I actually do make my own soap using a mixture of fats and lye (just do a search in the search engine on the right and you will find my posts on this topic). The creativity, the fun and the feeling of making your own soap is something that can get addicting! Of course back when my Grandmother was a housewife on the farm and had to make soap, I know she didn't find the 'fun' in it as I do.
From the late 1800's here is some wonderful text that was directed to the average everyday housewife on preparing her toiletries.
Women (and men, too) have a natural right to a good complexion. The contrary is evidence of some improper or diseased condition, and it is perfectly natural and proper to seek and apply suitable remedies.
Beauty Doctors. — On the other hand, we earnestly advise against the patronage of so-called " beauty doctors," many of whom are unquestionably quacks and charlatans, and we urge the use of homemade preparations. Many of the standard preparations widely advertised for sale contain the most injurious mineral drugs, such, for example, as mercury, arsenic, lead, bismuth, etc. These are freely used by many " beauty doctors," and we regret to say that recipes containing them have been published without caution in many books of household recipes which have had a wide circulation. All such preparations have been carefully excluded from this volume. Approved recipes have been given which will accomplish every desirable object without the possibility of any injurious consequences.
Homemade Toilet Preparations.— Many toilet preparations advertised for sale contain organic substances which deteriorate by decaying, and in this condition poison the skin. Moreover, most proprietary articles are very expensive. We feel safe in assuring the most careful and conservative mothers that the compounding at home and use of any of the preparations herein recommended will be a perfectly safe and innocent employment for their daughters or themselves. Any disposition to do so should, we think, be encouraged. A few vials of essential oils as perfumes, small quantities of almonds and other required ingredients, may be bought at the drug store for less than a single bottle of a proprietary article can be purchased, and all interested will have the satisfaction of knowing that the materials are fresh and of good quality, and that no harmful consequences from their use need be feared.
Country girls should have the best complexions in the world, but this is not always the case. Those who have not been favored by nature in this respect very often envy their city cousins' supposed advantages of easy access to " beauty doctors" and the large department stores and drug stores where toilet preparations of all sorts are for sale. The country girl has, in fact, a pronounced advantage over her city cousin if she has the wit to utilize it. Many of the most effective agents and remedies for the toilet are to be had in every farmhouse, and it is safe to say that the country girl can stock her dressing table with a full line of toilet preparations if she so desires, of better quality than her city cousin can purchase. And she can do so much more cheaply and conveniently.
To Preserve the Complexion.—To prevent the excessive evaporation of water normally present in the skin, it is well to rub a small quantity of cold cream over the face before going out in the hot sim or wind. Just enough should be used to cover the surface without its being noticeable. In hot climates the use of similar preparations to prevent the drying of the skin is practically universal.
A veil is also a desirable protection against bad weather. Chiffon or other material of the finest mesh should be preferred. Frenchwomen of the middle and upper classes never think of going out without a veil. Englishwomen and the inhabitants of warm climates generally carry parasols.
To Wash the Face.—When the face is red or dry from exposure to sun and air, or grimed with dirt or smoke, it is well to put on it a quantity of cold cream and rub thoroughly with a soft cloth. After the irritation has been somewhat lessened, the face should be thoroughly washed and cleansed. Fill a basin two thirds full of fresh soft %vater. If your source of water supply is hard water, put a teaspoonful of powdered borax into the basin. Dip the face in the water, and afterwards the hands. Soap the hands well, and rub with a gentle motion over the face. Dip the face a second time, rinse thoroughly, and wipe with a thick, soft towel. After the bath a slightly astringent lotion is very refreshing.
The use of a good cleansing cream before the face bath and a suitable lotion afterwards has a really wonderful effect in improving the complexion. The effect of a clean face, howe%'er, is itself altogether delightful. Such a bath tends to rest and refresh the bather and put her in a good temper. Many a "bad complexion is due to neglect of a proper cleansing process. If more faces were kept really clean, a great improvement in the complexion would be noticed.
Face Cloth.—The hands themselves, in the judgment of many persons, are the most effective means of washing other portions of the body. To those who prefer face cloths we suggest scrim as the most sanitary material. Scrim is porous and free from lint, so that the air circulates through it freely. It is so thin that it can be quickly washed and dried.
The Toilet Sponge.—The wash rag and the sponge, while convenient and regarded by many as indispensable, are often sources of injury to tlie skin. Children, especially, are prone to take a sponge from dirty water and squeeze it dry without rinsing. The decaying organic matter caughtin the pores of the sponge gives rise to certain acids and ferments very injurious to the complexion. Both the sponge and the wash rag should be thoroughly cleansed and rinse" after use. To clean a sour sponge, put 1 teaspoonful each of ammonia and borax into a basin of warm water, wash the sponge, rinse in clean soft water and hang in the air, exposed to sunshine if possible, until dry.
