Keeping clean in times of hardship is essencial to anyone entertaining the subtle desire to survive and stay healthy. Supposedly one of the secrets of
general Patton's success during WW2, was the fact that he demanded all his troops to wash their feet and socks every day. Other names to mention in
this regard would be Florence Nightingale and Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis, who were modern pioneers in hygiene. Few have had greater impact positively on
general health, infant mortality rates, and things like the importance of washing your hands between doing an autopsy and receiving a baby. Semmelweis
suggested doctors be using chlorinated lime solutions. Below is another solution. Homemade soap.
So how do we make our own soap after all the WallMarts have been bombed to smitherines and even water is a limited resource? It would perhaps be a
shocker to some that the process of making soap, nature's way, is quite a dirty process, but then again a fairly simple endavour given you have the
time, so if you want to try it out, doing so outside would be good idea. Haven't actually tried this myself, but after googling and reading up a bit
and watched through a few videos on youtube I feel I'm ready to share my research.
Producing potash lye from ash and rainwater
Firstly, all soap contains some form of lye. There are a couple of different kinds around, common is caustic soda or sodium hydroxide [NaOH] and
potash, potassium carbonate [K2CO3]. Unless you stacked away a box of industrial made lye crystals (i.e. 100% lye drainopener) before the crap hit the
fan, there is a rather simple way to make a substitute (though not as powerful as pure crystals), all you need is a few containers of different shapes
and sizes, a pile of ash and rainwater. If you use ash from wood it will produce a potash lye solution, and if you use ash from seaweeds you will make
the sodium variant which is a tad bit more effective. My set-up below is rather oldschool, but that's the way I like it.
Get a wooden barrel about 20 liters (5 gallons), drill holes in the bottom and place a layer of twigs and straw ontop eachother,
alternately you could also cut out a filter of jute ontop or make your entirely customised filtration system of course. Put some sort of drainable
container (lye eats aluminum for breakfast, so something else) underneath the barrel, preferably with a tap or similar simple system. Put both the
barrel and the container on top of a steady riser of some kind enabling you to place a bucket under the tap, you'll need the extra height!
First fill up the barrel with (preferably) sifted white ash from hardwood.
First use a sturdy stick (like your grandfather's cane, but again, not the aluminium one) to stirr along the edges to form a depression
in the middle of the ashes. Secondly, pour warm rainwater or distilled water into the depression and let it saturate the ash, and keep on refilling
until it's all sticky and nasty. This process is called 'leaching'. Follow intuition for when you have enough water or keep adding more depending on
how much lye you plan to produce. Using about 8 liters or about 2 gallons of rainwater will get you nearly 2 liters or 8 cups of potash lye.
Drain off the brown potash into a third container of some sort only not of aluminium. And voila, you have just made the base ingredient
for soap. To check if it is the real deal try putting an egg or a potato in it, they should float. If it's too weak, repeat the process. Another way
to check the quality of potash is to dip a chickens feather into it. The feather should be coated but not eaten away.
Producing soap from potash lye
To make your soap, you will need an iron kettle and a stove or fire, a wooden utensil of prefered choice for stirring, measuring pots, clarified fat
or olive oil, potash lye and a wooden or clay mould for the soap to cool in.
Mix 1/2 cup of potash lye with 1 cup of fat or oil.
Boil the potash and fat while stirring, until it becomes thick, rubbery and foamy.
Mix in more ingredients like a few drops of your favorite parfume or ethereal oils.
Remove the kettle from the fire and pour it into the mould.
Let it rest in it's mould for about a month before using it.
The lye in potash is highly corrosive, so use rubber gloves and protective eyewear throughout the process. Lye
is not something you want on your cloathes, let alone you skin or in your eyes. If you do get lye on your skin, remove any affected cloathing and
flush under loads of gently running lukewarm water and contact your doctor. The same goes for the eyes if the eyes are affected. Don't bother removing
contact lenses if you use them. Having it checked by a doctor is imperative, if luck is against you or you don't visit the Emergency, you could go
blind or have your vision ruined. Make sure that you have the procedures ready if an accident should happen. Like Douglas Adams says:
Appart from that. Good luck with the end of the world and all, and please drop me a note if you decide to try it out. And do tell if there is
something in my method which is completely wrong or otherwise may improve the process in any way. Also, please, if you know of other methods of making
soap, please share
edit on 15-3-2014 by Utnapisjtim because: Au