I wasn’t originally going to publish this today, but I received a few comments on yesterday’s entry about the use of beef tallow in soap making. I’ve also had a quite a few questions over the years about the use of lard and beef tallow in my soaps, so I thought I’d finally bite the bullet, as it were, and write a full entry on why I use it, and what the alternatives are if you are morally opposed to using animal products.
I use lard or beef tallow as the hardening fat in my soaps—it’s what makes the bar hard so it doesn’t turn into a pile of glop the second it gets wet in your shower. Both have a long and esteemed history in soap making, and are still used as the primary fats in many cheap, mass-produced soaps today.
The other factor in creating a hard bar of soap is aging time. Most cold process recipes are formulated for a 3 week aging time, which works when you’ve got a good amount of a hardening fat in the recipe. If you don’t, you’ll need more time—sometimes, substantially more time (like 5 years). It all depends.
For those looking for an alternative, here are your options:
- Palm/ Palm Kernel Oil: These oils are the most popular plant-based alternative to beef tallow or lard when it comes to hardening a bar of soap. However, if you’re shying away from beef tallow and lard for reasons of animal welfare or the environment, you should really think twice about using palm products. Palm oil is used heavily in food and cosmetics production as it is very cheap—and it’s cheap thanks to very unsustainable harvesting practices that are destroying rain forest, exploiting workers in foreign countries, and leaving endangered species like the orangutan without habitat. Read more here, and do your own research (that source is quite biased but will definitely educate you on the negatives). TRADE OFF: Environmental concerns.
- Cocoa or Shea butter: Other hardening plant-based fats, though not as hard as beef tallow/lard or palm/palm kernel. I’ve found I need to leave these bars to age for a year or more before they get nice and hard. They’re also substantially more expensive. That said, bars made with these oils can be absolutely wonderful once they’ve finished aging. I have a few that are about 2 years old now, and I’m hoarding them because they are so wonderful! TRADE OFF: Price & time.
- Make liquid soap instead. That’ll solve the problem of needing hard fats, but obviously you’ll then have liquid soap, not bar soap. TRADE OFF: Not the same thing, but still awesome.
- Forego hard fats and age for years. This is common practice with castile soap, which is traditionally made from 100% olive oil (pomace) (USA / Canada). I’ve read that a 5 year aging time gives you a great bar of soap, so if you’ve got half a decade, go for it (2 years would probably be sufficient, though, of you aren’t using all liquid oils)! TRADE OFF: Lots of time.
So why, as a vegetarian, do I use lard or beef tallow in my soap? My thought process is this: beef tallow is a waste product of the meat industry, and by using it I am helping reduce waste and make the most of the life of an animal that was killed for steak.
I used to work at a grocery store (in the produce department), and I know the beef tallow/lard gets trimmed off the meat and thrown out at the end of the day by the meat department. I still have friends in the meat department there that will save me their fat trimmings for a day, giving me enough beef tallow for months worth of soap.
Think about that—one employee (of maybe 10 that work every day) saves me their trimmings for one shift, and it’s enough for probably 10kg of soap. Every other day of the year, that gets thrown out. Think of all that waste. The animal has already been killed (and not for its fat, obviously), and all we’re doing is using the meat (and only the cuts we like, for the most part), and throwing out everything else. That’s shameful. So, I feel like by using beef tallow I am:
- Reducing waste
- Helping use the rest of an animal that was killed for other reasons, and would be dead regardless of whether or not I rescued some of its fat from the trash bin
So, if you eat meat, I think you should definitely use beef tallow or lard in your homemade soap. If you can eat meat, there shouldn’t be an ick factor—you can probably even save the beef tallow from your own dinners. If you’re veg or vegan, feel free to use one of the alternatives I’ve listed above (I’d advocate #2). But hey, it’s something to think about. Feel free to share your thoughts below!
I have no problem using lard or tallow, I’m just not sure how well that would go over on Etsy! Maybe I could use it for the soap I make for myself. I’m almost ready to make my first batch of soap. Next weekend I will give it a whirl.
Good luck & let me know how it goes! It’s funny how negative the perception of lard & tallow as ingredients is—they can both still be commonly found in soap you’ll buy at the grocery store. I find it especially funny when the person saying “ick” eats meat, especially since the final product doesn’t smell at all like meat 😛 Maybe you could try selling both vegan and non-vegan soap on Etsy & see how it goes?
Maybe someday. I can’t risk it right now. You don’t have to list ingredients when describing your product, but according to health Canada, you have to list ingredients on your products. So I guess if I wasn’t crystal clear that I was using lard or tallow and the person didn’t know this until after they purchased the soap, they’d potentially be pretty pissed!
“sodium tallowate” = tallow that has been saponified (made into soap) It’s one way to list it accurately (more accurately than saying tallow, actually) that takes some of the stigma away that seems to go with the word “tallow” (and is used in commercial labelling), but I don’t know if there is a way to list lard (other than by fatty acids (stearic acid, etc), if you wanted to use animal fat for non-vegan purchasers that might get huffy for no real reason about it being there (I would never try to hide animal product content from a vegan, I think that’s unethical)
Oh, definitely. I would never hide that info from a vegan. Eventually I will probably list vegan and non vegan soaps. If it’s soap that I’m making for myself anyways, if no one buys it, I’ll either give it away, or use it myself!
I’d agree that using the scientific terms for the animal fats to get people with sensitive “ick” faculties (but no actual objections to animal products) to try it before making up their mind. Also, I figure if they have real ethical issues with animal products they will learn what “sodium tallowate” means. I’ve definitely done that as a vegetarian because I care, and I assume most people with similar convictions would do the same.
For sure—I’d always list your ingredients on Etsy, especially where potential allergens are concerned!
I would be pissed to see in an Etsy shop nothing but soaps made with palm oil with no reassurance it’s the sustainable kind. Do some homework about what harvesting palm is doing to orangutans’ habitat. Look at the photos and tell me you think palm oil is still better than lard or tallow. It is not.
Dawn – “Adeps Suillus” is lard’s sexy INCI name. 😉 I provide both on my labels to read Adeps Suillus (lard).
I use lard in all my soaps and have sold on Etsy, eBay and locally in my hometown. My soaps are highly sought after and using lard has never hindered my sales.
Sodium Tallowate, as listed on most commercial soaps is tallow – pure and simple. I am going to introduce Tallow soaps into my line and if some folks, don’t like them, they don’t have to buy them. I giggle when people say they don’t use “lye soap” or don’t use soap with animal fats. I educate them about how soap is made and then let them look at the list of “sodium…..” and watch. ~ ; )
I really like your idea about the tallow I am not sure how to use it if I could get some from our local grocery store. I guess I’ll get a recipe from online.
Read this 🙂
Why bother making vegan products when you use Tallow or lard, its really disgusting, and poor animal is lying in a pot ready to be turned into soap! Yes, I don’t eat meat and I am Vegan!
Because vegans don’t own vegan products, it’s not an all-or-nothing thing, and every little bit helps? I believe I made my case quite clearly above, and explicitly stated that I understand vegans won’t use tallow in their soap—however, vegans are a small minority of the population. Surely you can recognize that just because you are vegan doesn’t mean the entire world is, and using hyperbolic language designed to elicit disgust does little for your cause.
Kate – I grew up a vegetarian and went vegan due to health concerns. Everyone does not follow the same lifestyle or have the same mentality for various reasons. Let’s not look down on others who have differing opinions.
Marie – thanks for the information on soapmaking and putting a wasted “product” such as tallow to use. Personally, I found that using a bison/sage softsoap helped keep my hands from cracking in the winter. My reason for visiting your site was to find natural ways to make a bison tallow soap.
Thanks for reading! Happy soaping 🙂
It’s a waste product of the meat industry. Vegan and non vegan soap is ok. The animal was killed for food, not soap. It’s recycling and serves a purpose. That’s not disgusting.
recycling is recycling! why not honour an animal who’s life has been dishonoured by commercial production. I am not a vegan, but I do believe every animal raised to produce meat should be honoured by having every single part of it used for good. This article helps me in my search to use every part of the animal before raising my own and giving them a beautiful life despite harvesting them to feed my family. Thank you Marie for helping me to honour my future animals; they will be raised with love and every part of them will be used; nothing wasted.
Those animals are already dead. Harvested for their muscle fibres….using the waste fat that would otherwise be discarded is showing respect for that animal by using more of it. Even better – save the bones to make bone broth! Very nutritious!
My very first batch of soap I made was with lard, because my Grandmother taught me how to make soap from scratch, when I say scratch I mean even how to make lye!!! While I switched away from the lard thinking my plant butters “were or are better”. Thinking back, the lard bars were great and my best quality,mild and hard. Just my personal experience.
Very cool! How are you making your own lye? The chemical that is made from wood ash is sodium carbonate, not sodium hydroxide, so I’m really curious if you’re making NaOH at home 🙂
Hi Marie Im pretty sure you will laugh with me, my hubby want me to do amsoap similar than the want he likes “YARDLEY” ok he always mentioned that he didnt know how people like tallow in their soaps, he said I loved yours because moisturize but I feel squiky clean with that one, so I went to the store and took a picture of his soap ingredients and you know what? Have tallow so now I will make him one with tallow, so like him are so many people out there that doesnt known that the soaps that they use for years and they loved have tallow so embrace that and use it in our favor!!!!!
Ha! I think you’re very right, though—loads of people don’t read ingredient labels or don’t know what “sodium tallowate” means 🙂
Great experience from Grandma
Sell it as “traditionally made” soap. If someone asks, be honest, but back to nature and back to tradition is a big theme on etsy so this should actually work in your favour.
I just bit the bullet and decided that lard and tallow worked better for me, and I feel it helps with sustainability of our environment. I love cows and pigs, but the fact of the matter, I eat them. I choose to use what’s left to make an awesome bar. At the same time, i choose to make a vegetable bars for people that don’t eat cows or pigs. I have used both, but the better soap is a lard bar. I don’t use Palm oil, because I don’t trust what’s going on in the truth of how eco friendly Palm oil can be. My vegetable bars are softer and take longer to cure, not to mention I use more expensive oils, but I keep the price the same, so it’s fair for everyone.
I use tallow/lard and palm in my soap recipes. I sell at farmers markets and craft shows. Honestly, most people just care about the smell of the soap. That’s what sells, scent! People don’t even know what tallow is.. and yes, all of my products are labeled.
I guess when you put it all in perspective, I can see why even though you’re a vegetarian, you’re not really compromising on your beliefs per se. I definitely agree that if someone IS going to kill an animal, every last bit of it should be used whenever possible. So yeah, the commercial meat industry is pretty wasteful and I think with that in mind, what you’re doing makes perfect sense.
As for me personally, while I can appreciate and respect the use of an animal product that was, like you said, going in the garbage anyway, I’m not sure if I could consciously wash myself with (partial) animal fat. It’s just in my head. Not that I claim to be a perfect vegan (as you know)… strict vegans would only call me a quasi-vegan, at best. Since I like to talk, I’d call myself a “strict vegetarian with strong but not absolute vegan tendencies” 😛 Soooooo I’ll just stick to telling people I’m vegan to avoid that ear-full, haha.
IF I do decide to delve into soap-making, I’m definitely liking idea #2 as well, even though it requires some waiting. #1 is definitely a no-go. I’d rather use tallow/lard that knowingly support rainforest destruction. #3 is also promising since it’s speedy. #4 is just too damn long for me and I’d probably lose the soap somewhere before ever getting to use it.
Thanks for all the useful information and sources! You’re a gem!
I’m glad you get where I’m coming from on this one. I definitely thought long and hard about it before making a decision. I started off making vegan soaps using shea & cocoa butter, but I wasn’t letting them age very long (I’d just started making soap and was super eager to use my new creations!) and I just found I was washing all my expensive oils and butters down the drain because the soap just turned to goop when it got wet 🙁
my dear , do you have a page on esty, I would so love some of your soaps
I don’t, Marian—sorry! Maybe someday 🙂
Me too. They look so good.
I have used Lard and Tallow in my soaps. I think it is the best. But that is just me. But then again, everyone who has used my soap loves it. I love doing the things the “old” way. It makes great shampoo, too.
Heartily agreed, Debbie!
Hello . I subbed lard for the palm oil as I didn’t have any left, but it is so soft. Usually I can un mold the next morning but this one is to soft. I wonder if I should have discounted the water. Here is the recipe.
Coconut oil. 243 g
Lard. 321 g
Olive oil pomace. 330 g
Castor oil. 79 g
Water 369.74 g.
Water is 38 percent of oil weight
Super fat at 5 percent.
I did use sodium lactate at one teaspoon per pound of oils. Should I have used less water or less lard. Thank you . I love this forum and am learning lots .
Hey Carolyn! Everything looks right to me; I usually wait for 2–3 days before unmoulding if I haven’t done a water discount. I have never soaped with palm so I can’t compare the two. Happy soaping!
Just getting ready to start making my own soap…wondering what your opinion is on beef fat vs. pig fat for making tallow?
Tallow is beef fat.
Lard is pig fat.
So….the question of which is better for making tallow is a moot point. 🙂 As to which is better for soap, I don’t know. It would probably depend on what specific properties the two fats have, and I would look at soapcalc, as I have only used lard, and that only with my first batch of soap, and it wasn’t a very successful batch (it was soap, but not nice soap)
Maralee—Dawn is correct, tallow is beef fat and lard is pig fat, so you can’t really make one from the other 😛 I have read that tallow is harder than lard, but I still find the bars I make with lard are nice and hard after 3 weeks. So, it’s all about availability—lard is often easier to find as it is sold as a pastry ingredient.
Ahaaa! I see! ;P Well, I have a bunch of pork fat in my freezer that I’ve been planning to render and use for making suet cakes; but perhaps I’ll keep some around to try out in a batch of soap! Thank you!
again…suet is beef or mutton fat, and not lard. If you render pork fat, all you will have is lard. Tallow/suet is MUCH harder than lard, which remains soft and greasy (think about lard in your fridge, and how squishy that stays, vs a suet cake (like for birds))
not all entirely correct.
Tallow is also from whale fat, it was used for making candles and soap in Whitby, UK for a few hundred years.
Every part of the animal was used, nothing went to waste.
Thank you for this article. I am new to soap making and have used olive,coconut,and almond oil in the past which is pricey. That being said, there is nothing like homemade soap. I have not used lard or tallow in the past. After reading your post regarding the reasons to used them, I will reconsider.
Robin—Regardless of whether or not you use lard or tallow, I would recommend adding a hardening oil of some kind to your recipe. You’ve got moisturizing and lather covered very well with the olive, coconut, and almond oils, but if you add a hardening oil you’ll find your bars last a lot longer! I’d also recommend adding 5% castor oil, it gives you a wonderful, creamy lather that only castor oil can add.
Gorgeous pictures of soaps!
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR PUBLISHING YOUR OPINIONS ON PALM OIL!!
woops, wasnt finished 🙂
so yeah, thank you so much for your comments on palm oil. I am a (former) zoologist who worked with orangutans and chimpanzees for many years. I make my own soap with absolutely NO PALM products as an advocate to educate the masses. Especially those who are trying to make environmentally sound decisions like buying organic. buying products that are “all natural”. buying products that dont test on animals. all of these wonderful things…but SO MANY still contain palm oil and no one knows whats behind it!!
ps…check your labels on (everything!) asian foods and candy, ie; halloween candy. LOTS of palm oil used. anything with “palm oil”, “palm kernal”, “palm stearate”….anything with “palm” in it.
that being said, there is a movement in the zoo field to at least steer people to using “sustainable” palm oil, which is *generally* going to come from South American instead of Indonesia. BUT for me personally, since no label lists where the palm substance came from, i go with no palm at all.
There has also been talk for a lot of years about trying to come up with a recognizable label, like dolphin-safe tuna, that people will instantly recognize. i’m not sure of the status right now, but i’ve still never seen one.
So, this is the first time i have seen ANYONE ELSE post on the subject on soap/DIY websites, forums, blogs etc. so thank you thank you thank you!!!
All my “red-kids” thank you, and all the people who have fought for so long to bring this awareness to the general public.
Yay, another anti-palm-oil friend! I am so thrilled to hear from somebody who has seen the harm of palm oil first hand. I’ll be the first person to agree with you that “organic” doesn’t always mean healthier or better! You can probably get “organic” arsenic, after all. Not to mention the benefits of organic lettuce go right out the window when it’s grown in a greenhouse year-round and shipped up in me in Canada. I would much rather have local; organic is just a label that often involves a lot of political fandangling to get—fuss that smaller farmers simply can’t afford or be bothered with.
Glad to support the anti-palm-oil fight! Hopefully I’m swaying a few people; especially those who think tallow is “icky”. Whether they think that for animal rights reasons, or just because they’re squeamish, palm oil is NEVER the answer!
Anybody who uses palm oil or buys products containing palm oil are effectively beating an orangutan to death with big stick and giving it’s baby to their children to abuse until it dies.
Being a herbivore, veggie or vegan is fine, being a hypocrite is not.
check your supermarket products people
Hooray!! There ARE other soapers out there who refuse to use Palm Oil of any kind. I learned soap making from a gal in Vancouver BC who explained all about the palm oil industry & none of her students use Palm Oil ever!
I was wondering what you think on sustainably palm oil? I would really like to make some soap for disabled and elderly bunnies who can’t lick themselves, and give it to shelters and friends. I know for a fact that most would feel uncomfortable about washing their bunny with cow fat, even if in my opinion (and I’m vegetarian) it is the better choice, especially ethically. We are talking about people who think of their rabbits as their children, who spend thousands on paralysed rabbit carts and daily IV drips for their bunny, so you get the idea. I absolutely refuse to use normal palm oil as it is soooooo unethical, but maybe sustainable palm oil would be ok? My other option is cocoa butter, but I can think of nothing worse than getting all excited about a DIY project then waiting a whole year to use it. I’m really confused as to how Lush makes their soap, they only seem to use coconut oil, rapeseed oil and lye as the ‘skeleton’ of their soap. I don’t really know to much about it, but none of them seem to be hardening agents, and in their factory videos they don’t mention a waiting period (but they do keep recipes very close-to-chest). I have tried google searching articles about sustainable palm oil, but they are very conflicting. Also, cocoa butter is very moisturizing, and I’m worried about left over residue on the skin and fur, which could be toxic. Hopefully someone knows a solution 🙂
Well… sustainable palm oil still has to be shipped halfway around the world to get to me, whereas tallow does not, so it really just can’t win in that category. It’s always going to be less sustainable with that much shipping involved.
Honestly, I know basically nothing about bunnies (other than oooh, soft and cute!), so I can’t offer much guidance here. I have no idea if they’d do well with the high pH of soap or not. The decision to use palm or not is entirely yours; you obviously know where I sit on the matter, but this isn’t me or my bunny 😛 You could also look at the liquid soap alternative.
If you use enough coconut oil that’ll make a pretty hard bar of soap, plus LUSH includes a bunch of other things to harden the bar and boost lather (like surfactants), depending on the bar. Their skeleton is rather skeletal indeed 😛
Thanks for the reply! I do agree whole heartedly with your cause, I may make tallow soap anyway and hope everyone is ok with it. Have a great week 🙂
Hooray!! There ARE other soapers out there who refuse to use Palm Oil of any kind. I learned soap making from a gal in Vancouver BC who explained all about the palm oil industry & none of her students use Palm Oil ever!
I totally agree with your point. I am also a palm oil free in everything, and I don’t use it for my soaps. Instead to make my soap hard I use cocoa or shea, but it still seems wrong to have it shipped over here when I can get tallow for free across the road, that would anyhow go to waste. So I have decided to start adding beef tallow to my soap recipes, and I should be making some soon. However, I wonder how do you superfat your soap? I somehow still feel unconfortable to know that probably some of my superfat could be tallow..