Soaps.—Pure soaps do not irritate the skin. There are two principal kinds of soaps: those containing free alkali in the form of potash or soda lye, and the so-called neutral or fatty soaps. The former increase the swelling and softening of the horny parts of the skin. When these are removed, they of course take the dirt with them. The latter are better adapted to persons of sensitive skin, although their detergent effects are not so marked. Among these are castile, glycerin, curd soaps, and the like. Medicated and highly colored or scented soaps should rarely be used, and we recommend purchasing for household use only well-known soaps which have an established reputation for purity and general satisfaction. It must be borne in mind that toilet preparations which may give good effects on one skin are sometimes injurious to another. Glycerin is said to burn some skins, and benzoin cannot be used by some persons. This shows how important it is for a woman to know what ingredients are used in making up her toilet preparations. It is not always safe to " try" some compound, the contents of which are unknown, because it is highly recommended by others.
On the other hand, the difference in results obtained by two women may often be attributed to the difference in the method of use. One woman will cleanse her face thoroughly as above indicated, while the other will merely apply a cream or lotion when the skin may be covered with grime and the pores filled with dirt. The result may be to still further clog the pores and produce an eruption cf pimples and blackheads. No preparation can give satisfactory results in the absence of absolute cleanliness.
Toilet Soaps.—These soaps are distinguished by the purity of their ingredients, as almond oil, beef marrow, refined lard, and the like. They are usually saponified without heat, and may be perfumed according to taste. Any neutral hard white soap may be used as a foundation for toilet soaps if prepared as follows:
Shave the soap thin or run it through a meat cutter, and melt in a double boiler with rose water, orange-flower water, or other distilled water, and common salt, in the proportion of 6 pounds of soap to 1 pint each of rose water or orange-flower water and 2 ounces of salt.
After boiling, allow the mixture to cool. Cut it into small squares with a cord or wire, and dry without exposing to the sun. When dry, melt it again down with the same proportion of rose water or orange-flower water. Strain, cool, and dry thoroughly in a warm oven. Now reduce it to powder and expose it to the air under a screen. Coloring matter and perfume may be added according to taste. Other methods of purifying common household soaps and recipes for standard popular toilet soaps are given below.
Among the most popular toilet articles are honey, Windsor, borax, glycerin, and almond soaps, besides a multitude of soaps which derive their name from the various perfumes added, as cinnamon, orange flower, sandalwood, rose, musk, violet, citron, etc.
Perfumed Soaps.—Soaps may be perfumed by adding a few drops of any essential oil, or a proportionately larger quantity of essences or perfumed distilled waters to the saponified mass while cooling, but before hard soap has become cool enough to set. If perfumes are added while the soap is too hot they tend to volatilize and escape with the steam; if the soap is too cold they cannot be readily incorporated. Ordinary soap may be perfumed by cutting it with alcohol or other spirits and adding the perfume before the mixture hardens; or by melting up the soap in a small quantity of water, adding the perfume, and evaporating the excess of water by very gentle heat in a double boiler. Or the soap may be reduced to shavings, moistened slightly with distilled water, and the perfume incorporated by kneading or by the use of a mortar and pestle.
Honey Soap.—This is common yellow soap of good quality, to which has been added a certain proportion of pure strained honey and other ingredients. Shave and melt in a double boiler 2 pounds of yellow soap. Add 4 ounces of palm oil, 4 ounces of honey, and 1 ounce of oil of cinnamon or other perfume according to taste. Boil for 10 minutes. While cooling stir vigorously with an egg beater to thoroughly emulsify the ingredients. Cool. Ready for use as soon as hardened.
Windsor Soap.—This is a trade term which denotes merely a pure white soap, the base of which is 10 parts of any pure animal fat, as rectified suet or lard, and about 1 part of olive oil or bleached palm oil, to which are added any perfume, as the essential oil of bergamot.
Almond Soap.—Almond oil may be saponified v/ith caustic soda by a process similar to that of making other hard soaps. About 1|- pounds of caustic soda will be required to saponify 7 pounds of almond oil. Mix the soda, lye, and almond oil gradually, boiling hot. Boil and stir until saponification is complete, adding more oil or lye as may be necessary. Or melt fine, pure, hard white soap, and add the essence of bitter almonds in the proportion of IJ per cent by weight.
