How to Make Lye Soap and Other Homemade Concoctions

The History of Soapmaking

Over the past several years there has been a renewed interest in the art of soapmaking. This form of art has been around for centuries. Long ago, soap making was not considered an artform, but a necessity. Our ancestors usually made soap in the fall after the fall butchering, when they had plenty of fat from their hogs. They cooked the fat down to make lard. To the lard, they added lye which was made from wood ash. Our ancestors then cooked and cooked this concoction outside in a large kettle over a fire until it began to harden. The whole process took a very long time, but was necessary for the cleanliness of the family until the next soapmaking day, which was usually a whole year away.

This soap wasn’t just used to keep hands clean…it was used for everything. Housewives used the lye soap to wash their dishes, clothes, floors, windows, and even their babies. The soap surprisingly was not as harsh as some people of today believe.


Getting Started

There are several things you need to know before you begin your soapmaking experience.

  • Lye which you can either make yourself from woodash, or purchase at a grocery store,is very irritating to the skin and can do severe damage to eyes and throats. Use extreme caution when using lye, aways keeping it away from children. You should use rubber gloves and saftey glasses when using lye. Follow the directions on the back of the lye box on how to handle lye. Red Devil is a popular brand of lye.
    You can also make your own lye by pouring water over wood ashes and saving the biproduct–lye water. The lye water is then added to fat to make soap.
  • Although lard is the main ingredient in soap, one can successfully substitute other oils to use in its place. Possible substitutions for lard can be sunflower, canola, or just vegetable oil.(I have found that soap made from oil is greasier than that made of lard.) Lard can be purchased at a grocery store or a butcher shop.
  • The utensils you use in soapmaking should be saved for soapmaking use only and should not be use thereafter for food purposes. This goes for the kettle you cook the soap in too, although I have used my enamelware canning kettle to can in after using it for soapmaking…I gave it a good scrubbing, of course.
    You must not use metal pans and utensils,like aluminum,iron,tin,or teflon for soap making. You can use cast iron (as in a kettle, if you are making it outside over a fire)or enamelware,stoneware,wood, glass or plastic.
  • Always add lye to cold water. Not vise-versa.Remember to stir slowly to avoid splashes. The water will start heating up once the lye is added, due to a chemical reaction.Afterwards, pour the lye solution into the fat, once again stirring slowly.
  • Chunks in your bar soap is caused by the separation of the lye and the lard. The chunks are the fat. If this happens, melt the mixture and add a cup of water at a time, until the mixture is thick and syrupy again.
  • You can make your own soap molds out of a rag-lined box or glass cake pans or casseroles. Simply slice the bars with a knife after the soap has cured for a week.

Soap Recipes

I know the trend right now is to add wonderful smelling scents and beautiful tints to homemade soaps. I have given up doing this because both the scents and the colors fade after a very short time, and to me it isn’t worth the extra expense and effort. You are suppose to use essential oils when adding scent to your soap, but I cannot tell a diffence between it and any other scent.


Boiled Soap No.1 For cooking outdoors in a kettle.

32 pounds lard

16 quarts soft water

8 cans lye

Boil 2 hours and then add 1 more gallon of water.Stir and remove fire from kettle and pour into molds.


Boiled Soap No.2

2 gallons of soft water

1 can lye

5 pounds lard

Heat the fat. In a separate container, add lye to water. Add the lye water to the fat and cook for 2 hours.


Cold Soap No. 1

6 lbs melted fat

1 can lye

2 1/2 pints water

Add lye to water and dissolve. When container which holds the lye water is warm, add the fat and stir until cool. Pour into a cloth lined box, or a box that has been dipped in cold water, and cover. Cut soap into squares when set.


Cold Soap No.2

1 cup fat

1/2 cup cold water

1 1/2 T. lye

1 T. powdered borax (optional)

1 T. ammonia (optional)

Melt fat. In a separate container,add borax and ammonia to lye. Add lye( with the borax and ammonia in it) to water. Then, add the lye solution to the fat. Beat with an egg beater for 20 minutes.


Cold Soap No.3

1 can lye

2 1/2 pints of cold water

5 1/2 pounds lard

Dissolve lye in water and set aside until temperature is less than 80 degrees. Melt the fat and set aside until temperature is 115 degrees. Very slowly pour dissolved lye into fat. Stir until it thickens, and pour into mold.


Laundry Soap

11 cups water

1 cup borax (found at the grocery store in the detergent aisle.)

1 cup bleach

9 cups melted fat (around 95 degrees)

1- 13 oz. can lye

Using an 8 quart or larger pan, add water. Then very slowly add the lye to the water. Stir constantly until the lye is dissolved. Slowly pour the lye water into the fat. Stir and add the bleach, borax, and any scent if you so desire. Stir. Every half hour, stir the mixture. It will soon resemble cottage cheese. You can break up chunks with a potatoe masher. Leave overnight, and for the next several days, stir occasionally to dry the soap out. When almost dry, pour into a plastic-lined box and leave until completely dry (about 2 days.) To use,blend one cup of soap in the blender to a fine consistency. Keep in mind that this soap is low sudsing. The harder the water you have, the less suds you will have. Softening your water will produce more suds.


