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Photo by Monstera: https://www.pexels.com/photo/handmade-brown-soap-on-timber-board-near-aromatic-oil-6621335/

Making soap

Making your own soap on a small farm or homestead can be a fun and rewarding DIY project. Here’s a simple guide to creating soap using ingredients found right there on the farm:

Ingredients You’ll Need:

  1. Animal Fat or Plant Oils: Look for fats like lard from pigs, tallow from cows, or oils like coconut, olive, or sunflower. These fats/oils are the main ingredients for soap.
  2. Lye: You’ll need lye, which is a chemical made from wood ashes or can be bought. It’s essential for turning the fats/oils into soap. Be extra careful when handling lye, as it can be harmful if not used properly.
  3. Water: You’ll need water to mix with the lye.


  1. Heat Source: You’ll need a heat source, like a stove or fire, to melt the fats/oils.
  2. Container: Find a heat-resistant container to mix the lye with water.
  3. Pot and Spoon: Use a pot to melt the fats/oils and a spoon for stirring.
  4. Mold: You’ll need a mold to shape the soap. You can use a simple box lined with parchment paper or a silicone mold.

Step-by-Step Guide:

Step 1: Safety First: Wear protective gear like gloves and safety goggles when handling lye. Work in a well-ventilated area.

Step 2: Melt Fats/Oils: Heat the fats/oils in a pot until they become liquid. If using animal fats, you may need to render them first.

Step 3: Mix Lye and Water: Slowly add lye to water in a heat-resistant container, stirring carefully. The mixture will get hot and release fumes, so be cautious.

Step 4: Combine Lye Solution and Fats/Oils: Once the lye solution and fats/oils have cooled to around the same temperature, slowly pour the lye solution into the fats/oils, stirring continuously.

Step 5: Stir and Thicken: Stir the mixture until it thickens to a consistency called “trace.” It should be like pudding.

Step 6: Pour into Mold: Pour the soap mixture into the mold. You can add herbs, flowers, or essential oils for fragrance and added benefits.

Step 7: Let It Set: Leave the soap in the mold for about 24 hours to set and harden.

Step 8: Cut and Cure: Once set, take the soap out of the mold and cut it into bars. Place the bars on a shelf or rack to cure for 4-6 weeks. Curing makes the soap milder and long-lasting.

Step 9: Enjoy Your Homemade Soap: After curing, your homemade soap is ready to use! It’s a wonderful, natural soap made with ingredients from your very own farm or homestead.

Remember, soap-making with lye requires some caution, so it’s a good idea to have an adult or experienced soap-maker help you with the process. Have fun and enjoy making your own farm-fresh soap!

Making lye

Making lye from wood ashes is a traditional method used for soap-making and other purposes. Here’s a simple guide to making lye from wood ashes:

Materials You’ll Need:

  1. Wood Ashes: Collect wood ashes from a wood-burning stove, fireplace, or campfire. Hardwood ashes (from trees like oak, maple, or beech) work best, but softwood ashes can also be used.
  2. Container: Find a container with a spout or small hole at the bottom to collect the lye solution.
  3. Bucket: You’ll need a larger bucket to collect the lye water that drips from the container.
  4. Water: You’ll need clean water to leach the lye from the ashes.
  5. Safety Gear: Wear protective gear like gloves and safety goggles when handling wood ashes and lye water.

Step-by-Step Guide:

Step 1: Prepare the Container: Take a container with a spout or drill a small hole near the bottom. This container will hold the wood ashes.

Step 2: Line the Container: Line the container with a few layers of clean cloth or straw. This will help keep the ashes from falling out while allowing the lye solution to drain.

Step 3: Fill with Ashes: Fill the container with wood ashes, gently tapping them down to remove air pockets.

Step 4: Collect the Lye Water: Place the ash-filled container on top of the larger bucket. Slowly pour clean water over the ashes, letting it trickle down through the ash layers. The water will dissolve the alkali compounds in the ashes and create lye water.

Step 5: Collect Lye Water: As the water filters through the ashes, it will collect in the bucket below. This liquid is your lye water, which contains potassium hydroxide (KOH) and other alkali compounds.

Step 6: Test the Lye: To test the strength of the lye, you can use a simple “float test.” Place a fresh egg in the lye water; if it floats with a small part exposed, the lye is strong enough for soap-making. If it sinks too much or entirely, the lye is too weak and may need to be concentrated by boiling off some water.

Step 7: Use or Store Lye: You can use the lye water immediately for soap-making or other purposes. If you have more lye than needed, store it in a labeled, tightly sealed container away from children and pets. Keep in mind that lye is caustic and should be handled with care.

Important Note: Making lye from wood ashes requires caution. Lye is a strong alkaline substance that can cause burns and irritations. Always wear protective gear, handle lye carefully, and work in a well-ventilated area.

Remember, making lye from wood ashes is an ancient and valuable skill, but it should be approached with care and respect for safety.

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