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Making Soap
© 2006 RogueTurtle.com

If you have been burning oak or apple wood for your survival fires, consider saving the cooled white ashes. If you set these aside in a sealed (dry) container, you can (later on) make lye out of this ash. Why Lye? (Mom told me never to lye.)

Lye is the basic liquid ingredient for making soap. If you are forced to stay in a survival situation for a long period of time; that is, without access to civilization (Wal-Mart), then you are going to have to eventually admit you smell a little "rank". The first step in the manufacturing of soap is to gather the ashes to make the lye, which makes the soap. Sounds like a kids rhyme.

However, soap is an absolute requirement for hygiene in camp. Personally, having a bath or shower and being able to use soap is a luxury that can give any sagging morale a boost. Cleaning clothing and bedding, and dirty dishes with soap (as opposed to a rinse-out of a dirty river water bucket), will keep your health up a lot longer than you imagine.

If you have a lifetime supply of soap already set aside in your pre-planned and pre-positions provisions, then don't read any more of this. Stop here. Don't waste your time.

In the middle ages, bathing and washing with soap was considered unnecessary and most people only bathed once a week, if that often. I can only imagine what the Middle Ages smelled like. It was only after a few very deadly plagues wiped out most of Europe that people finally came around to even thinking about the use of soap. Nobody in that time knew anything about germs, bugs, virus things or bacteria. They thought it was "magic", or "evil spirits", or even "witch craft". In the middle ages, an "old" person was only about 40 years old. What's our excuse now?

We know better. A clean body wearing clean clothing will have a much better chance of staying healthy (and alive). Our older generation now is double the age of the Middle Ages. It is quite common to find 80 and 90 year old folks still quite active. Indirectly, we can credit the use of soap as a contributing factor to their longevity.

EXCEPTION: If you are trapping, or hunting a species of animal with a strong sense of smell, do not wash these clothes with soap. Rinsing only with natural water (such as river water) will keep you from alerting your prey that you are in the area. Use no body soap prior to trapping/hunting either.

WHAT IS SOAP?

Soap is a substance that "makes water wetter". Technically, water alone can clean you, but some of our grit and dirt needs help coming off. To really loosen up the dirt and grime, we have developed a few tricks, using natural products, to keep us clean. After lye, the next most basic ingredient of soap is GREASE. Animal Fat! Lard. Yuk!

The following article was written by me a few years ago for my family to know and enjoy. I relied heavily on an article from New Zealand, by Paul Norman. Nobody has called me back to tell me how successful they were. Maybe some of you will let me know.

In the following article, the first several sections are a general overview of all the steps needed to make soap. In the latter sections, I'll lead you step by step through the soap making process.

WHY SOAP MAKING? A PIONEER SAGA!

...The house is finished. I finally got it up. The fields are plowed, the seeds are sowed, the well is dug, and the deer is skinned.

"I need a bath", says the loving wife batting her eyes.
"Me too", says baby Brookey.
"Woof", says the dog.
"I never want a bath", says 13 year-old Davey.

"We don't have any soap", says father.
"Why not", asks the not-so-loving wife?
"Yeah, why not", yell the two kids in unison?
"We ran out in Kansas", says dad. "Or was it Indiana, I forget."
"We need soap", says the scowling wife.
"I know", says dad.
"We need to wash our clothes", says mom. "It's been six months now."
"I know", says dad.
"I think they smell great", thinks the dog.

"I think I'll make some soap", says dad.
"I think you'd better", says mom. "When will you be done"?
"I'll let you know", says dad, as he leaves to make some soap.
"I need some fat", says dad, looking back over his shoulder at mom.
"Don't look at me like that", says mom.
"What? I mean some fat from the cow, or pig, or deer. What did you think I meant?", asks RT?

Stories like this tear at my heart strings. Did dad make the soap and save his marriage? Did little Davey take a bath? Stay tuned.

MAKING SOAP

FIVE BASIC INGREDIENTS FOR SOAP:
  • White (wood) ash
  • Rain or Spring Water
  • Animal Fats (grease)
    (In getting the fat ready, sometimes lemon juice or vinegar, potatoes or rice is also needed)
  • Plant Oils
  • Salt


EQUIPMENT NEEDED TO MAKE SOAP: lye hopper
  • Plastic buckets or big fired-clay jars or pots.
  • Large cast iron or stainless steel boiling pot.
  • Wooden spoons or stirring sticks. (an old broom handle works)
  • Soap molds, or a place to put the finished product.
  • Clean cloth or rags to act as filters.


