Homemade Lye anyone?

topic posted Thu, March 23, 2006 - 5:34 PM by  Unsubscribed
Anyone know the receipe for homemade lye?
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  • Unsu...

    Re: Homemade Lye anyone?

    Fri, March 24, 2006 - 9:32 AM
    Well, yes, sorta. Kinda hard to call it a recipe.

    Collect a great quantity of ashes from hardwood fires. Soft woods like pine and fir are right out. Collect rainwater, alot of it. Get some sort of barrel, all indications are that it should be big, probably 20 gallons or more, and non-reactive. Make a drain hole near the bottom, so you can put it up on something high enough to get a collecting bucket (also non-reactive) under it to catch the run-off. Put in a layer of straw, about 3"-4" or so, and a bunch of the ashes, filling the barrel to within 4" of the top. Start slowly pouring the rainwater through the ashes. It will take a long time before liquid starts running out of the barrel and into your collection bucket. This will be a pretty strong lye solution.

    It's the first part of making soap as was done in the middle ages. I would imagine one could then use evaporation to get the water off, and the remaining crystals would be lye.

    I just found a supplier online selling technical grade sodium hydroxide for about $3/pound. Don't buy laboratory grade, it tends to run anywhere from $15 to $45 per pound. The current difficulties in obtaining lye aparently stem from a rider attached to an anti-terrorism law. The rider was designed to make it harder for methamphetamine manufacturers to get the chemicals they need to make their illegal drugs. It's not illegal to sell lye, but the new laws make it so there must be a paper trail for the feds to follow if they find someone cooking meth back to where they bought it.

    These aren't the folks I bought from, but their price seems a bit better than I got, though there is a 20lb minimum.
    • Re: Homemade Lye anyone?

      Fri, March 24, 2006 - 10:31 AM
      Two bits in addition.

      1. You don't need to use rain water. Any water will do, even tap water. Though, if your tap water is fairly hard, you may want to use filtered water. You can use distilled water but I think the cost would be prohibitive.

      2. Straw can be used as a filter, but remember that it's an organic compound so the lye will react with it and break it down, weakening your end product. I don't have any specific ideas but try and find a non-reactive filter of some sort.

      Also, found a lye supplier in Southern California who also sells for $3/lb, but with only a 1 lb minimum.

      I ordered flake style lye from him. I hadn't used flake before and find it much easier to use for large soap batches than the pearl style (tiny granular kind like Red Devil). Though the "flakes" are more like smallish crystals so wouldn't use them on a small test batch (less than 500 grams of oil) they are much easier to handle and disolve in water in about the same ammount of time as pearls. More importantly, the crystals are large enough that if I have an accidental spill while weighing, and before adding them to water, they will be much easier to cleanup.

      • Unsu...

        Re: Homemade Lye anyone?

        Fri, March 24, 2006 - 11:38 AM
        Thanks rodent! That's the guy I ordered mine from, I just couldn't find his page again.

        The thing with the rainwater is what the reference book I learned the method from recommends. We have really chalky water here in New Mexico, so I'd rather use rainwater, but, we're in the desert, so it hardly ever rains. It's lose-lose. :) Maybe tap-water left in a barrel for a little while to out-gas the crap they put in...
        • Re: Homemade Lye anyone?

          Fri, March 24, 2006 - 12:02 PM
          Rainwater will work, especially if you've got hardwater issues, the main problem is storage. If you live in an area that doesn't get much consistant rain, keeping the algae and bacterial count down usually means using clorine almost to the level of a swimming pool (and clorine can often be found in municipal treated tap water anyway).

          You could use tap/well water but might think about adding some form of filtration system.

          As to outgassing, the only thing that would outgass would be clorine, but clorine shouldn't effect homemade lye water. Disolved minerals (hard water) won't outgass so letting the water sit out won't do a thing... unless you set up a solar evaporation distiller.

  • Re: Homemade Lye anyone?

    Mon, June 19, 2006 - 4:47 PM
    Though I see the original poster has unsubscribed, I wanted to let any others know the first Foxfire book explains dripping lye very thoroughly. You can probably find this book in used bookstores or on ebay.

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