Survival Soap 101: How to Make Soap in the Wild

how to make soap in the wild

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you need soap, but you’re out in the wilderness without access to any? Maybe you’ve been camping for a few days, or you’re on a long hike, and you’re starting to feel the grime build up on your skin.

In situations like these, cleanliness can be crucial to staying healthy and comfortable. Fear not, because making soap in the wild is easier than you might think. With just a few simple ingredients and some basic knowledge, you can create your own soap in no time.

In this blog post, I’ll teach you how to make soap in the wild, so you can stay clean and refreshed no matter where your outdoor adventures take you.

Recommended Reading: 10 Best States for Living Off the Grid

Understanding Soap-Making Basics

Soap-making is a chemical process that involves the reaction of fats or oils with a strong base, such as sodium hydroxide (also known as lye). The result of this reaction is a substance called soap, which is a combination of the base and the fats or oils.

Soap-making is a relatively simple process. But it requires some basic knowledge of chemistry and safety considerations. Before you start making soap in the wild, it’s important to understand the chemistry behind it.

The chemical reaction that occurs during soap-making is called saponification. During this process, the base (lye) reacts with the fats or oils to create soap and glycerin.

Glycerin is a natural byproduct of saponification. It’s what gives soap its moisturizing properties.

Soap-making also involves some safety considerations. Lye is a strong base that can cause chemical burns if it comes into contact with your skin. It’s important to handle lye with care and to always wear gloves and eye protection when working with it. We’ll go deeper into the safety precautions below.

In addition to the base and fats or oils, some other ingredients can be added. Ingredients such as fragrance oils, essential oils, herbs, or natural colorants.

These ingredients are combined in specific proportions. Then heated and stirred to encourage the saponification process.

Soap-Making Methods

Soap-making methods can be broken down into three main categories:

  • hot process soap making
  • cold process method
  • melt and pour method

Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. So it’s important to understand the differences to determine which method will work best for your needs.

Hot Process Soap Making

Hot process soap making involves heating the soap mixture in a crockpot or on the stove. This method allows the soap to cure faster and be ready to use in a shorter amount of time. But, the soap may have a rougher texture and be less visually appealing than cold process soap.

Cold Process Method

Cold process soap making is the traditional method of making soap. This method involves mixing lye and oils together and allowing them to saponify over time. This method produces a smooth and creamy soap with a long shelf life. But, the curing process can take up to six weeks.

Melt and Pour

Melt-and-pour soap-making is a beginner-friendly method. It involves melting pre-made soap bases and adding your own scents, colors, and other additives.

This method allows for a wide variety of creative possibilities and produces a finished product in just a few hours. However, the soap base used in this method may contain additional additives that are not natural.

It’s important to note that each method requires specific tools and ingredients. Some methods may be better suited for certain situations or personal preferences. With a little experimentation and practice, you can find the soap-making method that works best for you.

Now that you have a basic understanding of soap-making chemistry and methods, you’re ready to learn about finding ingredients in the wild.

Finding Ingredients in the Wild

When you’re in the wild, it’s important to be resourceful and use what you have available to make soap. Fortunately, there are many ingredients that can be found or created in the wild.

  1. Fats and Oils: The first ingredient you’ll need for soap making is a source of fats or oils. You can use animal fats, such as lard or tallow, which can be obtained from wild game or livestock. You can also use plant-based oils, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or palm oil, which can be found in many types of plants.
  2. Water: Water is another essential ingredient for soap making. You can use any clean water source, such as a stream or lake, or rain water collected in a container.
  3. Ash: Ash can be used as a source of lye, the strong base needed for saponification. To create lye from ash, you’ll need to collect wood ashes and mix them with water. This will create a solution that contains potassium hydroxide, which is a form of lye.
  4. Charcoal: Charcoal can be used as a natural colorant in soap making. Simply crush it into a fine powder and mix it into your soap mixture to create a dark, smoky color.
  5. Herbs and Flowers: Many herbs and flowers can be used to add scent and other properties to soap. For example, lavender is known for its relaxing properties and peppermint is refreshing and invigorating.

It’s important to note that when using wild ingredients, you need to take precautions to ensure your safety. Some plants and oils can be toxic.

So, it’s important to do your research and only use ingredients that you’re confident are safe.

Safety Precautions

Making soap in the wild requires the use of lye. Lye is a caustic substance that can cause chemical burns if not handled properly. It’s important to wear protective gear, such as gloves and goggles, and to work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling fumes.

When mixing lye with water, it’s important to add the lye to the water, not the other way around. This will prevent the mixture from splashing and causing burns.

It’s also important to avoid using metal containers or utensils, as they can react with the lye and cause a dangerous chemical reaction.