Borax Soap.—Dissolve 3 ounces of borax in 2 quarts of boiling water. Shave 3 pounds of pure white hard soap and add to the solution. Stir and simmer with gentle heat until the ingredients are thoroughly melted and mixed. When cold the soap is ready for use.
Soap from Corn Meal or Oatmeal. —Both of these articles are useful for the toilet, having the property of making the skin smooth, soft, and white. In summer mix 3 teacupfuls of corn meal with 1 tablespoonful of powdered borax, and use as a cleansing agent.
Or shave 12 ounces of neutral white hard soap, add enough water to keep it from burning, and melt with gentle heat. Stir in 4 ounces of cornstarch, and perfume according to taste.
Or melt together 12 ounces of hard white soap, 5 ounces of palm soap, and 3 ounces of cocoanut oil or marine soap; add 3 ounces of oatmeal or wheat bran. These ingredients should be incorporated with gentle heat in a double boiler. The soap will be improved if the mixture is thoroughly beaten with an egg beater to make a complete emulsion after it has been removed from the fire. Ready for use when cold and dry.
Or cut fine 1 pound of castile or other hard white soap, add enough water to prevent it from burning, and melt with gentle heat. Stir while melting to form a thicTi, smooth paste of the consistency desired. Put this in a bowl to cool. Perfume with any essential oil or perfumed water, incorporating the perfume with an egg beater. Now stir in Indian meal until the paste thickens. This must be kept in a fruit jar or other covered glass vessel, as it will spoil if exposed to the air.
Soft Soap for the Toilet.—A liquid soap may be made for the toilet of sweet oil saponified with caustic potash. Take of the sweet oil 7 parts | caustic potash, 1 part. Put these ingredients in a double boiler with a small quantity of rose water or other perfumed water. Beat the mixture with a spoon or an egg beater until a complete emulsion forms, and simmer until saponification takes place. Now add sufficient rose water to reduce the mixture to any desired consistency.
Marine or Salt-water Soap.—Dissolve 8 ounces of caustic soda in 3 quarts of boiling water to form a lye. Now melt with gentle heat 30 ounces of cocoanut oil or cocoanut lard. Gradually add the lye, stirring constantly until saponification takes place. One ounce of fused Glauber's salts will cause the soap to harden.
Camphor Soap.—Dissolve in a double boiler 1 pound of neutral hard white soap in 8 fluid ounces of boiling water. Continue boiling until by evaporation the soap has the consistency of butter. Now add 6 fluid ounces of olive oil in which 1 dram of prepared camphor has been previously mingled. Take the mixture from the stove and beat up with an egg beater until a complete emulsion forms. This is a valuable remedy for chaps and scratches.
Citron Soap.—To 6 pounds of curd soap add | pound of attar citron, I ounce of verbena (lemon grass), 4 ounces of attar bergamot, and 3 ounces of attar lemon.
Frangipani Soap.—To 7 pounds of light-brown curd soap add ^ ounce of civet, i ounce of attar neroli, 1^ ounces of attar santal, ^ ounce of attar rose, and J oimce of attar viti-vert.
Cinnamon Soap.—Add 3 ounces of palm-oil soap to 3 ounces of tallow soap, I ounce of water, 7 ounces of essence cinnamon, 2 ounces of essence bergamot, and 1 ounce of essence sassafras. Stir in enough yellow ocher to color as desired.
Sandalwood Soap.—To 7 pounds of curd soap, add 2 ounces of attar bergamot and 7 ounces ol attar santal.
Sand Soap.—To 7 pounds of curd soap, add 7 pounds of marine soap, 25 pounds of silver sand, 2 ounces of
attar thyme, 2 ounces of attar cassia, 2 ounces of attar caraway, and 2 ounces of attar French lavender.
Soap a la Rose.—Take 30 pounds of Castile soap, and add 20 pounds of tallow soap, sufficient water to melt, 3 ounces of attar rose, 1 ounce of essence cinnamon, 2^ ounces of essence bergamot, 11 ounces of vermilion, and 1 ounce of essence cloves.
Musk Soap.—Add 26 pounds of palm-oil soap to 30 pounds of tallow soap, 4 ounces of essence bergamot, 5 ounces of powdered pale roses, 3| ounces of musk, and 4^ ounces of brown ocher.
Tonquin Soap.—Take 5 pounds of light-brown curd soap and 1 ounce of attar bergamot, and add | ounce of grain musk and 8 ounces of essence cloves.
