Alternatives to lye for making soap?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by emulkahi1, Feb 11, 2008.

  1. emulkahi1

    emulkahi1 Well-Known Member

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    Back in November, we got a couple of bison for our freezer (from a ranch that raises them). There was a lot of fat on them....I included as much as seemed reasonable into the grind we made, but there was a good bit leftover. So I tried my hand at rendering it down into....what would it be......tallow?

    Anyway, it has been in the fridge since then (yep, I am good at procrastination)....It is still good (doesn't smell at all, looks just fine, etc). My intentions are to make soap with it. Kinda intimidated by that thought....but I was by the prospect of rendering it too, and that wasn't all that bad (I've never done any of this before). Anyway, we live about 50 miles from the 'big' city, which is the closest place I think I can get lye. I've already called around here, with no luck.

    We'll likely be making a trip down sometime in the next couple of weeks, but I was really hoping to tackle this soap-making thing before then. I've not seen a soap-making recipe that does not call for lye, so I am guessing that it is a requirement. I know that if I was careful about the wood that we burn, I could gather the ash from our woodstove and MAKE the stuff, but that would be yet another first for me and sometimes I am a bit overwhelmed by figuring out how to do all of this stuff. I would much rather just buy it this time 'round :p. I've got the word out amongst some friends of ours....seeing if anyone has some just lying around (oh dear....no pun intended, lol :doh: ). Nobody has thus far (though I remain helpful). In the meantime though.....

    Does anyone know of any alternatives to lye for making soap? (Of course, any other tips, do's, don'ts, etc are VERY welcome too :D). Thanks so much!

    Erin
     
  2. Cheribelle

    Cheribelle Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I get my lye at an Amish country store, but haven't needed any for a while, so I guess I am hoping they still have it. Try a soap making supply on-line store.
    I freeze it when I make lard from our butchering, it stays perfect until we need it, and let me tell you, fried fish was Never Better than when fried in lard!
    But I also make suet cakes with it for the birds, mixing in seeds. Those are also in the freezer until I use them.
     

  3. Carolyn

    Carolyn Well-Known Member

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    Yes you are correct, you can't make soap without lye. I wouldn't attemt to make my own lye at this point in time. there are many online sources for lye. I would think that there would be so many variables to making your own lye. We make and sell goats milk soap and I know there are many that have made soap for many years that will jump in here.
    We are getting ready for spring craft sales and are making at least 1,000 bars to start with and we are now getting returning monthly customers. We only use our own soap for ourselves, children and use it in homemade laundry detergent. There is soapmaking on this forum, check it out. are you going to use cold process or hot process? There are many wonderful soap making sites available. Oh, make sure you get 100% lye and make sure your fat isn't rancid before you start. Good luck, we love our soap and love making it. Carolyn
     
  4. Simpler Times

    Simpler Times Well-Known Member

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    Roebic Crystal Drain Cleaner comes in a version that is pure Sodium Hydroxide (lye). You can buy it at Lowes. Check the label and be sure what you are getting is pure Sodium Hydroxide.
     
  5. Shrek

    Shrek Singletree Moderator Staff Member

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    A woman here who makes soap buys hers through the local plumbing supply store in pure sodium hydroxide drain cleaner in small containers
     
  6. Woodroe

    Woodroe Well-Known Member

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    Tractor supply has the same stuff. "Roebic"
     
  7. Wisconsin Ann

    Wisconsin Ann Happy Scrounger

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    You should be able to find lye (Roebic brand or another) thru Lowe's, or a home/farm type store, or Ace Hardware type store. It will probably be in the plumbing area...mostly used as a commercial drain cleaner now. as another here said, make sure the label says "sodium hydroxide" of 100% lye.

    there are suppliers online, but shipping is pretty expensive, and it is a hazardous material.

    Most hardware stores or farm stores should be able to order it in for you. You may have to ask managers about it tho....I've found the regular floor personnel are fairly, um....let's just say they don't know how the store works :)

    as to making your own: I've done it. it's not difficult, but what you're making is not sodium hydroxide, but potassium hydroxide. You would have to do some testing with your fat to see what proportion makes the best/hardest soap.

    there are some sites online that explain (with pictures) how to leach hardwood ashes to get lye. just google "how to make lye" (without the ") and you'll come up with dozens. quite a few of the "how to make your own biodiesel" sites also show how to make lye.

    remember that no matter what type of lye you use...it's VERY VERY caustic. use cold water with the commercial crystals. wear eye protection. chemical gloves. the stuff can burn you with just one drop.

    that being said...:D soap making is a LOT of fun.
     