STEP ONE: Making "LYE WATER"

white ash Soap making uses a "caustic solution" known as "lye water". Commercial lye may or may not be available in local stores, so here's how to make it from the ashes from your fires.

Collect the ash from the fireplace. The best ash for soap comes from dried palm branches, dried out banana peels, cocoa pods, kapok tree wood, oak wood, and for really white soap, apple tree wood.

Whatever wood is collected and burned, it should be burned very hot into white ashes.

Collect these ashes when cooled into a covered plastic, stainless steel or earthen pot, or wooden barrel. A wooden barrel with a tap on the side works well. It will take a while to save up enough white ash to fill the barrel, so plan ahead.

Water is the next ingredient for making soap. The softer the water the better. If you are using a steam distillation unit, that would be great water to use. Spring water or rain water is usually referred to as "soft" water because it is free of metallic or acidic chemicals.

Ordinary well water, or untreated tap water may have to be treated with a "washing soda" or "baking soda" otherwise some of the chemicals in the water will interfere with the soap-making process. To test the water you plan to use:
    • Take some existing soap and try to make soap foam in it (make it bubble up).
    • If the soap easily makes soap bubbles, it is probably OK to use for soap-making, as is.
    • If not, try adding a little bit of baking soda by adding a little bit at a time to make it disappear, and then retry the test. Continue adding more and more baking soda until the soap finally bubbles up OK. Make sure you record the amount you used, because you will have to add the same amount to the water you plan to use for soap making.
    • You can make up about 1/2 bucket of soft water ahead of time and store it for later use, or
    • Make up 1/2 bucket of soft water just before you plan to use it to make "lye water". Your choice.


lye water
  • Fill your lye-making barrel or drum with ashes to within 4" of the top.
  • Boil 1/2 bucket of soft water (10 pints) and pour over the ashes.
  • Slowly add more cold soft water until liquid drips out of the barrel. Close the tap or block the drain hole.
  • Add more ashes to the barrel, adding water as needed to fill it up. Don't let the ashes "swim" in the water.


Let this mixture stand for 4 hours or more. Overnight is better.
  • Drain the brownish lye water from the barrel into a "safe" container. DO NOT USE ALUMINUM PANS.
  • Pour the water just drained out, back into the barrel again. It will drip through the ashes a second time. Collect this first batch of water again into the "safe" containers. Label it Batch #1. Now add four to five more pints of soft water to the barrel, letting it run through the ashes, and set it aside. Label it Batch #2. This second batch will be weaker than the first batch.
  • Repeat this step again using two to 3 pints of soft water, until no more brown liquid comes out of the ashes. Label this Batch #3, the weakest of the 3 lye-water batches.

lye water Dispose of the ashes by burying them deep in the garden. The wet ashes will still have a "sting" to them so use gloves and eye protection when burying them. Eventually the lye will wash away safely into the soil. Filtering the mixture is most easily done when it is in the barrel with the ashes, however, it can be filtered separately afterwards by using rags or cloth stretched over a safe container. Be careful, lye is caustic and will burn your exposed skin and cause blindness if it gets in your eyes.
  • Test the strength of the Lye-water: "A not-so-scientific method".


  • A Rogue Turtle Reflection

    I have a vivid memory of the lye-making set-up used in Williamsburg, VA, and by the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.

    They used a Vee-shaped stand nailed together in the yard, with the narrow part of the vee at the bottom. It was packed with ashes and the hot water was poured over the ashes over and over again until it reached the strength the settlers desired. This was probably discovered by trial and error.

    The entire bottom side of the "trough" was a collecting area with a scooped-out gutter collecting the drippings and (like a gutter) directing it into a safe container. When the lye water was completed, the ashes were scooped out and buried, but the vee-shaped stand was left in place for the next time lye water was needed.



    lye water Take one egg (or a small potato), drop it into a small pan of lye-water and watch how it floats.
    • If it floats just below half-way up, then the lye water is at the right strength
    • If it does not float, boil down the lye water to make it stronger.
    • If it seems to float too well (too high in the water) add a little bit of the softer water a little bit at a time until the egg floats correctly; when it's head "pops up".

