Category Archives: Lard Soap

The Soap is Curing

I am sure anyone who makes cold processed soap will agree that the hardest part about it is waiting for the soap to cure.

Maybe I should backup a step for anyone not familiar with soap making. There are basically three methods that can be used for making handcrafted soaps. There is the melt and pour method which involves buying a premade base soap and melting it to add ingredients such as fragrances and colorants then remolding it perhaps into pretty or cute shapes. The other two methods are hot process and cold process. Both of these methods involve mixing lye with liquid and oils. With hot process, once the ingredients are combined the soap is heated in order to speed up the chemical reaction, known as soaponification, which must occur in order for the soap to be safe to use. This soap can be ready to use in a matter of hours. Cold process soap, on the other hand, is poured into the mold after the lye/liquid is mixed with the oils. While it can usually be taken out of the mold in 24 to 48 hours it needs to cure for several weeks while the soaponification takes place. Many factors can effect the speed which soaponification takes place including the soap recipe, the size of the soap bars and the temperatures in which the soap is curing. I allow my soaps to cure for a least six weeks and have almost always found this period to be sufficient.

I have several batches of soap in various stages of curing right now including the soap I made a few days ago by request I honestly found it difficult to make that batch of soap because it was such a simple recipe. It lacks the creativity and experimentation aspects that I find so challenging and fun. While it was very tempting to add extra ingredients I restrained myself because this, three-ingredient, soap was what the person who requested needs.

Some of the other soaps that I have curing have allowed me to be more creative so I will tell you about those. Both the Sweet Dandelion and Coffee soap that I made a while back are cured and ready to use. I have made both of these recipes in the past and they are both favorites.

This time when I made the coffee soap I decided to experiment with it. I have been having some success at getting light fragrances and or colors in my soaps by infusing herbs into the oils. I wondered if this would work for coffee as well. In the past when I have made coffee soap I used brewed coffee for the liquid, I also added coffee grounds. This time in addition to using brewed coffee I added the coffee grounds to my oils. I knew that in order to release the oils from the coffee grounds the coffee would need to be heated much higher than I normally heat my soap oils. I put the coffee grounds into my oils and heated them about 190 degrees Fahrenheit. I then let the coffee infused oils cool.  As usual I mixed my oils with my lye/liquid (brewed coffee) when both were cooled to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Coffee Soap

The coffee infused oils gave the soap a dark, rich coffee color but the fragrance that I had hoped for is still largely absent. I have since read that the optimal temperature for brewing coffee is between 195 and 205 Fahrenheit so next time I will heat it just a little bit more.

I have had positive feedback from a few people who have used this soap. Comments were things like “it’s a really nice soap” and “I really like it” and my sister who called me yesterday said “I love the coffee soap” and she found it to be “refreshing”.

Among the other soaps that are curing is a completely new recipe. I decided to try this back in the summer when we were harvesting our beautiful cucumber crop. I know that cucumber is often used in skin care products so I wanted to give it a try. I don’t usually make a lot of soap during the summer so I pureed a couple of cucumbers and put them in the freezer until I was ready to make the soap.

About 5 weeks ago I was ready to use the cucumber puree in my soap but I wondered what ingredients would pair well with the cucumber. The most common way we eat cucumbers is as pickles but for more than one reason that doesn’t work for soap. It took me a while to figure it out but I eventually decided to try yogurt. Since milk based soaps are known to be gentle and creamy I though yogurt could add this as well. I also wanted to add an herb to this soap so I decided to infuse my oils with rosemary that I had harvested from our garden. I didn’t want to leave the rosemary leaves in the soap so I put them in a teabag then placed the teabag in the oils as I heated them. I again brought the temperature up higher than I would normally heat them for making soap in order to draw out some of the rosemary properties. When adding the cucumber puree and yogurt I knew that they should be counted as liquid. Since I didn’t know how they would react to being mixed directly with lye I decided to add them later in the process. In order to do this I discounted the amount of water I was mixing with the lye. I decided that the combination of cucumber puree and yogurt should equal 1/3 of my total liquid, I divided the amount of water my recipe called for by 3. I then measured my cucumber puree and added enough yogurt to bring this mixture to 1/3 of my total liquid. I set that mixture aside then measured the other 2/3 water and added my lye to it.

Once the lye/liquid and the oils cooled to around 100 Fahrenheit I removed the rosemary from the oil then I mixed the lye/water with the oils. I blended this mixture until it came to a light trace (started to thicken) then I mixed in the cucumber/yogurt mixture. I continued to mix until the mixture had come to a full trace ( the consistency of a thick gravy) then I poured the mixture into the molds. I am excited that this soap will be ready for testing this week.

I don’t have a formal testing process. It basically goes like this – I use the soap first. I pay attention to it’s properties – hardness, creaminess, lather, does it rinse off well, does it leave my skin feeling soft or dry, is there any scent. I then give my husband a bar to use and get his opinion. With new recipes I generally like feedback from a couple more people, so a friend or family member who stops by when I have a new soap ready will likely be given a bar to try with the condition that they provide me with honest feedback about the soap. I’ll be sure to let you know how this soap turns out.

I do have one major concern about this new recipe with cucumber, yogurt and rosemary.Maybe you can help. The  problem is what the heck do I call it? You can leave your suggestions and any other questions or comments about this post in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading.

🙂 until next time.



Soap Of The Week

In a recent post I mentioned that I was planning on making one batch of soap per week. After receiving a call from a customer last week I knew what kind of soap I would be making this week.