Yay! I’m glad I’ve (maybe) helped convince you 🙂 Unfortunately, with the way soapmaking chemistry works, there is absolutely no way you can guarantee that none of your super fatted soap will be tallow. All of your fat is melted together, and 5% won’t turn into soap. It’s completely unavoidable. I’ve heard of people adding their “superfat fat” later in the process, but this is pretty silly—it’s like adding a tablespoon of baking soda to a cup of vinegar, waiting 10 minutes, and adding another tablespoon of baking soda to the vinegar and expecting it not to react. It’s going to react, and you can’t stop that.
However, at a 5% superfat, if you use 15% tallow, that’s about 0.75% of your superfat. Or, if you made 1kg of soap, ~7.5g of the tallow won’t be saponified. That’s pretty small peanuts across a kilo of soap—maybe 0.4g per bar. I’d just be happy that you know what it is, where it came from, and how much of it there is. They say you eat 8 spiders a year in your sleep… I’m much more worried about that! EW!
hurray! btw..props to LUSH. they were top-tier in fighting the palm oil fight when they learned of it!! thats HUGE, especially for a big corp!
In my neighborhood, people love stuff that LOOKS handmade and authentic so i dont worry about it too much. I WISH my soap was harder, but when they ooh and ahh over how creamy it is, it balances out. I havent tried tallow or lard, but i appreciate the arguments posted here. I think my “market” would be pretty intolerant. we have a pretty big vegan community.
I had no idea, that makes me like Lush a lot more (despite their rampant use of artificial fragrances that are so strong I can’t go within 100m of their stores, lol). I wonder if the vegetarian sample of your market might be open to it? Just a thought. Anyhow, cocoa butter works well as well, it’s just quite expensive (though I imagine vegans are used to things being more expensive, which is rather sad, but unfortunately the industrial meat industry has done a very good job of making their product cheap).
You could also work on making larger batches so you can set them aside to age longer—that will really help! I have some vegan bars I made with shea butter about 2 years ago and they’re nice and firm now!
yeah….bigger batches may do it. I have some “old” bars that are about 2yrs (ish) old and they’re nice and hard…and actually have been for awhile.
hail to the vegans 🙂 they keep us on our toes….
Haha, yes, always looking for animal-free solutions to everything 😛 Can’t say I’m sold on the idea of soy cheese, though, haha. I think I just need to start up a small farm in my backyard so I can have unlimited cruelty-free dairy and eggs!
I bet milling your soap would help you get harder vegan bars in less time. Sounds like another blog entry idea for me!
LUSH is horrible…they use alot of SLS and other chemicals in many of their soaps…i live in Europe and lard based soaps used to be the way of life in rural areas….people used what they had and nobody said ‘ick’ cause they didn’t have alternatives.There are still some people that make the old fashioned lard washing soaps and they say that soap is best for skin problems.I plan to try making a liquid castille soap recipe,glad i found your site because i don’t own a crockpot and cannot find them-they are almost non-existent in southern Europe,but i may try one of your hard soap recipes also.I have made my own deodorant, hand and lip balm and body butter and next on my list is to make a castille soap base because i also cannot easily find organic washing products-or when i do, they cost a small fortune and still have some ingredients i cannot pronounce.
Thanks for chiming in and for reading 🙂 Have fun soaping!
I enjoyed reading your article, I use lard in my soaps because it has good moisturizing qualities, makes a nice hard bar of soap and is less expensive than some of the other hard vegetable oils.
My Grandma was born in 1900, she made her own soaps and used lard. She died 2 weeks before her 100th birthday, she had to be doing something right wouldn’t you think? =)
I love hearing stories like this! I think they definitely knew something about how to get by without palm oil and other such imported ingredients.
Another tallow using -vegan in a previous life- soaper here that absolutely will not use palm!
Glad to hear it!
I absolutely LOVE this thread!! Some of my best friends are orangutans, and its fantastic to read this awareness coming about!. That said…i would like to share something i found in my favorite grocery store the other day.
(wait for it….)
i found “ORANGUTAN FREE” red palm oil !! The label specifically states it is palm oil manufactured in Africa under fair trade and sustainable conditions. NOT in Malaysia. (fyi..their terminology is “orangutan safe” and “plantation free”. there are not actually orangutan parts in palm oil. But there are enough deaths involved that i feel fully justified in my terminology of “orangutan free”) in addition, they have a big red block on the label that reads:
“This oil is orangutan friendly! Our red palm oil comes from small farms in Togo, West Africa-NOT plantations in Malaysia, therefore no Orangutans or their habitat are harmed by its production.”
im not afraid to say…i teared up 🙂 right there in the grocery! It sits on my bookshelf, fully sealed, and i still probably wont use it. But i feel like we finally won a battle.
ps…brand name is “Alaffia”
pps…please do not misunderstand, the fair trade part is huge for me too! its just that i personally worked with orangs for years, and as i said…i consider “my” orangutans to be great friends. This is HUGE folks! the zoo industry and animal rights advocates and environmentalists have been working on this for YEARS. please pay attention to your halloween candy too.
thanx for listening. again.
That’s fantastic! I’m so glad to hear that the news is slowy, but surely, getting out, and we’re starting to get alternatives like this 😀
woops..one last thing.
it was about $10 for 5 oz. expensive! especially if one intended to actually cook with it!
Ouch! At that price I don’t think I’ll be making soap with it anytime soon, either 😛
I just made soap for the first time using coconut oil. It turned out great and was hard the next day. I’m sure it is much more expensive than tallow or lard, though.
Did you use 100% coconut oil, Kelly? I’m asking because when you make soap it is generally recommended that you use a blend of oils to get a “complete” bar—one that a) moisturizes, b) lathers, and c) is hard and doesn’t turn into a pool of soap snot in your shower straight away. Olive oil and other relatively inexpensive carrier oils are used for moisturizing, coconut oil for lather, and tallow or lard for hardening (castor oil is the wild card as it adds both moisture and lather). So, while you definitely can make a bar with just one of these types of oils, there are trade offs. A bar with too much moisturizing oil will be soft, and often have a slimy lather. A bar with too much lathering oil (coconut oil) will generally be very drying, and a bar with too much hardening oil will usually have a poor lather. Because of this, 100% coconut oil soap is generally popular for laundry soap as it can be quite harsh on the skin, especially in dry climates. I can’t speak to how long you’d have to age a coconut oil bar before it was hard enough to use (I’ve never tried a 100% coconut oil bar), but all soap is generally fairly hard the day it comes out of the mold, it just gets harder as it loses moisture during the aging process. Anyhow, it sounds like your bars turned out beautifully 🙂 Just some soaping thoughts for you!
so far, I only use 100% coconut oil for my soaping, just because it is extremely easy to only use one. I don’t find it harsh at all. I have used it 2 days old, and probably about 6 months old. It’s fine either way, and hard within hours.
This is a very useful post about oil characteristics: http://www.soapmakingforum.com/f11/my-first-shaving-soap-success-34264/index4.html#post339365
What a great post, thanks for sharing that, Dawn! How is the lather with your soap? I’d imagine it would be uber bubbly?
It’s bubbly, but I wouldn’t say it’s insanely so. I have other commercial soaps (that really are soap, not detergent) and I wouldn’t say it’s far frothier than they are. It does clean well, and I do use a moisturiser/sunscreen, but I don’t notice it to be terribly drying on the parts of my body that don’t get lotioned (which would be everything but my face). That said, other bars do feel creamier, and I am considering what to put in my next batch.
I found coconut oil soap to be a relatively inexpensive and satisfying start to making soap, and although I originally made it to make laundry soap, I have made several batches of it for personal use since then, because it was entirely adequate for that purpose! 🙂
Neat, thanks for sharing, Dawn! I can see that the “creamy” factor would be the one coconut soap lacks, but it’s great to hear that otherwise it is a perfectly fine 1-ingredient soaping option. Pure castile soap, which is traditionally made from 100% olive oil, is said to be a wonderful soaping delicacy, though it is often described as being “slimy” (mmm, awesome lol). I made a batch (though I did use about 15% coconut oil as well, I think) about 2 years ago, and even now it is still very soft to use and melts away into snotty goop when it gets wet. I would definitely recommend adding some olive oil & shea butter—I love what both those oils do to my bars 🙂
Thanks for this link, Dawn! I’m also curious about 100% coconut oil soap because I was told it is the only thing that will lather in salt water & we go on week long sailing trips, so it was an idea I wanted to try!
If you superfat to 20% on a pure coconut bar it’s very moisturizing, very hard bar and has a very long shelf life that you can’t otherwise get with that level of superfatting. Only works with a coconut only bar, because coconut oils lasts so long anyway, and the superfat level makes up for how cleansing coconut oil is, which at lower levels would just be drying. It’s the only soap that defies the rules. I suggest anyone try it out!
Very cool, thanks! I’ll have to give that a go 🙂
Ok, can you please help me understand something on your and Bethany’s conversation? I’ve done melt and pour, blah blah and been researching cold process for months while gathering supplies and knowledge. I agree with you about the tallowlard I live in a farming community where little goes to waste and why destroy a forest when u have a product that needs used? Besides that in my opinion, I HATE seeing soap labeled old-fashioned soap made with the butters and oils. To many people today are selfish and worry about themselves and don’t blink an eye at 10,20, 100 years and care what they are dong to the plant as long as they have the oil they want. Which brings me back to my real question, sorry for my rant. Is it really even possible for Bethany’s 20% all coconut oil soap to set up and be “worth” using in say a year let alone 2 days? From the 50+ things I read you shouldn’t have more than 10% fat or oils or your bar could remain soft forever. Don’t get me wrong, I also believe if it works for you, go with it. So congrats Bethany if your happy, I’m happy for you. For me trying to gain knowledge, is she pushing the soap making to the max and getting lucky or is the 10% and never use one type of oil, butter, or fat I keep reading about just a safe standard for a higher success rate? Thank you!!
Hey Pepper! It is totally possible, but I really can’t speak for it, having never tried it myself. Coconut oil is a bit of an anomaly as a soaping oil; a soap made with 100% coconut oil is the only kind of homemade soap that will lather in salt water, for instance. As for the “never use one type of oil, butter, or fat” thing you mentioned—traditional castile soap is 100% olive oil, and that’s a soap that’s been around for hundreds of years, so I’d guess what you’re reading is more general rules of thumb rather than hard and fast rules. There aren’t many hard and fast rules in soaping, I suppose, it’s just that most of us don’t want a bar of soap that’s soft and slimy, so most of us end up doing similar things and using similar balances of oils to achieve similarly hard bars 🙂
Lovn’Soap has some info on “break the rules” soap including a recipe for almost 100% coconut oil soap, superfatted at 20 %. I have made a few batches with a variation of that recipe. Nice lather, not drying. I was quite happy with the soaps and have gotten good response from customers
I have made a pure coconut oil soap with a 20% superfat. It’s the only oil that defies the rule. I also used coconut milk in place of water. It made for a nice, very hard, soap. There’ an article here (she mentions you Marie!) and i’ve read it elsewhere too that you can make this soap without it being drying.www.mommypotamus.com/how-to-make-pure-coconut-oil-soap-for-cleansing-and-laundry/
i also use both lard and tallow for soap making and love them. one other thing that i can add to your list of why to use it is that it is also a local resource. i buy both meats from local farmers (grass-fed, well cared for animals) and they are happy to let me have (yes, have) the lard and tallow. not being a vegetarian, i also use the lard in cooking. 🙂
Glad to hear it, Leslie! I can’t believe I didn’t write about the local-ness of it all, being from a province that is known for its beef production (but not it’s palm oil, oddly enough…). I wonder if I can find a butcher who would give me the fat without buying any of the meat? Hmmmmm. Maybe they’ll trade me the tallow for some soap!
Now THAT’S a great idea!! The barter system at its best 🙂
I wonder if I can find a butcher interested in some lipstick… I sure have a lot of it these days 😛
my local butcher just gives it to me. He’s happy it’s being used and not going to the garbage!
Ooooh, lucky you!
i know that our local butcher has both tallow and lard for sale, and i know that there are ladies working at ours that would probably go for soap and lipstick!! 🙂
I should really hit up my local farmer’s market… I don’t usually because I have a fruit stand that sells eggs, fruit, and veg, and that forms the great majority of my diet 😛
that would be a good idea too. most don’t keep the fats when they get their animals butchered. one of my friends calls me when she is getting ready to send her pig to the butcher, i pay $1 per pound for the lard, that’s just for the processing and bagging it up.
Hmmm… sounds like it’s time for me to befriend some urban farmers 😉
I have made soap twice now with lard and it smells horrible! I just got what said “lard” from the baking isle at the grocery store, did I do something wrong? All I can smell in the soap is lard, which is quIte gross! I used 15% from your latte shampoo bar recipe. Thanks for your imput, I have no idea where to get tallow to try, and don’t want to resort to palm oil!
Oh no! This is so strange! Hmmmm. As I’m sure you can guess, I’ve been making soap with lard for ages and have never had any troubles with the scent coming through. In fact, the plain lard really doesn’t have any scent, so there isn’t really anything to carry through. Is there a chance that your lard has gone rancid? That might explain it. Properly rendered, non-rancid lard doesn’t really smell like much of anything, so it shouldn’t be overpowering your entire batch of soap (especially at 15% plus essential oils!).
You can also try rendering your own tallow. It is super easy, and you can often get the trimmings from your butcher for free.
Let me know how this goes—we can’t have your soap smelling gross!
The lard isn’t rancid I’m almost positive, it just bought it. I am wondering if it isn’t plain lard? Here is what the tub says “LARD Lard and Hydrogenated Lard, BHA, Prophyl Gallatate and Citric Acid added to help protect flavor.”
I’m going to try to make tallow, but for now lard is easier because I can get it (well at least in theory) from the store!
I got it at Albertsons, is there somewhere else I should look?
I went and checked my lard, and my ingredients are pretty much the same. Is there a chance any of your other ingredients are rancid? Are you using a fragrance oil (not an EO) that may have reacted badly during saponification?
We don’t have Albertsons here—I just buy my lard at the grocery store in the pastry/baking aisle along with the rest of my ingredients. Try asking your butcher to save fat scraps for you and make your own tallow—that is often free!
How long have you cured the soap? It’s possible that the smell will cure out, over a few weeks. http://www.soapmakingforum.com/showthread.php?t=36056&highlight=lard+smell
Awesome, thanks Dawn! I had no idea this could happen since I don’t really sniff my soaps as they’re curing lol (it’s too tempting!).
My Tallow is beautiful. It is nice and white. The second batch is cooling now. I will make soap with it tomorrow and let you know how it turns out. I like your articale about the soap you use for everything. Hair, shaving and such. I want to try making some of that kind too. I like your other recipes too. I really love your site and have enjoyed reading it. I have learned so much from you. I still wish I could figure out a way to send you the tallow. It is such lovely stuff. Mine came out to 2 inches thick after rendering it.
OOoh, exciting! I love coming downstairs to check on my tallow after rendering it the night before 🙂 How did your soap come out? I finally got some more tallow for myself, so now I need to get making some soap. Up next is Halloween and Christmas soap, if you can believe it (writing that in August makes me more than a little sad…).
Thanks so much for reading, commenting, and being so supportive—I really appreciate it 🙂 It’s great to know that all the time, money, and effort I sink into this site are appreciated by people like you!
When soaping with animal fat it’s very important to not overheat when melting or it can lead to the scent of the fat coming through in your finished product.
Fantastic tip, thanks so much Sheree! Do you happen to know what the “tipping point” is here? I’ve never had a problem with the smell or lard or tallow, so I’m guessing it’s above ~150°C. Any ideas?
I found the lard in our baking aisle was hydrogenated – altered from it’s original state. Would this have something to do with it?
I think the hydrogenation might impact the SAP value, but I’m doubtful it would impact the scent negatively (I’m guessing the manufacturers would be all over that!).
I really like the information you shared. I make mine with cocnut oil, crisco and olive oil.I find that it doesn’t last very long with use. I would love to have your recipe and the rendering information for the tallow (beef fat?). I fear using lard (pork?) as I have a severe pork allergy. Your soaps are so beautiful. I agree with the lady who talks about making yours for personal use. I have been making soap for my own use for about 10 years and have never tried using the tallow myself and would love to make some. I am an old fashioned girl (born 150 years too late I think. LOL I would really appreciate it if you would help me learn this way of soap making. Thank you for any help you can give me. 🙂
Thanks, Virginia! I’ve written about how to render tallow here. Just ask your butcher to save beef fat trimmings for you and then take them home and render them yourself. Easy peasy, cheap, and sustainable!
I think I should have been born around 1893. I would have been just old enough to be a debutante on the Titanic 😀 Fingers crossed I managed to avoid marriage until after WWI, though—don’t want to be losing my true love to battle 🙁
Have fun and let me know how the tallow soap making goes!
I guess I have a bit of luck on my side. My Hunny (husband) works at a slaughter house. Woohoo! I will have him get me some. I love Winnie the Pooh and nicknamed my husband Hunny. LOL I love anything to do with bees. My Dad was a beekeeper and since he passed my brother took over. Some day I plan to have my own hives and a little farm of my own. Well,now I am more excited than ever. You will have to excuse me……. I am a just an old Granny lady. LOL
Lucky you! My source of free tallow ran off a few years ago, sadly, so I now must use lard or tallow I can find to buy. Oh well. And I must say I share your love of bees, hence my blog name 🙂 I’d love to have my own hives one day, along with some chickens, an orchard, and a garden!
I here you there. I want my own little house and farm someday, but age is getting up there and I fear it will never happen, so I live a farm life in my day dreams. When I first started making soap I thought I would have my own buisness and all. It didn’t work out that way. I still give it as gifts and such, but selling hasn’t worked out for me very well. When the idea first came to me I thought of the perfect name for my company…….. you beat me to it. LOL I was going to call it the Humble Bee Soaps. That is so funny to me that you had the same idea. I wanted something to do with the desert or something along that line, but couldn’t think of anything else. I live in Utah. Can’t wait to get some tallow and try it this week end. I will let you know how it turns out. Going to decrease the amount of shortening by 15% and add the tallow and see how it works out. Wish me luck.
How funny that we both had the same idea! I remember thinking of it on a road trip a few summers back. I’ve always loved bees as a bit of natural imagery, and I definitely think they are quite humble given the huge amounts of important work they do. Apparently Shakespeare referred to bees as “humbylbees”, as it is an old term for them.
How did your tallow’ed soap turn out?
Hi Marie! I had to smile when I saw your comment about being an 1800’s girl at heart! I have thought, for a long time, that I should have been born in a different era. But I can’t seem to settle on which one. If I could go back in time, I would certainly want try out a day or two on the Titanic…before it sinks, of course. Then there’s the Jane Austen era…I’d definitely want to spend a few months being various characters in her novels! Then there’s the ’20’s 30’s, 40’s etc. How to choose? LOL! But the one thing common to each of these amazing time periods is that they all had to wash themselves with soap of some kind. I have made a Vinolia recreation soap, inspired by you, and I love it! I can’t wait to try your Pemberley Soap as well. Another interesting time in the history of soap making was the WW 2 era. In Britain, as I understand it, animal fats of all kinds were claimed by the government to be used in the war effort. So it was difficult to make or buy soap, and quite expensive. I watched one documentary in which they demonstrated how a green plant of some sort was used to wash the hair, as it made a sudsy concoction when mixed with water. Quite the messy and laborious chore! If you’re interested, the documentary was called “Wartime Farm” and I found it on you-tube. It was a re-creation of life in war time England, with three well known historians. (would you believe I can’t recall the names of these famous historians? LOL!) Anyway, I just wanted to mention this 8 part series, as I think you might like it. It is not about soap making, (although there is the underlying theme of “how do I stay clean?”) but it is certainly educational. Soap making has such an intriguing history! I find it so interesting how people, especially women, have learned and experimented with ways to keep themselves clean. Not a fan of chalk tooth powder, but that’s just me. Thanks so much for your inspirational and historical soap recipes. I eagerly await your next soaping adventure. So glad to find I’m not the only one who loves all things inspired by the Titanic, Jane Austen and Gibson Girls! Happy Soaping!
Thank you so much for sharing, Lisa! I would 100% choose Titanic-times, and also Regency-times… but I will fully admit to being soft enough to admit that I’d want to be on the wealthier side of things if I did that! I’m not sure how well I’d do over the long-term, though… I am definitely used to being legally classified as a full person and enjoying all the human rights that designation affords me.