      -or-
    • Take a chicken feather and place it in the lye-water. If it starts to dissolve, it is just right.
    Now that's science! No matter what method you use (I prefer the egg test), handle all lye-water mixtures very carefully. Even weak lye will burn you severely.



    PROTECT YOUR EYES. Boiling lye-water can splatter badly. Keep kids away.

    Antidote: Wash skin burns off with vinegar or lemon juice, followed immediately by fresh water flushes. See a doctor if burning continues. Eyes should be flushed with fresh water and patient taken to the hospital immediately. Cover eyes and continue flushing. Keep eye bandages wet with clean sterile water.

    STEP TWO: ANIMAL FAT (Grease)

    animal fats The fat of most animals can be used in the making of soap. Grease from beef fat makes the best soap. Beef fat is taken from a cow, calf, steer or bull cow or bullock. The easiest time to collect the fat is just after the animal is butchered. Like collecting fire ash, this is best done ahead of soap-making time.

    Once the meat of the animal has been cut away, all the fat scraps are chopped into bits and placed into a cast iron frying pan or a (not-too-deep) wide pot. The fat is melted slowly over a low heat. Each pound of fat produces about one cup of useful grease. Strain the melted fat through cheese cloth. Now the grease must be "washed".


    Minimum of TWO WASHES Required:
      washing
    • Washing the animal fat: Add equal amounts of water and (rendered) fat and bring to a boil.
    • Take off the heat and add 1/4 as much of COLD water. Let stand and cool. The fat will float to the top and harden, leaving the heavier "chunks" of stuff on the bottom.
    • Remove the congealed fat and scrape off the dirty parts with a knife.
    • If the fat still looks "dirty", repeat the process a second, or even a third time. However, you must wash it at least 2 times. During the last wash use twice as much water and add one tablespoon of salt before boiling.


    Getting rid of "smelly fats": All of the methods below will help purify fat if it is rancid or smelly.

    1. If the fat you are using has been used for cooking, you may need to get rid of the smells. For each cup of smelly fat, add two tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice in a half a cup of water and boil. The treated fat will float to the top when the water cools.
    2. If you don't have vinegar or lemon juice, use sour milk. Melt the fat, and to each cup of fat add one cup of sour milk and cook. When cooked, add cold water as before and let cool.
    3. If you don't have sour milk, use a potato or some rice. Cook one medium sized potato for each 3 cups of melted fat. Cook the potato in the fat. When cooked, add cold water and cool as before. The starches in the rice or potato will absorb a lot of the rancid smells. Throw out the potato or rice.


    Getting rid of discolored fat: Use Potassium permanganate, also called Kondies Crystals.

    Dissolve a few crystals in two cups of soft water added to two cups of discolored melted fat. The cleaned fat will harden as it cools and be able to be taken off the top of the liquid. Potassium permanganate is purple in color and doesn't cost much.

    Storing washed fat: Washed fat can be stored in a cool airy place for a few weeks before being made into soap.

    SUBSTITUTIONS: Plant Oils:

    Oils from plants can sometimes be used instead of either some or all of the animal fats. More on this later, but keep in mind that only PLANT oils can be used, NOT MOTOR OILS. If you can eat it, you can use it in soap. Common oils used in soap making include Coconut oil, Cocoa butter, Sunflower oil, and many vegetable oils (like corn oil).

    SALT: Any common salt, including sea-water salt, can be used to make soap. If it's edible, it can be used.

    GENERAL INFORMATION:

    Lye water made from wood ashes (or pot ash powder) is not as easy to work with as lye from caustic soda. However, it has been done successfully for years. This article assumes that you do not have access to caustic soda, so we'll not dwell on its loss. One of the drawbacks in using wood ash lye is that it may not always work with all the oils that caustic soda would usually be able to work with. Coconut oil has been successfully used with wood ash lye, but often needs a lot of beef tallow grease with it. It will take some trial and error with small amounts of oils and lye to see which of the oils you have available to you, that you can use with wood ash lye. In many cases, you will at least be able to make a soft liquid soap, using various oils, even if you cannot make hard bar soaps. Sometimes extra boiling will help, but there would be a limit to how much boiling was really worthwhile doing.