The phone call started with the customer asking me how many bars of soap I make when I make a batch. I explained that each tray holds 16 bars and I usually make two trays at a time. She said, “next time you make my soap I want a whole tray.” She explained that her “other half”, as she calls him, ran out of his commercially made soap, so she had him try her soap. He liked it. “I’ve been trying to get him to use homemade soap,” she said, but he would only use a specific brand.

The soap I make for her is one of the simplest soaps I make. She called me last summer and told me her soap maker was no longer going to be making soap for her. She explained that she had horrible reactions when using commercial and homemade soaps and her previous soap maker had made a special recipe for her. She wasn’t sure what ingredient she was reacting to, nor was she sure what the ingredients her previous soap maker was using. She only knew it contained lard. Could I make her a soap, she asked. Since I do like experimenting, and I do like problem solving, this would be fun.

I had her describe the soap she was currently using. When she said it was very soft and “snot like” when wet, and it did not lather, I decided it was not necessarily a recipe I needed or wanted to duplicate. Since I know the two most common oils used in both commercial and handcrafted soap are coconut oil and palm oil, I figured she was probably reacting to one of these. I do not use palm oil in my soaps, so I asked her to try one of mine. After several days of use she said she did break out in a rash.

Even though it is a soap making rule of thumb to combine three or more oils or fats to make a nice bar of soap, it’s a rule that I have been breaking since early on in my soap making practice. I have made, and continue to make, very nice soaps using recipes with one, two or three oils/fats. I suspected it was coconut oil that my customer was reacting to, but decided to play it safe by using just the one oil/fat that I knew she could use. I made a soap with just one fat and three total ingredients – lard, water and lye – a recipe I had not made before.

The soap was ready six weeks later and after my husband and I each tried it, I delivered it to my customer. My personal impression was – a hard bar of soap, some creamy lather, felt good on the skin (no snot), and rinsed off nicely. Custom made, yet simple, this soap has now become “her soap” or maybe I should say “their soap”. This is the recipe I made this week, and although I haven’t named it yet I will be adding it to my store when this batch is ready (about 6 weeks).








Making Soap

If you area regular reader of Don’t Eat It! Soap blog you may be wondering where all the soap posts have been. Honestly I haven’t done much soap making lately. Summer is just filled with so many other things to do, and having anticipated this I made enough soap last winter and spring to get me through until things slowed down again. I did make one batch of soap this summer, about 6 weeks ago, and I am testing it now. I made this soap by request of a lady who has very sensitive skin. The person who had made her soap in the past was no longer making it for her. She isn’t sure what the ingredients were in the soap that was being made for her, but she knew that it had lard in it. She suspects that the ingredient that causes her sensitively is coconut oil, and I was pretty much convinced when she said my aloe soap (with coconut oil in it) made her break out. I told her it would be trial and error, but I would attempt to make her a soap that she can use.

She described the soap that she was previously using as having no lather, being very soft and “snot-like” when wet, and taking up to a year to cure. I have honestly never made a soap with those properties, but it sounded to me like it may have a high olive oil content. Since my aloe soap also contained olive oil, I decided to play it safe at first and make a soap with lard as the only oil.

Lard (or hog renderin’s as Granny, on the Beverly Hillbilly’s, would call it) has probably been used as an ingredient in soap making since the beginning of soap making, and it is likely what our grandparents or great grandparents used to make soap. My lard soap would be different than theirs for a couple of reasons. Their homemade soap would have been made using wood ash, which is also known as potassium hydroxide, as the lye. Although I have yet to use it, my understanding is that this makes a softer soap than  sodium hydroxide, which is now commercially available, and I use to make my soap. Also they probably did not have scales to measure precise amounts of each ingredient, so the soap may have been very strong and harsh on the skin. I suspect this is why lye soap has a bad reputation.

The only three ingredients in the lard soap that I made are water, lard, and sodium hydroxide (lye). Since this is a test batch I only used two pounds of oil and ended up with eight bars.

Lard Soap

This recipe made nice white bars of soap. My husband and I have each used a bar of this soap and both had the same impression. The soap feels nice on the skin, it does not have a bubbly lather but feels more creamy going on. It rinses off well and does not leave the skin feeling dry. While it would not be my first choice, it is a nice soap.

I will get it to the person who requested it this week and say a prayer that this soap works for her.

With the rain that we had late last week and through the weekend making indoors work my preference, I decided Saturday morning would be a good time to make soap. I knew that I was low on both coffee and breakfast bar soaps so I decided to make the coffee soap this time and will probably make breakfast bar later this week.

The coffee soap is made with brewed coffee, instead of water, as the liquid. It has coconut oil and olive oil, and after the oils are combined with the coffee and lye, I add coffee grounds, sugar and powered milk. Sugar is used as an ingredient in soap to increase lather, the coffee grounds add scrubbing power to the soap, and I have discovered that using powdered or dehydrated milk gives the creamy feel of a milk based soap without having to worry about scorching the milk when adding the lye to it. The best way I have found to add the coffee grounds, sugar and powdered milk is to first mix them with a small amount of water to dissolve the milk and the sugar, then blend it into the soap after the soap has come to a trace or just before pouring it into the mold.

Coffee Soap 24 hours after being poured into the mold

The soap was still somewhat soft on Sunday, but is now ready to come out of the mold and be cut into bars today (Tuesday). It should be ready to use in 6 weeks.