Thanks for the documentary recommendation! I’ll add it to my “watch later” list 🙂
I haven’t made any yet as I had to order it from my husbands work. I have to pay for it through them. I should have it Friday and can get it ground up and rendered and ready to go for Monday. I can’t wait to try it and see if it makes a better soap for me. That is a good twist on the spelling of humble bee. Maybe that one would work out here if I get to the point of starting a buisness.
I thought you might like this Ralph Waldo Emerson poem 🙂
Well, I got the tallow, but it was in 2 big….. I mean BIG chunks. I cut that up in pieces and put it in the freezer. Good thing I have a meat grinder of my own. I guess next time I will have to ask them to grind it for me. My Hunny’s work is a small family run operation so I had to pay for the fat, but that is okay. Now today I will grind it and render it. I can’t wait to make some soap with it. Hope it turns out ok. Wish me luck.
Awesome! I am so very jealous 😉 Have you had a chance to render it yet?
No I haven’t. My Hunny wants to grind it for me. I am somewhat limited right now on what I can do. He will put it through for me and help me render it. He said he had quite a few people from his work asking what I wanted 20 lbs of beef fat for. He said they were quite dumb-founded when he told them I wanted it for making soap. Who knows what will happen from that. He about came unglued when he found out that I cut it all up myself. I have paid for it this past week. I am just over 1 year out from having open heart surgery to fix a defective aortic valve. I am doing so much better now. It just takes a long time (2 years at least) to fully heal. I am going to run my recipe through the lye calculator to make sure my water and lye will change or not with substituting the 15% tallow. I would gladly share the tallow with you if we can figure out haw to get it to you without it going gross in the shipping. My 2 grandsons live with us with thier dad and they will soon be going back to school and then I can start making soap again. I will let you know how the rendering and soap turns out. I can’t wait.
Hahaha, I can imagine everyone wondering what on earth you wanted the fat for 😛 I’m the same way! “What do you want with 6 gallons of olive oil?!” I have my reasons… lol!
Your open heart surgery sounds like a bit of an adventure, and I am very glad to hear that you are ok and on the mend. I just got a bit of tallow (1kg), so I’ve got some to play with. I do love it! I also want to make a tallow balm out of it—it is supposed to be fantastic for mature skin 🙂
Completely irrelevant to discussion, but wowzer….are you ever a good looker 🙂 Good luck with your business.
I’ve taken an interest in these handmade soaps lately, if for no other reason than they smell great.
Wow, haha, thanks Peter 😛 And more importantly, thanks for reading!
Hi, I would encourage anyone concerned about palm oil usage to consult the following website for Roundtable on Sustainable Palm oil. RSPO.org
I have been a soapmaker for many years, and I only use palm oil that is certified by the Roundtable. I use it in small amounts in some of my recipes, and I also have recipes that are palm free. Both soaperschoice.com and brambleberry.com offer sustainable palm oil. I come from a multi-generational cattle-business family(raise, sell, and eat our own beef that is butchered by a small local butcher), and my great-aunt used to render the tallow from our cattle and make soap with it. I personally feel my veggie oil only soap is superior to the tallow soap I used growing up. Plus everyone in my family likes it better too. Now it’s possible that the soaps are better since I have access to modern computerized lye calculators that were invented after my aunt stopped making soap. I think it’s up to each soap maker and consumer to decide what they want to use on their skin, but tallow is cheap, and that’s why it’s used by commercial soap companies. They aren’t concerned about what properties it adds to the soap, just it’s cost. Also, large portions of the pesticides and hormones that the animal was exposed to in life are stored in their fatty deposits(true to a certain extent for veggie fats too, but not in the same large amounts as animal fats), and these will be present if used in your soaps.
Here is some info off of the RSPO website to add more to the Palm oil debate.
1. Replacing palm oil with other types of vegetable oil (such as sunflower, soybean or rapeseed oil) would mean that much larger amounts of land would need to be used, since palm trees produce 4-10 times more oil than other crops per unit of cultivated land. This would result in serious environmental damage, with the risk that more forests would need to be converted into agricultural land.
2. In producing countries, millions of farmers and their families work in the palm oil sector. Palm oil plays an important role in the reduction of poverty in these areas. In Indonesia and Malaysia, a total of 4.5 million people earn their living from palm oil production. Stopping the production of palm oil altogether would create significant problems for these people who support their families by working in this industry.
3. Replacing palm oil with other types of oil is not always feasible due to palm oil’s unique properties as food ingredient. Using other oils would not give the products the same texture and taste that palm oil offers.
This is not a cut and dry issue, and it should be researched throughly before one demonizes all Palm oil. I think RSPO offers a very good solution IF you choose to use Palm Oil.
Thanks for all the info, Heather 🙂 It is always good to know there are good, responsible alternatives out there. I doubt I’ll be switching due to the cost difference. And just a few thoughts on their points:
1) For soap making, I am not advocating switching to another plant-based oil, I’m advocating using what often ends up being a waste byproduct of the meat industry, so there’s no extra waste or energy input there.
2) Thousands of people also work in the oil sands and in 3rd world clothing factories, but that doesn’t stop people from protesting against them, so I’m not really convinced by the “we should use this product because it provides jobs” argument (especially since, according to my research, many of the people working in the palm oil industry do not do it under the best of circumstances).
Thanks for reading and chiming in!
hi Marie…as you know i try to follow the palm debate. I dont want to turn your site into a political commentary 🙂 but i will add this to the last comments; i finally just noticed that Spectrum brand shortening is made with RSPO certified (sustainable source) palm oil. and just a heads up for the up-coming holidays….a large portion of halloween candy has palm oil in it. bummer, eh! I think its Cheyenne zoo (?) that usually takes charge and keeps the lists updated of which big corporations are/arent using palm oil or have finally agreed to sustainable palm oil. either way, im sure the RSPO will have information or links. just fyi.
Thanks for all the info & the friendly Halloween reminder, Katt 🙂 It seems that the biggest “battle” with palm oil is the products where it’s hidden, so it’s always good to bring awareness to that. Just another reason to get into candy making as well, I suppose 😛 (because I totally need more hobbies…)
i hear that! tried my first batch of herbal throat lozenges. burnt the #!@^& out of em. perfect consistency…tasted like ____ 🙂
Bwaahaha, I definitely have a catalog of similar experiences, lol. Have you since sorted out the lozenges? Those sound like a super cool thing to make at home!
Well, firstly, Marle, I commend you for creating the most thoroughly inspiring, diverse, classically creative, and wonderfully practical blog! Its a fantastic excuse to tell my husband, in response to his asking why Im spending so muchtime on the internet ” Oh Im just looking at how to make my own eyeliner so we dont have to buy expensive store brands…” LOL
I already make our own laundry detergent, dish detergent, toothpaste, herbal first aid ointments salves and tinctures… we cloth diaper our child ( with diapers bought used on craigslist/ebay!), reupolster furniture, shop at thrift stores, and sell perfectly good vaccums thrown away by college students, along with many other dumpster treasures! As you can see we are very anti-consumer, and pro-upcycling. So this leads to my question…
I absolutely LOVE the idea of getting something [Tallow] LOCAL and FREE. However… the previous poster brought up the interesting and rather disgusting point of animal fats storing toxins like hormones and pesticides if the animal is not organic/natural/grassfed… I like creating magical yummy soap bars out of something that would have been haplessly disposed of…. but the idea of bathing myself in toxins is not appealing. Any ideas on this matter?
Maybe I just search for a local “reputable” natural farmer and beg them for their tallow? ( I currently use Dr Bronners)…
Anyhoo, cheers! And thank you for the lovely inspiring blog! When my newborn daughter gets old enough to go to preschool, Ill finally have the time to experiment with all your recipes! 😉
Hi Courtney! Thank you so much for your kind words and your support 🙂 It is really, truly appreciated! My favourite part about my blog is “meeting” like-minded people like yourself and being inspired by all the amazing things they do! My parents are very much the same—watching my dad fix things is like magic to me.
If you’re concerned about hormone & pesticide laden tallow I would definitely try and source out butchers that only deal with local/organic mean. Though, do be warned that there’s really not much fat on those cows as they have mucho happier lives, so it may end up being more expensive. Alas. My approach is to go local via a reputable butcher who processes high volumes of meat. That way he accumulates enough fat for me, and since it’s not in high demand (or any demand, really), I can pretty much buy it at my leisure since he always saves it. You may want to contact your butcher candidate ahead of time and ask them to save the fat for you, though—not all shops will save by default.
Have fun with your DIY soap! Hopefully your daughter will get into marathon naps so you can get DIYing a bit earlier if you want 🙂
My parents own a lifestyle block, as do many people in my area (I live in New Zealand). Most people with lifestyle blocks (basically a mini farm) keep roughly 10 steers, and sell maybe 8 to the local markets, but get 1 or 2 home-killed, and butchered for their own personal consumption. There are complicated laws here regarding selling meat, I know lifestyle block owners can’t sell theirs, so it means there is ALOT of waste (anything that isn’t tasty to you can’t be sold on). Because we (life style block farmers) don’t care about the money side of things there are no crazy toxins in the meat, I know my parents only feed them grass, hay, and the odd medicine if they are sick (better than letting them die). This means the cows have a very healthy and happy life. If you live somewhere with both ‘life style’ farmers and those laws (or not, but then you might have to pay), since you can’t sell the dead cow parts, I would enquire with someone in a similar situation to my parents for the fat. The tallow will be healthy, and free! Hopefully that all made sense lol 🙂
I love this—thanks so much for sharing, Cailin! 🙂
I notice you give essential oil measurements in percentages. How would I now how many drops that is for each? I’m still researching on making good soap, so obviously, I’m new.
Hi Larry—drops are really not a unit of measurement (they’re in the loosey-goosy category along with “pinches” and “knobs”). They’re kind of ok when you only need 5 or 10 drops of an essential oil for some lip balm, but when you’re talking soap, you’d be counting hundreds and hundreds of drops, and when you’re dealing with numbers that large, the margin of error is huge (think about trying to make a cake where the recipe called for 700 “pinches” of flour). So, you NEED to use weight to measure out your EOs for soap (as well as all your other ingredients—when you are dealing with lye you need to be totally precise with your measurements, and volume is NOT a precise way to measure for soap making).
I generally don’t give essential oil measurements in percentages (where did I?)—instead, I say “this amount per 500g of oils” (those oils being the fats that compose the soap, not the EOs). So, you’ll see something like “per 500g oils: 1 tbsp clay, 30g essential oil”. So, if you were making a batch of soap with 1000g of oils, you’d need 2 tbsp clay, and 60g essential oils.
I do give the main oil measurements in percentages. This is to make it easy for you to run the recipe through the lye calculator. I use Soap Calc, where I can enter in the percentages of each oil, and then enter in how many grams I want in total (usually 500, 1000, or 1500), and the superfat (usually 5%). Then the calculator does all the work!
Have fun! (And don’t forget to buy a scale 😉 )
Thank you Marie
Now I understand how not to screw up a recipe. I look forward to making my first soap.
I have a postal scale I bought at a garage sale. Would that suffice for soap making?
Yes! My scale measures in 1g increments and goes up to about 3 or 5 kg—if your scale is something similar you should be golden 🙂
In which percentage of total oils do you recommend to use Lard?
I´ve tried 50% of the total oils but I would like to lower the amount and still have the hardness and not so long curing time.
Check out my All-in-One soap recipe for my favourite fats combo 🙂
I am about go buy 40 pounds of leaf fat to render myself. Can I use this rendered leaf lard for soap? This will be my first attempt at soap making! Blessings to you and yours.
Yes, you definitely can 🙂 It sounds like you will be very well equipped for soap making for quite some time with 40lbs! Have fun with it & feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.
I use tallow in the majority of my soaps. I bought beef fat just to render down for soapmaking. I’m from the school of waste not want not also so using tallow and /or lard is not an issue for me. And the sodium tallowate on labeling hasn’t been an issue either. I’ve never been asked what sodium tallowate is by anyone reading my labels but if asked, I am prepared to tell the customerwhat sodium tallowate is. I research ingredients before I purchased and use them so am not ashamed of an ingredient I use. If I am or was ashamed of an ingredient, I should not have used it from the beginning.
Awesome, Missterry! I’m thrilled to hear you’ve come to the same conclusion 🙂 Three cheers for tallow/lard soap!
I truly appreciate you posting this! I received a bar of old fashion lard soap at a historic farm festival today, and right away I noticed how hard it was. I’ve never used animal fats in my soap, and I wasn’t sure if it would still feel ‘luxurious’ if I added it. I think I’m going to give it a try!
Awesome! I think my lard & tallow soaps feel perfectly lovely and luxurious, but I am a little biased 😉 Let me know how yours turn out!
The tallow & lard debate has always interested me. Writing as someone who sells their soap I don’t tend to put tallow in many of my soaps on the basis that a lot of people prefer (or think they prefer) purely vegetable soap. However, my own experience has led me to believe that a soap with as little as 20% tallow will be a far nicer and creamier soap than a pure vegetable one. To me the difference is a big one and the only conclusion I draw is that tallow makes super soap.
This past few weeks I’ve made soap with fig and honey! We had a glut of figs and I was so happy not to let them go to waste! I’ve made four different batches, one of them containing tallow, the rest pure vegetable. Once they’re cured I’ll let you know which is best but I already have my suspicions! 🙂
How interesting! I wonder if you could set up a little testing stand at your booth and have people use two bars that look similar, and see if they can tell a difference? That could be a very interesting experiment. It’s amazing how people can be so very blissfully ignorant of the ingredients in the vast majority of the things in their lives, but as soon as it’s tallow in their soap, BAM, it’s a big deal.
Your fig and honey soap sounds fantastic! I am so jealous of your fig harvest. I adore figs, but they’re usually pretty pricey here, and never as good as the figs I got when I lived in Aus. I’m thinking of trying another cranberry soap in a few weeks. What percentage did you use the figs at? Last time I used cranberries I tried to swirl them, and I ended up with funny bits of the soap that dried out much more than the rest of the soap, and started to cave in. Whoops!
Yes, I’m lucky with our fig tree and I managed to pulp and freeze some. Tried a batch of this yesterday and it’s fine. I make small quantities at a time – my loaf mould takes about 700g and for this amount I use 1 fig (peeled and pulped) plus 1 teaspoon of honey. Initially, the fig turns the soap a garish orange but on cooling and curing it calms down to a nice creamy colour.
Thank you for introducing me to dark cocoa butter; I’d never come across it before and it’s fantastic. I made some of your dark cocoa lip balms yesterday. My own ‘new find’ for lip balms is hemp seed oil. I find this makes a super balm with a real ‘glideability’ factor! Have you ever used this?
How neat that fig turns the soap bright orange! Ha. Chemistry is neat lol… and a total mystery to me at times 😛
Oooh, hemp oil! I must confess I’ve never tried it before, but with its relatively low price point I probably will now… of course. Because I have an ingredient problem, lol. Do you get the deodorized version? I’m wondering how strongly scented the unrefined version is. And enjoy that dark cocoa butter… I find myself adding it to more & more concoctions now that I have it on hand!
I bought organic hemp seed oil which is a dark green colour so it gives the lip balms a sort of interesting olive appearance. I can’t actually smell it (probably my nose!) but in any case I add peppermint essential oil so it probably zaps the grassy smell.
I’d love to know what else you put your dark cocoa butter into? I keep opening the bag and having a sniff – I think I am seriously addicted! 🙂
Consider hemp oil officially added to my next order 😉 So far my dark cocoa butter has only made its way into the chocolate lip balm and some belly bars (recipe coming soon). I’m sort of hoarding it, trying to make sure every single gram goes into something where the decadent colour is a major bonus. I think it’ll definitely make its way into some soap and shampoo in the near future, though.
I think you are absolutely awesome and I feel exactly the way you do. I do make both soaps, with tallow or lard and with palm. I wish I could make simply tallow or lard. I love the quality of soap. I used to help my grandma make soap once a year. We saved bacon drippings (LOL) and used shoe boxes for molds. Some of it was for laundry and some for bathing and at the time I didn’t realize what she did to make them different. Luckily I live in a hunting area so there is a good mix of those who are and are not squeamish.
Great! I’m always happy to meet somebody who agrees with me, haha 😛 How did the bacon soap smell? Bacon is so stinky I can’t help but wonder, haha. Everyone loves to joke about beer soap getting you pulled over when you’re driving, would bacon soap get you eaten by a bear when camping? 😛
Im just wondering, and maybe this was already answered…. is there a equal conversion of palm oil to lard/tallow? I find lots of recipes that include palm and I really want to try the alternative and use tallow but Im not sure if I need to adjust the measurements.
I really like your reasons for using lard, and I agree I would rather make the most of the life that has already been taken than just let it go to waste. And thanks for this blog, its been really helpful and inspirational.
I can’t really say since I’ve never used palm oil. I generally use lard & tallow at 15–20% (depending on if there are other “hard” fats in the batch), and that’s always worked well for me. Something you should try is running the recipe through Soap Calc and checking out the number stats on the results page. They provide you with a range of numbers for things like lather and hardness, and you can compare between the two recipes and see what you think.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your soap! 😀
ok, I think you have converted me.
I made 4 batches of soap last week and have it all lined up and curing now. My grandsons say I have a little soap army in my soaping room. LOL I can’t wait to try it. I have a fan blowing on it as I read that will help the water evaporate faster. I am so excited for it to be done. It smells so heavenly in there.
OOoh, I just love this! There’s nothing quite as awesome as having oodles of new soap aging—except for maybe that week when they’re all ready at once! 😀
Thanks for this post – I found you through Frugally Sustainable. As a vegetarian, I get some funny looks when I tell people I use bacon fat to make my laundry soap. My husband & one of my daughters are not vegetarian, so whenever they have bacon I save the fat, I also have a neighbour and my parents save it for me, and when I get enough I make it into old-fashioned lye soap to use in household cleaning. I’ve made a few different recipes for body/hair and have made minor alterations based on what I have on hand, but have been nervous to make any substitutions (I once left out the castor oil because I didn’t have any, and got almost no suds!) I’m slowly learning what I can substitute and coming up with my very own unique recipes. In keeping with my preference to buy locally when I can, and choosing Canadian products over imported,, it’s always difficult to find things like coconut oil and palm oil that I feel good about using (the coconut trees don’t produce much here in the north!) Thank you for this great information, I’m glad that when my palm oil is all used up I don’t need to buy anymore!
Thanks, Sara! I, too, am vegetarian, and while some people seem to think that the lard/tallow-in-soap thing is a bit of a contradiction, but I’m firm in my position on it being the best approach. It’s awesome to hear that you’re experimenting and learning—I don’t mean to be condescending at all, that’s how I learned, and I’m a huge fan of it. I think it’s the best way to learn, and then remember what you’ve learned! You should check out my entry on carrier oil substitutions, it details a lot of what I’ve learned about making alternations and substitutions in the last few years 🙂
Three cheers for Canada! WOO! I’m sad for our lack of palm trees, though 🙁
I am a new “soapie” living in Cape Town South Africa and 72 years old. I have just read your comments on tallow or not to tallow. Your reasoning has won the day and I shall be using tallow. The local supermarket butcher gave me a few Kg of super white lamb tallow for a few cents as he has to dump most of it. I have rendered some already and it looks good. I have also looked at the labels of some nice soaps and they have Tallowate printed on the contents. I am going to try some of your basic soap soon. Keep up the good work!!!
Hi George—thanks for reading, and welcome to the awesome world of soaping 🙂 I’m thrilled to hear that I’ve swayed you to the tallow side of the argument. Your lamb tallow sounds absolutely beautiful. I should see if I can find some, though lamb is much more expensive here, and usually comes shrink wrapped and straight from New Zealand. Let me know how the soap turns out, I am always interested to hear how different animal fats perform in soap.
Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions, I’m always happy to help!
