This is an idea I have been meaning to try for quite a long time, but to be honest I was put off by the long processing time and complex method involved. Having now tried it – its not that hard and though it does take some time to produce a usable soap, it doesn’t take that much actual work.
Most methods use a barrel, but lets face it, most of us don’t own a barrel – let alone one we want to make holes in the bottom of. So I have adapted this to be much simpler.
Drill some holes in the bottom of a bucket (the plastic needs to be the right kind, look on the bottom for a PP5 symbol)
Add a layer of pebbles or gravel to the bucket, followed by a layer of straw. This will act as a filter for the Lye.
Add hard wood ashes. I used a large bowl full – about 3 days ash from our stove.
Suspend the bucket over another clean bucket, again making sure the plastic is PP5.
Pour an equal amount of soft water over the ashes. Its important not to use tap water, rain water is ideal.
!!!At this point the solution is lye, an acid that can burn. Wear goggles and gloves for every stage after this!!!
Leave to strain overnight, then, carefully, pour the strained water collected back over the ashes a second time, to strengthen the lye solution.
Transfer the lye solution to a saucepan and heat on the hob to reduce. You’ll need some way of testing the PH. You can buy cheap paper strips. Reduce the lye solution until the PH reaches 13.
Melt 250g of lard in a separate pan. Stir in 80ml of warm lye solution and a quarter teaspoon of salt. stir vigorously (a hand blender is ideal) for 1 minute. Cover and wait 15 minutes and mix again.
Repeat until you can reach trace point (when you can draw a spoon through the mix and it holds the shape). This can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours.
Pour into molds and leave to set fully. Remove from the molds and leave to cure for 6 weeks before using.
To test the soap to make sure its ready, simply wet the soap with water and rub your hands on the soap to form bubbles. Place a pH strip on the wet soap to get a pH reading. Your soap is ready to use when it has a PH of 9-10. If its higher, leave to cure for a while longer.
*update* this did not work so I’m back to experimenting