New Mexico Urban Homesteader

Hello, I am A 50 Something, Prepper ;-}; former 60's Flower Child, don't believe in taxpayer subsidized special interest groups (political parties), DO believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (1st 10). Long time Independent & Informed Voter. Lover of the outdoors and firm believer that History Teaches - if only we will listen!

(No longer Urban or in NM. Now Rural in the mountains of Maine.)

This blog was started at the request of some dear friends that wish to become Preppers.

“No man who is not willing to help himself has any right to apply to his friends, or to the gods.”

Demosthenes (384–322 BC, Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Where’s The Lye?

What is soap?: Fatty acid (oil/lard) + Base (lye) = “A Salt” (soap). Believe it or not folks, there is no such thing as lye free soap – soap just isn’t soap without lye!!! In fact if you make your soap correctly, very little lye remains in the final product, thanks to all those crazy chemical reactions. Yep, just enough lye remains so that it is indeed soap and does indeed clean your bod or whatever. (See links to articles on Leaching Lye and Rendering Lard at the end of this article.)

My last lye order at the beginning of the year took 6 weeks; my current order is going on 8 weeks and is still listed as “backordered”. What the hey-hey?

So what can a person do when their lye order seems to be lost in the black hole of backorderville?

Cheat, get one of the following soaps, grate/shred it up and rebatch, adding your own oils, glycerin and or scents. For those of you that are penny pinching or frugal, saving old slivers of soap gives you prime rebatching material. You can even make your own essential oils out of the plants from your garden. (See links on that at the end of this article.) Yep, there is enough lye in these soaps to make more soap.

Rebatching or Hand Milling bar soap is the act of reprocessing a previously made batch of soap. Depending on the method used it can also be called Cold Processing. You can use grated or shredded bar soap or leftover bar soap slivers and flakes.

Now some “soap making purists” don’t consider rebatching as making “good real soap”, but what do we frugal Preppers care as long as it works! Plus we Preppers just love multi-functionality. If we can use something for more than one sole purpose we not only save bucks, we save on storage space too!

So for quick and easy soapy cleaning solutions stock up on Fels Naphta , Ivory soap, Sunlight bar soap (Canada & Australia), Kirk’s Hardwater Castile, Zote, Washing Soda and Borax and you will have many options for all kinds of soaps, liquid-bar-powder (or flake) and many other “cleaning” recipes to boot.

I have even used a bar of Ivory soap, grated, as the starter base for an olive oil bar soap. Basically I used the grated Ivory in place of lye water. Ok it came out really, really soft – so next time around I will cut the oil in half and once I have repeated good results I’ll post the recipe.

What kind of soap you are going to make will play a major role in determining which of the above soaps and or soap slivers you will want to use in your rebatch recipe. Generally speaking for skin or body washing stick to Ivory, Lever 2000, Pure and Natural, Zest, Kirk's (USA) or Dr. Bonner's (Australia, England, Japan, US, Canada) Castile Soap or your leftover slivers of bath soaps and for other cleaning chores use the Fels Naptha, Sunlight, Zote, Borax and washing soda or of course, the Ivory and Castile soaps for gentler fabric type cleaning.

Tip: Keep the used slivers of your face and body soap in labeled Ziploc bags until you have enough to rebatch. If these soaps are scented, be sure to keep each scent in its own bag. I have used Oil of Olay bar soap and body wash and kept their respective “leftovers” to use for rebatching. Works great!

Below is some general information to help you decide which product to use for your various cleaning needs.

Fels Naptha soap is considered a household staple, with a myriad of uses for cleaning. Although many people have used Fels Naptha soap on their hair, scalp and skin, it is not intended for bathing use. The active ingredient is an irritant to the eyes and skin. Ingredients from Soap (sodium tallowate*, sodium cocoate* (or) sodium palmate kernelate*, and sodium palmate*), water, talc, cocnut acid*, palm acid*, tallow acid*, PEG-6 methyl ether, glycerin, sorbitol, sodium chloride, pentasodium pentetate and/or tetrasodium etidronate, titatium dioxide, fragrance, Acid Orange (CI 20170), Acid yellow 73 (ci43350).

Nothing beats Fels Naptha for getting Poison Ivy (oak, sumac and the like) oils out of cloths and off your skin!!