I love reading your posts, and I can’t thank you enough for all you share with us, your readers. Something has been puzzling me for a while though. I’m fairly new to soap making, and my scents are never very strong. How are the EO’s figured into the recipe? Do they count as part of the oils to be figured in for the soapcalc? OR, are they just “extra”?
I hope this isn’t a stupid question, but I don’t see it addressed anywhere.
Thanks so much.
Hi Mary! Thanks for reading & supporting my wee blog 🙂
So, when it comes to EOs in soap, they fall into the “extras” category as they aren’t part of the saponifiable oils category. The general rule of thumb is 30g of EO to every 500g of oils (or 1oz EO per lb oils). So, if you’re using much less than that, you’ll definitely find that your soaps don’t have much scent, especially once the 3 week aging period passes. On another note, you do need to weigh out your EOs—that can get confusing because ounces are both fluid and weight measurements… but are different… so sometimes people get confused between the two. So, yeah. Weight. Weigh ’em 🙂
The other factor is which EOs you’re using—some fade faster than others. For example, I’ve had nothing but heartbreak with pine, fir, and spruce essential oils in soaps. They just don’t last—after maybe a week of aging there’s just nothing left.
Hope that helps! Enjoy your homemade soap 😀
Thank you so much for your reply. The information I received tells me I haven’t been adding near enough EO’s. Most of the time, I don’t bother to scent my soap. I actually like the smell of “just soap”, but every time I give someone a bar, the first thing they do is smell it. EO’s can be very costly. so perhaps I’ll need to save the EO’s for gift giving.
Thanks so much!
Yeah, that’s kind of the bummer about essential oils and soap making 🙁 I’ve got a collection of inexpensive essential oils I use for soap. They’re generally citrus (go with 5 fold when you can so they last longer), cinnamon, lavender 40/42, and eucalyptus. If you highlight those with some more expensive ones, you’ll find it’s somewhat affordable.
I’ve had similar questions about E.O.s. in cold process. I’ve found that I can use less with the mint E.O.s because they’re so strong. The citrus E.Os definitely last longer when combined with geranium, or patchouli. I’ve recently started exploring the world of hot process soap making in which 2 teaspoons will suffice for the 2 tablespoons that my recipe called for in the cold process method. The soap is more “rustic” looking with hot process, but it smells great and is already soap the same day! (altho it does benefit from some drying out time)
I started using my last batches of soap. I love it better than the old recipe. Yep….. going to start adding tallow to my soaps from now on. I can’t wait to make more. I sold most of what I made so I have a pretty chunk of change to order more supplies with. My family seems to like it better too. It is heavenly.
Awesome! I’m thrilled to hear it 🙂 I was chatting with another soaper last night and we both agreed that tallow/lard soaps are just the best. And congrats on selling your soaps & making your hobby self-sustaining! I should probably try that, haha.
I sell mainly to friends and family right now. I am seriously thinking about trying to start a buisness though. If word gets out and I find that more people want it then I probably will. I can’t work anymore so this would be a great way to bring in some extra money. My husband will have to help with the financial part of it as I have a learning disability and just can’t do math. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. LOL! A good way to have together time if I may say so. 🙂
Nice! Good luck with that 🙂 My friends & family keep encouraging me to do the same, but I’m hardly sitting about twiddling my thumbs, wondering what to do with all my free time these days 😛 Your husband/wife soaping company sounds like great fun, let me know if you decide to give it a go 🙂
Wonderful advice Rita. Thank you very much! 🙂 The little bit I have played around with EO in my recipes, hasn’t always been successful. I’m not great at coming up with my own combinations, and suggestions are always welcome.
I can remember trying an epic blend of tons of new essential oils that were all supposed to blend well… I ended up with a horrendously over-scented lotion that was pretty much unusable. I have since learned to work more slowly and in smaller quantities 😛
Some of my reliable combos are floral + citrus (rose + grapefruit, lavender + lemon), citrus + citrus, and spice (cinnamon, cloves, etc.). I often take inspiration from foods, like chai lattés and gingerbread 🙂
Anchoring essential oils are definitely worth looking into to help prolong the lives of your scents—I found a handy PDF article on it here.
I’ve read that hot process soaps require less essential oils because they are added at a different point of the saponification process. That is, with CP soap the EOs are added right at the start, and have to endure the entire saponification reaction. In HP, though, you add the EOs after the majority of the saponification reaction is over, so they don’t suffer as much abuse. Cool, eh?
Hello. I was wondering what types of lard are ok for making soap. I keep finding hydrogenated lard at grocery stores. Does this work the same? Thank you!
Hi Charity! Lard specifically refers to rendered pig fat, so there’s really only one kind of true lard. That said, some crisco-type products will call themselves some sort of hydrogenated lard thing, but that’s not really lard, it’s hydrogenated vegetable oil (hydrogenated to make liquid oil solid). Because lard is solid on it’s own it doesn’t need to be hydrogenated, so chances are if the package says “hydrogenated”, it’s not real pig lard. The package should just say “lard” or “100% lard”, or something to that effect. Checking the ingredients is the surest way—if there’s any mention of anything vegetable-y, it isn’t lard. Hope that helps!
I use goat tallow in my soap. I don’t sell it, but make it for family use and friends. So far everyone loves it, especially if they have dry skin.
I can’t find a lot of factual information about the properties of goat tallow for making soap. Luckily the spreadsheet that I use to determine the correct amounts has goat tallow listed, but I would like to know more about it.
Do you know of any souces of information about the lather and conditioning?
My experience has been that I get hard bars that do not crack and the end product appears to be very moisturizing. I would like to know if that is from the goat tallow or the other oils I combine with it.
Hi Sandy! From my knowledge tallows fall into the “hardening” category. Do you happen to know what the percentages of the types of fatty acids in goat tallow are? I really couldn’t find any information on that online. SoapCalc has a good breakdown of what each type lends to a bar here. The final bars sound absolutely beautiful—I wish goat tallow was readily available here!
Whoops, spoke too soon 😉 SoapCalc has goat tallow available as a value in their calculator, so if you run through a recipe that is 100% goat tallow and click “view recipe” it gives you all the attributes of a bar of pure goat tallow soap, and the fatty acid percentages. It appears to be quite high in hardness, average to low in cleansing, very low in moisture, low in bubbly lather, and high in creamy lather. So, if your bars are moisturizing with bubbly lather, those characteristics likely come from other oils 🙂
Marie, I seriously love your blog. I love your thoughtful responses to these questions. And, I love tallow soap. I don’t make it for sale, because vegetarian/vegan soaps seem to sell easier. But, for my own use, if I have fat, I’ll render it for tallow and use it. I don’t use palm oil for all the reasons you outlined — even “sustainable” palm is only relatively so… I have a terrific supplier of fair-trade (social enterprise) unrefined shea — it makes FANTASTIC soap.
Thanks for being awesome 🙂
Thanks so much, Kerry 🙂 I think this is one of the many reasons I don’t sell anything I make—the education is enough without my income relying on it 😛 And oh my heavens, shea butter soap is just the BEST! One of my very first bars was very shea heavy and as it’s aged it is one of the best bars I’ve ever made 🙂
I’m so glad I found you… I too, am a vegetarian, and I soap with tallow. For the exact same reasons you do.
And it makes such a lovely moisturising bar.
The cows don’t belong in this country, (Australia), and so I like to make sure every part of the poor cow has been used.
I am not against the use of animal products at all. I’ve even come around about fur, and other things. As long as every part of the animal is totally used, then the sacrifice wasn’t in vain. And the ”vegan” alternatives are usually made with petro-chemicals, and the ‘footprint’ and pollution are huge from those products.
Especially rabbit fur, from feral rabbits here, they push out the native animals.
The only thing I don’t like is that soap scum from animal fats sticks more, but then I like a good workout when cleaning…keeps the blood circulating!
For any who are interested,
here is my perfect tallow bar recipe…
500g Beef tallow
250g coconut oil
300g olive oil (not pomace)
100g sunflower oil
at 4% superfat, this moisturises and cleans really well,
with a nice creamy lather. I always add 3 tsp tea tree oil at trace to protect against rancidity. This recipe gives a lovely slow trace with plenty of time for colouring and swirling etc.
How wonderful to “meet” you, Jan. How ya goin’ (as the Aussies say 😉 )? I am totally with you on vegan animal product alternatives. Vegan “leather” has to be the worst of all. A huge carbon footprint, and the product is total crap and falls apart in a matter of years (if that), where a leather version would have lasted generations.
Your soap sounds like a great, hard bar. Have you thought about dropping the beef tallow percentage down to 20% or so to help with the scum problem?
Thank you for the help Marie. The soap calculator was very informational. The goat tallow makes up about 1/4 of the recipe, so evidently the moisterizing quality is from the rest of the ingredients.
This is a very informative blog!
No worries! If you’re ever up in Canada I’d love to try a bar 😉 Thanks for reading!
Send my your mailing information and I will send you a bar. Keep in mind, I am a long way from a professional soaper like you guys. I just play with it, but my family sure appreciates the results of my play!
Sent! Thank you so much, I’m very excited to try it 🙂
I sent the soap a while back. I hope you received and enjoyed it.
It hasn’t arrived yet (the border slows everything down), but I’m sure it will 🙂 I can’t wait to try it!
Thank you for this. I just started in soap making, and was using palm oil because every recipe calls for it. I knew there were some concerns, but didn’t know they were so awful. I just made my first batch using lard instead; it seemed to take longer to get to trace, but that’s a good thing when doing swirly patterns! I hope it turns out nicely and that my customers won’t mind the word “lard”. 🙂
Hi Katie—I must admit I’m rather thrilled I changed your mind 🙂 As for your customers, you can label it as sodium lardate or sodium tallowate—the vegans will know, and the unreasonably/irrationally squeamish may not even notice until they’ve fallen in love with the bar!
I do eat meat. I don’t eat as much as most people I know, but I do eat meat… and when I do, most of the time, I like it (think bacon). That said, I wouldn’t mind the word “lard” said in a list of ingredients in soap. Lard is a word I know. Most people know what it means. A person may look down on it for moral reason (perhaps they don’t have the same train of thought as most seem to have here), but it’s edible, and not a poison. I find a lab made chemical more of a concern to my children and myself then I find a naturally occurring substance.
p.s. I get excited every time I see a new post on this site. WONDERFUL job Marie.
How many people are afraid to make soap because of lye? That is the most common fear I read about even trying. If you make soap, you use lye (all safety precautions observed I’m sure), Lye can do a lot of damage if your not careful, but we are careful or this thead would not be popular so it is a NON ISSUE when the soap is cured. That should be the biggest concern if your worried about health and ethics, because I sure won’t hurt my fammily. Animals are not killed so we can have soap for heaven sake. Lard makes a superior product.
I have wondered about soap making since I was 8. My grandparents went “to the country” to meet up with the relatives to butcher chickens and came back with food for storage and “homemade soap”. Grandmother was amused because I took such interest..smell (no added scent), color, texture..etc. I never forgot that. I’m so grateful to have found a way to practice the craft.
Judging by the comments on this entry of mine, quite a few people are afraid of lye. There seems to be a lot of confusion about the type of “danger”. Some people seem to think it is in the same league as parabens in that it’ll cause cancer after years of use, which is understandable given the bits and pieces of information about harmful ingredients that are finally trickling through to the mainstream. It’s easy to get swept up in a “must eliminate harmful chemicals” movement and lose sight of the different reasons why chemicals can be harmful.
I will have to ask my Grandma about any memories she might have of making soap with her mom 🙂
Yes, but sadly many people don’t seem to think quite as logically as you and I 😉 Unless you’re vegan I have a hard time accepting most “ick” based excuses not to use tallow or lard in soap. I think part of it is imagery—people have some sort of mental image of rubbing a fistful of bacon fat all over themselves or something similar 😛 I think the industry has also done a good job of making such a big deal about plant-based soap that people automatically think there’s something wrong animal-based soap.
Thanks so much for reading!
Nice blog post! I admit I didn’t read all the comments, but you sure generated a lot of discussion!
I’m surfing around looking for oil proportions for soap and came across this post. Trying to use up some coffee and cocoa butter that didn’t work out as well as I’d thought in a mix with olive oil… figured turning it into soap might work.
I ‘discovered’ tallow a little over a year ago. I use it as lotion on my whole body, all year long… (ok, in the summer I switch to a homemade water based lotion for most of my body). It’s pretty amazing stuff… I mix it with about 10-30% olive oil, and it absorbs so much better than coconut oil or cocoa butter.
My first experiment was with some local grass fed beef suet, and then I found some grass fed organic suet. It’s a little pricier, but making it just for myself, it’s WAY cheaper than buying lotion and such, especially facial cream (and this stuff is great for my dry face).
I tell my friends who go ‘ewww’ that they shouldn’t go ewww, because if they’re using commercial body products, they are probably using animal by products… the stuff that isn’t suitable for eating, for putting into pet food, for putting into that weird pink stuff they feed kids at school.
I found a slight beefy aroma with the first batch, so was very particular about cleaning the suet for the second…which produced a lot of ‘waste’ suet. I saved that and later rendered it as well, and then mixed it with bird seed. I haven’t cut it up yet but will soon.
Your blog looks great, off to go look at some of the other entries!
Yes, it’s an amazingly controversial topic, but I feel like I’ve brought at least a few people around with this article.
I’ve been reading some great things about using tallow as a moisturizer and I’ve actually got a face balm recipe that uses it coming out soon 🙂 Have you noticed it helps with the plumping of your skin? Also, you should totally try argan oil in the summer for your face—it’s lightweight and brilliant 🙂
First of all, I want to say that I found your site only today and have already spent hours reading. You’ve done a wonderful job!
So here’s my dilemma: I started making soap last fall, and absolutely love it! I would like to start a business…perhaps. I’ve soaped with lard and tallow, which I purchased locally from animals that were grassfed and pastured. I rendered the fat myself, which I found to be time-consuming and just an awful lot of work (maybe if I owned a meat grinder it would be less of an issue). I don’t mind so much if it’s just for my own use, but I can’t stand the thought of all that work if I were to do it on any large scale. Anyhow, the main reason I have so far refused to buy lard off the shelf or beef tallow from the meat department at Kroger is because all those poor CAFO animals are fed GMO feeds. I do my very best to avoid all GM foods, and I don’t really want to soap with anything that is remotely connected.
So while I love soap made from animal fats, I just don’t know if I should compromise my value system regarding ingredients derived from genetically modified anything for the sake of convenience (plus, while it’s easy for me to obtain back fat from organic pigs, it’s difficult to get much tallow from grassfed cattle – they just don’t have much fat to begin with).
Sorry to be so long-winded. I read through all the comments and didn’t see anything mentioned about GMOs. I’m wondering what your take is on this subject? Am I perhaps being too strict? And by the way, like you I whole-heartedly support local foods!
Hi Megan! You definitely bring up some really good points here. My first thought is you should ask your tallow/lard supplier to grind it for you—that helps a lot.
I suppose you have a few options here:
Sorry I don’t have any concrete answers for you, but it is a multifaceted issue. Personally I use fat from conventionally raised animals as I want to help cut down on waste and use up everything from an animal that is already being slaughtered. I figure if it’s going to have a miserable life and be raised just to be killed, I might as well try to make that miserable life worth as much as possible 🙁 That, and from what I have read CAFOs and all that are not as overly prevalent here in Canada… though that may just be lack of a spotlight on our meat industry as the USA’s gets so much attention. I live smack in the heart of cattle country, and I see them out grazing all the time (we even woke up to one sleeping in front of our tent on a camping trip once!).
i apologize if someone else asked this, because i didn’t read through all the comments, but have you ever considered using (goat)milk as the fat in your soaps? i would assume that they would take longer to cure, but they also moisturize wonderfully. …milk might still not fly with vegans though (i think, given they use no animal products at all…?) as i’m interested in the whole soap making process, i’m curious to know your thoughts.
Hi KM! You can’t use milk as a fat in a soap since it’s generally about 4% fat, tops, compared to the 100% that pure fat is. You can, however, use it instead of water. You have to take precautions not to burn or curdle the milk, but milk soaps are lovely once you get them right. And you’re right, animal milk + vegans is not going to go down well 😛
So the soaps i have use goat milk, olive oil, coconut oil, Shea butter, cocoa butter, sodium hydroxide (lye), and fragrance. And the sites I’ve found on making goat’s milk soap (like this one: http://www.lovinsoap.com/2012/10/how-to-make-goats-milk-soap-using-farm-fresh-goats-milk/ ) don’t call for a solid animal fat. I’m trying to wrap my head around the process… Are the solid oils providing the solidity to the soap? That page only has a 4+ week period for curing, which sounds short for the recipe. :/ i haven’t made soap yet, but I’ve been doing a ton of research and keep finding conflicting information. To clarify, I’m not against tallow or lard, I’m just curious how it works if the milk soap recipes I’m finding don’t call for lard/tallow and the soaps I’m using don’t include them.
Thank you for taking the time to respond! 😀 and your website is really beautifully done. ^_^
Hi KM, not sure if this helps you but I found this link: http://www.soapqueen.com/bath-and-body-tutorials/tips-and-tricks/free-beginners-guide-to-soapmaking-common-soapmaking-oils/
very helpful as a starting point to understanding oil choices in soap. Keep in mind some of what you read may be based on the author’s personal preferences or experience.
Thanks for this resource, Melissa 🙂
Hi KM! Soaps will be solid even if you make them with 100% liquid oils, but they will be very soft (sort of like fudge). You will often be able to press a dent in them with your finger even after several weeks of aging, and they don’t last long at all once you get them wet (they’ll go all slimy and soft and turn into a sort of boogery mess pretty quickly).
That said, animal fats are not the only “hard” fats out there. In the recipe you mention, it looks like cocoa butter is the main hardening fat. Cocoa butter has roughly the texture of a chocolate bar, so it is quite firm.
I have made plenty of bars of soap using both animal fats and milk, so there’s certainly no rule against using the two together, and the milk definitely does not replace animal fats in a bar of soap—it replaces the water (and lends some general milky awesomeness as well). I’m sure if you keep looking you’ll find a recipe that does use both (like this one)… it’s just that using animal fats in soaps makes a lot of people squeamish, so you may find that all of one person’s recipes are animal fat free, milk or no milk.
Something I’d suggest while you’re researching soap recipes is trying to break down each included oil by category, i.e. the reason it was included. Is it a moisturizing oil? A hardening oil? A bubbly oil (coconut)? Is it castor oil (that’s an easy one to identify, haha—it adds both conditioning and lather)? Is it a fancy “bonus” oil (usually present is percentages of 5–20%)? That will help you better understand why certain oils are in a recipe… and if you’re missing an entire category, then it’s time to figure out why. This page is a great place to start!
Thanks so much for reading & have fun with your soaping!
P.S. If you’ve never made soap before, I’d start with one that doesn’t use milk—it can be quite tricky to work with between avoiding curdling and scorching, and the hotter-than-usual saponification process that can cause the batch to curdle on you. It’s always nice to have your first batch be a success 🙂 My All-in-One bar is really easy and traces quickly—I think it’s a great starter bar 🙂
Marie, thank you so much for answering my questions. ^_^ i think looking at the oil catagories will help a lot. i’ve actally been eyeing your all-in-one bar recipe to be my first bar if/when i begin soaping – which i’m sure i will once i’ve got other projects out of the way. it’s such a fun hobby and a useful skill that shouldn’t die out! ^_^
and thanks to Melissa for the resource – i foresee that coming in handy in the future.
You’re very welcome 🙂 Have fun with your first soap! The all-in-one bar is a great starter bar since it traces nice and fast—no marathon blending sessions there 🙂 Be sure to reach out if you have any more questions!
I realize this is probably a little late to get in on this discussion but I just discovered your page (which I’m thoroughly enjoying btw 🙂
Admittedly I also didn’t read all 151 comments so maybe this was already said by someone else…
I also make soap and other body products and order most of my supplies from New Directions Aromatics Canada (including Palm oil) and this is what they say about their Palm oil : “Our Palm Oil comes from approved supplier of palm oil products who are members of Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)”
Sometimes I enjoy the simplicity of making Castile soap (100% Olive oil) and I have never had any problems with a soft bar, in fact I find these are some of my hardest bars after only a couple of weeks cure time.