  8. Forerunner

    Forerunner Well-Known Member

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    For what it's worth, making lye of wood ash is very simple.
    We make lots of it for buckskin tanning.
    Obtain either a couple good five gallon buckets with lids, or a thirty gallon plastic drum. Drill a pencil-sized hole in the side of your container(s), just off the bottom. Fill the container with hardwood ashes. Put another plastic bucket under the drilled hole, and pour a gallon or two of water over your ashes.
    The liquid that seeps through the little hole--and it will take some time--is potassium hydroxide.
    As for using that form of lye for soapmaking, my wife used to do that, but she's not here to draw wisdom from anymore.
    The resultant product from the wood ash operation is a liquid.
    It can be condensed to crystals through mildly heated dehydration.

    http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/paul_norman_3/soapmake.htm
     
  9. KatieTx

    KatieTx Well-Known Member

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    For some great soapmaking info/instrucions, try this site:

    www.millersoap.com

    and you can order lye, reasonably priced from texasnaturals.com

    Good luck!
     
  10. unioncreek

    unioncreek Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Actually the liquid that comes out is sodium hydroxide, regular lye. Potassium hydroxide will work to make soft soaps, but not hard soaps. My Grandma would make hard soaps using lye that she got from wood ashes.

    Bobg
     
  11. emulkahi1

    emulkahi1 Well-Known Member

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    Thank you, everyone, for all of your helpful replies!!!! I didn't realize that lye could have....pseudonyms :D. This is hopeful though because that means that maybe the hardware store DOES have it, and I just need to ask for the right thing. I'd asked if they had lye, not knowing that it could be such an elusive thing, and they said "no." I was kinda surprised.....But anyway, I'll give it another go.
    ummmmmmm.....lol. I think I better check out some of these sites you all mentioned cuz I didn't know there WERE two different processes :p. Lots to learn I suppose. Oh well, gotta start somewhere, right :)?

    Thanks again!!!! I am off to call around again, asking for "Roebic Crystal Drain Cleaner" (100% Sodium Hydroxide)!

    Erin
     
  12. MullersLaneFarm

    MullersLaneFarm Well-Known Member

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    As my friend Chris said years ago, "No Lye, no soap. No Lie".

    PM me about lye
     
  13. MullersLaneFarm

    MullersLaneFarm Well-Known Member

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    Pot Ash (lye made from ashes) is more like KOH than NaOH. Now if salt was added to the pot ash, it would react more like NaOH.

    Also, which wood the ashes were from will affect the density of the lye.
     
  14. Wisconsin Ann

    Wisconsin Ann Happy Scrounger

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    well, sorry to disagree, but no. There is more potassium hydroxide in the leeched water than sodium. there is SOME sodium hydroxide, but very little. The potassium hydroxide will make nice hard soap. you just have to adjust your oils/lard to get the correct equation. watch the PH on the lye. Generally PH of potassium hydroxide (or potash as it is also called) is max 11. Sodium hydroxide is max 13.

    If you think about it, if wood ash had a high degree of sodium hydroxide in it, it would be really bad for gardens. the potassium in the woodash makes it extremely beneficial for gardening.

    and yes, potassium hydroxide IS referred to as lye. It's what was used for millenia to make soap. After chemists started creating things, we got sodium hydroxide in an easy to use form, and since it's stronger, higher PH, easier to crystalize...it's become the standard for lye.

    from merriam webster dictionary: Lye:A strong alkaline solution or solid of potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide
     
  15. emulkahi1

    emulkahi1 Well-Known Member

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    YAY :D! I just called the hardware store (pretty much the only store) asking for the Roebic's drain cleaner and they DO have it!! Cool. So I will have to make a trip up there and get some later. Yikes though. That means I'm not gonna have an excuse to procrastinate further with this job :eek:. Oh well, here's hoping it won't be too scary the first time 'round!!

    Thanks again for your help everyone :D!

    Erin
     
  16. bbbuddy

    bbbuddy Well-Known Member

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    There is more than one kind of Reobics drain cleaner, be sure it does NOT contain some differently colored crystals in the plain white lye.
     
  17. Carolyn

    Carolyn Well-Known Member

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    There is also one called Rooters. Carolyn