Making Soap


Recipes used to be called ‘receipts.’ Confederate soldiers were often low on supplies and had to make do with ingredients found nearby.

Confederates published a fun book of recipes in 1863 called Confederate Receipt Book. It contains a variety of recipes for many things needed in an army camp. One of them is a recipe for making soap.

Boil 12 quarts of water and pour it over 5 pounds of “unslacked lime.” Terms and spellings of words changed over 150 years. I looked up unslaked lime, which is a white crystalline oxide.

Set aside the lime and water.

laundry-666487_960_720Boil another 12 quarts of water. Dissolve 5 pounds of washing soda in the boiling water. Baking soda, known as sodium bicarbonate, becomes washing soda by heating it.

Once the soda is dissolved, combine the mixtures together. Let it stand for 12 to 24 hours to allow chemicals to react.

After it sets for a day, carefully pour off all clear liquid without disturbing the sediment.

Add 3 ½ pounds of clarified grease and 3 or 4 ounces of rosin, which is a solid resin from pines.

Boil the whole mixture together for an hour. Pour to cool into pans.

Slice into bars for use.

There is no mention how much soap this recipe makes, but it seems like enough for many soldiers to walk away with a bar of soap.

-Sandra Merville Hart


A Compilation of Over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times. Confederate Receipt Book, Applewood Books, 1863.

“How do you turn Baking Soda into Washing Soda,”, 2017/02/03

“Rosin,” Wikipedia, 2017/02/03

“Unslaked Lime,” WordNet Dictionary, 2017/02/03