Making soap is considered to be an art, though not many people take the effort of making their own soap. However, in olden days, when there were no soap manufacturing companies, this was the only way of obtaining it. During those times, soaps were made by using pig meat and lye. First, the meat was cooked until it turned into lard. Lye was then added to the lard and cooked again for a long time in a large kettle kept directly above the fire, till it became hard. The thing that was a necessity during those times, is now considered a work of art. Here, you can find a recipe for making lye soap and its benefits.
What is Lye?
Lye is one of the main ingredient for making soap. It is a harsh and corrosive solution made of sodium or potassium hydroxide (NaOH or KOH). It is said to be a dangerous chemical solution, and so should be handled with utmost care. If lye is exposed to the skin, it can lead to irritation and also cause harm to the eyes and throat. So, while making lye soap, you have to cover your hands with rubber gloves and your eyes with protective glasses. One must also store lye away from the reach of children. It is also important to follow the instructions written behind the lye box carefully to avoid dangerous incidents. The most popular lye brand is Lewis Red Devil.
Making lye soap is a little difficult process, and it is likely that you may have to face failure initially. But, if you have patience and try it again, you will surely be rewarded. Here is a recipe for lye soap that can be made at home.
- 340 grams or 1 can Red Devil lye
- 7 ⅓ or 5 lbs lard
- 605 grams or 21 ½ oz ice-cold water
- 4-6 quart cast iron/stainless iron pot or a plastic bowl
- 1 shallow cardboard box, lined with plastic thrash bag
- 1 or 2 quart ovenware bowl
- Rubber gloves
- 1 stainless steel, plastic, or wooden spoon
- Take ice-cold water in the 1 or 2 quart bowl. Freezing half of the water into ice cubes would also be a good idea. Once this is ready, add the lye slowly while continuously stirring, till all the lye is completely dissolved in the water.
- Let the mixture of water and lye become warm by covering it with a lid. Keep it in the same manner till the temperature of the mixture becomes 85°F.
- In the stainless steel, iron, or plastic pot, heat the fat until it melts completely. Once this is done, keep it for cooling till its temperature reduces to 95°F.
- When this is done, begin stirring the melted liquid. At the same time, start pouring the lye-water solution into it. You have to continuously stir the mixture, otherwise it may separate.
- The liquid will go through various stages including creamy, heavy cream, and finally like a hot cooked pudding. The time required for this can range anywhere between 15-45 minutes, as per the climatic conditions and also the temperature.
- After this, the next step would be to transfer the solution into the lined cardboard box. Let it stay in the box for some time. After 4-5 hours, it would be ready to be cut in the form of bars. However, you should not cut it with a sharp knife, use a table knife instead. You can use this facial and body soap after a month.
Most of the commercial soaps do not contain glycerin that helps the skin retain moisture. So, the use of such soaps can make your skin dry and itchy. However, this would not happen if you use homemade soap. When lye and fat are combined, a chemical process called saponification occurs, which releases glycerin as a byproduct. Other than this, you would also receive the satisfaction of making something on your own. Also, the products used to make soap would be far more inexpensive than buying a ready-made soap from the market.
Making lye soap can be tedious and difficult, but it is rewarding. One should remember to maintain extreme caution during the entire process to avoid any injuries. Once you master the process, you can use your creativity to make different colored, shaped, and scented soaps.