Making Lye from woodash for Soap

Lye is necessary for making Soap as well as cleaners and biodiesel’s so this is a very good skill to know and practice.  Lye however is very dangerous and caustic and can cause chemical burns so you need to be careful when making and handling it.  Check in tomorrow for a recipe to make a Shampoo Soap Bar which needs Lye to make, so you can make it in this method or you can purchase it as well.

Items Needed

  • Soft Water: Rain water is best so you can set up a Rain Barrel and catch the downpours.  You will need at least 2-3 gallons. You can also use water from a de-humidifier or electrically distilled water.  The more pure the water is the more potassium can be leached from the ashes.  DO NOT USE SPRING WATER, you can use bottled DISTILLED water.
  • Large wooden or Steel Container. for the Wood you will need a 3 inch cork
  • Hard Wood to Burn
  • Wood/Glass Crock/Pots
  • Clean Palm Sized River Rock
  • Straw (Hay/Grass)
  • Bricks


This recipe will be for the Wooden Barrel

Step 1:

Take the wooden barrel (you can get these at brewers supply store).

Step 2:

Drill a hole 2 inches above the bottom, make sure the cork will fit snugly in the hole

Step 3:

Place the barrel on a Brick base someplace where it will be undisturbed.  Lye is caustic so be careful, take the necessary precautions!!!! Put some bricks down for the base, so that you can drain the lye into a container easily.

Step 4:

Cover the bottom of the barrel with some palm-sized clean rock, i.e. river rock.  Cover the rocks with 6 inches of straw (hay or grass) This will filter the ashes and help your lye drain clean.

Step 5:

Burn Hardwood to make ash.  Do not use softwoods (i.e. pine, fir, evergreens) Palm leaves work as well if they are completely dried and brown. Doing this in a emptied fireplace or wood stove works best, so that the ashes don’t mix with other things in the area.

Step 6:

Scoop COOL ashes into the barrel, you can use smaller amounts, you don’t need to fill the barrel.

Step 7:

Put a pan under the hole and remove the cork, pour soft water into the barrel until you see it start to drain out, re-cork tightly.  After a day the first ash should settle and you can add more ash.

Step 8:

Let the Ash soak for three days.

Step 9:

Check your Lye: For soap making drop a fist size potato or raw egg into the barrel. If it floats enough for a 1/4 of it to rise above the water, it is ready (throw the egg/potato away after, you CANNOT EAT IT!) If it doesn’t you need to add more ashes OR drain all the water and re-leach it, which means pouring the water back into the barrel and let it side for another FULL cycle.

Step 10:

If its ready, catch the lye in a wooden crock/glass container.  Put the pot under the hole, gently pull the cork and fill your containers (be careful not to let the lye splash you, wear proper safety equipment).  Leave enough room so they will be safe and easy to pour, make sure you have tight-fitting lids for the pots.

Step 11:

Store Lye in cool Dark Place until you are ready to use it, the sooner the better.



  • To dispose of leached ashes, dig a hole away from everything and pout the ashes into the hole, let the ashes dry thoroughly then cover it.
  • Make sure the barrel is stable where it sits and cannot be knocked over or messed around by kids or animals, this can be very dangerous to them!
  • Lye is caustic and can burn anything it touches, chemically, not fire. so be CAREFUL BE CAREFUL BE CAREFUL
  • LYE PRECAUTIONS: When around Lye use a vapor resistant mask, safety glasses, chemical-resistant gloves and good ventilation. Vinegar will neutralize lye, so ANYTHING that Lye touches, you need to neutralize it before you put it away.
  • It would be wise, if you are going to do this often, if you are using a steel container, use a Tap on the barrel so you can just open it up and shut it when necessary, will be easier and safer than a Cork.


Another Method is to boil it, i got this from Motherearthnews, read the full article here.

Step 1:

Boil Ashes from hardwood fire for 30 minutes.  Soft woods are too full of resin to mix well with fat.  Use soft water, rainwater is best.

Step 2:

Allow the ashes to settle to the bottom and then skim the lye from the top. You can do this daily




Make sure you are VERY CAREFUL and take all the necessary precautions when using Lye.  It is very dangerous if not properly handled and can cause eye damage and severe burns.

I am not responsible  if you hurt yourself, gather the necessary information from various sources before using, once again i am not liable for any mishaps

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  1. Warning: Never pour water into lye. Always add lye to the water. If you pour water onto lye, it can cause a violent reaction.


  1. [...] As preppers, we stock up on supplies that we we’ll need in the coming days of scarcity. However, as deep as our larders may be, there’s a chance the TEOTWAWKI event may outlast our supplies. That’s why it’s important to gain the necessary skills now to return to a much simpler lifestyle. The Great Northern Prepper shows us how to make lye for soap. From the Great Northern Prepper. [...]

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