Aug 6, 2012

How to make Lye, and what the heck is it used for


When I say lye I do not mean the lies that make you feel dirty. I mean lye that makes you feel clean! Now I live in the city so I am most likely not going to be able to try this unless I have no choice. (best to make out side!)

 The main use for lye in a shtf situation is for making soaps and detergents. It is a very simple thing to make. It is also used to cure olives, noodles and canning some foods because of it alkaline properties. It is even used to clean ovens and unclog drains. One other us is  in the manufacturing of bio fuel.   I came across this Facebook page that has uses for lye on a farm Click Here .

How to make lye 

Before even trying these processes they  recommend being very cautious. Lye is poisonous and should not be allowed to contact skin (read protective note below). Lye is made by taking hardwood ashes and placing them in a container with small holes in the bottom. Water is then added at the top and allowed to leach through the ash. It is caught in a bucket. The leached drippings are lye water. To test the quality of lye, traditionally an egg was placed in the solution of lye water. If the egg sinks in the solution then the water does not contain enough lye and needs to be run through the barrel again. If the egg floats then the solution is considered to be ideal. This is the manner in which lye was traditionally made for use. Among the most common uses of lye were in loosening hair on hides for leather making and in the making of soap. I should add a few more cautions for those of you who would attempt this process with modern materials. Lye is very caustic and plastic containers will not hold up to it. Additionally aluminum has a reaction when exposed to lye and is not suitable as a container either. I recommend using stainless steel, glass, or the traditional wooden barrel as was used by the pioneer era peoples.

 To dry lye water you would simple need to allow the water to evaporate leaving lye crystles left.   I ran across this blog with more info.when looking for a how to dry lye.  Click here

SIDE NOTE: a few other uses for wood ash... 
 De-skunk pets
 Block garden pests and enriches soil good pdf click here
 Melts ice
 Controls pond algae
 Shine silver

Home made lye soap

Lyet is a basic alkaline that will break down all kinds of organic matter (your skin) and is highly corrosive. The the soap is diluted to a safe level.
 Cast iron pans should be used for the mixture because other metals can react with the lye. You’ll need pure lard not fancied up cooking grade. Traditionally hog lard was most  used due to the ease of obtaining large quantities after a hog was slaughtered. I will address how to make lard in another post.  Other oils can be used but lard is best.  Use a wooden spoon.. You can use a glass or cast iron pan or dish can be used for a mold or a wooden mold can be made and lined with rags. You’ll also need a pot to melt the lard if using a cold recipe. The lard should only be liquefied not cooked.

 Experience will improve your skills just like in any other endeavor. Caution: Wear chemical proof gloves. Don’t use the containers or utensils for food items afterward. Wear eye protection. Don’t heat the water before adding the lye as a chemical reaction occurs that will produce some heat. These are two basic recipes below based on our lye making technique.

and remember you can add homemade essential oil to make it smell nice.

Hot Soap
2 Gallons of well mixed lye water
5 Pounds melted lard
Slowly add lye water to the melted lard and cook for 2-3 hours. Pour mix into mold after it cools. In a couple of weeks the soap should be completely cured and ready to cut into bars and use.

Cold Soap
About 2.5 pints of well mixed lye water
5.5 lbs of lard
Melt lard and be sure it’s below 110-120 F. Slowly pour lye water into the fat. Stir until mixture thickens then pour into the mold. Allow 2-3 weeks to cure.
If either of these soaps do not appear completely cured in the specified time give them longer. If too much water is added the bars will be soft and additional cure times allow this excess moisture to evaporate and the bars will harden.

Note of warning: Lye is a strong alkali, producing highly basic solutions. Both wet lye and dry lye solutions are highly caustic and may cause chemical burns, permanent injury or scarring, and blindness. Lye may be harmful or fatal if swallowed. This post is for information purpose for shtf situations only. Personal protective equipment including safety glasses, chemical-resistant gloves, and adequate ventilation are required for the safe handling of lye. When in proximity to lye that is dissolving in an open container of water, the use of a vapor-resistant face mask is recommended. Be aware that adding too much lye to water too quickly can cause the solution to boil and 'spit'. Abstaining from protection can result in serious injuries.

The song for this post is a favorite of mine.. Joe Purdy - Wash Away


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