Lye is incredibly easy to make! It's just the product of combining water with hardwood ashes, and it's essential for making your own soap.
Step 1: Gather Materials
Materials are pretty minimal. You'll need:
5 gallon (or any large) bucket
smaller bucket to fit inside the larger one. We used a clay one, but you could use any material that you can drill holes through.
Metal mesh- But do not use aluminum! Lye will eat through aluminum
piece of soaker hose
Step 2: Determine Where to Drill Your Holes
We used a clay pot because the material is easy to drill clean holes through, and it already had a large hole in the center. Flip the pot upside down, and determine where to drill your holes. It doesn't have to be exact, you just need several holes throughout the bottom of the container.
Step 3: Drill the Holes
Step 4: Place the Mesh
Take a sheet of the metal mesh, and fit it to the bottom of your smaller container. We did this by just placing the mesh over the bottom of the pot and cutting around it. Cut several sheets of mesh because you will layer them. When you've cut about 3-4 sheets of mesh, flip your pot right-side up and layer the mesh at the bottom. We used glue to secure the mesh in place, but you don't have to; the ashes should secure it to the bottom adequately.
Step 5: Make a Soaker Hose Coil
Take a piece of soaker hose (aka gardening hose), and wind it into a circular coil that's roughly the diameter of the clay pot top. We evenly spaced and secured our coil by zip tying small wooden blocks throughout it. Your finished coil should look like the third picture here, the idea of the coil is just to make sure water is distributed over all the ashes.
Step 6: Place Your Smaller Clay Pot Into Your Larger Bucket
Step 7: Fill With Ashes and Soak With Water
Fill the clay pot with hardwood ashes (cedar, oak, etc.) Then, place your coil of soaker hose on top. Attach your soaker hose to a garden hose, and turn the water on. That's it! The mixture of water and hardwood ash creates lye. The water will filter through the ashes and the holes in the clay pot, and the finished lye will collect in your bottom bucket. Depending on how much lye you want at once, cut the water off after about 5 minutes. You can take the lye out of the bottom bucket on an as-needed basis and re-use this system again and again. The ph of lye should be about 14, and you can test the ph of your finished lye water with ph strips sold in the aquarium department of walmart.