No worries, Melissa—this is one of my most commented on entries, and hey, things on the internet never die, right?
I’m always glad to see larger suppliers like NDA offering sustainable palm oil, but the way I look at it, it’s still being shipped halfway around the world to me, whereas huge amounts of lard and tallow are thrown out in my own city and province every day for lack of other uses for them. I’d still prefer to reduce that waste.
I’m starting to think I need to make another 100% olive oil bar—my first bars are now over 2 years old and are still quite soft. Perhaps my more experienced self can do something different/better?
You’ve made a very compelling argument to support the use of lard/tallow and I wholeheartedly agree that it’s a shame to waste so much when we can utilize the fat to make such lovely soap!
I hope you try an olive oil soap again sometime, it’s makes for an extremely mild bar and a creamy lather (more creamy than bubbles really). I’ve heard dissolving 1 tsp ppo of sugar into the water before you add your NaOH helps to increase bubbles, I’ve been meaning to try it in my castile soap and salt bars to see if it actually helps.
Here’s my go to recipe for my basic castile soap:
For a 2 lb. batch
Olive Oil 32 oz (usually 1 L bottle)
Water 8.4 oz
NaOH 4.2 oz
That’s it!! You can add and tweek it from there if you want. This is a 3% superfat (I’ve done 5% also) the 3% seems to help with the hardness a bit… less oils and all. The Water:Lye ratio is 2:1. When you run it through a soap Calculator the INS is always really low (105 or so) but it still makes a nice bar! It does take longer to trace and I never have the patience to take my castile to a thick trace, thin to medium at best for me before I pour. This will fill a 2 lb loaf mold or it will fill your silicone 12 round cavity mold (I have the same one and I love it! It’s great for shampoo bars!) you might a a wee bit of batter left over which an empty yogurt container will surely hold 🙂
The pure olive oil soap is on my list… I just need to make a bit of space in my aging room first! It is totally packed right now 😛 Not a bad problem to have, if I do say so myself 😉 Have you ever tried using coconut milk for the liquid in your castile soap? I did that for my first batch and ended up with a pale green bar that’s STILL really soft, 2.5+ years later.
I’ve had batches of basic Olive oil soap that was hard enough for me to use within a week of cutting – I still give it a proper 3-4 week cure just for good measure!
I’ve never done all coconut milk in an all olive oil batch, not really sure why.
I have used coconut water for the liquid and then added coconut milk at the trace (usually 3-6 oz, depending on the batch size) and subtracted that from my water amount. Sometimes I’ll do the same thing with yogurt or pureed fruits/veg (I’ll usually add a bit of vitamin E or GSE before I add the fruit, veg, or brightly coloured herbs). I think the theory behind adding them at trace is to hopefully save them from overheating in the lye water and destroying any of the beneficial properties.. although they still have to go through saponification so I’m not sure this theory is very sound but I do it anyways 🙂
Also when I do a batch with coconut milk, yogurt, fresh fruit, veg etc I don’t insulate after my pour, instead I put the fresh soap somewhere cold (outside in the winter or *carefully* into the freezer) for a few hours so things don’t get too hot and curdle/spoil! Additionally, salt bars also run the risk of overheating so I do the same thing when I make those!
Your freezer/cold method is very intriguing. Do your soaps take longer to saponify that way? Do you notice that you never quite achieve the gel stage? Do you find you can use less essential oils?
Marie, I use the freezer/cold method anytime I have a batch that contains something I don’t want to overheat and sometimes just when I want to make sure I don’t reach gel stage. Ever have a batch that only partially gelled? Frustrating. For the most part I prefer non-gelled soaps but for certain batches I will allow the batch to gel. So to answer your questions:
1- I’ve not noticed if the soaps take longer to saponify, I suppose they probably do but I always give my soaps a minimum of 4 weeks to cure and that’s always been plenty of time.
2- Yes, I very rarely reach gel stage when I use the freezer method.
3- In theory it should take less essential oil/fragrance but I couldn’t say definitively. Generally if I’m using essential oils I use .5oz per pound of oils. Sometimes with fragrance oils I find it may take up to 1oz ppo
Very cool! It sounds like your batches definitely use less EOs as I generally use close to 1oz of EOs per pound of oils, and that’s not overpowering after 3+ weeks of aging.
I use goat milk in my soap as the liquid along with 20-30% goat tallow depending on what other oils I put in the recipe. We call it goat goat soap and make it in a crock pot. I freeze the goat milk into ice cube trays and weigh out the proper amount, then add the lye very slowly to the frozen goat milk ice cubes. I’m an amature, but it seems to work well.
Your soap arrived today! I’m so thrilled and feel so special that you took the time to mail me some of your treasures. They are just beautiful (I love the caramel colour!) and I can’t wait to try them. I’m just working on polishing off a sliver of soap, and then yours is next in the soap dish 🙂 Thank you so much!
I hope you enjoy the soap. Let me know if you think I need to add more moisturizing oils. I have very dry skin, and this soap seems to help.
I love your blog! Great information and discussion. Thank you for all your hard work in keeping our information flowing!
My goodness it took well over a week to get there!
Thanks for sharing this! I am a homesteader looking to use our tallow to make our soaps after hearing so much about this traditional practice. You might find this link interesting on some of the history of tallow used in skin care…
Thanks, Deb! What a fun & informative resource 🙂
Hi. I know I’ve commented like a bunch of times and hopefully you’re not getting annoyed by it. LOL! I’m still new to this soap making.
Anyway, I saw a youtube video where this lady tested a soap making with and without sodium lactate.
I know sodium lactate can make a soap hard, but I was just wondering can sodium lactate be used as a replacement to tallow/lard as well? Or should it be used along them as well?
I must say that, this new things I’m learning about making soap is very very very interesting. It gets me pumped up! I can’t wait to start making them.
Hi Maria! I haven’t experimented with sodium lactate, so I can’t say from personal experience. From what I’ve read it’s more of a supplement than a replacement for lard or tallow, but if you experiment with it, do let me know 🙂
Thanks for reading & have fun with your soap!
I will use beef tallow in my dairy-based soaps only.
Why just the one kind of soap?
I will only use tallow in a similar product . . . you know, cow fat + cow milk. Those who eat, drink + use animal products won’t mind tallow.
I don’t use tallow in my vegan or vegetarian products; I think vegans would appreciate a vegan bar + not want tallow, honey, silk or any other animal ingredient included in the product.
Fair enough, I was just curious 🙂
What do you prefer using the most? Lard or Tallow?
Tallow makes a harder bar of soap, so that’s my first choice, though lard is easier as it’s sold pre-rendered in blocks at the grocery store. So, I suppose they both have their benefits, but I’d go with tallow first.
I mostly soap using vegetable oils and only use beef tallow in 2 or 3 out of my 75 or so recipes. The recipes that use beef tallow contain dairy; IMO dairy + beef come from the same source so why not . . . this makes perfect sense to me.
I would NEVER, EVER use lard (even if it made the whitest + hardest bar) because I don’t eat pork or use items made with pork.
What I don’t put in my body . . . I won’t put on my body because our skin, the largest organ, absorbs everything we put on it . . . even soap.
Sounds fair to me 🙂
Well I try to always use sustainable source palm oil. I really did not know that much about the palm oil industry until about a year ago when I started making soap. Due to religious reasons I do not use Lard,Tallow or non-veg glycerin( I won’t bother anyone with specifics). This is THE reason I started making my own soaps. Regarding cure time, as much soap as I can make it doesn’t really matter to me if my bars do not last 3 weeks each…I’ve got more. And I sell my soaps at very reasonable prices to make up for lasting power. For me, my soap is to clean my body with added benefits such as added butters,oils, EO’s,clays and others (trying to stay with natural additives). This is what is important to me.
Well said, Danni. I think control over ingredients is the primary reason anybody gets into DIYing, and while we can discuss preferences and rationales as much as we like, in the end, it’s all about personal preference, and what you feel good about using 🙂
Thanks Marie, I agree!
I too am a vegetarian and i definitely see your point! There is absolutely no harm in using lard or tallow…other than I have always been grossed out by the fat on meat 🙁 I don’t see an ethical issue, just a personal weirdness one. I’m hoping to find a fair trade and environmentally sound palm oil that is a decent price. I am willing to pay a bit more. Do you know of a good one?
Well, it may help to consider that ~95% of it won’t be animal fat anymore, it’ll be sodium tallowate—soap 🙂
Other than that, NDA says their palm is ethically sourced, though I would do more research into that to be sure it’s all around ethical.
Thanks for the entry. I have only been making soap for a few months. I think I’m making some really nice bars and friends on Facebook, etc. are starting to ask me to sell them. First I made all veg recipes including palm oil. Then when I educated myself on the palm industry I decided to recalculate recipes without palm. Shea butter is great but when you factor in shipping for the small amount I would use, it just gets too expensive!! SO I started to look at recipes with lard. I dug out all of my great-grandmothers soap recipes that are probably 100 years old. I ran them through the soap cal because all the recipes would say things like 5 OR 6 pds bacon grease (lol). She even had soap recipes cut out from old newspapers. Some of the recipes had a cleansing value of 1!! ( I think she added borax and ammonia to those though) Anyway, I am totally on board with the lard soaps. I decided I am only going to make soaps now with ingredients I can easily find and save spending shipping money for Essential oils, colorants, etc. I am a little worried about whether people will be turned off by lard as an ingredient but I like your sensibility about it and your soaps are gorgeous!!! Sue
Thanks for reading, Sue 🙂 I’m so glad that you’ve done lots of research into your ingredients—I think that is one of the most important things about making your own soaps and body products. I also glad that we agree, haha 😉 I’m sure you’ll be able to explain to people why it’s there, and if all else fails, you can always point out that the bar soaps they’re buying at the grocery store (Irish Springs, Dove, etc.) are made almost entirely from lard and tallow 😛
This is a good thread + it reinforces the fact that as makers, we can create whatever we’d like.
Since the skin is our largest organ + absorbs whatever we put on it . . . even wash of products like soap . . . I’m not going near the lard. As a fat, if it doesn’t go into my body through my mouth, it’s not going on into my body through my skin.
It’s turned into a really fun discussion—I’ve loved watching it develop 🙂
Yes, the discussion is great! It either helps reinforce beliefs or challenges them.
If you don’t mind me asking, what are your personal reasons for avoiding lard? I’m vegetarian, but I don’t mind it for soap as I see it as a waste product.
So I’ve slowly started reading more of your soap posts and I think it’s at the point where I will inevitably begin making my own (yours just look so damn pretty!). I am really happy to have read this post (and a lot of your recipes, too) because I was previously unaware that soaps contained animal fats!
Now, i’m in not a vegetarian, but I am muslim. So, this means the animal products that I use must be from a “halal” animal. But unfortunately if I was to go out and buy tallow it wouldn’t be halal or permissible for me to use. I’m 100% against using palm but I don’t want to wait years to cure a soap bar! That is an absolute bummer!! 🙁
I suppose there is no harm in trying a bar or two? If I make a bar using shea/cocoa instead of lard/palm, how bad would the results be? I know you said it makes a soft bar, but, is it so soft that it would go mushy in my hands?
Hi Fatima! Well, I think you have three good options. The first would be to use something like cocoa butter as a hardening fat, which is more expensive, but will still work (though you will probably still want to wait 6 weeks minimum instead of three). Your second option would be to source plant-based stearic acid (most of it is, though most of it is palm, so you’ll want to look for coconut based) and use that as your hardener. You won’t need much, but you will have to be careful as it can make recipes trace very quickly. Your last option would be to make liquid soap, which doesn’t need any hardening fats at all, and is ready in less than a day. Do any of those sound good?
I’ve made a few bars with no hardening fats (just shea butter), and the bars are beautiful and creamy… but they only lasted for 3 or 4 showers when they were young. I save them for hand soap now, where they get more of a chance to dry out between uses (and the uses are much shorter).
Hi Fatima, try adding a tiny bit of beeswax in your mix. It hardens the bars nicely and doesn’t take forever before you can use your veggie based soap. 4-6weeks cure time. I made a small batch of CP soap 2days ago with coconut and olive oils, a little Shea butter and an itty bitty piece of wax and it is already hardening up.
This is a good tip, but it should be noted that wax can really speed up trace and has a really high melting point—recipes including beeswax are generally considered advanced, so I wouldn’t recommend this for beginner soapers 🙂
I actually found certified sustainable palm oil at a retailer right by my house! So I bought it and I bought a slow cooker and decided to try out my first batch of hot process soap. I’m incredibly impatient and figured if I had a batch or 2 of home made soap already, I would then be more inclined to use cold processing.
Thank you so much for your suggestions! I still would love to try using cocoa butter as a hard fat, but I think i’ll try a few recipes and get more comfortable before I start using the expensive stuff!
Time to make all the soaps! 😀
Oooh, exciting! Have fun with ’em and good luck 😀
Ok, So I thought I’d just update now that my first batch of soap is complete!
I decided to make a shampoo bar based on my own formulation (10% avo, 15% castor, 30%coconut, 20% Palm oil, 10% Shea butter and 15% almond oil). I used EOs of ylang ylang, lemongrass and orange – I’m totally clueless on blending EOs but this smelt pretty good!
I hot processed mine, and at the last minute decided it looked a bit boring so I went to the pantry and grabbed some dried rosemary (BIG MISTAKE). I chucked a good 3-4 tablespoons full in my 500g batch.. at first I was super duper happy with it, but now I’ve started using it, and each time I do it looks scarier and scarier!
The rosemary is super exfoliating (read: scratchy and sometimes painful lol), and has darkened to a blackish sort of colour, and worse, it starts poking out of the soap so it looks really quite menacing! Eeep! I haven’t used it on my hair as I had intended, but i’m not sure that I want to anymore 😛
It’s also very very soft and gets used up within about 5-6 uses. Is that normal for a soap bar? It’s not too thick, probably about 1.5cm, which could be why. I didn’t realize how thick people generally cut their soap until now!
My first flop – i’m pretty happy about it though 🙂 and even more so happy to be in the soap game finally! Thanks for all your wonderful inspiration and diy-wisdom!
Ha—it sounds like you’ve just learned a lesson it took me ages to learn. Botanicals are sharp and when it comes to exfolating bits, less is definitely better… and none is best for shampoos, ’cause they get caught in your hair 🙁 I definitely made some bars that could have stripped paint off a car lol.
Given the timeline I’m deducing from your comments, you should probably let your bars age more. Just because you can use HP soap right away doesn’t mean you should—more aging means a longer life once they get wet 🙂
Congratulations on your first batch! It sounds like you’re well on your way to being an ace 😉
I love what you wrote-I am actually just getting my hands on Tallow, I have a local butcher shop that gave it to me for free! i am so happy about that lol i am so going back 🙂
Fantastic! Let me know how you like your tallow soaps once you dive in 🙂
Where can I buy lard besides..asking for trimmings at the supermarket because I don’t have the connection in the meat department.
You can just use pastry lard (sold near the crisco), but you don’t need a connection in the meat department—just ask 🙂 I find people are usually happy to sell you things 😉
I am going to check with our local employee owned grocery store meat department if I can get it from them. Once rendered down, can I freeze it? How long will it freeze for? I am just starting soaps for my family so don’t need a HUGE amount.
Thank you for the insight.
Hi Cat! You can definitely freeze the tallow, though I do recommend pouring it off into ice cube trays and freezing it in smaller amounts as it’s easier to measure out that way. It should keep for at least a year in the freezer if you keep it well wrapped.
I like using tallow. We’ve raised cows for years and this was a great use of the fat. I like using tallow since it is closer to our bodies needs than palm oil. I am interested in new recipes using tallow. I’m not very experimental. I’ve been making soap only for about 5 years. I like the feel of the tallow soap. Thank You
Hi Deb! Most of my soap recipes use either lard or tallow, but you might also be interested in this tallow balm for mature skin 🙂 It’s a new and interesting use for tallow!
I apologize if this was already answered, I tried to skim through all the comments but was unable to find out.
So what do I ask for when I go to the grocery store? Can you save me some tallow? Any special way to save it? Bring them a bag or container?
Hi Katy! I’ve always just asked if they have tallow, and if not, could they save me some from a day’s work? Do be sure to ask about price, and bargain it down fairly low if they’re only giving you trimmings. The last butcher I got tallow from sold it to me at about $1.50/lb in a giant bag, but after I cooked it down there wasn’t that much tallow (and a lot of waste product), so I ended up paying closer to $15/lb for the tallow itself, which is pretty expensive for a cut of meat, let alone something they usually can’t even sell!
I’m officially heartbroken over palm oil. In the UE, it is not allowed to use tallow or lard should I intend to sell my soap bars; it will not pass the assessment. So I will have to use palm oil instead. It makes me über-sad. This is a web site that promises their palm oil is sustainable palm oil:
“RSPO is the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. It is an international organisation that started in 2004 with the aim to promote the production of sustainable palm oil. Lots of information can be found on their website”.
It is heartbreaking that tallow and lard are wasted when they could be used instead. What a nonsense.
My question is, shall I use 30% of palm oil in place of 30% tallow?
Hi Danka! How unfortunate that your country won’t allow the use of tallow or lard 🙁 From what I understand you should be able to do a one-for-one swap over to palm oil. Also, stay tuned—I’m trying to develop a vegan soap recipe that doesn’t use palm and isn’t stupid expensive to make 🙂
thank you so much for posting about Tallow and lard. i’ve been contemplating rendering my own fat for soap making, you’ve convinced me to take a trip to my grocers and talk to the butcher. I was wondering though (and i’m sorry if you’ve answered this in another question) but once you render it, you keep it in a ziploc bag BUT where do you store it? and how long will it last?
thank again, love your blog!!!
Hi Isabelle! I keep my bag of tallow chunks in the freezer, where it keeps pretty much indefinitely 🙂 Thanks for reading!
i tried your basic recipe that uses the tallow and i have to say it is delightful! it has such a creamy lather, it’s definitely going to be one of my go to recipes.
I’m so glad you love it! It’s definitely my staple go-to 🙂
Thanks for your wonderful blog! I just made my first batch of coconut oil soap today, and I used the hot process method because that’s the process that was described on that particular website.
I didn’t even know about the cold process method that you describe, until surfing for recipes using tallow brought me to this page. After that, I had to surf some more to find the answer to the difference between hot process and cold process. Whew! And I have to say, although CP sounds easier to start with, I hate waiting and will probably stick to HP if I can.
Sooo, here is my question: will your CP recipes work if made by hot processing? And is that generally true of all soap recipes, that one can simply elect to use CP or HP per the whim of the day, or the moment?
I’m sure hoping you know the answer to this one, and that it will be YES. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!
Hi Ali! You are in luck 🙂 Most CP recipes should work just fine as HP—you just might encounter some problems with finer swirls and moulds.
I would definitely encourage you to try some CP batches, though. Once you have a good arsenal of homemade soap aging up, three weeks is barely any time at all!
I’ve been making soap for over twenty years.
Personally, I don’t have a problem using lard or tallow. If I had butcher friends who were going to throw the fat scraps away anyway, I probably would use it. One day, I might try making soap that way, just as an experiment.
But, although rendering isn’t hard, it’s more time-consuming than just opening a can of Crisco. That’s what I’ve been using as my main fat all of this time. Works like a charm; no soft bars that melt in the shower. My bars are quite hard and each one lasts through days of constant use.
To each his or her own, but I think the commenters on here suggesting that skin would absorb animal products from soap made from lard or tallow are scientifically incorrect. The saponification process transforms all the base ingredients. That’s the whole point. If you tried to wash with any fat, sans lye solution, you wouldn’t get clean; you’d just get greasy.
Also, what are organic gardens and farms fertilized with? Manure. That is an animal product (or by-product, if you will), too.
It’s fine if some people want to eat only vegetables, but let’s not pretend that even a strict vegan diet is somehow completely divorced from all animal elements because that just isn’t true.
