Soap Making With Tallow

Haywood shares how she made soap from rendered beef fat, or tallow. She also explains her process for making laundry soap flakes.

  • Tallow
    Tallow, or rendered beef fat, can be used to make soap.

  • Tallow

It went against my grain to throw out the tallow from a side of beef we bought, so I called our County Agent to see if he had any directions for making soap. To my surprise, he did; to my further surprise, they were easy. 

I rendered the first batch of tallow by cutting it into chunks, filling the pan about one-third full of water and occasionally stirring the fat while it cooked at moderate heat. The stirring was a bit sloppy and the fat took quite a while to melt, so I ground subsequent batches of tallow in the meat grinder. This sped up the process considerably because I could then get more in the pan, it was easier to stir and the fat melted more rapidly.

The melted tallow and water was sieved and cooled. When the fat had solidified, I lifted it off the top of the water — and it was ready for soap.

While I was heating 6 pounds of the rendered fat (13-1/2 cups) to 120-130 degrees, I stirred together a 13 oz. can of lye and 5 cups of cold water and heated that mixture to 90-95 degrees.

When the fat and the lye were at their respective proper temperatures, I slowly poured the lye solution into the fat and stirred the resulting blend with a wooden spoon. In about 30 minutes the soap was thick enough to hold its shape so I poured it into a heavy cardboard box lined with a towel wrung out in cold water. It is important to NOT use aluminum utensils when making soap as lye reacts rather violently with this metal. 

After my soap had aged for a little over a week, 1 grated it and mixed nine parts of the soap to one part borax to make eleven pounds of soap flakes. Since our water is very hard, I use one-third cup of washing soda to 1-1/2 cups of soap flakes in my washer and—despite the implications of some detergent ads—I'll compare my wash with anyone's.

11/29/2019 9:41:07 PM

I agree with commenter called awild soap bar. Article leaves out a lot of information. Unless you are an experienced soap maker, don’t try this one.

4/28/2009 1:21:50 AM

I like this article and find it quite useful. I have been collecting soap recipes for months now and reading on all of the precautions regarding soap making. This article is simple and easy to understand.

a wild soap bar
3/28/2009 7:06:40 AM

This article is terribly over simplified. You may be able to make some crude soap after reading it....but there's SO much more that goes into making a quality product. Please don't rush out to sell this stuff to try and make a buck. This is what gives all handmade soap a bad name!

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