    Look around you. What (if any) oils do you have available? Can you spare some to make soap? Read on, it gets better.

    TYPES OF SOAP MADE BY THESE OILS AND FATS

    Oil

    Texture

    Lathering(Bubbles)

    Cleaning

    Effect on Skin

    Uses

    Neem

    Fairly Soft

    More and stable

    Good

    Antiseptic

    Washing Bathing

    Coconut

    Very Hard

    Plenty & fairly stable

    Very good

    No effect

    Washing Bathing & Shaving

    Tallow

    Hard

    More and stable

    Very good

    No effect

    Washing Bathing & Shaving

    Palm Oil

    Hard

    Less stable

    Very good

    No effect

    Washing Bathing

    Palm Kernal

    Very hard

    Plenty & fairly stable

    Good

    No effect

    Washing Bathing

    Ground (Pea) Nut

    Soft

    Less and stable

    Very good

    No effect

    Washing Bathing

    Shea Butter

    Fairly hard

    Fairly good

    good

    No effect

    Washing Bathing

    Cocoa Butter

    Hard

    Good

    Good

    No effect

    Washing Bathing



    Up to now, all we have done is to gather up the ingredients. Now we have 7 steps to follow to make the actual soap itself.

    The following steps are for information only, just read this first because we'll go over it again, step by step:
    1. Getting the right mixture of lye and grease, called "proving".
    2. "Boiling down" - removing unwanted water, and checking for what is called "doneness".
    3. Treating with salt to remove water, impurities, and glycerin, a process called "graining".
    4. Adding colorings and/or perfumes.
    5. Pouring into moulds, called "setting".
    6. Breaking the "green" soap out of the moulds and splitting it into finished sizes.
    7. Drying and airing the "green" soap. (Freshly made soap is called "green" soap. It is not green in color. It is dangerous to touch until dried and aired for a few weeks.


    The following explanation expands the seven steps outlined above: (We're not ready to make soap just yet.)

    1. PROVING: This is probably the most important step in soap making. If too much lye is left in the soap, the soap will be able to burn the skin. Also, the soap may not "set" properly. Too much grease causes its own problems as well. There are three different methods of "proving" soap, these are explained later. There are 3 methods because different soap makers have different methods that work best for them, while others will use a different method. I give you 3 ways to be able to make up your own mind, and use the one that works best for you. Only one method has to be used, not all three. When making your first batch of soap, you may want to try out all three, to see what works for you.

    2. MIXING GREASES: Different recipes call for different mixes of greases. If you are wanting to mix beef tallow grease with another fat grease, like mutton (sheep) or lard (pig), it is better to only replace one fifth (1/5) of the beef tallow grease with the new grease. For example: If you were going to use four pints of melted beef tallow grease, you could use one pint of another kind of grease mixed in. This would probably be useful as a clothes washing soap.

    3. DONENESS: After having "proved" the soap mixture, carefully watch the heating of the soap mixture to get rid of unneeded water. During the "boiling down", the mixture rises up the sides of the pot with many small bubbles (called foaming or frothing). This is the stage of heating when water is going out of the mixture. When the foaming starts to slow down, the froth will go towards the "right" of the pot. Large white round bubbles will appear. If you are only making soft soap, now is the time to store it.

    4. GRAINING and REWORKING: When aiming to make a "hard" soap, salt is added at this point. Any sort of eating salt like the ones from sea water would do. Salting the soap mixture makes the soap rise to the top, often looking quite "grainy" like sand. So this step is sometimes called "graining". This step makes a good solid soap for washing clothes. But it also removes some of the things which make soap nice and safer for people to use on themselves. Soaps that are good for people to use are called "toilet" soaps. However, clothes soap can be used by people - if properly "proved". To make a "grained" soap more useful for humans, it is "reworked". This involves re-melting the "green" soap and adding more grease and/or oils (and lye). The same "proving" and checking for "doneness", steps are followed as for simple soap making, without "graining" (adding salt).