Hi Kimberly! Thank you so much for your input 🙂 I avoid Crisco for the same reasons I avoid palm oil (because it usually contains palm oil). And yes, rendering tallow is definitely a bit gross, messy, and bothersome!
I really like your point about animal manure being used in fertilizer… I shall have to keep that point in my back pocket 🙂
Absolutely no need to use animal fats. Bees wax is fantastic and has many very valuable properties.
While beeswax can certainly contribute to a hard bar, it’s not a great substitute for including a hard oil in your recipe—especially for beginner soapers. Because of beeswax’s high melting point you have to soap quite hot, which really speeds things up and narrows the margin for error. Beeswax can also negatively impact lather, even at relatively low concentrations. It’s also worth noting that it’s still not vegan, if that is the reason for not using animal fats.
Your point regarding beginners is a valid one. If a biginner wants to colour, swirl or do anything else creative after the standard process then beeswax isn’t the best for experiementing with this. Although after two or three tries it should be quite easy.
The issue of veganism and beeswax is debatable. People become vegans for different reasons. The majority of vegans choose this dietry choice due to the suffering of animals. The question vegans ask about bees, is do they experience suffering? If they don’t, well then using beeswax and eating honey are not issues. Certainly there central nervous system is extremely simplistic. The scientific american does a reasonable article on the issue – http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-bees-have-feelings/
Although we were in fact talking about vegetarianism and not veganism.
Finally the issue of palm oil and the negative impact on animals and environment is a very serious issue. The palm industry is nasty. Biodiversity, distroying animal habitats and contributing to global warming being just the major headlines. But to say that you can’t use palm oil is not true at all. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil standard (RSPO) identifies palm oil that has not contributed to the problematic practises that the more recent blow up in plantations has caused.
There are a bunch of other reasons for not using tallow, but I don’t want to preach anymore than I already have.
Thanks for responding to my post.
My main aim with posting this article was to inspire people to discuss and make conscious decisions about the ingredients the use, and not just use something because they saw it mentioned in a recipe. You’ve obviously thought about this and done your research, and that’s awesome! Thanks so much for joining the discussion 🙂
Great article. I have been using tallow in my soaps for 2 years now and I vehemently advertise that fact. So far, only a small handful of people were grossed out by that fact and the others found it extremely intriguing. I think it’s all about the education. If people knew how beneficial soap was to their skin, they may be more open to trying it. The other end of it is, actually trying it. Once people try it and see it is nothing like they think it would be (like smearing ground beef juices all over their skin), they may sign a different tune. Either way, it’s a great thing that we are all discussing it.
Thanks so much, Brittany! It’s wonderful to hear from somebody who sells their soaps and uses tallow—that is something many readers have wondered and worried about, and I’m not much use there as I don’t sell.
Recently my three year old found out she was allergic to corn, wheat, rice, pork, banana and celery (among other environmental allergies). We eat pretty clean and not processed, so thankfully that wasn’t a huge adjustment, as corn is in EVERYTHING processed. However, even our organic “healthy” soap has corn in it, so I’ve found myself (here) looking up how to make my own! A few questions- since we have a pork allergy, I’m gonna go ahead and only look at tallow, right? There isn’t any magic that happens during saponification that takes away allergies, is there? Secondly, (and I think this attest to how much we’ve been brainwashed by society and “norm”) does oil and fat really get you *clean*? I’m having hard time wrapping my head around using this in the ickiest of situations and really feeling like the germs are gone. Our world is so “antibacterial”, and I know a lot of bacteria is good, but just the same, some is not. How does this work to take care of that? Thanks so much for your blog and time!
Hi Stacey! I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s allergies—that definitely sounds like a challenge. You definitely won’t want to be using pork lard, but beyond beef tallow there’s also goat fat and sheep fat and other animal fats you might like to play with.
No, fat will not get you clean… but soap is not fat. Soap is fat that has been saponified, that is, turned into soap. It is chemically completely different from fat. Soap basically cleans by emulsion, by grabbing ahold of oils on your skin with one end of a molecule and grabbing onto the water you’re washing with on the other end, washing away oils, dirt, and bacteria. It is a very effective cleaner, and you can read more about soap vs. antibacterial soap here. Honestly, you shouldn’t ever need antibacterial soap in your day to day life—it kills bacteria chemically (like poison), which bacteria can evolve to resist—not good. Plain ‘ol soap just washes them away like a flood, and there’s no way to develop a resistance to that!
Marie makes good points as always. I thought I might see if I can provide a contribution also. I have sensitive skin and have had to do quite a bit of research to get on top of soap.
For me there are 6 key qualities of soap two of which deal with bacteria. The two are cleansing and iodine.
The cleansing factor is the soaps capacity to latch onto oil and remove it. This removes the source of bacteria from the skin.
The iodine factor is related to the amount of iodine produced in the saponification process. Iodine kills 90% of bacteria making a soap that has a high iodine factor an excellent natural antibacteria agent. Depending on how you make your soap you can have an excellent antibacteria soap without chemicals.
A simple recipe I use for my antibacterial soap includes coconut oil (25%), olive oil (40%), grapeseed oil (25%) and palm oil (10%) (I don’t use animal fat).
This soap has a very high 73 rating for iodine (41 – 70 is the recommended range) and a 17 rating for cleansing (12-22 is the recommend range). This is also a highly conditioning soap with a rating of 62 (range 41-69).
Hi Jeremy! This is really neat—I was wondering if you had any sources for this as I’m interested in reading more. Everything I was able to find about iodine in soap was to do with how readily the bar dissolves in water (hard/soft—more iodine makes for a softer bar), and nothing to do with making it antibacterial. There’s also plenty about iodine being an effective sterilization agent at medical grade concentrations, but I wasn’t able to find anything about whether or not that concentration would be met in a bar of soap. I’m thinking particularly about isopropyl alcohol, and how a certain percentage is required for it to be considered at all antibacterial. I’d appreciate any links you may have 🙂
I’m going to give it a try.
Any recommendations for a type of soap that is most effective for washing up using saltwater? Any way to tweak the chemistry for this?
Hi Paul! Interestingly enough, the only soap that will suds up in salt water is soap made only with pure coconut oil. Logic tells me that doesn’t mean it would be the only soap that cleans as lather is not necessary for cleaning, but it is a neat fact 🙂
That’s a start
I’ll mention that when I post on the sailing forum
I hope you don’t mind if I cross post on some other soap blogs to give the question more exposure? I’m sure any answers will be of interest to a lot of people
Go for it! I look forward to hearing your results 🙂
I just read your article here and I am just about to use tallow for the first time.
I have used lard in the past. It does make a nice soap but 100% lard always had that “piggy” smell come through.
Anyway, what is your view on sustainable Palm? I would be very interested to know what you think about that. I have read down through some comments but not all, I’l admit. It is quite a few!
Thanks so much for this wonderful post!
Hi Lynn! If you render your lard or tallow a couple times (you can also throw in a peeled potato) that will really help with the smell.
Sustainable palm is better than non-sustainable palm, but that still doesn’t change the fact that thousands of pounds of animal fat from already slaughtered animals is discarded daily in cities and towns all over North America. I’d still rather help reduce that waste, regardless of the method of production of palm. Just my two cents!
Thank you for the information. In my feeble attempt to reduce my footprint on the earth, I have just made my first batch of soap. I used lard (actually leftover bacon grease). It was a lot easier that I thought. It has been curing for about a week and I can’t wait to use it. Don’t tell anyone bit I have actually washed my hands with it and, much to my surprise, it was did the job and did not eat the skin off my hands. I also believe in using as much of the animal as I can. My great-grandparents would turn over in their graves if they knew how much usable stuff we throw out. I know they used every part of the animal that was butchered simply because they could not afford to throw anything usable away. Sometimes old school is the best.
That’s awesome! Congratulations on your first batch of soap—I’m sure your grandparents would be proud 🙂 Saponification is generally complete after a day or two, so no worries about your hands being torched off after a week—at that point you just want the bars to dry out.
Yes, it is pretty awesome. At some point in the future I want to try to make my own lye. That is quite a ways off as I still have some lye that I bought and will use it up first.
When it comes to “DIY lye”, be sure to keep in mind that the “lye” made from ashes is neither sodium hydroxide nor potassium hydroxide—it’s potassium carbonate. It’s not as strong, and as a result is different to work with. Here’s a cool experiment to read up on 🙂
Thank you for pointing me to that experiment. I won’t be doing it anytime soon if ever. Commercial lye is pretty cheap here and I have quite a bit of it. Also thank you for doing this website, it contains lots of interesting stuff. I believe we should all try to get back to doing it ourselves whenever we can. Most people are capable of doing much more that they think.
I sometimes wonder if I should give the DIY ashes version a go in case of zombie apocalypse, but it does seem like an awfully big pain for iffy results.
Thanks so much for reading & DIYing with me, your support means the world 🙂
Thank You for being brave enough to post this. I am not Vegan, but have no opposition to those that choose that lifestyle. As you said the animal would have been killed regardless. The wasting of the animal is what gets me. I am a hunter and rarely buy beef. I was looking for ways to use as much as possible of any animal that I hunt and was delighted to learn of many ways to use the fat. I’m newer to soap making and was happy to see some recipes for animal fats. I also asked a local butcher shop to save me some fat and they were happy to oblige. I will be thanking them with soap and possibly a pie from the lard they saved me. I enjoy your site. Thanks again.
Thanks so much for reading and chiming in, Crystal 🙂 I hope you’ll dive into soap making with some of your saved fats, animal fat soap is a beautiful thing!
If I see a zombie stampede heading my way I know where to go. Now that the soap making bug has bit I am looking forward to stealing some of your recipes. Thank you for doing this site. It contains lots of useful information that I can use.
Thanks, Mark! Enjoy your soap 🙂
Tallow is an excellent base for shaving soaps. It is perceived to lather better and allow the razor to glide more easily than using liquid fats. Search for shaving soaps and sticks, both commercial and artisan, and you will find many use tallow.
I definitely love tallow in my shaving soaps 🙂 We have a lovely high end shave shop here in town and I love reading the labels there—and there is definitely lots of tallow to be found!
I have been vegetarian for 45 years (I’m 64), and maybe someone has already made this comment (I don’t have time to read ALL the blog posts), but, I’ll make my comment anyway. The ‘Ick’ factor for me is the idea of, while trying to clean myself, I would be putting the fat from a dead animal all over my body (and how many times a little soap gets in the mouth washing my face).
I am a follower of the Vedic scriptures and it states that if one touches a dead animal one must immediately take full bath in a river to purify one’s self. Spreading the fat of dead animal on one’s body qualifies as touching a dead animal, so taking a ‘bath’ with such soap has just the opposite effect of ‘cleansing’ oneself. At least, according to the Veda.
As far as helping eliminate waste by using fat that was about to be thrown out anyway, while that seems on the surface to be a noble act with all good intention, the fact remains that you are using a product that is the result of violence and untimely death of the animal. And, in many cases that animal was raised in an unnatural environment and was most likely subjected to inhumane treatment. In our scriptures it states that any activity connected with the unneeded killing of an animal creates a negative reaction (the Law of Karma). It’s specifically stated that any and all actions connected to selling an animal for slaughter, transporting the animal or dead flesh, buying it, or processing it in any way creates negative karmic reserves.
It is my advice that the negative karma totally outweighs any perceived positive reactions you claim for using something that would otherwise have gone to waste.
I’m not trying to be ‘preachy’, but, am just offering advice from perspective of the Vedas.
If an animal dies of natural causes, old age, etc., then you are free to take and use any part of that animal you like. Years ago I had seen a company offering leather from cattle that had died naturally. Using that hasn’t got the negative karma attached. BUT, that doesn’t remove the ‘ick’ factor for vegetarians like myself, touching tallow made soap is cause for taking bath to cleanse oneself of it.
I wonder if Ghee would make the same hard soap as tallow? Ghee is clarified butter. As my guru used to say, It is the fat of the cow – transformed into milk. From the milk the cream separates and is skimmed off. By churning the cream again, the fat in the cream is further separated from any remaining whey and water. Take the butter and melt it and the impurities will come up to the top, skim those off and you are left with Clarified Butter, or Ghee. This Ghee is used in all Vedic rituals and ceremonies. It is used for deep fry cooking, it is used in make up and in hand lotions. It is the purest form of fat from the cow, yet the cow isn’t slaughtered to obtain it, and the cow gives gallons and gallons of milk every morning and evening… it just needs grass and water. It is the most karma-free way of getting animal fat. And ghee can keep for long time without refrigeration.
It isn’t cheap, especially making ghee from organic butter where the cows are treated humanely and not sent to slaughter when they stop giving milk (there is a farm not far from me who raises their cows like this). So, maybe I will give it a try.
Thanks for chiming in 🙂 Religious reasons are a whole different cup of tea!
I was wondering if you can say a little bit about shelf life of tallow soaps. Specifically, I was thinking, maybe what I could do is make a 0% super fat formula using tallow, and then after the saponification process has ended (I do mostly Hot Process), I could add something like coconut oil as my super fat right before I begin incorporating my fragrance or color, etc. That way, the tallow would be 100% saponified. I guess this is kind of a chemistry question. I was thinking that if all of the tallow is saponified then there wouldn’t be anything left to go rancid/smell bad after any period of time. Thanks for your awesome blog!
Hi Jenny! I have tallow soaps that are 2–3+ years old downstairs with a 5% superfat. No rancidity, no beefy smell. I wouldn’t bother complicating things with re-batching, you don’t need to 🙂
I think no one should use animal parts in their soap or anything else for the matter. Animals are not here for us to make soap from- they feel pain and suffering, and we should be considerate of that.
I think you can probably guess I didn’t write this article for people who think as you do—it’s more aimed at people who’ll eat meat, but think tallow in their soap is gross. It’s lovely to want to eliminate animal death and suffering, but in the meantime I think it is best to advocate responsible and complete use of the animals that are being killed.
Responsible and complete use of animal products doesnt help to stop barbaric practice of explotation of creatures who cannot help themselves. We dont aim to use up all parts of roadkill animals. I think, educated and smart people like you should take more responsibility for what they are promoting..
I think we will have to agree to disagree here.
I think you should learn to respect the values of others. Marie makes valid points, respects all lives, and makes sound decisions on utilizing value added products. I have learned a lot from this blog and appreciate all the different ideas and information that is shared here. We raise meat goats, they have an incredibly good life on our farm. Since we now make soap, we can utilize even more of the animal when processed. Thank you Marie.
Yes, thank you for caring about all beings ❤️❤️
Hi, I am 100% in agreement with you on Palm Oil, and educating people on it’s content in many types of food, etc. I do want to recommend Tropical Traditions. You can go to their website and see how they farm, and how they have taken an area of the Phillipines, where the ancient harvesting techniques were dying off, and really worked with the locals to farm and harvest in a great environmental way. Everything is done with the earth in mind, and their organic products, coconut oil, palm oil, etc. are high quality. Check it out. I got a free book from them when I ordered recently, and was blown away with the healing stories from the coconut oil testimonials, and the story of the family behind Tropical Traditions. I will be using palm oil in my soaps, but only using theirs. BTW, I love your soaps and the community of people sharing this…another traditional and ancient thing…making soap, and keeping the stories and sharing alive. Thanks!
I’d agree with you on TT—they sent me a jar of coconut oil a couple years ago and it was lovely 🙂 All that said… tallow is still being thrown out here, and no matter how ethically harvested their palm oil is, it still has to be shipped across the world to get to me, giving it a much larger carbon footprint than destined-for-the-landfill tallow. Of course the meat industry has a HUGE carbon footprint, but tallow is hardly the sole/goal product of it. It’s always great to know there are good, ethical palm producers out there, though!
Just found your site and love it by the way! I.m getting geared up to make my first batch of cold processed soap! I made my own tallow from our own beef last year and have some in the freezer. Do you think its ok to use? I love the idea of being able to use my own if I can. Can you suggest the best recipe for a first time newbie like me to try?
Thanks! You can definitely use that tallow, I’ve stored soaping tallow in the freezer for at least a year with no negatives 🙂 This recipe is a great place to start—have fun!
Youll be washing yourself with cows fat.. Why not choose some avocado oil instead?:)
Hi Brigita! I’m going to assume you’ve never made soap before from your comment, but it does sound like you didn’t actually read the article above, either. Avocado oil isn’t an alternative to lard or tallow in soap any more than cake is an alternative for eggs. While they are both fats they do drastically different things in a bar of soap, and swapping one for the other would produce a very soft, slimy bar of soap. The bulk of this article is about that very point.
Dear Marie! Thanks for your inspiring article! I am a “slow” soaper living in an meditteranean island and trying to “soap my way” towards sustainability – and that’s quite a challenge, once you step beyond the castille soap!I was faced with the same “dilema” as you were and I wanted to share my thoughts about this since i am excited to see other soapmakers reflecting about sustainability. But first of all, I want to share some experiences with castille soap – my base oils are olive and almond since these vegetable oils are produced in my island!
I have found tow ways to speed up curing time of my castille soap and they come out so creamy and delicious!
1) Non vegan methods
100 % olive, 8 % superfat
I Substitute water with a combo of concentrated rosmarin infusion and sheep yogurt (we have wonderful organic sheep farmers here, but i guess you could use any kind of jogurt such as goat or cow)whereby jogurt is added at trace
You can also use the “honey” method: substitute water with rosmarin/lavender infusion and add 30 to 40 grams of honey (per kg of soap) at trace, dissolved in a little bit of the rosmarin infusion (discount both from water content!)You can also work with a combo of honey and sheep jogurt – just do not insulate the soap!
2) “Vegan method”
Same base recipe as Nr 1, but leave out the animal products and instead, substitute water with concentrated, freshly made almond milk! Another vegetable milk that works even more effective (!!!) than almondmilk is chufa milk – but as far as i know, chufa is only produced in Spain (but you could experiment with different vegetable milks).
These soaps have a curing time of 6 months in my climate – which is very humid and cold (we dont heat our flat and wintertime here is rainy, cold and super humid – arg!). I guess in drier climates, curing time may even be less! These soaps are amazing: creamy, persistent and nourishing lather and a hard bar that lasts “forever”. Thats good for me and the planet and yes – you still have to wait 6 months. I make large batches and the good thing is, these bars are like good wine – the older the better! No worries!
However, if you want to top this result, I recomend to work with a base recipe of 92 % olive oil and 8 % almond oil. Not a “pure” castile anymore, but I love this version – it gets even creamier!
I personally prefer the infusion/jogurt/honey combo with 92 % olive and 8 % almond since it is the most effective method. Moreover, I love to support my organic sheep farmers (organic sheep farming is integral to almond production since sheeps are pastured in the almond fields – while clearing up the fields, sheeps fertilize the trees with their manure). I also love to use local organic honey – organic beefarming is helping bee populations and moreover, my own vegetable harvest depends on healthy bee populations (and actually, a part of our garden is stocked up with bee flowers and bushes – I feel it is like an mutual support)
When it comes to make soaps that have a shorter curing time, well – I figuered out my way to do this but honestly, this was incredibly time consuming and much of work. I supply a lot of friends, colleagues and family with my soaps and indeed, some are vegan. After two years, I finally found a compromise – for every type of soap I make, I have a vegan and a non vegan version.
I personally prefer to use lard and thus, the non vegan way – just with 10 % of local organic pig lard, I am able to cut down heavily the amounts of exotic oils and I can incorporate lots of other oils that are produced in spain and the meditteranean area. Usually, in these bars I just use tiny amounts of fair trade shea butter (usually about 4 %) and about 7 % of fair trade babasu oil (instead of coconut) – that`s it!
The vegan versions of my recipes usually contain about 6 % of fair trade cocoa butter and 4 % shea butter – plus, I add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt/pounds of oils in these soaps. And yet, they need at least 3 months to cure since my base oil is still olive (at least 65 % in all of my soaps!) – and people have to wait, there is no way around! Moreover, these bars are more expensive since I only use organic fair trade shea/babasu or neem – I want my soaps to be good for everyone including those people that produce the oils I use and supporting small farmers and/or cooperatives is a must for me. I often discuss with people my recipes and explain the pros and cons of my vegan and non-vegan soap versions in terms of economic costs, environmental and social considerations etc – and this is great! I do respect when people want to have a “vegan” soap (this is why I have done so much research for my recipes), but I also tell them that it makes no sense at all for me to use instead of lard exotic oils that are obtained with destructive production methods and exploitative working conditions in poor countries – sustainability is a complex challenge and goes far beyond the topic of using animal products. When I explain these dilemas to people, they start to think about it – and usually we end up with intersting and inspiring conversations.