Concoctions and Home Remedies

I have added this section on concoctions and homemade remedies just for fun, and I cannot guarantee their success when you use them. These are remedies and concoctions are ancestors used in the old days and may or may not work for you.

Natural Cures

Arthritis Relief

Make a tea made out of Alfalfa–either the leaves or seeds.


Athlete’s Foot Cure

4 oz. red clover

1 quart boiling water

Pour boiling water over clover and let steep. When cool, soak feet for 30 minutes. Dry feet in the sun when possible.


Cold Prevention

Sassafrass root

4 cups water

Add root to boiling water and allow to steep several minutes. The longer it steeps, the stronger the flavor. (I like mine strong. I let it simmer for about 15 minutes or longer.)Strain and drink daily in the spring of the year.


Cold Remedy

Juice of 1 lemon

2 T. honey

1 shot rum

Pour lemon juice,honey,and rum in an 8 oz. glass and fill with boiling water. Stir with a cinnamon stick and sip.


Cough syrup

Make a syrup of honey and vinegar. Take by the teaspoonful every couple of hours.


Eye Strain Relief




Make a tea from one or more of the ingredients above. Soak a cloth in the tea and lay it on your forehead for a few minutes.


Headache Cure




Orange Peel


Using one of the ingredients above, make a compress for your head, or sniff for headache relief.


Memory Aid

1 tsp. Rosemary

1 tsp. sage

2 cups boiling water

Make a tea of the above ingredients. Steep for 5 minutes, strain, and drink daily.


Poison Oak and Ivy Relief

Sassafrass root

1 cup boiling water

Make a good strong cup of sassafrass tea and allow to cool. Apply tea to affected areas several times a day.


Sore Throat Relief No.1

Gargle with a mixture of honey and vinegar.

Sore Throat Relief No.2

Gargle with salty water

Sore Throat Relief No.3

2 T. vinegar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup hot water

Mix the above ingredients and gargle.


Stomachache Remedy

Drink peppermint tea or blackberry juice.


Toothache Relief

Drop some vanilla extract on the sore tooth


Worm Cure

For worms in the intestines, eat a head of garlic every day until they are gone.

For ringworm,take the green hull of a walnut and crush it. Apply the juice to the affected area.


Homemade Beauty Aids

Corn and Wart Removal

Make a juice from the stem, head and leaves of a dandelion. Apply several time daily to the corn or wart.


Powder No.1

1/2 C. Corn Starch

1/2 C. Baking Soda

1/4 t. essential oil

Mix together and apply with a powder puff.

Powder No.2

1/4 C. cornstarch

1/2 t. alum

Mix and apply with a powder puff or from a shaker top.


Face Cleanser

Fill a small, white, cloth bag with oatmeal and wet with water. Scrub face with the wet bag. Rinse face with fresh water.



2 T. Baking Soda

1 tsp. salt

Mix with water to form a paste.


Hair Conditioner No.1

After shampooing hair, massage an egg yolk into hair. Rinse well.

Hair Conditioner No. 2

After shampooing hair, massage 1 T. mayonnaise into hair. Rinse well.


Hair Rinse No. 1

1 T. Apple Cider Vinegar

1 pint water

Mix together. After shampooing hair, pour over hair. Do not rinse out.

Hair Rinse No.2 for lightening hair over time

Juice of 1 lemon

1 pint water

After shampooing hair, pour mixture over hair. Do not rinse out.

Hair rinse No. 3for darkening hair over time

1 pint tea

after shampooing hair, pour tea on hair. Do not rinse out.


Hot Oil Treatment for Hair

2 T. Warm Olive oil

Massage oil into hair before shampooing and allow to penetrate for several minutes. Shampoo as usual.


Facial Mask

1 egg white

Whip the egg white and apply to face. Lie down and allow egg white to harden. Wash off.


Hand Lotion

1/2 C. water

2 vitamin E pills

2 T. baby oil

essential oil to scent

Break open the vitamin E tablets and add to water. Add baby and essential oil and stir. Store in capped bottle.


Homemade Household Cleaners

Wallpaper Cleaner

1 cup flour

1 T. salt

1 tsp. kerosene

2 tsp. ammonia

2 tsp. vinegar

1/2 cup warm water

Mix and boil for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Cool, knead and form into balls. Rub over paper,discarding the balls as they become soiled.


Floor Cleaner

1/2 c. white vinegar

1 c. warm water

Mix and use on vinyl floors.


Drain Opener

1/2 c. baking soda

1/2 c. vinegar

Pour baking soda and then vinegar down the drain. Seal for 10-15 minutes then rinse with boiling water. Repeat if necessary.


Glass Cleaner

1/4 c. white vinegar

1 quart water

Pour into a spray bottle and spray on windows. Wipe dry with a crumpled newspaper.


Dishwasher Detergent

Sprinkle dirty dishes with baking soda and start machine. During the wash cycle, add a small amount of bleach to sanitize your dishes.


Scouring Powder for Sinks

Use Baking soda to scrub grime. Vinegar will loosen lime deposits, and a bit of bleach will disinfect.

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Muhammad Ramzan Rafique
Muhammad Ramzan Rafique

I am from a small town Chichawatni, Sahiwal, Punjab , Pakistan, studied from University of Agriculture Faisalabad, on my mission to explore world I am in Denmark these days..

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