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1/28/15

How to make homemade woodash Lye for soap

Soap making has been a common practice for thousands of years.
In this post, I am going to tell you how to make Lye for soap from wood ash. It is a great way to recycle ash from fires. Your ash for lye should be 100% wood. No plastics or cardboard or papers should be burnt in the same fire you are using to collect ash for lye. When making wood ash lye, please use a spot for the leaching process that animals cannot get into the produced lye water that you are making.


  • Using wood from maple, oak and fruit trees makes the best lye. 
  • Use only the white ash from the fire, never chunks of coal. 
  • Never use anything metal to make wood ash lye 
Soaking ash in water makes lye.  then mix the produced lye water with lard and boil it to produce soap. It is a relatively easy process to make soap at home. 
Wood ash lye will produce a softer soap then commercial lye will, but using commercial lye also comes with using uncertain chemicals. Most people are scared of handling lye, thus cannot bring themselves to make homemade soap. One thing to always remember when you are handling lye is to wear protective eyewear, gloves, and cover up your skin- arms and legs, in case of splashback. Lye in any form, will burn and irritate the skin. Wood ash lye is not only organic, but also abundant if you like to sit outside next to the fire in the evenings. 

Things you will need-

  • TWO five gallon buckets
  • 1/16th drill bit
  • A toothpick
  • Five gallons rainwater. Rainwater works best.
To make a reasonable amount of lye, you should have enough ash to fill a five gallon bucket. Your container to hold the ash during the leaching process (the making of the lye) should be waterproof. 

In one five gallon bucket, use your 1/16th drill bit to drill a hole on one side of the bucket NEAR the bottom. This hole will allow the lye water to escape during the leaching process into the second bucket below it. 
After the hole is drilled use the toothpick to stop the hole.
Pack your ash in the bucket. Pack them down as much as possible. The ash needs to be about 3-4 inches from the top of the bucket. Leave this room to add the water.
Take your ash bucket and set it up on a table, the second bucket needs to go below the ash bucket to catch the lye water dripping from it during the leaching process.
Use something to stabilize the ash bucket, and slip something underneath so the bucket will be at an angle to allow the water to escape the hole you drilled, and leak down into the second bucket. 
The two buckets should not be set to far apart, If they are too far apart, this will create a splash. 
When your bucket is elevated, and your lye catching bucket in place, Use a stick to press a small hole about 3 inches deep in the middle of the ashes. This will jumpstart the leaching process.
Heat one gallon of rain water to a boil and slowly pour over the ashes.
Doing this will make the ashes start to spit and bubble, so use caution and go slowly to avoid being splashed. 
Remove the toothpick stopper. 
When the bubbling has stopped in the ashes, add another gallon of rainwater into the ash bucket.
The leaching process can take days to weeks, check your setup regularly to make sure the process is going well, that your buckets are still in position etc.

When the dripping has finally stopped, use your toothpick to again stop up the hole in the ash bucket.
 Take your bucket of lye water and set it in the sun for a few days to let it dry. When it dries, it will turn into the powdered form of lye.
OR You can- Replace the stopper in the ash bucket and then heat the lye water in a boil in an enameled pot, and pour it back into the ashes. The more you re-add the boiled lye water, the stronger the produced lye water becomes.

To test the strength of the lye water, put a feather into it. If the feather dissolves, the lye is done. 

I hope you make your own lye this season and make your own homemade soap! 

enjoy!