I by myself am perfectly fine with the 10 % of local organic pig lard – I know that the pigs are raised in healthy and respectful conditions and meat production is tied to our local resource availabilities since these animals have to be raised by free-ranging (perfectly fine with me, I eat meat just once in a while). I can visit the farms and convince myself that animals are treated well – but I cannot travel to Africa and Asia to convince myself that everything is ok there with coconut, palm, rhizinus oil etc production. Most providers here never indicate where and from whom they are sourcing their organic exotic oils and when you ask, you often get reactions that go from adopting a defensive posture up to going angry. Therefore, I usually purchase my exotic organic oils from organisations/businesses that directly purchase from women cooperatives – and here I am able to convince myself that everything is ok.
I find this topic very interesting since I personally believe that the soapmaking and the broader DIY community (including natural cosmetics) still is far away from sustainability – and there is much need to reflect on this topic, especially when taking into account the state of our planet and our societies.
Great discussion and thanks for your inspiration – it just makes me happy that there are more DIY ers are out there who are bringing this discussion forward!
Lots of Greetings from Spain – and give the castile soap a chance, you wont regret it!!!
Wow! Thank you so much for this amazing contribution to the discussion, Andrea, this is truly incredible. I hugely appreciate you contributing your experience and research for everyone to read and benefit from! Is rosmarin “rosemary”? I think I will have to give one of your castile soaps a try when I can; it is very dry here so perhaps I won’t need a full 6 months!
Yep! Rosmarin is “rosemary” – sorry, I should check my english!!!
I am happy to contribute some bit of knowledge to the discussion – after all, it makes no sense that everybody starts on its own to figure things out when the knowledge is already there! Moreover, I have learned so many things from your`s and other people`s blog, so I am happy to give something back! What I forgot to mention is that my vegan soaps do not only contain 6 % of cocoa and 4 % of shea, but also about 10 to 12 % of babasu (a higher amount than in the lard soaps)- and I really need to emphatize that I absolutely need the addition of sea salt in order to achieve hard bars after three months, no way around this! Plus, what I noticed is that when I work with additives such as rice or almond flour (yesterday I made the vegan version of my green tea/chlorella/rice flour/rice milk soap), chlorella or clays for example, curing time of vegan soaps speeds up – I guess these additives “sorb” water and thus, the bars dry faster. When working with lard (and thus, small amounts of only babasu and shea) the bars that contain these additives are very quick in curing.
Thanks to you and happy soaping! Would be great to hear from your castille experience (in 6 months :=). I recomend to work with the 92 % olive/ 8 % almond version and rosemary/jogurt/ or rosemary/honey combo – that will give you the best results!
Lots of greetings!
Fantastic, thank you—and thank you for your super detailed email as well 🙂 I will try to play with it when I’m done my book!
Andrea mentions that she substitutes water with a combo of concentrated rosemary infusion and sheep yogurt. I use goat milk frozen into ice cubes for the water in my soap. Can you tell me how I could add some homemade goat yogurt to my soap? If it is used to replace the water, how can it be added at trace? Would I need to adjust my recipe, or can I just add some at trace? How much would I add? What would it do to the finished product. This is such a great idea!!
Hi! I do add the sheep yogurt once my soap has reached a good pudding-like trace! Usually, I replace 1/3 of the water amount (or infusion) in my recipes. So you would make your lye solution with 2/3 of the total water amount you need in your recipe (using infusion or frozen milk) and then, once you have come to trace, you add the jogurt (i think goat yogurt is great, too!), incorporating it first with a spoon and then you can mix again with an electric mixer (if you use it). For example, if your recipe calls for 300 g of water, you make your lye solution with 200g of infusion (or whatever you use) and at trace, you incorporate 100 g of yogurt. I have also come to substitute 50 % of my water amount with jogurt, but since the water amount for the lye solution then is very small, i sometimes have problems dissolving all the lye when using frozen cubs of infusion. The lye just doesnt dissolve as well in this small and cold amount of water. So I recomend to stir a lot and to filter your lye solution in order to avoid undissolved lye!
Greetings from spain!
I’d probably add it the same way you’ve been adding your goat milk—freeze it into cubes and count it as part of the water 🙂 I imagine it would make for a creamier soap in the end, but I haven’t tried it so I can’t say for sure.
A friend recently was helper in a “hog-killin’,” something that is regularly done in these parts this time of year. My friend saved the skin for me to scrape the fat from, since he knew I make hard soaps for laundry soap from lard & tallow. This was my first time rendering directly from the skin only (no organ fat was included in the batch). I got some really nice clear fat that is awesome for cooking, but it does not solidify, even in the fridge. From what I could glean off the internet, this is just how skin fat on a hog renders. It’s the organ fat that solidifies.
My question is, do you know if I can treat this liquid lard the same as solid lard in soap calculations? I usually use my animal fats in laundry soap, but even there, I’d rather not waste a batch on experimentation if I don’t have to!
Hmm. I’m really not sure, honestly. I’d assume that the different appearance/texture indicates a different fatty acid makeup (like olive oil vs. tallow), so that would make for a different SAP value… so I’d guess not?
I love your posts and read them all however NO, I shouldn’t. It has been on my mind to comment on this for some time. Justifying this is just turning a blind eye. It is not “saving” anything and only perpetuates the problem, nor does it stop the to the injustices and cruelty animals face as they are sent to slaughter “humanely” raised or otherwise. I do not agree. I make vegan soap that is very well received, does not turn in to a “pile of glop the second it gets wet” and does not take years to harden. I am constantly complimented on my soaps and told how long they last. The trade off: animals do not have to suffer or die.
Hi Linda! Thanks for contributing to the discussion. I’m guessing you’re vegan from your vehement response. I do fairly clearly state that this is mostly targeted at meat eaters (“So, if you eat meat, I think you should definitely use tallow or lard in your homemade soap. If you can eat meat, there shouldn’t be an ick factor—you can probably even save the tallow from your own dinners.”). What do you use to harden your soaps? I presume not palm oil since you’re obviously very concerned about animal welfare.
Strongly worded maybe but not vehement. I am not vegan, strong (?) vegetarian at best, I just don’t agree with perpetuating the problem when it comes to the treatment of animals. I recognize that people will eat meat but where and how it is obtained is what matters. There is monumental waste within the meat industry but the true waste is that of lives lost (and the many in which it comes to that) to feed the masses when there are viable alternatives. You state that it is “mostly targeted at meat eaters” however the comment is buried well within the post and the heading “Why I Use Lard or Tallow in My Soap (And Why You Should, Too)” does not imply this nor do the opening paragraphs. I love your blog and have made some of your recipes altered to suit my needs/beliefs.
I use the hot process method for my soaps and a blend of coconut, olive, sunflower and castor (from the bean not the beaver :-)oil.
I think we are going to have to agree to disagree here—I’m sure you can appreciate that”Why I Use Lard or Tallow in My Soap (And Why You Should, Too—unless you are vegan or vegetarian in which case, carry on, but still I think you should read this because I’m vegetarian, too, and I feel like I make some good points)” is not the snappiest of titles 😉
I’ve enjoyed reading most of the comments here. I am predominately vegetarian, I tell people I don’t eat mammals or poultry. I eat fish or shellfish once in a blue moon.
I have yet to try making soap with tallow will be this year. I have deer fat that I will make into soap soon. My neighbors all hunt and gift my dogs with bones, meat, and organs. WIN for us all!
I also started raising chickens for the eggs as well as meat for my carnivorous husband and son. My dogs did eat a rooster a couple days ago as a hawk had killed it. Organic feed is not cheap so this rooster was not wasted. He did not have any fat on him like the chicken purchased at grocery stores.
Thank you so much for all the work you put into this blog sharing your recipes and just for being such a nice person.
Thanks, Linda 🙂 I’m jealous of your deer fat, that sounds like a lot of fun to work with (my definition of fun is a bit odd haha). Thanks for reading!
Hi Marie, thank you for sharing so many great ideas. I am going to try adding 2 tbsp. of simple sugar syrup to increase later in my soap when a friend and I make soap this weekend. I see in an incredibly interesting post from December that someone mentions adding sea salt to harden the bar. Since I use about 1/3 goat tallow and goat milk in my recipe, it is already fairly hard, but I would like to add just a tad more hardness. I would love to know how much salt to add, when to add it and if there needs to be any adjustment to the recipe. Also, my soap is made for my very, very dry and sensitive skin. Would the salt cause the soap to be more harsh or drying?
From my reading adding salt helps a bar harden faster, but perhaps not overall—you can read more here 🙂 I’ve never actually tried it, though, so I’m all research and no experience in this area. The sugar syrup will help increase lather, but it’ll also help speed up trace and make for a hotter saponification, so keep that in mind 😉
I would like to ask if you have experience with using lamb tallow? Our organic pig tallow is mainly availabe in spring, but I realized that during other seasons of the year, I could use sheep tallow when I run short of pig tallow (i have to store it in the freezer since it is available only in springtime, but my freezer unfortunately is very small) Actually, it is a friend of mine who came up with this idea when we were talking about different ways to make sustainable soap in our local contexts, but now I am not sure how sheep tallow works out in soap. Actually, a shepherd warned us that rendering sheep tallow is very smelly..but he couldn`t tell us whether this smell would remain after the process. So if you have experience with this topic, I would appreciate your advice!!
Greetings and thanks!
Hey Andrea! I’m afraid I don’t have any experience soaping with lamb tallow, but it should make a nice soap as long as you can find a SAP value for it (soap calc has one) 🙂 I’ve heard that rendering the fat with a chopped up potato in the pot can help absorb the meaty scent, and usually the scent doesn’t end up in final bars, but sheep is a bit smellier than beef, so I’m not sure if that would be the case here :/ I’ve had other readers ask about using lamb/sheep fat, but none of them have ever reported back with their results.
thanks for your answer! I found some european soap recipes with sheep tallow, so we will give it a try in autumn when this fat is available. I will let you know how it works out, especially the rendering process, smell of the soap etc! Regarding the topic of using salt to help harden the soap – my experience with “vegan” soaps is that adding salt is just one out of many necessary additions. Beyond adding salt in the lye solution, I increase the amount of babassu oil (12 to 15 % instead of 7 or 8 %) and add fair trade shea and cocoa butter as well as clays, rice flour etc (ingredients that suck water and add something special to the soap). Nonetheless, these soaps require 3 months curing time in my climate (I also suspect that climate has a role to play in curing soap! Would be a nice experiment to make the same soap under different climatic conditions and compare the performance of the soap at different curing times!)
Greetings from Spain!
Thanks, Andrea! I look forward to hearing how the sheep tallow soaps go 🙂 Also, I suspect you are correct about curing times; I live somewhere very dry and have no issues with my soaps aging, but soapers I’ve spoken to who live on the coast have told me they need a separate room with a dehydrator to age their soaps!
Thanks for the recipes. Making soap is one of those things that I’ve always thought about doing, but never managed to find the time to do.
How long does it typically take to make a batch?
I’d have to go down the entirely vegetarian ingredient route, I don’t use anything that’s not vegetarian.
Hey Simon! I might spend an hour actually making the soap, though I usually soap at room temperature now, so there’s usually a good 6–8 hours of downtime as well 🙂
I am happy to see your post on using lard and tallow. I have used one or the other in nearly every batch of soap for more than ten years now. I have customers who prefer my soap because it lasts so long, so I agree with your assessment.
Thanks, Beth! I love my tallow soaps and I’m glad you do, too 😀
Thank you so much for this blog. I’m a beginner soaper and have been using recipes that contain mostly lard and coconut oil, olive oil, almond or some nut oil (depending on what I feel like experimenting with) and castor oil. I love the results I’m getting, but the thought has occurred to me that people used to make soap out of lard or tallow, and probably not much else… so I’m thinking of experimenting with a plain lard soap. My idea is to develop a recipe for a soap made from oils that are easy to get and inexpensive… I’m not really a doomsday prepper, but I do think about what might be available should some catastrophic event happen and all those luxurious oils are no longer available. I’m interested in your thoughts (and recipe ideas) on a soap that would have “obtainable and sustainable” ingredients. What would be available if there were no grocery stores?
PS – I make my soaps for me and my family, so I’m not worried about the “yuk factor” of listing animal by-products in my ingredients.
Hey! When it comes to sustainable ingredients, a lot of that depends on where you live. Look at what’s produced locally, and incorporate that. For me, that’s tallow, and also canola oil (though I don’t generally get that excited about canola oil as an ingredient). Also check with your suppliers; how are they sourcing their ingredients? There’s many different ways to produce coconut oil and palm oil, some more responsible than others (though this isn’t really a no grocery store situation unless you live somewhere tropical). Tallow and coconut oil will produce a fairly decent soap on their own (hard and bubbly), and from there you could add readily available oils and butters to make a more hydrating bar. Allllll that said… I think there’s a reason most at-home soaps 100 years ago in North America were just made with animal fats. That’s what they had and that’s what they could process down to pure fat easily. Castile soap (pure olive oil soap) comes from parts of the world where olive oil was plentiful. The blending that we do today is very much a product of globalization.
I was excited to see someone thinking about using animal fat with the same mindset of waste not – want not. We get both beef tallow and pig fat from our butcher for $0! We even got bear tallow this fall which I rendered, but haven’t figured out the best way to use it yet. Customers rarely ask for their fat when having an animal butchered and meat processing facilities have to PAY to send it to a landfill! I call the week before and ask them to save me whatever they have and I often get upwards of 50 lbs in a big box when I pick it up. If you make it a regular thing, a relationship will ensue. I think the shop would even sell our soap if we ever went “commercial.”
When I render our pig fat to make lard, I grind it with a meat grinder, place it in a large roaster pan and put it into a 200º oven for a few hours (maybe 4-5) stirring every half hour or so. It never boils or is “cooked” per sae. The oil just seeps out of the cracklings and I pour it off into mason jars. The jars self-seal until I’m ready to make soap. If I know it will be several months, I weigh/label and put them in the freezer, but my grandmother always kept lard out without even refrigeration after the hog was butchered in metal coffee cans! When I am ready to make some soap, I place the jars on a jar rack in a pot of water (half way up the jar) on the stovetop and heat it to the right temp while preparing the lye. So far I have never been able to smell the lard in the soap. Matter of fact, the lard barely smells like anything at all in the cold state. Makes a nice lathering, hard bar of soap. I’ve never mixed anything with it other than 1/4 part coconut oil. We liked the way it turned out and are still using it today.
Thanks so much, Rebecca! I love your oven method, it sounds much less smelly than the stove top way—I’ll have to try it the next time I’m rendering. Happy soaping and thanks for reading!
I am severely allergic to pork so I was looking for a better alternative. I guess tallow or palm oil would have to do.
Tallow soap is really lovely—I marginally prefer it to lard soap 🙂
Thanks Marie, now it’s to see where I may find or how effectively I could make tallow
Here’s my article on how to turn trimmings from the butcher (which are often free!) into usable tallow 🙂
What types of animal fats can be used to make soap beyond the usual suspects like tallow and suet? I live in a town that is big on hunting whether I like it or not and I could easily get my hands on bear and deer fat. Could I use it?
Hey Maggie! If you can find it in a soap calculator, you can use it 🙂 Soap Calc has quite a lot, including duck fat, bear tallow, goose fat, rabbit fat, goat tallow, and sheep tallow, among others! After you calculate out the recipe take a look at the values for hardness, lather, etc. on the result page to see how different fats will impact your final product 🙂
Do you think any lard would work? I can get lard pretty easily (and cheaply) and on SoapCalc there’s a thing for “Lard, Pig Tallow (Manteca)”. If I’m following one of your recipes, would I use the percentage of beef tallow for lard?
I plan on making my first batch of soap soon. Your other entry on how lye isn’t totally scary gave me the final push to give it a shot 🙂
As long as you re-calculate the recipe with the right fat, any kind of tallow or lard will work as the “hard” fat for a soap (lard is always pig fat, so there’s only one kind of lard [excepting different sorts of pigs, I suppose, but I wouldn’t worry about that if the lard you’re buying is from a fairly run-of-the-mill store], but many kinds of tallow). Lard is a bit softer than tallow, but not so much so that I’ve ever really noticed, so I’ll use one or the other without making any changes to the fat percentages. Happy soaping!
Wow. Just spent my morning reading every single comment here. I truly found every comment and suggestion of value! Enough so that I hit the subscribe button. 🙂 I have always been a crafter and am an avid bubble bath gal. The cost of my favorite handmade bath products became cost prohibitive so I decided, heck if it’s handmade, I should be able to make it. That was this January, and then I got hooked on soap. Lol. While I started my journey via the M&P way, I have my lye ready and while I have yet to mix my first batch of CP, I have been devouring all things soap. I dream soap, I have already filled a notebook with ideas for soap and then I stumbled upon your site.
Can I say it, “holy cow”! 😉
My sister raises all her own meat, and the animals never had it so good. They have names, live the good life and are reared more like family than “product”. There is profound reverence towards the animals, and gratitude for the important role they play in feeding her family. She loved the idea of providing me with lard, tallow and wild game fat, as she can only use so much suet per year. In exchange she will have soap as long as I can provide it.
I am so blown away by this thread that I cannot thank this entire soaping community enough!
I love that everyone shares and agrees to disagree. This hobby turned obsession has actually renewed my faith in humanity, after having become quite cynical over the years with the way people have devalued each other and themselves in the quest for profit. My foray into soaping has turned up such a gift of a truly inspiring community of people. Thank you Marie, and everyone here who posted a reply!
Hi Verica! You are a crazy determined reader, haha—my counter says this will be the 319th comment on this post! Welcome to the wonderfully addictive world of CP soaping 😉 It sounds like you’ve got a fantastic source for some animal fats that will no doubt make beautiful soaps that you’ll feel good about using and sharing with your family. Happy soaping!
so I was researching lard on soap and it’s benefits. I came across this article and thought, wow I love this article, I feel the same way, use the whole animal. then I realized it was your page lol… laughed and said, no wonder I loved the article lol..
any who, are you still using lard on your CP? I’m making a bunch of recipes to try in 8 to 10 weeks to see which is the best one for my chronic psoriasis My goal in life is to make products that will help folks like me, with skin issues.
Hey Monica! I find I’m mostly using tallow these days instead of lard as tallow makes a slightly harder bar, and I live in Alberta beef country, so it’s quite readily available. I’m definitely still all about using animal fats in soap, though! I hope you can figure something out for your psoriasis, good luck!
Thank you for this post! I use lard, as I also see it as using a waste product but have been shy to tell people that. Now I have some back-up! We have dairy goats, so I make goat milk soap- I get lots of comments from people who like the long-lasting bars. Thank you also for the rendering info- I have friends that buy locally-raised pigs to feed their families and have been offered the fat. I didn’t know what to do with it, and was afraid of it going rancid. I will give rendering a try though- it would be awesome to have another local ingredient! Cheers, Lisa
You’re very welcome—thank you for reading! Do be warned that rendering up lots of fat is a messy process that will take over your kitchen for a day or two 😛 I bought 30kg of tallow trimmings in the early summer and my kitchen was overtaken with simmering fat for days lol.
I use both Tallow and Palm in all my soap recipes I am considering removing Palm all together. Tallow makes a very hard and creamy soap and the animals have all ready been killed for meat so lets make use off it. As far as the eek factor I would not lather myself with either Palm or Tallow they would both likely be terrible but after saponification, its soap not fat. Humans are animal not plants so Tallow is much closer to us humans and better for your skin if you look into it further. I use large electric Turkey roasters outside or in garage to do down Tallow. I can do down enough for six months in no time that way.
