December 22 - 28, 2013: Issue 142


As it is a great object to the settlers and other families to make soap for their own use, as well as to furnish those who may be inclined to make that article for sale, the fol-
lowing extract has been made from the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

The manufacture of Soap in London first began in the year 1524; before which time that City was served with white soap from foreign countries, and with grey soap, speckled with white, from Bristol which was sold for a penny a pound; and also with black soap, which sold for a halfpenny the pound. The principal soaps of our own manufacture are the soft, the hard, and the ball soap. The soft soap is either white or green.—The process of making each of these shall be now described.     

Green loft Soap.—The chief ingredients used in making this are lees drawn from potash and lime, boiled up with tallow and oil.
First, the ley of a proper degree of strength(which must be estimated by the weight of  the liquor), and tallow are put into the cop-per together; and as soon as they boil up, the oil is added; the fire is then damped, or slopped up, while the ingredients remain in the copper to unite: when they are united,    the copper is again made to boil, being silled or fed with lees as it boils, till there be a sufficient quantity put into it; then it is  boiled off, and put into casks. When this soap is first made it appears uniform, but in  about a week's time the tallow separates from the oil into those white grains which we see in common soap. Soap thus made would appear yellow; but by a mixture of indigo, added at the end of the boiling, it is rendered green, that being the colour which results from the mixture of yellow and blue.

White Soap.—Of this one sort is made after the same manner as green soap, oil alone excepted, which is not used in white.—The other sort of white soft soap is made from the lees of ashes of lime, boiled up two different times with tallow. First, a quantity of lees and tallow are put into the cop-per together, and kept boiling, being fed with  lees as they boil, until the whole is boiled sufficiently; then the lees are separated or  discharged from the tallow with part, which part is removed into a tub, and the lees are thrown away: this is called the first half boil: then the copper is filled again with  fresh tallow and lees, and the first half boil  is put out of the tub into the copper a second  time, when it is kept boiling with fresh lees and tallow till the soap is produced. It is then put out of the copper into the same-sort of casks as are used for green soft soap. The common soft soap used about London, generally of a greenish hue, with some white lumps, is prepared chiefly with tallow; a blackish sort, more common in some other places, is said to be made with whale oil.

Hard Soap—is made with lees from ashes  and tallow, and is most commonly boiled twice; the first, called the half boil, half  the same operation as the first half boil of soft white soap; then the copper is charged  with fresh lees again, and the first half boil  put into it, where it is kept boiling, and fed with lees as it boils till it grains, or is boiled enough: then the ley is discharged from it,  and the soap put into a frame to cool and harden. Common salt is made use of for the purpose of graining the soap; for when the oil or tallow has been united with the ley, after a little boiling, a quantity of salt is thrown into the mass, which dissolves readily in water, but not in the oil or tallow, draws out the water in a considerable degree, so that the oil or tallow united with the salt of the ley, swims on the top. When    the ley is of a proper strength, less salt is necessary to raise the curd than when it is too weak. It must be observed, that there is no certain time for bringing off a boiling of any of these sorts of soap: it frequently takes up part of two days.

Ball Soap—commonly used in the North, is made with lees from ashes and tallow. The lees are put into the copper, and boiled till the watery part is quite gone, and there re-mains nothing in the copper but a sort of saline matter (the very strength and essence of the ley); to this the tallow is put, and the  copper is kept boiling and stirring for above half and hour, in which time the soap is made; and then it is put out of the copper into tubs or baskets with sheets in them, and immediately (whilst soft) made into balls. It requires near 24 hours in this process to boil away the watery part of the ley.

Every family in America preserves the wood ashes, and ley made from them is constantly preparing for the purpose of making soap, either in small or large quantities, ac-cording to the wants of each family. Fish oil may serve in some measure for tallow, which cannot yet be readily obtained: but the economist will observe, that any animal fat or grease whatever will fully answer the purpose. Any marine substance handing about the rocks, or washed on the beaches, will answer the purpose of making the soda, or kelp that is often used in preparing soap.  It is hoped this information will increase the quantity and improve the quality of colonial soap, which some individuals have so successfully attempted. MANUFACTURE of SOAP. (1805, March 3). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), p. 3. Retrieved from

Painting in text: 'Soap Bubbles', ca. 1733–34. Jean Siméon Chardin (French, 1699–1779)