    5. COLORINGS AND PERFUMES: There are perfumes and colorings which may be bought as powders or as liquids. These are added at the last "remelt" before pouring the soap into moulds to "set" (step 5). This article explains a method of using flowers to put perfume right into the beef grease before the soap is actually made. This is a cheaper way of doing it. If you are using liquid perfumes, they will sometimes be affected by heat, so add them well after the soap has been re-melted, and stir in gently before the soap goes hard again. When trying out new perfumes, first test them on a small amount of melted soap, so that you can see how much will be needed for the entire batch. Perfumes will leave the soap and go into the air after a time, so use a bit more perfume than you think you will need when you are making the soap. (Read the section on perfuming, later in this article). Soap made from wood ash lye is a bit brownish. Apple wood makes a whiter soap, as does using caustic soda instead of ash lye. Simple coloring powders are described later on.

    6. POURING AND "SETTING": Before starting to make soap you will need to have made some shaped-moulds for the melted soap to "set" and harden in. You can either have one large block, or many small moulds. A plastic bucket, wet wooden troughs, or small greased wooden moulds can be used.

    7. SPLITTING: When hardened, the soap is "broken out" of the moulds, and if necessary "split" down to useful sizes with a wire or fine cord. Either wear rubber gloves, or put lots of grease on your hands while handling "green" soap.

    8. DRYING: After all this the soap should not be used until it has been aired for about one month or so. It should be stacked so that the air can get at it, but without sunlight or water being able to get near it.


    So, the answer to "mom's" question "How long will it take" is "At least one month from the day I make the soap". That's 30 more days without the use of soap. My wife would find that answer quite unacceptable.

    soap making flowchart


    LET'S MAKE SOME SOAP!

    LYE Water: You must have all the lye water you need for this project already made up. To give you an idea of how much lye water you need overall, 12 pounds of clean rendered beef tallow (about 30 cups of melted tallow) needs about 20 gallons of lye water (160 pints) to completely make soap. If you are going to "re-work" and add oils or fats at the end of the method, you will have to allow for about 1/5th more lye water for that as well. (1/5 of 20 gallons is 4 gallons extra, for a total of 24 gallons.)

    tallow RENDERING Tallow or (MELTING GREASE): You will need three cast iron or stainless steel pots to make soap. The largest pot has to be twice the size of the next smaller pot. In one of the smaller pots melt the amount of fat you want to use over a hot fire. In the other smaller pots heat the lye water. You will not use all of this up at once. Approximately one pint of melted grease reacts with about 12 pints of lye water (at egg-floating strength). When melting grease, put a half-inch of water to stop it burning at the start.

    Many things can upset the balance of grease reacting to lye water. This is what the "proving" methods help sort out.


    HEAT: One variable for balance of grease and lye water is the heat of both the lye and the grease. If you are able to measure the temperatures, aim for the temperatures on the following Mixing Temperatures chart:

    MIXING TEMPERATURES
    Fat TypeFat TempLye Temp
    Treated/Rancid Fat97-100 ° F75-80 ° F
    Sweet Lard/Soft Fat80-85 ° F70-75 ° F
    1/2 Lard and 1/2 Tallow100-110 ° F80-85 ° F
    100% Beef Tallow120-130 ° F90-95 ° F
    STARTING TO MIX: When ready, put the big pot on the fire and spoon one-forth () of the melted grease in. On big jobs, another person should pour in one-forth () of the hot lye water, while the first person stirs the mixture with a wooden stirrer. A broom stick handle will suffice for stirring.

    Continue to add lye and grease, one portion after another, while stirring very well. Keep heating the mixture. The liquid will become stringy and muddy-looking. Continue to add lye water until the mixture looks quite clear, and not so muddy.

    HINTS: If a thick scum of grease forms on top, more lye is needed. If the soap mixture does not thicken, and no scum appears, more grease is needed. If there is a strong thin white streak against brown, more lye is needed. A Quick Test: Drop some mixture on a smooth glass or China plate. It should not split up into oil and water, but stay together. If it splits up, keep stirring for some more time. Add more lye until all the fats or oil disappear.

    The mixture of heated grease and heated lye water should eventually look like cream or light caramel or light brown rice. It is now ready to be tested by a method called "PROVING".

    "PROVING": There are three methods for "proving" given here. Although only one needs to be used, using them all is a good idea when making soap for the first few times. Find out which of the three is best for you.

    proving PROVING METHOD A: Take a clean knife. Lift some soap from the pot on the knife blade and hold it over a cold plate. If the soap turns whitish and falls from the knife in short pieces, there is too much lye add more grease (or oil if you are reworking the "green" soap).

