Substitute for Soap, easily prepared in small Quantities, by private Families in the Country.
Collect, before the time of seeding, thistles, nettles, fern, and such other weeds as usually infest the borders of high roads and hedges, and burn them in a large heap, gradually, till the whole are consumed, and carefully preserve the ashes in a dry place, ready to make the ley (lye) wanted for the purpose of making a substitute for soap.
The requisite materials and utensils should be prepared, which are but few in number. They consist, 1st, Of a small tub of white wood, nine inches in width, and as many in height. This tub should be perforated near the bottom; its use is for mixing the leys. (Were it made of oak it would colour the leys.) 2d, A small copper bason, with a round bottom, a foot in diameter, and seven or eight inches in depth; or where this cannot be procured, an iron pot, or earthen vessel, that can bear the fire, may be used. This vessel is intended for boiling the mixture. 3d, For this small manufacture are finally required a skimmer, a spatula of white wood, and two earthen pans.
The materials necessary are, 1, some good ashes; 2, lime; and 3, oil, tallow, or kitchen fat. Method of preparing the leys (lye).
Take three pounds of ashes and one pound of lime. First, moisten the lime with a small quantity of water, in order to slake it; and after it has completely crumbled down, mix with it the ashes, and put this mixture into the tub, having previously spread a piece of canvas at the bottom; carefully close the hole at the bottom of the tub ; after which pour upon the materials a quantity of water sufficient to soak it well through, and rise above it in the vessel, to the height of about three finger breadths. Then stir it well with a slick, and suffer it to stand for some hours; then open the hole, in order to let the ley run off, which is collected and kept by itself. This is the first ley (lye); then again put fresh water in the tub, stir the materials with a stick, let them stand for some hours, and then draw off the second ley (lye), which is also kept separate ; the third ley (lye) is obtained in the same manner, by pouring fresh water upon the remainder of the ashes, which will now have been sufficiently exhausted of its saline particles.
Take equal quantities of the first ley (lye), and of kitchen fat, tallow, or oil, and melt them together in your copper bason, over a gentle fire, till they are well incorporated, by constantly agitating them with your wooden spatula. When the ley (lye) and grease are well united, you may add more ley (lye) of the second quality, and digest them for some time with a gentle heat, till the mixture is completed, taking care to stir it well all the time; then pour it into your earthen pans to cool and preserve for use. A few trials will enable you to make it in a perfect manner; and a little of this composition will be found to answer all the purposes of soap for family use. The surplus ley of the stronger kinds may be preserved for future use, and the weaker ley will serve to put upon fresh ashes on a future occasion, or a little of any of these leys (lye) will form a useful steep, with a considerable quantity of warm water, for the dirty plain linen intended to be washed, but will be too strong for printed calicoes or dyed articles.