For a few years now I've been planning to make some lye soap. When I first read about it in an old timer's book, it seemed like a fairly simple plan. I just needed to build this contraption to catch the lye.
The plan was to build a large wooden box to dump the wood stove ashes into. Then it would be connected to a drain board connected to a bucket. Dump the ashes in all winter. Let it snow, let it rain, water it down, collect the lye.
And then make soap. But the whole process was sounding rather time consuming, smelly, and somewhat dangerous. I left it to simmer in my head. TShadn'tHTFyet so, no rush.
And then I watched Tales From The Green Valley, a British documentary of life on a 17th century farm. And they got a might dirty over their year on that farm. And they had to do laundry down at the creek. And they made themselves a batch of lye to wash that laundry with.
And they didn't make soap. They poured the lye directly over the laundry, then beat it clean.
Well, that's easy enough, isn't it? I could do that. Well, I'll let the washing machine do the 'beating', but I could make lye for laundry.
I started with two 4L ice cream buckets. They stack, and the plastic ridges hold the inner bucket an inch or so higher than the outside bucket. I poked holes through the bottom of the inside bucket to allow the lye water drain. I put in a coffee filter, and wood ash. Added about 4 inches of water and waited impatiently.
Further research reveals that pine ash is not recommended, and soft water is. I have pine and poplar ash and hard water, which could be why my results aren't great.
I think I'll be sticking to store bought soap for town clothes, but the lye water will be fine for farm clothes. Time will tell, too, I'm sure. If things don't seem to be getting clean after a few washes, I'll reassess.