Since 1839, Kirk's Original Coco Castile Bar Soap has kept bodies, clothes and homes naturally clean using a vegetable-based, biodegradable formula. Ingredients from Coconut Oil, Soap of Coconut, Vegetable Glycerin and Water. “Kirk's bar is made by a centuries-old, time honored process by mixing coconut oil with caustic soda.” The caustic soda and lye used is made from sea salt. Coconut oil is thus converted to coconut soap, which is technically called sodium cocoate. During the process of making coconut soap, glycerin is also produced since glycerin is a part of natural coconut oil. “This glycerin is left in Kirk's soap to give moisturization properties and make it less harsh to skin compared to other commercial soaps in which this natural glycerin is removed by a chemical separation process. “ According to the site, Kirk's soap is the most natural process soap made in the USA today.

Original Ivory Bar Soap floated by accident. For years the Procter & Gamble company had been developing a formula for a high quality soap at an affordable price. In January 1878, they finally perfected the formula. They called it simply "White Soap," and began production. Several months later the accident occurred that causes to float. Ingredients from Sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate or sodium palm kernelate, water, sodium chloride, sodium silicate, magnesium sulfate, and fragrance. Note: The list of ingredients for the soap is very difficult to find. It is not printed on the individual bars of the 12-pack nor was it found on the outside packaging of the 12-pack of soap. It doesn’t appear to be on the company website ( A blog writer I found was directed to the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) at the Procter & Gamble Company and located the ingredients from the MSDS sheet for Ivory Soap. The ingredients according to: and Ivory Laundry Soap Flakes and Ivory Liquid Laundry Soap basically contain the same ingredients with added water. Flakes: Fragrance(s)/perfume(s; Enzyme(s) (unspecified); Surfactant(s) (unspecified); Softening agent(s) (unspecified); Sodium carbonate; Sodium sulfate; Sodium dihydrogen citrate; Fabric brightening agent; Soil suspending agent(s); Sudsing agent; Aluminum silicate(s) (unspecified). The liquid also has: Surfactant(s) (unspecified); Ethanol/SD Alcohol 40; Monoethanolamine (MEA); Sodium borate decahydrate (borax); Enzyme(s) (unspecified). Bottom Line: Stick to the original bar soap for your recipes, even for making your own dish and laundry soap.

I couldn’t find much on Sunlight Bar Soap which is a product of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and was first marketed in 1885, as well as launched in Kenya in the late 1950's. I saw references to its ingredients being similar to Fels Naphta and Ivory but find that rather contradictory. It is supposed to be pure unscented soap. You can get some history and facts at: and according to cakes of Sunlight bath soap in Australia are labeled as 'pure soap' and the ingredients listed on the packet of Sunlight soap are: Sodium tallowate, water, sodium cocoate, and/or sodium palm kernelate, glycerin, fragrance, sodium chloride, titanium dioxide, etidronic acid, tetrasodium EDTA.

Zote is manufactured in Mexico and according to it is a laundry soap made with “coconut oil and tallow, containing optical brighteners and the bars shape and size are ideal to wash by hand.” In Spanish “jabonzote” (Jabón Zote) means a big soap. ZOTE was made with a nearly manual process early on and the company now states it has the “latest equipment and state of the art technology to manufacture this and all of their products; while keeping the original formula that made ZOTE the absolute leader in the Mexican market.” The main ingredients are: beef tallow and coconut oil, which are neutralized with caustic soda for the saponification process. It contains salt (sodium chloride), glycerin, perfume, optical brightener and dye (in the case of pink ZOTE and blue ZOTE); the unspecified optical brightener is to “bleach clothes without fading their color” whose function is to “absorb light with certain wave lengths in the washed garments and thus reflecting a visible blue; its work is most noticeable in white clothes.”

Washing Soda and Borax

Borax is Sodium borate decahydrate (Na2B4O7*10H2O), also known as: Sodium borate; Borax; disodium salt; Sodium tetraborate; Sodium borate decahydrate; Sodium tetraborate decahydrate; Disodium tetraborate decahydrate. DO NOT CONFUSE BORAX WITH BORIC ACID! DO NOT TAKE BORIC ACID IN PLACE OF BORAX! (The only reason that I can think of for this particular warning is that someone was dumb or unlucky enough to do this.) Borax is used in laundry detergents and bleaches. It releases hydrogen peroxide when it reacts with water. Hydrogen peroxide acts as a bleach, and this action is aided by the alkaline solution also produced by the reaction.

The boron (along with the oxygen and salt) in a borax solution helps to disinfect by killing bacteria and fungi.