After mixing the lye and water, it’s important to let the mixture cool down before adding the animal fat. The mixture will become very hot and can cause burns if not handled carefully.

You should also stir the mixture constantly to ensure that the fat is evenly distributed.

Overall, making soap in the wild requires careful planning and attention to safety.

By gathering the necessary materials and following proper safety precautions, you can create an effective soap for cleaning in the great outdoors.

Now that you know what ingredients you can use, it’s time to learn how to make soap in the wild.

How to Make Soap in the Wild

how to make soap in nature

Making soap in the wild is a fun and rewarding experience that will make you feel like a true pioneer. With just a few simple steps, you can create your own soap using natural ingredients gathered from the great outdoors.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make soap in the wild:

Step 1: Gather your ingredients

Collect your fats or oils, water, lye, and any additional ingredients you want to use, such as herbs or charcoal. Make sure everything is clean and free of contaminants.

Step 2: Mix your lye solution

If you’re using wood ash to create lye, mix it with water in a separate container. Let it sit for a few hours until the liquid at the top is clear. Then, strain the liquid through a cloth to remove any impurities.

Step 3: Heat your fats or oils

Melt your fats or oils in a pot over a fire or camp stove. Be careful not to overheat them, as this can cause them to burn.

Step 4: Combine your ingredients

Slowly pour your lye solution into the melted fats or oils while stirring constantly. Be sure to wear gloves and eye protection. As the lye solution can cause chemical burns if it comes into contact with your skin.

Step 5: Stir and mix

Stir the mixture vigorously for several minutes until it begins to thicken and trace. “Trace” is when the soap mixture is thick enough to leave a trail when you drip it back into the pot.

Step 6: Add your additional ingredients

Once the soap has traced, you can add any herbs, flowers, or charcoal powder you want to use. Mix well to ensure they’re evenly distributed throughout the soap.

Step 7: Pour and mold

Pour the soap mixture into a mold, such as a plastic container or even a hollowed-out log. Smooth the surface with a spatula or spoon, then cover and let it sit for 24-48 hours.

Step 8: Cut and cure

After the soap has been set for 24-48 hours, remove it from the mold and cut it into bars. Place the bars on a rack to cure for several weeks, turning them occasionally to ensure they dry evenly.

Congratulations, you’ve made your own soap in the wild! Now you can clean up after your camping or hiking adventure like a true outdoorsman (or woman).

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different oils, herbs, and flowers to create your own unique soap blends. Just remember to always be cautious when working with lye and other potentially hazardous ingredients.

And remember, as the great outdoorsman Bear Grylls once said, “Improvisation is key to survival.”

So, if you don’t have all the ingredients or equipment you need for soap-making, get creative and find a way to make it work.

The wilderness is full of surprises and challenges, but with a little ingenuity, you can conquer them all.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Making soap in the wild can be a fun and rewarding experience. But there are some common mistakes that can ruin your first soap recipe and waste your time and ingredients.

Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Using inaccurate measurements: As we mentioned earlier, soap-making is a science that requires precise measurements. Using inaccurate measurements can lead to soap that’s too soft, too hard, or doesn’t lather properly.
  2. Not mixing the ingredients properly: Failing to mix your ingredients thoroughly can result in uneven soap that separates or crumbles apart.
  3. Forgetting to wear protective gear: Working with lye is dangerous and can cause chemical burns if it comes into contact with your skin or eyes. Always wear gloves and eye protection when working with lye, and mix it in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling any fumes.
  4. Rushing the process: Soap making requires patience. Rushing the process can lead to soap that’s not fully cured, resulting in a soft and mushy texture.
  5. Using the wrong oils: Using the wrong oils can result in soap that’s too harsh, too soft, or doesn’t lather properly. Be sure to research the properties of different oils before choosing which ones to use.
  6. Not testing for lye: Failing to test for lye in your finished soap can be dangerous. As it can cause chemical burns if there’s still lye present. Always test your soap by touching a small amount to your tongue – if it tingles, there’s still lye present and it needs to cure for longer.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to making high-quality bar soap out in the wild.

Remember, practice makes perfect. So keep experimenting and refining your skills until you find the perfect recipe for your needs.

Alternative Soap-Making Techniques

Native American Soap Making

Native Americans have been making soap for centuries using natural ingredients like plant oils, ash, and animal fat. Here are two traditional Native American Soap recipes you can try:

Native American Soap Recipes

  • Navajo Soap: Mix 2 cups of juniper ash, 2 cups of cedar ash, and 2 cups of water. Boil the mixture for 1 hour, then add 1/2 cup of yucca root and continue boiling for another hour. Strain the mixture, then add animal fat and stir until it’s melted. Pour the mixture into a mold and let it cool.
  • Hopi Soap: Mix 2 cups of blue cornmeal, 1 cup of piñon pine needles, 1/2 cup of yucca root, and 1/2 cup of water. Grind the ingredients together, then add animal fat and stir until it’s melted. Pour the mixture into a mold and let it cool.
  • Another recipe involves boiling soapwort roots and using the liquid as soap. These natural ingredients can be found in the wild and used to make soap in a survival situation.

