Soap survey

At Birka last weekend, I got to chat, and pick up supplies from an Aethlemarc soap maker (Mistress Elska), which meant that the bonus day off I gave myself once I was home, I got to play with soap.

I decided to take three plausibly period fats (beef, pork and olive oil), and make soap from each using modern lye to have an idea on how each fat makes soap differ. Most modern soaps are a blend of all sorts of fats, but before I start playing with my own blends, I want to meet each of them individually. Because I’m also entirely too fond of compare and contrast, I also took each batch and split it after I got to trace. One half straight into molds, and the other half got cooked down.


L – R Olive oil, pork, beef. Cold process on top, hot process on the bottom.

I absolutely overcooked the beef tallow soup, I fear I might have undercooked the pork lard soap. I expect the cold process soaps will provide the best comparisons, but I need to wait 3-6 weeks for those to be ready.

The lard soap was /so/ hard to get to trace. I rendered that lard myself, so I do wonder if it’s not quite pure, or something.

Now to wait! All of the soaps will be at Kingdom A&S in March to compare.


To continue in the alchemical 2019, I finally got around to trying soap making. It’s one of those things that I’ve mused on for years and years and years. I then got as far as ‘have everything in the house’ for weeks at least. Finally, a quiet afternoon over the holiday break and I dug in.

I made no attempts towards period anything on the first attempt. I hunted up a basic soap recipe on the internet that used nothing I didn’t already have in the house, and off I went. Working by weight seems normal to me, I didn’t have that mindset hurdle to overcome, I bake by weight as well. I decided on hot process, because well.. I’m impatient. Brewing already challenges my patience, two things hanging out forever to cure.. let’s just go with one thing I have to wait to try.


Fresh soap in snowflake molds

Non-food crockpot at the ready, and all of my fats. Basic soap.. lard, shortening, coconut oil and olive oil. Everything that lives in my house normally. No dye (other than what came off the crockpot) and no scents. I learned that lye solution will get most of the dyepot stains out of a white crockpot. I also got soap! I think I overcooked it, it got rather lumpy, and I should have been more forceful about shoving it in the snowflake molds, there’s bits that aren’t filled in. It’s not pretty, but it washes hands just /fine/. Not the gentlest soap either, but it’s also January, I’m not sure there’s any help for the dry of my hands anymore. Next up.. different combinations of fats!