How To Make Your Own Soap
Living of the land is a dirty business. I am sure to feel human again you will periodically want to wash. To do this properly you will need soap. Soap is a survival item that will soon disappear once all the stores are gone. The good news is you can make your own soap after the end of the world as we know it gets here. And unlike a lot of products this one can actually be an improvement over the soap you use today. But probably only after some experimentation and trials and errors. But until making soap becomes second nature to you, you can still make passable soap the first time.
Making soap might be more complex than many envisioned but it can be done with no need for modern technology.
Caution: Some of the chemicals used in the making of soap can be harmful and the potential for a fire is there. Soap should only be made in a well ventilated space. Lye is very caustic and will kill you if you drink it. It will burn the skin so contact should be avoided. Basically it will dissolve you but looks like harmless water. Goggles should be worn to protect your eyes. Keep away from children and label lye as lye because it looks like water. Misidentification can be deadly.
What Ingredients Go Into Making Soap?
You will only need five ingredients to make basic soap.
1) Wood ash
3) Animal fats
4) Plant oils
All of these ingredients will be available to you as you live off of the land.
In addition to the ingredients you will need a buckets or clay jars or pots of some sort.
First step is making LYE WATER!
Soap making uses a caustic solution known as "Lye Water". Something caustic simply means it has a very high pH, or you can think of it as the opposite of acidic.
Lye Water is what you will make soap out of if you don't have lye handy and need to make your own. Lye Water is made out of wood ashes and water.
You will need to burn wood to recover the ashes to make the lye and most woods will do but if you have certain items to burn then these items will make better lye water. These preferred items are palm branches, dried banana peels, cocoa pod oak wood.
Your wood should be burned in a very hot fire to make very white ashes. A large fire that generates a lot of coals that burn down will work great. Easiest to do if you don't try to burn large chunks of wood unless they are consumed by the fire early on. Some sort of rock/metal stove or oven can be used as well to help ensure that the wood is burned hot and complete.
After the fire is out and cold, gather only the finest of ash. Avoid any wood chips left. Place in a bucket or barrel. Do not use metal. Use wood, glass, or plastic containers.
Step two is getting Soft Water
Water from a spring or from showers of rain is called "soft water" even distilled water, because it does not have metallic or acidic chemicals in it.
Regular well or river water is not desired because because it might contain chemicals that will interfere with the soap making chemistry.
If river water is used then you will want to add baking soda to it if you happen to have that available.
STEP 3 MAKING "LYE WATER"
Fill your bucket or barrel with white ashes to within about four inches of the top.
Bring a half bucket of soft water to a boil and pour over the ashes. Now slowly add more soft water. Do not add so much water that the ashes swim/float around.
Let this sit over night or even longer. The liquid should be brown now. You will need to separate the ash from the lye water. via straining or sifting or however you can figure to separate the ash from the brown lye water.
Now you have ash which can be used a fertilizer and your lye water.
Caution: LYE WATER IS DANGEROUS!
Test your lye water if you want to know if you have it at the proper strength usually the color of bourbon is right. If an egg or a potato will float just below half way or if a feather starts to dissolve then your lye water is good. If however as an example the egg sinks then you will need to use the weak lye water with more ash to raise its strength. Do this by boiling a some more water and pour that over some ash and add the lye water to the mix and again let it set over night.
Boiling down the lye water is another way of strengthening it but you obviously will not be able to make as much soap.
Be sure the egg doesn't rise to high (less than half submerged) as this is an indication that the lye is to strong. Add soft water until the egg doesn't float that high.
Next step is getting some Animal Fat. So it is a good idea to do the first couple of steps before you anticipate killing an animal so that you can use the fat right away because animal fat will go rancid pretty quickly.
The fat of most animals can be used in the making of soap but bird fat should only be used sparingly.
Once the animal has been butchered you will need to cut away the fat without any of the meat still attached. 100% pure fat!!! Place the fat in a cast iron frying pan or a big pot.
Melt the fat over a low heat to separate the grease. All animals fats are not created equal and over time you will learn which makes the most and best grease for soap making. Beef is great but there is a good chance you won't be eating much beef if you are in a survival situation.
Pour the melted grease through straining cloths. Cheese-cloth if you have it. The idea is to just get the pure liquids.
Now add equal amounts of water and grease and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat source and add 1/4 as much water. Set aside and let the grease and water solution cool. When the fat has hardened remove the dirty stuff leaving only the clean. Repeat until the dirty looking fat is gone.
On the last "washing" add some salt. One spoon full should suffice.
Fats gathered from cooking can be used but you will need to do the washing process with the addition of vinegar or lemon juice. For each cup (.25 liters) of fat at a couple of spoonfuls of lemon juice and 1/2 cup (.12 liters) of water and boil.
If the smell can not be removed this way then discard and forget about making soap with this.
There you have it. This hardened fat can be stored for later use for a couple of weeks.
The next step is where experience will make you better over time. You must get the right proportions of grease to lye. 12 parts of lye to 1 part of grease is about right. To much lye will cause the soap to burn the skin. Two little and well you will know.
Mix the lye and ten quarts (9.4 liters) of water, and bring to a boil. Add 3 pounds (1.36kg) grease and bring to a boil. Then add 4 quarts (3.78 liters) of water and continue cooking it down. When the mixture is the consistency of heavy syrup, pour it into a mold. Cut into bars when cold.
Obviously adjust amounts to fit what you have available.
Leave some extra lye and grease unused so that you can adjust the concentration of the soap to get it right if the first time the concentration is a bit off.
Leave the new soap undisturbed for two days before removing from mold/bucket. Now cut into bars and place in a well-ventilated area to cure and dry out. Cure like this for at least three weeks in a dark, dry place with ventilation. You now have soap to wash with.
When combining the lye and grease, 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.
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.