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soap?

Posted by jgoodman 
soap?
March 27, 2018 11:20AM
As a child in Oak Cliff, I recall my mother saving up bacon fat and mixing it with lye or some caustic powder in a big porcelain pan. It would harden and she would cut it into chunks, shave it into the washing machine, and wash whites in it. She swore by it. It didn't have an odor. It was,after all,lye soap. I always thought of this process or ritual as being rather primitive We weren't so poor as not being able to afford soap. God only knows what else she used that stuff on. As I recall, lye is quite caustic and corrosive.In the eyes and mucous membranes, it causes coagulation necrosis. I think it was mostly sodium hydroxide. She must have gotten some of that material on her hands, but I don't remember any tragic outcomes.She learned how to make this "soap" from her mother in Oklahoma. I don't suppose it was ever commercially available . I guess it falls into the same category as turpentine and sugar as a remedy for coughing along with poultices on the chest. Jim
Re: soap?
March 27, 2018 12:17PM
Homemade lye soap (all soap is in reality lye soap) was commonly prepared in many households back in the day. In my family, before moving to Dallas, we raised our own meat animals, and used the carcass fat (but not that from the mesenteries, kidneys, and heart) to make soap. Commercial soaps are made in essentially the same way, but are washed to remove excess alkali, and pH adjusted. We not only used the homemade soap for cleaning purposes, but also as a vermifuge for the animals. We would just mix it into their food, which for hogs was primarily kitchen slops and old bread that we got from a local bakery. But when the hogs approached butchering size, my father would "finish" them with corn and other grains. As a kid, I thought it was probably not quite right to feed the hogs the soap made from their departed kin.

That old lye soap was itself still caustic. Probably it functioned to the animals as a cathartic, thus expelling the parasites.

Dave McNeely
Re: soap?
March 28, 2018 07:44AM
Dave: Interesting historical background. Jim
Re: soap?
March 28, 2018 06:22PM
Please don't quote me on this, but IIRC my G-mother made a form of lye soap called castile(?) for bathing. Instead of animal fats, it was made with vegetable oil and was liquid instead of solid form. Anyone is welcome to correct me because this is possibly just my imagination.

I also remember that if we stepped on a nail or some similar wound that now days would require a tetanus shot, we soaked the wound in turpentine or kerosene.
Re: soap?
March 28, 2018 10:12PM
Frank Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Please don't quote me on this, but IIRC my
> G-mother made a form of lye soap called castile(?)
> for bathing. Instead of animal fats, it was made
> with vegetable oil and was liquid instead of solid
> form. Anyone is welcome to correct me because this
> is possibly just my imagination.
>
> I also remember that if we stepped on a nail or
> some similar wound that now days would require a
> tetanus shot, we soaked the wound in turpentine or
> kerosene.

Of course, soap can be made from any triglyceride (a fancy word for fat). Soap is simply a salt of a fatty acid. Ingredient lists on some shampoo or toothpaste packages list for example, sodium laureate. Lauric acid is a fatty acid derived from an essential oil of lauryl and other members of the lauryl plant family. Sodium stearate is a soap made from beef tallow. If a fat is liquid at ordinary temperatures, a soap made from it would be liquid also.

I have seen a bar soap at grocers labeled "Castille Soap." I have no idea if it is similar to what your grandmother made. I believe it is used as a laundry soap.

Another use that my family made of the lye soap we made at home was as fish bait. My father dearly loved to fish for catfish, and used soap for bait. I believe it works because of the fatty acid nature of the soap, and because it slowly leaches into the water, thus attracting the fish. Catfish are scavengers to a partial degree, and the carrion they seek out would leach fats into the water also. The taste receptors in the barbels and fins of the fish would detect these whether from soap or from a dead animal. The soap might be a more potent source. At any rate, soap works wonderfully well as catfish bait, and my father was very successful in his fishing efforts. When we lacked a supply of homemade lye soap, my he would use a product called "Ivory Flakes" that was marketed as laundry soap in a box like that of detergent powders. He would cut the lye soap into square pieces of a suitable size. With the flakes, he would simply take a handful and mold the soap flakes onto the hook.

