58 Ash barrel

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.

Location: G2 Garret/Loft

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