i spent last night learning how to make homemade goat milk soap with wood ash lye with my sweet friend Bekah.
the night was filled with learning.
we used frontierfreedom.com for tips.
so basically if you don't know much about lye--just be aware it's dangerous & crazy.
Bekah made her own lye out of apple tree wood ashes (yes that chick is awesome).
we found out that she didn't make enough so round two of goat milk soap making will happen soon when more lye is made.
we had so much fun learning & wearing her kitchen towels as bandanas around our faces so we wouldn't breathe in lye fumes.
i felt like a scientist.
here is a little explanation about lye:
Wood Ash Lye vs. Commercial Lye
homemade lye is Potassium Hydroxide and can be made rather simply at home from wood ashes--Potassium Hydroxide makes a softer soap, so the fat or oils used will need to be beef tallow (beef fat) or even lard (pig fat).
commercial lye is Sodium Hydroxide, which is much more complex to manufacture, and is often used in drain openers. In order for commercial lye to work properly in soap, it must be pure Sodium Hydroxide, which is becoming difficult to find in grocery stores.
begin with a 5 gallon bucket of rain water. while nature and gravity work together to provide soft water, grab an old pillow case and fill it with wood ashes.
place the pillow case full of ashes in a separate 5 gallon bucket.
boil about a gallon of rainwater. with the pillowcase stretched open to the same size as the bucket, pour the boiling hot rain water into the ashes. boil more rain water and repeat this process until the ashes are completely covered. with the hot water covering the ashes, close the pillow case and lift and lower the pillowcase in and out of the water, like making tea.
this dipping process continues for some time --- about one and a half hours. lift the pillow case out of the bucket, strain it, and pour the water into your pan.
cook the contents of the pan, which contain water and lye(Potassium Hydroxide). the reason for cooking this mixture instead of going straight to combining it with the fat is to boil the water away so that you could use the lye faster.
occasionally, check the strength of the mixture with a chicken feather. the rule is, the lye is strong enough to make soap when a chicken feather begins to dissolve in the solution.
continue to boil the mixture down to almost nothing. be careful when the level of liquid gets low, as you can scorch the lye.