Wash Balls.—Any good toilet soap may be made into balls of any desired size by a process similar to making butter balls, i. e., by using two wooden paddles. The addition of starch helps to give the soap the right consistency.
Melt 7 pounds of neutral white bar soap in distilled water or rose water sufficient to prevent burning. Add 1 ounce of powdered starch and more water, if necessary, to form a stiff paste. If too much water is added, continue the heat until the excess of water evaporates. Stir in 8 ounces of powdered wheat starch or cornstarch, and add essence of almonds according to taste. Remove from the fire, thoroughly incorporate the materials with an egg beater, mix or knead with the hands, and make into balls of any desired size.
Soaps are frequently used as the vehicle for various remedial agents, as sulphur, iodine, tar, and the like, for diseases of the skin. Also for disinfectants, as carbolic acid, chlorine, and others. Any neutral white hard soap may be medicated by being dissolved in water. The following are especially recommended;
Sulphur Soap. —Shave 2 ounces of soft soap and add ] ounce of flowers of sulphur and 3 fluid drams of proof spirits, which may be perfumed and colored according to taste. Mix the ingredients thorouglily in an earthenware bowl or marble mortar. Sulphur is a valuable remedy in itch and other diseases of the skin.
Iodine Soap.—Dissolve 1 pound of white castile soap shaved fine in 3 fluid ounces of distilled water or rose water. Add 1 ounce of iodide of potassium. Put in a double boiler, melt, and mix by stirring. Iodine is a valuable remedy in scrofula and other diseases of the skin.
Juniper-tar Soap. — Dissolve 4 ounces of tar of the juniper tree in 1 pound of almond oil or olive oil. Put on the fire in a double boiler, and add gradually Aveak soda lye, stirring constantly until saponification takes place. Tar is a valuable remedy in all kinds of skin diseases. This soap is really an ointment. It should be applied at night and washed away next morning.
Carbolic - acid Soap. — Take 5 pounds of fresh cocoanut oil or marine soap, melt, and add 5 ounces of alcohol, 3 ounces of carbolic acid, 1 ounce of ,caustic potash, and l ounce of almond oil. Stir until the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, and cool in molds.
Soap with Chlorine. — Shave 11 ounces of castile soap, dry in warm oven, and reduce to a powder. Add 1 ounce of fresh dry chloride of lime. Add a sufficient quantity of proof spirits to cut this mixture and reduce it to the consistency of dough. This soap must be kept from the air, which may be done by packing it in glass fruit jars with tight metal caps. It is especially valuable in the sick room and for nurses in contagious diseases. It also has the property of removing stains from the skin and making it white.
Soap with Arsenic. — This is a paste made by mixing 12 ounces of carbonate of potash with 4 ounces
each of white arsenic, white soap, and air-slaked lime, with sufficient water to reduce to the required consistency. Powdered camphor, | ounce, may also be added with advantage.
Or mix white soap, 8 ounces; powdered lime, 3 ounces; arsenious acid, 8 ounces; carbonate of potassa, 3 ounces, and gum camphor, IJ ounces. Reduce the ingredients separatel}^ to powder and mix. These two arsenical soaps are poisonous, and should be labeled accordingly and kept out of the way of children and household pets. They are used as preservati\ es in preparing the skins of birds and other animals, and to keep them free from the attacks of insects.
Sayberry Soap, or Myrtle Soap. — Dissolve 3| ounces of white potash in 1 pint of water, and add 1 pound of n^ijelted myrtle wax or bayberry tallow. Boil slowly and stir until the mixture saponifies. Add 3 table-spoonfuls of cold water containing a pinch of salt, and boil 5 or 6 minutes longer. Remove from the fire and when it is cool, but before it sets, perfume by adding 5 or 6 drops of any essential oil or oils, according to taste. This soap is valuable for all toilet purposes, for shaving, chaps, and all diseased conditions of the skin. It should not be used until it is thoroughly seasoned. The longer it is allowed to dry and season the better it becomes.
Transparent Soap. — Any good white neutral soap may be rendered transparent by reducing it to shavings, adding one half its volume of alcohol, and setting the mixture in a warm place until the soap is dissolved. When allowed to cool it has somewhat the appearance of rock candy. It may be perfumed and scented according to taste.
Or shave 24 ounces of good hard yellow soap and add 1 pint of alcohol. Simmer with gentle heat until dissolved. Remove from the fire, add 1 ounce of almond or other essence, and stir vigorously with an egg beater to make a complete emulsion. Pour into molds to cool. This gives a very cheap, pure soap of good appearance, as it is nearly transparent.