Thanks, Carole! I envy your set-up; I hate how my house smells like a low-end steak house whenever I have to render 😛
The information in the response section of this article is amazing! I’ve just started into soap making and so far only used Melt & Pour due to limited access to lye (can’t find it locally). I do have two questions; one, can you mix tallow and lard in one recipe like other oils? Two, (unrelated to this article) using melt & pour can you safely without wrecking the batch add other oils to the M&P base? My opinion on the use of tallow and lard would be that no matter what you use in your soap making recipes you will most likely be using something that goes against someone’s moral grain. You are either going to ruffle the feathers of the Vegans, Environmentalists, or have an impact with the use of fossil fuels. If you use tallow / lard I would definitely not hide it in your ingredient listing but make a clear statement in why you use it (I like your reasoning since it most resembles the thought of Native Culture-if you have to kill keep the kill sacred and use absolutely everything to honour the life taken). When reading the responses to the article I began to think about the 100 mile idea, going back to our early ancestors methods of using what was local and getting back to using ‘weeds’ and other plant material that have been long forgotten. When I can find a local source of lye or tempt making my own soda ash I think I will be putting the research on this idea to good use! Thank you so much for all the great information from everyone in this panel!
Thank you, Cecile! With well over 300 comments this page has truly taken on a life of its own 😀 Yes, you can blend tallow and lard in a soap recipe to create the hardening portion of your soap; there’s no reason you’d need to use all of one or the other, I just usually do for simplicity. I have never made melt and pour soap before so I am not a great person to ask; from what I understand you can add some ingredients to it, but I am not sure of the limitations. Soap Queen has loads of great Melt & Pour resources—check her out 🙂
And yes—I am 100% with you on using up the entire animal 🙂 If meat eaters don’t want to do it, I will! 🙂
If you are in Canada there are quite a few places to purchase lye. I purchase mine at Home Hardwear, but there are several great places in Ontario that you can pick up from, or they’ll ship it to you. Saffire Blue, Canwax, and Candora all have NaOH and are around Toronto (ish… Candora is in London). I’m not sure about the USA since I’m Canadian, but I do have a big list of places to shop here 🙂 As an FYI—soda ash is a very different thing from NaOH, and is not at all interchangeable. There’s a neat post on that here—it really convinced me that I much prefer NaOH 😛
Hello from Finland! Inspired by your blog post, I got some tallow from a local butcher. The stuff i gor was called the kidney fat, and it was almost completely pure fat, with just a little bit gelatin holding bits together. I did anyhow render it. And the price was really low, 3 euros for a kilogram! So, if you can get fat from the intestines, it’s lot cleaner than other fat from between the muscles and a lot easier to use. My batch did have almost no waste. Really pleased with it 🙂
Oooh, how lovely! And that is a pretty darn good price for something that’s nearly pure fat; most recently I paid $99/kg, but the yield was pretty poor (less than 50% if I recall correctly). I look forward to hearing about the soaps you make from it!
Thank you for this info bout the Tallow. Im from Venezuela and Its really hard for me to find a non expensive fat or oil. Do you recomend me a recipe with Tallow, coconut oil, soya oil or palm kernel oil… i have a little of cocoa butter… that what we can get in our conuntry.
You should be able to make a nice soap from tallow, coconut oil, and soya oil. Try composing your own with SoapCalc 🙂 I’d probably start fiddling around with 30% tallow, 25% coconut oil, and the rest soybean, but be sure to watch the hardness, lather, etc. numbers and see how they change when you adjust the percentages.
Hey, Marie! First of all, thank you for your awesome blog!
I’ve just made a research about cheaper oils sold in my country – Brazil – and would like to tell you what I’ve found, because maybe it can me useful for you or some of your readers? Here, besides palm kernel oil, we can find cupuaçu (cocoa) butter, maracujá (passion fruit) butter and babaçu coconut butter, all native of our country (hence cheap and free of environmental concerns) that apparently work very similarly to palm oil in soap making. I don’t know if they can be found in other countries or if they would be more expensive than shea butter, but if some of your readers live in a tropical country like I do, they probably have other options, too. 😀
Thanks, Ana! We can get cupuaçu and cocoa butter (they are different butters; cupuaçu is soft and creamy while cocoa is firm and brittle). If babaçu is also called babassu, we can get that, too—it’s like coconut oil, but much more expensive. I know maracujá oil is in a lot of expensive serums, but I’ve yet to find some to buy. Perhaps I need to take a research and shopping trip to Brazil!
I use combination of Lard (pig fat) to tallow , beef tallow for years , my soaps are very hard with a lot of beautiful creamy lather, not to admit that is extremely gentle on skin. This is nice topic Marie 🙂 greetings
Thanks, Danuta! Your soap sounds lovely 🙂
I love Lard soap hands down , nothing wrong with it , its soap!!!! and good soap!!!!!
So true! 😀
In what case would you need to cure a soap for FIVE YEARS??
If it was made entirely with liquid oils and you don’t live somewhere particularly dry; I’ve read accounts from other soapers raving over their 5 year old 100% olive oil castile bars.
Hi Marie, can you exchange lard and tallow 1:1?
Yup! Technically that’ll make for a slightly softer bar but I’ve never noticed it 🙂
Thanks for the post. Respect. I don’t use tallow or lard, I understand why people do or don’t and that is for them to decide, certainly not I. I use olive oil in my soaps. I appreciate reading why you do what you do, and I thank you for it.
Thanks so much, Maya!
Hi Marie, I agree with your philosophy on using tallow. I think it is shameful to use an animal for food and then waste so much, disrespectful for the sacrifice of its life. Leather is in that department too should not be wasted. (A reason I dislike furs, Very few people wear them because they NEED to and most animals are killed for ONLY a fashion/power statement, no honor in that at all)
Also a great point that some attemts to cater to green/vegan/vegetarian things can have a very negative impact on our planet home and inhabitants. Its a fine balance alright. Having Respect for our planet has much to do with it.
Thanks, Anne! This is a thing I’ve thought about a lot since I started making soap and I continue to feel quite strongly about. I do wish the vegans would stop screaming at me about it, though. Sigh.
Sorry to hear that. I find it ironic that though they don’t wear leather, a lot of vegan items are made from vinyl and plastics. Seems counter-intuitive with the pollution issues surrounding that stuff.
My thoughts exactly! I’d rather have something that will last 50+ years if well cared for and then biodegrade than a piece of plastic that will break down in a couple years and never biodegrade.
I stumbled across this post looking for an alternative to tallow because I didn’t like the sound of it. You have changed my mind! I am looking at making a re-meltable (melt and pour) base and the recipe I found uses tallow. Have you ever made a melt and pour base? Also, I have just bought your book and love it. I was wondering if you would recommend the course you are doing. Thanks, Melanie.
I’m so glad you enjoyed this post and my book—thank you! I’m afraid I have never tried to make my own melt & pour base. So far I’m enjoying the Formula Botanica course, but I will be posting a full review when I’m done so please stay tuned for that 🙂
Hi Marie, my friend is vego, and won’t use soap with lard or tallow, and I do understand, but the animal has already been killed, and a lot of it is being thrown away even though it is perfectly suitable to be used for other products and not just eaten, which is bad because we are prodipucing more landfill and wasting an already dead animal. I tried explaining but she won’t touch anything that has touched meat? And won’t wash up if there’s been meat on the plates or anything, so I think that’s also why she wouldn’t want to wash with animal fat? And also, THANK YOU for adding in the palm oil bit, as many people I know don’t know that their are environmental concerns surrounding palm oil,
If your friend wants to live that way I guess that’s on her, but that’s definitely no way I’d want to live :/ Life’s too short to refuse to help with the dishes because other people eat meat.
Hello Ki Li ! I saw your post, and wondered if you might allow me to add a bit of perspective which might help with the challenge you face with your friend. Do you know if your friend is vegan for religious reasons? If that is the case, it is possible that her religion and the way she was raised has caused her to see meat products (particularly non kosher meat) as something that will defile her. There are other religions where the cow is sacred…I’m not sure how touching the remains of a dead cow might impact their religious life. It must be a huge thing when someone is that afraid of meat. I guess what I mean to say is that your friend might not have it in her to change her mind about tallow soap or doing dishes etc, because in her eyes it is sinful. This is only a guess, and i mean no offense to anyone else who is vegan or who has a faith that prohibits eating or touching certain flesh foods. I am a vegetarian, and also have some strict religious beliefs. I avoid certain meats that are Biblically unclean. But I was also taught to be respectful of others beliefs, even when they contradict my own. So I don’t mind if someone next to me is eating pork or shellfish. But other people may have grown up with a harsher belief system concerning meat which causes them to feel like “sinners”, defiled in the eyes of God if they even touch a soiled plate. I just don’t want you to feel badly about the products you make if you choose to use tallow. It’s impossible to please everyone, so I suppose the easiest thing to do is offer a range of vegan and non vegan soaps. As for your friend, don’t despair. Even if she never warms to the idea of washing dirty dishes, at least you will know that two completely different people can still be friends. 🙂 I hope I haven’t offended anyone who reads this post. My only goal is to attempt to add some clarity or perspective. I too am different in the eyes of some, so I try very hard to be accepting of all people and religious faiths. I hope this helps with your friend. 🙂
Hi Lisa! She is vegetarian for non-religious reasons. I respect her reasons for being vegetarian (reducing her carbon footprint and not supporting the abuse that animals face as a result of the meat industry), and in fact I am looking to stop eating red meat and possibly become pescatarian, though I will still use tallow in soap, as it definitely reduces the amount of food that goes to waste from the meat sector. It is always helpful to look at things from different perspectives, like religious beliefs, thank you for your reply!
I enjoyed this very much. Learned alot. I do not use animal tallow in my soaps. Most of my family and friends, as well as myself don’t eat pork. I do use sustainable palm oil. Palm oil is also produced in countries that don’t have orangutans. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for reading! Regardless of orangutans I still can’t buy local palm oil here in Canada 😛
I love your book and all your recipes and hard work. Thank you, Kindly.
When I eventually saw through industry and all the hormones and medication injected into animals and ending up on my plate, I knew something had to change. These animals eat grain laden with pesticides. This is when I decided to stop consuming animal products. I went vegan. This opened my eyes to ALL industry. Thats why I decided to make my own products free of animal parts of any kind and free of industrial chemicals. I grow all my own food free of pesticides which BTW is full of parabens. Paraben steak. No thank you. Collectively we need to make changes and stop supporting industry.
Killing animals is not sustainable. It’s downright cruelty. I’m into cruelty-free products. So many are concerned about whether their product has been tested on animals while they merrily consume an animal.
Where does a person draw the line?
Commercialism is too convenient.
Too many turning a blind eye while cancer and disease are slowly killing them. There is teflon in toothpaste for god sake! Ughhh! As women, it’s our duty to protect our families. We have to Stop turning a blind eye, because it will only get worse unless we do something about it.
Thanks for your input, I can tell you’re very passionate about this 🙂
Thank you for the article. I also use animal fat in some of my soaps (I have only started making soap 2 months ago though!) but I can see that some of my friends who are vegan/vegetarian don’t want to use anything that contains animal products… But I have been wondering how environmentally sustainable coconut oil is. The demand has dramatically increased in the last few years and it seems that coconut oil production may be equally harmful to the environment and habitats in south-east Asia. What do you think?
That is an excellent question, though not something I’ve looked into much. I would start by asking your suppliers about their sourcing methods and standards—how are they ensuring the companies they are purchasing from are being responsible?
I have never used palm oil in my soap. I use coconut, olive, castor,Shea butter, cocoa butter,lard and tallow. My bars are hard, creamy and clean well. They don’t dry your skin and because they are cured at least 6 weeks they never get mushy. That said, I have learned most of my ingredient knowledge from you Marie and for that I need to thank you. Not sure how I originally found you years ago but I am so glad I did.
Thanks so much, Susan! I love tallow soap and I’m thrilled to hear you do as well! 😀
I am always sadden by those that will say I love animals & eat only plantbase BUT, yes they find the BUT to use products from the innocent animal that has been killed, slaughtered or murdered, any which way you like to say it, you are still contributing to these innocent animals deaths. Maybe take your frame of mind out of what you have been told to convince yourself it’s okay & remember it’s your money that talks & makes living animals become products. Think about this for a moment > “Tomorrow 7 billion human beings become plant based but the market for tallow is still there for use, what happens then? Tallow becomes the main product & the innocent slaughtered animals meat will become the waste by product that someone will find a use to use in some way”. No matter how much one thinks the story on why it’s okay to use innocent murder animals byproduct it’s still just a story your telling yourself. Also I do want to point out that there are several ethical and responsible companies that make sure their sources for palm kernel oil follows fair trade and organic guidelines in the production of this butter. Like that from Togo, West Africa, where there is no risk of harming orangutans, as they are not indigenous to this region. There is always a something we can use to make great wonderful products without having our dollars go to the killing of innocent animals. I hope with time you & others can see the picture more clearly so one day no innocent animals have to suffer just because we love great soap & skin products. Thank you for letting me say my feelings here also. 🙂
This topic I think, will always be a sensitive topic in the cosmetic DIY/industry. One of the things I like the most about HumbleBee&Me and Marie, is the ability to be able to speak ones mind freely and comfortably without fear of judgement.
Hi Marie! I’ve certainly learned a lot from reading your article, and many of the responses, although I haven’t read every single one, quite yet. I’ve been soaping for awhile now, and when I first started, I used tallow, even though I’m vegetarian. I don’t use it anymore, because I prefer the plant based soaps. What I wanted to mention, if it hasn’t been pointed out yet, is that tallow can be bought in the pastry section, just like lard can be. I discovered that quite by accident when I first began my soaping adventure. Thought I was buying a cheaper brand of Crisco and it turned out to be tallow! LOL! It messed with my SAP values, but I didn’t know it until it was too late. Anyway, in response to the soapers who asked where to get tallow, the brand was called Fluffo. I have no idea if there are other products made under the Fluffo brand name, but it would likely be easier than trying to render the beef fat at home. Just thought I should mention it for anyone who is looking for a more convenient source. Love your website, and thanks so much for everything you’ve helped me learn!
Thank you so much, Lisa! I’ve never seen it here, but I will keep an eye out for it 🙂
I have been making soap since 2009 and have enjoyed the learning experience immensely. About six months ago, after reading this article, I decided that I would like to try lard in my soap. But I was worried about the “ick” factor even though soap has been traditionally made with animal fats. I made a blend of lard and vegetable oils and it turned out fantastic! Now to try a batch of lard only… fingers crossed.
I’m so glad you’re enjoying your animal fat soap! I love how there’s always so much new and fun to experiment with in soap making 😀 Thanks for sharing and DIYing with me!
Hello Marie! I posted a comment earlier today pertaining to your lovely “historically inspired” soaps that i am so fond of. That post ended up on this thread but about halfway up the page. I mentioned an 8 part video series that I thought you might enjoy, and I did some research afterwards so I could provide you with this link. https://www.amazon.ca/Wartime-Farm-Peter-Ginn/dp/1845337085 And, I can now tell you that the famous British historians in this real life documentary are: Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn and Alexander Langlands. I have yet to find the name of the plant that was chopped and soaked in water for shampoo, but I’ll find the name, and if you’re interested I can provide a link. It seemed disrespectful to cite a bunch of sources and not provide accurate names etc, so I wanted to correct that error. Also, I have decided that I am going to try making soap with tallow again. You make an excellent case for it, BTW. My religious beliefs don’t jive with the use of lard (not Biblically clean) but tallow sounds like it will be more cost effective and very useful for hardening the soap. It’s not an ick factor for me at all. And with that said, what elegant lady of Britain’s heritage shall we admire tomorrow? Do you enjoy Downton Abbey as much as I do? I wonder if the maids were given different soap than Lady Mary and the rest of the Downton “upstairs ladies”! LOL Happy Soaping!
Oh my gosh, I love Downton Abbey, though I must admit I still haven’t finished watching it. I really should, what with the movie coming out soon! The costumes in the first couple seasons are definitely my favourites—I’m not much for 20’s fashions for ladies, likely because I’m pretty curvy and generally find those straighter sheath-style dresses don’t do much for my figure 😛
Thank you for the link! Have you seen The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? I quite enjoyed it 🙂
Thanks Marie! I’m vegetarian too, and so I have been on the fence about lard and tallow. You made a great case for using them. I hate waste too, if we must take a life, we should use everything we can. I’ll put some tallow or lard in my next batch of soap. 🙂
I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Leslie! I know tallow in soap isn’t for everyone, but it does make a lot of sense (to me, at least) to give it a try 🙂 I hope you enjoy your tallow soaping experience!
From Sydney, Australia. G’Day, Marie. Sorry this is 4 years later haha!!! Just got into your videos on Youtube and they’re cool. I would love information about the comedogenic ratings about oils, butters and animal fats not just in soap making but in general. I have learned about the rating itself… 0 being non clogging of pores and 5 being very high chance of clogging pores. I have bad skin prone to break outs. I know shea and hemp have a very low to no chance of clogging pores, but what about animal fats? Is a soap format more clogging than the oils on their own?
Hey Monique! I recommend giving this FAQ a read. I wouldn’t be worried about pore-clogging from fat that is 1) no longer fat, but soap and 2) washed off the skin very promptly 🙂 Happy making!
Comment From Sydney. Thanks heaps for the faqs link. You’re a legend mate.
If a product is sold for money, it’s no longer a waste product. It’s an industry. The less we support the slaughter of innocents (God did not say, “Thou shall not kill only humans,”) the less we contribute to their continued exploitation, regardless of who . Writing an entire blog entry justifying cruelty is an exercise of cognitive dissonance, and has no place on a DIY crafting site. Shame on you.
I sourced my tallow directly from the butchers at my local grocery store, who gave it to me for free as it would’ve gone straight into the garbage if I hadn’t asked for it. Thanks for your input.
From Sydney. Ooops, not 4 years later… 7 years later!!! Geez! Lol From Monique.
I found this blog post while I was looking for ways to write up my own “justification” for using animal fats in the majority of my soaps in my business! I’m also a vegetarian but I believe very strongly in recycling to help our ecosystems. It’s really disheartening when someone says how beautiful my soaps are and then goes “oh there’s fat in this, ew” after reading the ingredients. It boggles my mind how often I have had to defend my soap recipe when people are rarely if ever asked to defend their burger for lunch!
My fiance comes from a hunting family and we both agree how important it is to use every part of an animal, so every fall I render the fat and make special batches of deer tallow soap. It feels a little like getting closer to the history of our craft!
I’m so glad you found it helpful! Happy soaping 🙂
How do you get free tallow? My local grocery store says they have to charges me something for it, and this is stuff they’re going to throw away.
I was friends with the butchers as I used to work there—that might be why it was free, but I didn’t ask 🙂
Thank you so much, LOVE Humble Bee and Me! Ok, so what are your thoughts on store bought fats, Crisco, Manteca etc. what about added ingredients are they not carcinogenic?
Thanks in advance
As long as you know what the fat—and therefore the SAP value—is, you’re good to go. I wouldn’t be worried about the antioxidants they add—the concentrations are super low and you’re using them in a rinse-off product. Remember that the dose is important; grilled meat is carcinogenic, after all, but does that stop you from eating it? 🙂
I really enjoy pure beef tallow soap. It feels nice on skin. I wish it lathered better, but it’s plenty slippery and doesn’t feel drying hardly at all, so it’s good enough.
For the people not willing to use animal fat, I wonder if a mixture of soy wax (e.g., GW 415) and liquid oil would do the same job. Soy wax is pure saturated fat, so mixing it with a liquid oil could potentially achieve any imaginable ratio of saturated to unsaturated fat.
It’s worth a try if you can find a good SAP value. And remember—a lot of soy waxes (like GW 415) are candle waxes, so make sure you’re reading descriptions so you know if your soy wax is for body use or not 🙂
Our stores sell the beef fat and some days it runs out early. One time I was able to get it ground for the same price (it didn’t leave any cracklings to eat though). Between soapers, DIYers, and Keto/Carnivore folks they can’t keep up with the demand.