Dave McNeely
Re: soap?
March 28, 2018 11:44PM
Frank wrote: "I also remember that if we stepped on a nail or some similar wound that now days would require a tetanus shot, we soaked the wound in turpentine or kerosene."

"Coal oil'll cure boutnear anythin'. " That was usually pronounced "all" rather than "oil."

We used to soak a bruise, a sprain, or a strain in it. We'd bandage a cut or a scrape with an oil soaked rag. I seem to recall that it was used to treat an older brother's copperhead snake bite. He lived. Turpentine was sometimes used, too, although it tended to be resisted by youngsters, given its pain eliciting properties. I have known family members who consumed a bit of turpentine and sugar mixed together as a treatment for I know not what. And of course, the "coal oil" was, by the 1950s when i was aware of its use, most likely kerosene.

For a cold or flu, a hot toddy was a sure remedy. Whiskey, sugar, lemon juice, hot water. "If it don't kill ya', it'll cure ya' ." Drink a water glass of that, go to bed, and sweat it out. Adults and kids alike.

I've had the sole of my foot punctured by myriad nails. For some reason, it seemed to matter if the nail was rusty. In that case, my parents might actually seek out a physician, and pay for the recommended tetanus booster. We had horses back in they day, so tetanus was most likely prevalent. If the nail wasn't rusty (I guess indicating shorter time in the soil), it was deemed ok for home treatment.

It's a wonder we survived, but we did, despite all.

Dave McNeely
Re: soap?
March 30, 2018 08:49AM
My dad told me that when he was a kid he sustained a partial amputation of a toe jumping out of a barn. His mother mixed turpentine and cobwebs, applied it with a wrapping(gauze?) and it re-anastomosed or re-attached. I was never quite sure of this. Anyway, people back then were made of sturdier stuff, I suppose. Jim
Re: soap?
April 18, 2018 01:54PM
In the early '40's, I always helped my Grandmother make lye soap in a black pot held over fire on 3 iron bars.
Yellow cake is what she called it.
Lots of saved fat was mixed in with the LYE powder into the boiling water.
After cooking for a long time, I helped tipping the big black pot and this hot steaming mixture poured into open molds.
After cooling all day, the soap bars were taken out and wax paper was used to rap them up individually.
This soap could remove anything on you. Had to be careful with it.
Re: soap?
May 17, 2018 07:37PM
Frank Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Please don't quote me on this, but IIRC my
> G-mother made a form of lye soap called castile(?)
> for bathing. Instead of animal fats, it was made
> with vegetable oil and was liquid instead of solid
> form. Anyone is welcome to correct me because this
> is possibly just my imagination.
>
> I also remember that if we stepped on a nail or
> some similar wound that now days would require a
> tetanus shot, we soaked the wound in turpentine or
> kerosene.

[www.wisegeek.org]

Didn't know Castile soap was a "thing" among the those who go for fads. Kirk's Castile Soap is the brand I have seen in the laundry soap section at supermarkets, and it is inexpensive compared to soaps sold for bathing. It is said at the above link to be made from olive oil, but it is solid. Interestingly, some of the people posting comments on the wisegeek site referred to it as being "chemical free," and "environmentally friendly." Of course, like everything, it is chemical, and for that matter, lye (used in all soap making) is a pretty harsh chemical. As to "environmentally friendly," that might depend on the farming practices of the olive farmers, and the industrial practices of the soap makers.

Dave McNeely
Re: soap?
May 18, 2018 04:39PM
My grandmother's lye soap was like bathing with a bar of Lava Soap but a damn sight less mild and fragrant.smiling smiley
Re: soap?
May 19, 2018 01:03AM
Dave McNeely

Is that kinda like Organic Wild Caught Salmon?
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