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Homemade 100% Lard Soap

This post is written especially for my homesteader friends--maybe you are raising pigs, or going in on a pig with someone--make sure you get that lard, and render it!  Not only is it great for cooking, but it also makes a nice bar of soap.

Lard is useful for cooking and soap-making.
Properly rendered lard should be white and fairly odorless.




Lard has become somewhat a "dirty word," which is a shame, because as long as pigs are going to be killed, I see no reason to not use every part of them that we can.  I generally prefer to get lard from family or friends who have raised the pigs themselves; in this way, I know they were treated humanely and fed a proper diet.  There are many farmers getting into organic, pasture-raising of animals, so if you search your area, I'll bet you can find a good source of lard.

Lard is an excellent choice for making soap because it is so beneficial to the skin.  Lard contains high amounts of Vitamin D and is very similar in profile to human fat.  Many have claimed to cure skin ailments, such as acne, by applying lard to the skin.  When it comes to soap, lard produces a rich, creamy lather, and makes a nice, firm bar.  It is also a very conditioning bar, meaning it wont dry the skin out, like many soaps made with vegetable oils do.

Lard soap is a pretty white color.
I used butterfly soap molds for these lard soap bars.


The following recipe is very basic.  So basic, in fact, that it contains only three ingredients:  lard, lye (sodium hyrdoxide), and water.  In my opinion, soap is very much like cooking.  If you can cook, you can make soap! 

A Few Notes About Ingredients  (If you have made soap before, you may want to CLICK HERE to just skip to the recipe).


LARD:  You will need lard that has already been rendered and strained.  You can learn how to render fats here.  The lard should be white and clean looking.

SODIUM HYDROXIDE (LYE):  You will likely be able to find lye at the hardware store.  It might be labeled as drain cleaner.  Some popular brands include Roebic and Red Crown.  Just be sure that it is PURE SODIUM HYDROXIDE!  Some drain cleaners, such as Drano, contain other additives, and they are not appropriate for soap making.  Look for labeling such as this:

Red Crown Lye
The 1½% of impurity has not ever been an issue for me.  Generally, as long as the lye you select is 97-100% pure, it will work fine for making soap.  I am not sure of what the "inert ingredients" are, but my best guess is maybe an anti-caking agent of some kind?


As you can see, this  product is over 98% pure Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH), so is suitable for soap making.  They lye will look kind of like tiny little crystals.

Lye is caustic, so should not come in contact with skin or eyes, nor should fumes be inhaled (this will be an issue when adding to water).  Please follow the recommendations on the MSDS when working with lye, including:

  • be sure there is adequate ventilation (don't make soap in a little room with the door shut and no windows open).  I make soap in my kitchen with no problem.  Some people like to make soap outside.
  • wear rubber or latex gloves--dishwashing gloves work fine.
  • wear goggles for eye protection.
  • have running water nearby that you can fit your entire body beneath; the bathroom shower or an outdoor hose will work fine.  If lye gets on your skin, rinse the area with plenty of running water.

I think of the lye in the same way as I would a pot of boiling water.  You wouldn't want to spill it on your skin, or splash it around.  You'd make sure that kids knew not to touch it, and that pets stayed away.  But, it is nothing to be scared of as long as you are careful.  I have been soaping for over five years and have never been injured.

WATER:  I have never had any issues with using tap water, but we have well-water, which, unlike most city water, is not chlorinated.  If your water is chlorinated, you should consider collecting rainwater or buying bottled water for your soap.

A Few Notes About Equipment and Safety


You will want to have separate equipment for soap-making that you do not use for food preparation.

RUBBER GLOVES:  As mentioned before, since lye is caustic, gloves can be worn while making soap to protect the hands and arms.

GOGGLES:  Goggles can be worn to protect the eyes.

WHISK:  You'll need a whisk to stir the lye crystals into the water.

SPOON OR RUBBER SCRAPER:  Wooden spoons or rubber scrapers work well for stirring and getting all the soap out of the bowl when you pour it into the mold.

IMMERSION BLENDER (STICK BLENDER):  Though not essential, it speeds the process up some.  It can mix faster a whisk, which means it will take less time for the soap to come to trace (the point when the oils and lye have emulsified and will not separate; visibly, the mixture will have thickened a bit, and when a line of soap is drizzled across the top, a "trace" of it will remain visible).

SAUCEPAN OR POT:  You'll need a pan or pot to melt the lard in.

BOWLS or PITCHERS:  You will need two large bowls or pitchers.  Pour spouts are really nice to have, so pitchers or spouted bowls work best.  They should be made of glass, stainless steel, or plastic.  They must be heat resistant; when lye is added to water, it produces temperatures up to 200 degrees F.  Never use reactive containers, as they will be eaten away by the lye.

THERMOMETER:  Ideally, when you combine your fats and lye solution, they will be around the same temperature.  A clip-on candy thermometer works nicely for taking temperatures.

