Gail Lee Martin submitted this recipe when the local historical society wanted recipes from the 1920s and 1930s. It appeared in the book, Grandmother’s Legacy: A Collection of Butler County Recipes.
Homemade Lye Soap
5 lbs of grease
1 quart of water
1 can of lye
Save clean fat scraps from meat, lard, and hog scraps. Melt into the grease. Strain through a cloth and let cool. Add the lye gradually to one quart of water in a stone crock and mix until dissolved. Pour this mixture into the grease. Stir thoroughly until congealed. Pour this mixture into cardboard box molds to cool. Let stand a couple of days. Using a wire, cut the soap into usable size pieces.
Recipe Notes: On wash days, my mother would use her paring knife to shave slivers of this soap into her copper wash boiler where it slowly dissolved. Clothes came out very white in those days. It was also used as a poison ivy medicine. Melt and put warm all over the blisters.
To find lye, look for Sodium hydroxide. It is also called caustic soda. Store it safely, as it is quite toxic if ingested.