Ash Soap-Making

Ash soap-making is another viable alternative when traditional soap-making ingredients are not available. This method involves using the ash from hardwood fires to create lye water. Here’s how to make ash soap:

  1. Collect hardwood ash and filter it through a fine mesh to remove any large debris.
  2. Mix the ash with water in a container, stirring occasionally for several hours.
  3. Once the mixture has settled, use a ladle to remove the water on top, leaving the ash at the bottom.
  4. Boil the ash water for about an hour until it becomes concentrated.
  5. Strain the liquid through a cloth to remove any remaining ash.
  6. Let the lye water cool before adding it to a mixture of animal fat or vegetable oil.
  7. Stir the mixture until it thickens and then pour it into molds to cool and harden.

Clay Soap-Making

Another alternative soap-making technique is using clay. Which can be a great addition to your soap-making process. Clay contains natural saponins, which can create a lather that effectively cleanses the skin.

To make clay soap, start by collecting clay from a clean source and mixing it with water to create a thick paste. Next, add the paste to boiling water and stir until it thickens.

Then, add animal fat or vegetable oil to the mixture and stir until it thickens again. Pour the mixture into a soap mold and let it cool and harden.

These alternative soap-making techniques can be a fun and creative way to make soap in the wild. Experiment with different ingredients and methods to find the perfect recipe for your needs.

FAQs Related to How To Make Soap In the Wild

What can I use for soap in a survival situation?

In a survival situation, soap can be made using natural ingredients found in the wild. Animal fat and ash are commonly used to make soap in the wild. However, if these ingredients are not available, there are other natural alternatives that can be used.

Pine needles, for example, can be boiled in water to create a natural soap that is effective in cleaning the body and clothes.

What is a natural way to make soap?

The most natural way to make soap is by using animal fat and ash. The process involves rendering the animal fat to remove impurities and mixing it with ash to create lye. The lye is then mixed with the fat to create soap.

Another natural way to make soap is by using plant materials such as yucca root, which contains saponins that can be used to create a lather.

What are the ingredients in primitive soap?

The ingredients in primitive soap are typically animal fat and ash. The animal fat can come from a variety of sources such as cattle or pigs, and the ash is usually created by burning wood or other plant materials. The ash is then mixed with water to create lye, which is used to make the soap.

How was primitive soap made?

Primitive soap was made by rendering animal fat to remove impurities and mixing it with ash to create lye. The lye was then mixed with the fat to create soap. The soap was typically made in small batches and used for cleaning the body and clothes.

The process of making primitive soap was time-consuming and required a lot of effort. But it was an essential skill for survival in the wild.

What plants can be used to make soap?

Many plants can be used to make soap, each with its own unique properties and benefits. Some popular soap plants include:

  1. Aloe Vera – Aloe Vera contains anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties that can be beneficial for sensitive skin.
  2. Lavender – Lavender has a soothing and calming effect on the skin and can be used to help relax and reduce stress.
  3. Calendula – Calendula has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that can help soothe and heal irritated skin.
  4. Chamomile – Chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe skin irritation and promote relaxation.
  5. Rosemary – Rosemary has a stimulating and invigorating effect on the skin and can help improve circulation and promote a healthy complexion.

These plants can be used in a variety of ways to create natural soaps. From using their essential oils for fragrance to incorporating their dried flowers or leaves for added texture and exfoliation.


Learning how to make soap in the wild can be a challenging but rewarding experience. It requires patience, attention to detail, and a willingness to experiment with different ingredients and techniques.

Whether you’re stranded in the wilderness or simply looking for a fun DIY project, making soap from scratch is a great way to learn about chemistry and self-sufficiency.

Remember to always use caution when working with lye, as it can be dangerous if mishandled. Wear protective gear and work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling fumes. It’s also important to properly clean and render animal fat to ensure the purity of your soap.

By following the steps outlined in this article, you can create high-quality soap that is both effective and environmentally friendly.

So go ahead, give it a try! You might be surprised at how much you enjoy the process and the results.

Benjamin Hughes

Benjamin Hughes is a Vietnam Vet who has been camping, hunting, and fishing for most of his life. He enjoys testing out the newest tactical and survival gear and discussing survival in general.

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