SCALE:  In order to be precise, ingredients are generally measured by weight.  Digital scales can be purchased inexpensively at most department stores, or ordered online.

MOLD:  You can purchase molds specifically for making soap, which can be found at craft stores or online, or you can use whatever you can find:  plastic containers, cardboard boxes, tubes (such as Pringles cans), or silicone baking molds.  If you are using wooden or plastic molds, it is a good idea to line it with parchment paper, for easier release.  If you are going to use a cardboard mold, you will want to line it with a plastic bag so it doesn't leak.  The article, Inexpensive or No-Cost Soap Molds to Get You Started Making Soap, has some great ideas!

Now that you know about the ingredients you'll be using and what equipment you'll need, you are ready to make soap.

  • Have all your ingredients and equipment out and ready.  
  • Be sure that everyone in the house knows you are going to be making soap, and you have explained to everyone not to mess with the lye.  
  • Small children and pets should be kept from the soap-making area.  
  • Be sure that you will have no interruptions.  Once you start, you won't be able to stop and walk away from it (the same as with cooking). 

Recipe for Homemade 100% Lard Soap  (Click here for a printable version.)


Ingredients:


14 ounces water
5 ounces lye (sodium hydroxide)
38 ounces lard

1.  Begin by preparing your mold if necessary (line with parchment or plastic).  Have it on the ready to pour into.  This recipe will make about 6 cups of soap batter, so be sure you mold is large enough to accommodate.

2.  Put on gloves and goggles, and weigh out all your ingredients:  I usually begin with the water; place an empty bowl on your scale, and turn the scale on.  Pour water into the bowl until it weighs 14 ounces.  Reset the scale to zero, and start slowly sprinkling the lye into the water until it weighs five ounces.  Once you begin adding the lye to the water, it will produce heat and some mild fumes.  Avoid breathing in the fumes.

3.  Using a whisk, carefully whisk the lye and water until the lye has completely dissolved.  Set this mixture aside somewhere safe and out of the way, being cautious not to spill (treat it like a pot of boiling water).

4.  Next, set an empty pot on the scale, and measure out your lard to 38 ounces.  Gently heat the pot of lard on the stove until it has melted, stirring frequently.  Pour the melted fat into an empty bowl.

5.  Using a thermometer, check the temperature of the fats and then the lye solution.  It is ideal for both to be under 130 degrees F before continuing.  The closer they are to each other in temperature, the better, but if they are not exactly the same, it isn't the end of the world.  Try to wait to combine them until they are at least within 10 degrees of one another.  I usually like to combine them once they are both around 120 degrees, but you can do it at lower temperatures as long as your fat isn't solidifying.

6.  Once they have reached an appropriate temperature, pour the lye solution into the fat, and begin pulsing with the immersion blender (or whisking if you are doing it by hand)--being careful not to allow soap to splatter out of the bowl.  Usually, you'll notice an immediate change in the color and texture of the soap "batter."  You need to keep blending/whisking until the fat and lye is completely emulsified and "trace" is achieved.  The amount of time it takes varies, but you can test for it periodically by lifting the blender/whisk out of the batter, and drizzling some over the top.  If you can see lines on top where the batter was drizzled, it is ready to pour into the mold.

7.  Carefully pour the soap batter into the mold, using a rubber scraper or wooden spoon to scrape the sides of the bowl clean.  Cover the mold with its lid or a piece of cardboard or a cookie sheet.  Place the mold in an out of the way spot, and gently cover and surround it with an old blanket or towels.  You will leave your soap-filled mold insulated like this for 24 hours.

8.  After 24 hours, unmold the soap, and cut it into bars.  Place the bars somewhere out of the way to cure.  Cure time is four to six weeks.  The soap must cure before you use it in order to completely neutralize the lye.  While curing, be sure the soap has good ventilation and keep it covered to keep dust and pet hair off.  A cardboard box works fine to cure it in.  An old dresser is also a good option.

9.  Once the soap has cured, it can be used.  You can also wrap and label it at this time if you are planning to use it for gifts or to sell.

***

When the soap has reached trace, you can also stir in add-ins if you'd like.  Essential oils are popular add-ins for fragrance.  Herbs and spices can be used for coloring and decorative effect.  You can also stir in soap scraps or spread chopped soap scraps in the bottom of the mold before pouring.  The soap scraps give it a neat effect, as seen in the picture below (back row of soaps):

Some of these soaps contain soap scraps for a pretty effect.
As we use our soap, I save the scraps in a jar.  They are a pretty addition to new batches of soap.

Comments

  1. I've made soap two times with a friend and I'm still scared to try on my own!! Ack!!! But your instructions are very thorough. Well done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Kara. I hope some day you will try it! You'll see there's nothing to be scared of. But, at least you have a friend to make it with.

      Delete

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