[Herbalist] Soap- How would they Have created Lye?

Sheron Buchele Rowland foxryde at foxryde.com
Sun Feb 1 23:15:47 PST 2004


This charming story has been found to be apocryphal by archeologists.  Too 
bad, it's a lot of fun.  It is usually Mount Sapho which makes it real 
sexy.  It also talks about how the clothes washed at the foot of the 
mountain were cleaner, etc.  I used it in a paper I wrote years ago as I 
saw it repeated over and over.  But I do know that the latest thing I have 
read was that the story has been debunked.  Which really makes me want to 
un-publish my paper.  :-(

One of the interesting things about strong alkalis (like lye) is that when 
you touch them, you get a slippery feeling when you rub your fingers 
together.  I have been told that feeling comes from you turning to 
soap.  Kinda creepy and Fight Club-like.

A lot of the historical soap things I have read say that the wood that you 
make the ash from is critical.  The wood needs to have a very high sodium 
content to make sodium hydroxide which is needed to make solid 
soap.  Potassium hydroxide makes the soft and liquid soaps.  Most period 
recipes that I have seen suggest putting a handful of salt into the soap to 
make it firm.  This would agree with my experience with making lye and then 
making a boiled soap.  It was very soft, dark, and harsh.  When sodium 
burns, it makes the fire the yellow that you associate with fire.  I don't 
know if all the sodium burns and only leaves behind the potassium unless 
there is a huge excess of sodium (like with a beach environment adapted 
wood) or if there is some other mechanism.

This is a very cool thread.  It makes me wish I weren't so frantic 
pre-Estrella to be able to think and research some more.

Unser Hafen

At 06:08 PM 2/1/04, you wrote:
>The legends have it (the ones you read in the beginning of the soap books)
>that the first soap was made on the mountains where sacrifices to the Gods
>took place - the sacrificial animal was burned on a fire.  The rain would
>wash down the mountain, through the wood ashes and grease from the sacrifice
>and create suds.
>I don't know how possible that is, but I can't find any of my soap books
>right now, either.
>-----Original Message-----
>From: herbalist-bounces at ansteorra.org
>[mailto:herbalist-bounces at ansteorra.org]On Behalf Of BJ of NZ
>Sent: Saturday, January 31, 2004 1:59 AM
>To: herbalist at ansteorra.org
>Subject: [Herbalist] Soap- How would they Have created Lye?
>  hi
>Bea from NZ- Ildhafn here.
>I have been experimenting with soap, and am doing a
>soap making class-( very basic ), and it  has lead me
>to some interesting Questions.
>How would they of created lye?
>what would they have used to create the
>saphonification process?
>most of the recipies I have found  go straight to the
>"then add grated Soap" approach.
>I'm Hoping  some one on this list can help me.
>Urine and wood ash is the only reference I have found,
>Urine degrades into Ammonia and salts?
>and Wood ash is ?????Potassium????? no idea here?
>sodium hydroxide=NaOH (lye)
>The "lye for the head" recipie uses Vine shoot ash-
>(presumedly hi in Nitrogen)
>and the ash of Broom
>I havn't figured out what White burned argol is
>and once again they grate premade soap into the mix
>( is this a case of soap being such a basic recipie no
>one wrote it down.
>Lye for the head
>Half a celemín of sifted vine-shoot ash, and an
>almozada of the ash of Spanish broom. Put a pot of
>river water or fountain water to the fire and, once it
>is boiling, throw that ash inside, and leave it to
>boil twice, and then separate it and leave it to rest
>until it is clear. And take as much of that lye as an
>azumbre, and get out a glass jug, and put in it seven
>ounces of white burned argol and lid the jug. Grate an
>ounce and a half of Valencian soap and throw it
>inside, and stir it until the lees separate. And comb
>or skim the hair with this lye in the sun, and then
>wash with other lye. And when it is combed it is with
>sesame oil.
>  http://www.geocities.com/karen_larsdatter/manual.htm
>Manual de mugeres en el qual se contienen muchas y
>diversas reçeutas muy buenas
>Manual of Women in which is contained many and diverse
>very good recipes
>a work in progress; translation of an anonymous 16th
>century cookbook from Spanish into English. Click here
>to read the original.
> >From bjofnz at yahoo.co.nz
>BT Yahoo! Broadband - Free modem offer, sign up online today and save £80
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