Homemade Lye Soap
by Stewart’s Crafts

How Is It Made?

In the Past . . .

Some of our ancestors made soap in the fall after hog killing; others made it in the spring.  Some just made it when they ran out of soap.

Our ancestors saved the ashes from their fireplaces, and recycled them to make the lye solution necessary for soap-making.  Some were very particular about their fireplace ashes and wanted to maintain a certain quality in them.  In other words, you COULD NOT spit tobacco juice in their fireplaces, or burn any wood except hickory or oak, and so on.  The cold ashes were put into a wood ash hopper, water was poured through them, and the liquid collected at the bottom of the hopper was liquid lye (potassium hydroxide, or potash, as the old-timers called it.)

They also collected meat fat from hog killings and from frying meat for meals.  The fat was put into an iron pot over a fire, and melted.  The liquid lye and some water were added.  Then the stirring began.  And they stirred... stirred... and stirred!  When the soap thickened like pudding, it was left to harden in the iron pot.  In a day or two, it could be cut into bars and removed from the pot.

Now . . .

Our soap at Stewart’s Crafts is made from a family recipe, using store-bought lye (sodium hydroxide, or soda ash), store-bought lard and water.  It is stirred in stainless steel pots, inside the house away from the weather, and made completely by hand.  No machinery is used in making this soap.  After the lard is melted, no further heat is used in the processing.  Our soap is allowed to retain its natural glycerin.  So our soap has more emollient or moisturizer for your skin!  Just like our ancestors used for many generations.