by Catherine Haug, June 23, 2013
(photo, right, by C. Haug)
This is just a short synopsis; you can find more detail in the complete, printable pdf file: [a link will be added here when available]. Sheree had two handouts:
- The EssentiaList: Rendering Animal Fat for Soap Making;
- The EssentiaList: Characteristics of Oils in Soap
See also related photo-essay on The EssentiaList: Rendering Lard in a Crockpot: The Process
From the Gathering Notice about this event:
Sheree discussed equipment and materials needed to render fat, as well as an overview of the process with a dry demonstration. She also discussed how this fat is used in soap making, and the properties they contribute to the soap; this topic brought the most discussion.
While soaps made from vegetable fats and oils are popular right now, animal fats have served humans well for eons, and they are much less expensive than imported vegetable fats, especially if the fat is from wild game from the local area. Additionally, it is an efficient use of what would otherwise be waste from the butchering of animals.
Animal fats have many other uses, especially in cooking, as they generally tolerate high-heat than the fragile polyunsaturated vegetable oils.
(Photo, right, by S. Tompkins)
- Equipment and materials for rendering animal fat (lard, suet, tallow)
- Method using a crockpot
- Sustainability issues regarding fats and oils
- Properties of animal fats in soapmaking
- Using coconut oil for lather
- What is lye; lye calculators
- How to use milk in soap making
- Storage of bulk fats before and after rendering
- Scenting soap: fragrance oils vs essential oils
- Natural colorants for soaps
Q: How long have you been doing this?
A: I started in 1997.
Q: What can you do with the cracklings?
A: Feed to dog, flavor sauces, and other cooking uses
Q: Which fats/oils do you prefer for soap making?
A: Probably lard, because it is more moisturizing. But adding a bit of coconut oil makes more lather. It’s also important to note that animal fats provide more glycerin than vegetable oils. See also Sheree’s handout: The EssentiaList: Characteristics of Oils in Soap.
Q: I add glycerin to my soap; are you saying I don’t need to do that?
A: You don’t need to add glycerin, especially if you use animal fat, because the saponification (reaction of fats with lye) releases glycerin from the original fat.
Q: How much coconut oil do you add for sudsing?
A: For the soap bars I use to make my laundry soap, I use a 50/50 mix of coconut oil and tallow. For regular bar soap, I use 20% coconut oil. Too much is drying on the skin.
Q: How do you use a lye calculator; what is ‘SAP’
A: You plug in the type(s) of fats you want to use, the amounts of each fat, and the SAP constant. The SAP constant is specific for each type of fat (coconut oil, olive oil, lard, tallow, etc.) and is used by the calculator in determining the amount of lye needed for that fat. Some calculators have the SAP constant built-in; for others you need to add it. Sheree provided a handout that provides the SAP constant and The Characteristics of Oils in Soap.
[The SAP constant is a bit hard to understand. Here’s another definition, from CandleAndSoap.about.com (see the link for more detail and examples):
“Definition: When looking at oils for soap making, or calculating a recipe for soap, you’ll see a number associated with each oil called the SAP number. The SAP number is short for the saponification number. This is the units (ounces, grams, pounds) of lye needed to completely react with one unit (ounce, gram, pound) of an oil.”]
Post Script: Cost of rendering your own tallow
Sheree did some calculations on the cost of rendering your own tallow:
“I spent an average of .65 cents per pound for the fat, or $19.50 for 30 pounds. I estimate this will make 3 gallons of cleaned, rendered tallow. This works out to about $6.50 per gallon of rendered tallow. The specific gravity of tallow is .890 which means a gallon of tallow weighs 7.43 lbs. So, that means the cost per pound is about .87 cents.”
For more information
Sheree’s Recommended Books and websites:
- The Soapmaker’s Companion: A Comprehensive Guide with Recipes, Techniques & Know-How (Natural Body Series – The Natural Way to Enhance Your Life), by Susan Miller Cavitch. See Amazon (amazon.com/books/dp/0882669656) for a peek inside.
- theSage.com has a Lye Calculator
- brambleberry.com has a Lye Calculator
Other soapmaking references and resources
- Brambleberry.com: from Bellingham WA, supplies and resources
- Cosmetics Database.com (The Environmental Working Group’s CosmeticSafety Database)
- Candle and Soap
- Candle and Soap video on goat milk in soapmaking: video.about.com/candleandsoap/Make-Soap-Using-Goat-Milk.htm
- Summer Bee Meadow
- Teach Soap.com: soapmaking recipes, tips and tutorials
- Coconut Coast Handmade Soap Company: About Soap: definition of soap terms
Related ESP articles & files
- Natural Shampoo & Rinse
- Soap vs Detergents
- Fats for Soapmaking
- Gathering Summary: Making Soap at Home, by Kathy Mansfield, January 26, 2011
- Gathering Summary: Homemade laundry soap and GMO discussion, with Sheree Tompkins, 022713
- The EssentiaList: Rendering Animal Fat for Soap Making (Handout)
- The EssentiaList: Characteristics of Oils in Soap (Handout)
- The EssentiaList: Rendering Lard in a Crockpot: The Process
- The EssentiaList: The Basics of Soapmaking
- The EssentiaList: Making Your Own Soap Bars
- The EssentiaList: Making Liquid Soap from Scratch
- The EssentiaList: Working with Lye
- The EssentiaList: Homemade Cleaning Supplies