    If the soap falls off the knife blade in long ropy pieces, it needs more lye.

    If it stands transparent (almost clear) on the knife, neither too white or too ropy, the soap is OK.



    proving PROVING METHOD B: Take a one inch by one inch bit of the soap mixture out of the boiling pot and put on a glass (or fired clay/china) plate. If the soap cools transparent with whitish streaks and specks, it is "done". If it is gray and weak-looking, or has a gray bit around the outside, it needs more lye. If there is a gray skin over it, more fat needs to be added.



    proving PROVING METHOD C: This method is known as the "ribbon test". It is very useful during the end of boiling. Take two teaspoons of the mixture out of the pot and cool it on a plate. When cooled, take some of the soap off the plate and press between the thumb and forefinger. The soap should come out from between your fingers looking like shiny ribbons with dull (opaque) ends, and be clear when held up to the light. If the dull ends of the piece of soap between your fingers at first can be seen then disappear, then the soap is too greasy or oily and needs more lye. If the soap is grainy, or turbid (all mixed up looking) and a bit whitish, there is probably too much lye, and more grease or oil is needed.



    proving PROVING METHOD "Tasting": Not a main method and takes a lot of experience. Taste some cooled soap mixture on the tip of the tongue. A sharp "bite" or "burn" shows that there is too much lye in the soap mixture. While no "bite" at all shows that there is too much grease. Add or stir in more lye.



    "DONENESS"

    Keep boiling the mixture until the froth settles down into the pot. Large white bubbles will "POP" over the top of the mixture, as if the soap is "talking". Use method "C" if you're not sure it's "DONE".

    The soap can either now be stored as "soft soap" in a wooden or other "safe container".
    -OR-
    It can be turned into "hard" or solid soap.

    If all you want to make is soft liquid soap, you are done now.


    "HARD SOAP"

    Salt absorbs water, and will attract it more than the soap mixture does. By adding a few handfuls to a large mixture, or less to smaller pots, the soap will float on top of the rest of the mixture.
    A brownish-looking liquid will sink to the right of the pot, and the soap will float on the top.

    The method is very much like the last step of "washing" fat; adding salt, when making grease.

    Here as well, the top layer is left to go cold. It is then taken (or "skimmed") off the surface of the cold mixture.

    Slowly melt it and add a little water (depending on how much "skimmed" soap you have).

    Heat this in a safe pot, and after boiling for only a few minutes, add salt again. Leave to cool, and then skim again.

    Now at this point, you may either re-melt and color (and/or add perfumes) to the soap, and pour into moulds to harden and set, or to improve it quality it may be melted and "re-worked".

    "RE-WORKING"

    Some of the amount of grease used to "re-work" the soap can be added as oil. Coconut oil is said to be the best. The grease being used may be perfumed. (See section on "Perfuming".) If you are to add perfumed grease at this point, then use more petals in treating the grease when perfuming it.)

    RE-MELTING: (See "Grating", below)

    To the re-melted "green" soap, add more grease and/or oil, until it is all melted, then add more lye until the mixture has a "bite" or "burn" to its taste. Continue heating and stirring (not too much stirring) and follow the general method for Soap Making ("proving" and watching for "doneness".) When "done", pour into moulds and set as described in the next section.

    proving GRATING

    Grating means using a sharp metal to break "green" soap up into small pieces. Cutting the soap with a sharp knife is OK, but does not do the best job.


    PERFUMING & COLORING

    When the soap is melted for the last time before pouring into moulds, it can be colored and perfumed. It is best to not do this any earlier in the method, as the lye water could hurt the perfume or coloring. If you have perfumes or coloring things that are safe to eat, try them out on small amounts of soap (split the melted sop into different pots, and try out different things.)

    FLOWERS: There are ways of gathering perfumes from flowers and leaves. The ones used here put the perfume straight into the grease.

    Pick the flowers early in the morning. Choose flowers that have a strong fragrance.

    You can either "scent" (perfume) all the grease, or only the grease you are going to use during "re-working". If you are scenting grease to be used during "re-working", double the amount of flowers used. Take all the green bits off the flowers first.

    The flowers are put into melted grease, and the mixture is heated and kept just at the boiling point for one hour. Leave to harden overnight, then re-melt slowly and strain the flowers out of the melted grease. For normal perfuming of grease, use one cup of flowers for each cup of melted grease.

