For a long time thought that making soap seemed too hard. The number of ingredients required was confusing and all the safety warnings about using the alkali put me off. The worst part for me was that most of the ingredients had to be purchased, and some even imported (palm oil and coconut oil), which never seemed very self-sufficient.
I can definitely see the benefits of using homemade soap instead of mass produced soap (that often contains synthetic fragrance, colour, preservatives, and has had the glycerine removed), but it seemed to me that if I was going to buy all the ingredients I may as well just buy the soap and save myself all the hassle, and continue buying homemade soap from various market stalls and websites.
soap made by my friend
Then we had the steer butchered at home and I saw just how much excess fat we had to dispose of, it was nearly a wheel-barrow full, and that made me think about how we could use that fat instead of wasting it. If I can make soap using the fat from steers that we kill for meat anyway, the only other ingredient I need is the alkali and maybe some essential oil for fragrance. This is a simple and cheap way to be nearly self-sufficient for soap as well as using up a by-product that we would otherwise have to dispose of.
It took me a little while to work out how to render the tallow (see my instructions for rendering tallow in a slow cooker). Then I found out that a friend of mine makes soap and has done for a number of years. I talked to her about using tallow and as she was always looking for cheap ingredients, she got some from the butcher to try it (at $2 for 3 kg, it is very cheap!). She then agreed to show me how to make it.
With my friend, we used half tallow, and a quarter each of coconut oil and olive oil. After I learnt how its done, I went on to experiment with a 100% tallow soap. I have read differing opinions about tallow soap. Some say it will form a long lasting soap that cleans well, but others say that it may not lather as much without oil in the recipe.
However, the vegetable oil soaps tend to dissolve quickly in water and don't last as well. I would like to make the tallow soap and see if we are happy with the lather. I also made a couple of bars with no essential oil, just to see how that would smell.
Here's what we did:
The oils used - tallow, olive oil, coconut oil and lavender essential oil.
all the other equipment
weighing out the oil/fat
weighing the water
weighing the lye
mixing the lye
adding the lye to the fat after getting the temperatures the same
mixing the soap with a stick blender
smoothing the soap into the moulds
leaving the soap to set
Out of the molds and drying on a rack
Have you made soap from tallow or oils? What do you think about the frugality and/or self-sufficiency of soap making?