to hold 2 to 3 quarts (a liter?) of water.
STEP 4: Fill the crater with rainwater that’s been heated to boiling, and let the water seep down through the ashes. When the water has all seeped away, add more. It will take a while for the lye to begin to trickle outht rhough the drain hole, possibly several days, but do not try to speed up the process by adding water to the crater before all the water is seeped away.
STEP 5: To crate crystaline lye from the liquid potash collected, boil down the solution in a stainless steel or enamelware pot. At first, a dark residue called black salts will form. By maintaining heat, additional impurities can be driven off. You will eventually be left with the greyish-white potash to use in soap recipes. Store in a sealed container and beware its highly caustic characteristic, which can burn skin, eyes, nasal passages and throat if touched or inhaled.
NB: for the strongest lye use ashes from sugar maple, fruit woods, beech and ash trees.
5:c:iii) MAKING SOAP
Use only non-corrosive materials in the soap-making process, such as wood, glass, ceramic, stainless steel or ceramic. Do not use plastic, aluminum or tin. The best water to use is collected rainwater as it is softer than ground water. Below is the recipe for basic soap.
MATERIALS: 6 pounds beef fat (or vegetable oils, or lard, or combinations), 2 1/2 pints water, 13 ounces lye crystals, 1/4 pound beeswax (optional, for all vegetable oils)
STEP 1: Pour the cold water into an enamel pot, then slowly add the lye while stirring steadily with a wooden spoon. The chemical reaction this will create will generate high temperatures. To cool the lye solution, place the enamel pot in another pot containing cold water. Once the solution has cooled, pour into a glass container.
STEP 2: Place the beef fat into a pot and heat to 95oF in a double-boiler. Place the glass container with the lye solution in a separate pot with water and heat to 98oF.
STEP 3: Stir the fat with a wooden spoon, then slowly pour in the lye solution in a steady stream. Stir continuously in a figure-8 motion.
STEP 4: The mixture will turn opaque and brownish, then lighten. Soap is ready when you pull out the spoon and the drippings momentarily remain on the surface of the mixture.
STEP 5: Add colour or scents at this point, stir well, then pour into molds.
STEP 6: Cover molds with cardboard, styrofoam and/or blankets to help encourage the soap to cook in its chemical reaction. After 24 hours, the soap can be cut and removed from the molds, and left uncovered in open air for one month.
5:c:iv) VARIETIES OF SOAPS FOR DIFFERENT USES
DISHWASHING: Slice off shavings of hard soap and boil them in water until dissolved, using about 1 pound of shavings per galon of water. This will produced jellied soap. Store in small tubs to dip rags into while washing cookware.
LAUNDRY: Finely grate hard soap and add a few tablespoons of borax. Store in containers and scoop into a non-reactive laundry tub (use plastic or enamel) with collected rainwater for washing clothing. For efficiency, use a large plastic bin with a lid for doing laundry, cutting a hole in the lid to pull a toilet plunger through which acts as an agitator while lid is closed.
SHAMPOO: Use regular soap for hair. For dry hair, beat an egg until frothy and massage well into wet scalp. Leave on for a few minutes. Rinse with cold water.
CONDITIONER: Make an infusion using rosemary and rainwater with enough water to rinse hair thoroughly. Add 2 tablespoons vinegar if following the fresh egg shampoo, to cut the film that gets left behind.
5:c:v) DENTAL HYGIENE
To prevent toothache, tooth decay, gingivitis and cavities, brush every day upon rising in the morning, after each meal, and before going to bed. Even using plain water on a toothbrush, plus flossing at the end of the day, is terrifically helpful in preventing dental problems. Below are some concotions for simple toothpastes.
TOOTHPASTE 1: Make a thick paste of salt or sodium bicarbonate and water.
TOOTHPASTE 2: Combine honey and finely ground charcoal.
TOOTHPASTE 3: Combine 3 parts sodium bicarbonate and 1 part salt. For every 1/4 cup salt and soda mixture, add 3 teaspoons of glycerine and enough water to make a soft paste.
Add peppermint or pine oil to any of these mixtures for a more pleasant taste.
Read the next section, Childbirth & Feminine Health...