Early American Soap Making

herbaria makes its all natural handmade soaps the old-fashioned wayEarly American families made their own soap from lye and animal fats. They obtained their lye from wood ash, which contains the mineral potash, also known as lye, or more scientifically, potassium hydroxide.

In early days, folks would put wood ashes in barrels, hollowed out logs or V-shaped troughs lined with hay. Rainwater collected in the containers and leached the potash from the ashes. A hole in the bottom drained the lye solution, filtered through the hay.

The lye solution was then reduced as near as possible to the right concentration by boiling or repeatedly pouring the solution over ashes. Animal fat was melted and added to the lye. The mixture was stirred continually until the chemical reaction took place that saponified fat into soap.

fat + alkali (potash) = soap + glycerin

herbaria all natural handmade soap on sinkThe soap was poured into wooden molds and allowed to cure. When it hardened up a bit, it was cut into bars. The quality of soap varied widely. It often contained excess or unreacted lye, which produced very harsh soap. The discovery of how to produce lye from salt allowed for the commercial production of soap.

Herbaria today

Herbaria soap is all natural, handcrafted soap made from vegetable fats and plant oil extracts. Some bars contain plant material for texture and natural color. No artificial colorants, fragrances or preservatives are used. Ingredients are mixed at 98° F to retain glycerin, a natural by-product of soap production and a wonderful skin softener. Industrial soapmakers herbaria all natural handmade soapremove the glycerin and add many other chemicals to facilitate processing through modern industrial machinery.

At Herbaria, we don't ignore modern chemistry. Unlike the early settlers, we are able to calculate exactly how much lye it takes to thoroughly saponify our fats and make a very gentle soap. We even add extra fats and emollients, such as shea butter or hemp seed oil, to further moisturize your skin, leaving it feeling clean yet silky.

View our old-fashioned soaps.