Treasure #40 Ash barrel

58 Ash barrel

58 Ash barrel

We take things like soap for granted, but look what our ancestors went through to create it! This large ash barrel was kept outside a colonial garrison because the toxic substance it created, lye, could cause severe burns and eye injuries. Fireplace ashes were dumped in here, then covered with water and slowly boiled. A chemical reaction called saponification would occur and caustic brown lye would trickle out through the holes at the bottom. The lye would then be boiled 6-8 hours with rendered animal fat (lard from pigs, tallow from cattle) to form soft soap. For hard soap, salt was added at the end of the cooking process.

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