Soap Like Grandma Did It
March 1976

“Soap Like Grandma Did It,” Ensign, Mar. 1976, 61

Soap Like Grandma Did It

Editor: We would like information and recipes for making soap, as part of our effort to become self-sufficient. Any information you could share on the subject would be appreciated. Mrs. Doran Higgins, Ekalaka, Montana

Hand (or laundry) soap

1 can lye (13 ounces)

3 pints cold water

5 1/2 pounds clean fat, free from salt, melted and strained

1 tablespoon citronella or other perfume (optional)

Add lye gradually to water in a stone or enamel container. Cool to 80° F. Melt the fat in an enamel kettle, then cool it to 120° F. Add the lye solution slowly to the fat, stirring with wooden spoon until combined and thick as honey. It will require 3 minutes or longer, depending on the fat used and the weather. If stirred too long, mixture will separate. Add perfume if desired. Pour into molds made of wood or pasteboard boxes lined with brown paper. Let stand in a warm place 24–48 hours or until firm. Remove from molds, cut into cakes with a string or wire. Makes 9 pounds of soap—15 pieces 3 x 2 1/2 x 2 inches. If the lye solution seeps through the bottom of the boxes, it may damage the surface of tables, etc.

Granular laundry soap (never-fail recipe)

11 cups cold water

1 cup borax

1 cup bleach

5 pounds fat, melted and strained

1 can lye (13 ounces)

1 tablespoon citronella (optional)

Put water into a granite kettle. Stir lye into the water with a wooden spoon. Mix bleach with borax, then add it to the melted fat. Stir well. Add this mixture to the water and lye. The lye solution and the fat should be the same temperature when mixing (75° F). Stir 10–12 strokes. Do not overstir; it will form a thick curd or settle to the bottom. Do not pour off the water that forms. Stir within an hour, then stir every hour all day. Continue to stir off and on each day until the soap is dry and powdered. When using soap for laundry purposes, a water softener should be used for best results.


Do not make soap inside your house or in closed quarters; the fumes are very caustic. It may be brought inside after it is mixed to keep it warm. Use care in mixing, because the solution may cause severe burns; if it gets on the skin, wash it off immediately with cold water. A little vinegar rubbed on burned areas may help neutralize the lye. Never use aluminum or metal pans to make soap. Use enamel or stone crocks only. LaVell Turner, Brigham Young University, Department of Food Science and Nutrition

Illustrated by Phyllis Luch