    If you wish to use leaves instead of flowers, then you will need twice the number of cups of leaves than you would for flowers. With leaves, it is sometimes helpful to heat them slowly with half the number of cups of water as there are cups of leaves. Heat until the water has all gone away, then add to the grease as for flowers.

    SPICE COLORING:

    SpiceAmount in
    Tablespoons per
    cup of grease
    Kind of
    Soap
    Cinnamon 1/2 Tbsp. Sandy
    Paprika 1/2 Tbsp. Pinkish
    Sulfur1 Tbsp. "Medicated"
    Curry 1/2 Tbsp. Brownish
    When the soap is being melted for the last time, coloring things can be added. The ones suggested here are quite common, and easy to find. You can try out your own things but make sure they are safe to eat first. While making soap, keep a note on how much grease is used.

    When coloring, add the number of tablespoons of spice shown for each cup of melted grease or oil which was used. Mix the spice in a little bit of oil.


    POURING & SETTING

    soap moulds

    soap moulds
    There are many kinds of moulds that can be used to form soap bars.

    If you decide to use one large wooden container, soak it in water overnight. Empty out the water and line it with wet cloth just before pouring the soap into it.

    Making a wooden box with sides that can be pulled away is one of the more successful methods of molding soap.

    Leave the soap in the container for between four to five hours (or even overnight). Cover the container with a thick cloth or blanket to prevent the heat from escaping too quickly.

    When pouring bar-shaped soap, use wooden divisions inside the setting mould.

    Making a bar-shaped soap will make it easier to "split" the soap down to useful sizes later on.

    If you are using smaller wooden moulds, you can grease the inside surfaces to make removal easier. Thin wood taken from the cartons some fruit is shipped in will work fine for soap moulds. Most of this wood can be cut and trimmed with a knife. Cut small grooves in the sides of the long boards to hold the thin wood in place while pouring the soap into the mould.


    BREAKING OUT OF MOULDS & "SPLITTING"

    removing soap from moulds REMEMBER: THE SOAP IS STILL "GREEN" AND MUST BE HANDLED CAREFULLY.

    Use RUBBER GLOVES or grease your hands up a lot when touching the soap at this stage.

    When the soap has hardened, remove it from the moulds. If it is already in the shape you want, then stack it to air and harden farther.

    If you want to make the soap bars smaller, "split" it using a fine wire, or a thin strong cord. Using a knife will normally chip the soap and make it break up into shapes which are not useful.


    DRYING & AIRING

    removing soap from moulds Leave the soap to air and dry, becoming a lot harder, for about a month (30 days). Dry hard soap takes longer to use up.

    Stack the soap bars in such a way that will let as much air get around it as possible.

    Keep sunlight and water away from the curing soap.

    When the soap is dry and hard, you can polish it with a soft cloth, and wrap it in shiny or "grease-proof" paper if you want to.

    After using the soap, always put it in a clean dry place, away from sunlight and metal containers or shelves.


    OOPS! Recovering FAILED SOAP

    If your soap seems to have gone completely wrong, you will often be able to recover it by "grating" and "re-working" it using more beef grease and lye, and using the "proving" and "doneness" checks discussed above.

    You would also need to use the salt "graining" method again. This means that if you wish a higher quality soap, you would need to "re-work" the green soap to put back some of the better qualities again.

    If your soap has too much of a bite to it, then you will need to "re-work" it again as well. This is caused by there still being too much lye left in the soap.

    Sometimes the soap will not go hard. Continue boiling it, adding more grease and lye, and using the "proving" and "doneness" checks again. THIS EXTRA BOILING CAN TAKE SOMETIMES TAKE HOURS.

    The entire process of soap making has a lot of "trial and error" in it.

    Credit Where Credit is Due


    Most of this article on soap making came from New Zealand, where it was first published in 1989 under the title "Easy Soap Making" © First edition 1989.

    Refer mail to: Soap C/O-Paul Norman, PO Box 1005, NELSON, New Zealand. Feed back really appreciated! (Paul_Norman_3@compuserve.com).

    Paul Norman's Site


    There are more accurate ways to make soap, and I hope you look them up if you're interested. I give you this one version so you will at least be able to take a bath and wash your clothes while surviving in the woods.