Is lye easy to find?

BlueMountain

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My grandma used to make her own lye (she was born in 1888 and a country woman all her life). She used a wooden flour barrel (she also used to buy flour in barrels) and drilled holes in the bottom. The barrel was then set up on a wooden platform with a slope to it under the eave of the house where rainwater came down. She lined the wooden platform with corn shucks and funnelled them down towards a metal bucket. She dumped her ashes from the fireplace and cook stove in the barrel and when it rained, water ran off the roof into the barrel, filtered through the ashes and the product that came out the bottom and ran down the corn shucks into the bucket was lye. She used this to make soap using lard she producted in the fall when she and the family butchered pigs. Now, I am not advocating anyone do it this way, grandma was making soap for the whole family to last a year at a time but, I wonder if there is a way to do this on a smaller scale?
 

freemotion

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My grandmother was younger than yours....I think she was born in 1889.....and my dad remembers her making soap in a caldron outside in the fall after all the fat was collected from the slaughtering of the larger animals. Don't know if she made her own lye, she probably did! I've read instructions on how to do it, I will probably try it some day......maybe this winter, just to say I did it.

One of the borrowed books I'm reading now has instructions....is it the Reader's Digest Back to Basics, or the Yankee magazine self sufficiency book, from the same era?

But I do like the control and consistant results from using commercial lye.....
 

Tracylhl

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I had a very hard time finding lye for a long time. If you can find a drain cleaner called Roebic Crystal Drain Opener, it's 100% lye. I couldn't even find that but did find an out-of-the-way mom-and-pop hardware store that had some that looks like it's been in inventory for about 20 years or more. You probably won't find it in the big chains but if you can find someplace that's been around for longer than people have been using it for illegal purposes, you may have a good shot! I was a little surprised when they handed it to me and said "Are ya makin' soap?!" Everywhere else I had gone, people glared at me like I was planning to make drugs or blow the place up!
 

Lil Chickie Mama

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I found it at Ace hardware and at the grocery store. Both times I got the same brand but I forget what it was. The first time (Ace) I read it saying 100% lye flakes, and I was so paranoid that I might get the wrong product that I asked the worker there if that meant everything in the bottle was 100% lye or if the lye flakes that were in there were 100% lye and there was other stuff or flakes of something else in there too. Poor guy. Anyway it worked great and I had some beautiful Castile soap. I just a few days ago made Pine tar soap and it is coming along quite nicely! I have some goats milk soap that I will be making in a few days when my order from AAChemicals comes in with some coconut oil (didn't find it in the store, but didn't look hard) and other stuff. I will also be trying liquid soap as I ordered KOH too which you can't find ANYWHERE around here except online. Oh, I'm so glad other people make soap and I'm not a loon like other people seem to think!
 

Lil Chickie Mama

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Oops, I forgot to say that as for the old fashioned way of making lye, it does work (I haven't done it personally) but it makes inconsistent batches. Some may be stronger than others so the amount you would need to use would vary but you wouldn't know if you needed to use more or less until you either aren't cleaning well or are burning your skin off from what I understand. However, if someone were able to do it, by all means, let us know how it goes!!
 

dancingbear

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I've yet to make a batch, I haven't been able to find lye here, it may be illegal to sell in KY. I don't know, if any of you folks do know, please tell me.

I do have a few folks I talk to online who have made soap for years, and the subject of home-made lye from wood ashes came up. I was told that lye from wood ashes is potassium hydroxide, rather than sodium hydroxide, and that you have to add salt (I don't know how much) in order to make the soap harden. Otherwise you get soft, squishy soap. Fine, if you want soft, squishy soap, maybe for laundry or shampoo. Not so good if you want a solid bar.

Also I've read for year that you need the lye to be concentrated enough that a fresh hen's eggs will float in it. So if the egg sinks, I guess you'd pour the weak lye solution through another batch of wood ashes, to make it stronger, and repeat until you can float an egg in it.

I hope to obtain some lye soon, so I can try my hand at making soap. I haven't tried drug stores, I'll check that out.
 

freemotion

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It sometimes shows up in hardware stores as drain opener. I had to have my local hardware store order it for me, I got a whole case for a great price. You can always order it online if you can't get it locally. Mine is Rooto brand.
 

Lil Chickie Mama

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dancingbear said:
Also I've read for year that you need the lye to be concentrated enough that a fresh hen's eggs will float in it. So if the egg sinks, I guess you'd pour the weak lye solution through another batch of wood ashes, to make it stronger, and repeat until you can float an egg in it.
This is really interesting, I'm going to look it up! Hopefully I'll be getting fresh eggs from my girls anyday now!
 
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