Although it has numerous industrial uses, in the home borax is used as a natural laundry booster, multipurpose cleaner, fungicide, preservative, insecticide, herbicide, disinfectant, dessicant and ingredient in making 'slime'!

Borax crystals are odorless, whitish (can have various color impurities), and alkaline. Borax is not flammable and is not reactive. It can be mixed with most other cleaning agents, including chlorine bleach. Borax and other borates clean and bleach by converting some water molecules to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). This reaction is more favorable in hotter water.

The pH of borax is about 9.5, so it produces a basic solution in water, thereby increasing the effectiveness of bleach and other cleaners. In other chemical reactions, borax acts as a buffer, maintaining a stable pH needed to maintain cleansing chemical reactions. The boron, salt, and/or oxygen of boron inhibit the metabolic processes of many organisms. This characteristic allows borax to disinfect and kill unwanted pests. Borates bonds with other particles to keep ingredients dispersed evenly in a mixture, which maximizes the surface area of active particles to enhance cleaning power.

The most common brands are: 20 Mule Team (USA), Boraxo (USA, Mexico); Boiron Homeopathics also makes homeopathic Borax pellets which people are starting to use in lieu of Borax (Boiron Homeopathic Medicine Borax, 30C Pellets, 80-Count Tubes).

Borax is one of the most important remedies to kill fungus and nano-bacteria; from nearly all forms of fungus, whether they be mycoplasma found in lupus, rosacea, dog mange, interstitial cystitis plasmodium parasites, Morgellons disease, to pneumonia. Today very few medical professionals, yet alone us Mr. & Ms. Doe, know that the toxicity of borax is about equal to that of simple table salt.

Borax and Borons are used in all sorts of things see "Borax Versus Killer Fungus" Pioneer Magazine January 1994 @ ; "Of Cabbages And Things" Pioneer Magazine February 1999 (checking the effects of the microbe Plasmodiophora brassicae) @ .

Washing soda is also known as Soda Ash or Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3), is a close chemical relative of Baking Soda or Sodium Bicarbonate (NaHCO3). However, Washing soda is NOT Baking Soda. If you heat baking soda to 350 or 400 degrees F, it will turn to washing soda. It can be found at mass retailers in either the laundry or cleaning sections or the pool supplies. In some detergent recipes, baking soda substitutes for washing soda adequately. Its components are salt and limestone, and it also occurs naturally in some parts of the world, such as in Wyoming.

Washing Soda is caustic/alkaline with a pH of 11 (with 7 being neutral). Though it does not give off harmful fumes, you do still need to use/wear gloves when handling it directly as a cleansing agent. Baking Soda is only slightly alkaline with a pH around 8.1 (again, 7 being neutral). The most common brand of Washing Soda is Arm and Hammer.

Both Baking Soda and Washing Soda have the power to neutralize odors, instead of just covering them up.

What is the difference between washing soda and OxiClean? They are not the same. Washing soda is a product to make water "wetter" by breaking some molecular bonds in the water and lowering the surface tension of the water so that the soap can be more effective. OxiClean is an slow-acting oxygen bleach that contains washing soda in addition to the bleaching product. Washing soda cannot bleach anything whereas, with the right amount, time, and concentration, OxiClean can bleach things but not as fast or as brutal as chlorine.

If you're interested in the difference between, Washing Soda (Sodium Carbonate), Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) and Borax (Sodium Tetraborate Decahydrate), there is an excerpt from that explains it much better than I can. Just keep in mind these are all different compounds.

Add Vinegar and Olive Oil to your pantry formulary along with these soaps, washing soda and borax and you have just about everything you need to make your own low cost household cleaning products. Not only that, these homemade cleaners have far less, to nil, dangerous off gassing and you can point that out to any environmentalists that like to wave their finger in your face, then ask them what they use.

Have fun and reap the cost savings at the same time ;-}

Ok back to Rebatching Soap. Rather than re-write all the great information and recipes that are out there, see this article at This document also contains links for: Making your own Essential Oils; Other great Household Cleaning Formularies; other Misc (rust cleaner, stains, Car Cleaning; Homemade Firearm Cleaners & Lubricants; Basic Recipes for making your own cosmetics, bath products, etc.; How to Make Essential Oil Face Moisturizer; Making Bath Salts; Skin Care Remedies; Uses for Vinegar; Uses for Lemons; Uses for Baking Soda and more) ...

Be sure to check out my previous articles on Leaching Lye and Rendering Lard at:

“A person who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
Albert Einstein


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