Why Homemade Soap is Better

Blocks of soap can be simple or ornate.  Here milk has been mixed into the soap blocks to add color and to also as a natural moisturizer.
Homemade blocks of soap are better for you and can be a lot of fun to make as individualized as you are!

Soap Is Soap… Except When It Isn’t?

I went most of my adult life thinking that all soap is essentially the same, except for the smell and color.  I remember as a kid walking into the bathroom and smelling a fresh bar of soap my mother had put out and seeing the commercials on TV telling us that the scent would “open our eyes”.  Ah yes… pure cleaning advertising for us at its finest. Never did it cross my mind that our family should be making our own homemade soap. Why would it, my grandmother was the last person to make soap when my dad as a little kid.

Then, I started thinking… what makes those soaps the color they are?  I mean neon green isn’t exactly a commonly occurring natural color, is it?  What about the bright oranges and yellow colors?  The truth is that there are a ton of things added to soap that have absolutely nothing to do with making you cleaner.

So, What Is In Soap?

The list of unnecessary ingredients in something as simple as soap is mind bending.  It is a list of stuff that leaves you wondering why on earth it was ever included to begin with. Let’s start our journey down the rabbit hole of ingredients in soap that I bet you never knew was there and the risks that come with them.  You’ve been warned, because you may never want to buy soap again, and may consider making your own homemade soap.

Parabens – listed as a preservative for the soap (who knew it needed a preservative) that’s been shown to have synthetic estrogen-like qualities linked with higher risk of breast cancer in women.  Information from the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners mentions that parabens have been linked to increased cell growth, decreased cell death, metastasis, and it may block chemotherapy for cancer patients.

Synthetic Colors – You didn’t actually think that lime green or crazy yellow were naturally occurring, did you?  Usually derived from either petroleum products, tar, and other carcinogens, by themselves these are worth staying away from.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate – Good news… since it’s used as an industrial engine degreaser and floor cleaner, it must do a bang-up job on your skin.  According to the Livestrong organization, SLS is a chemical “that has been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, skin irritation and endocrine disruption”.  Oh, as an added bonus, that floor cleaner is likely in your toothpaste also to make it sudsy.

Formaldehyde – Yes… that’s right.  The same cancer-causing product they store dead earthworms in from your science class… that’s in many soaps also.  You have to wonder why on earth a chemical associated with your local mortuary would be included in soap for the living.

Fragrances – Well, of course you need synthetic fragrances if you are bathing in formaldehyde.  Have you smelled that stuff?  The funny thing is that the companies get away with just saying “fragrances” on the ingredients without telling you what’s in there.  They have been on the up and up about everything else, so I’m sure it’s all good natural good stuff.

Triclosan – As the common “antibacterial” component of many soaps, this little chemical is an endocrine-disrupting wonder that can lead to problems with your thyroid, increased allergies, asthma, and skin problems like eczema. Even the FDA says that these soaps don’t work any better than normal soap.

Phthalates – Used industrially to increase the softness of plastics, unless you are a mannequin at a clothing store, this doesn’t sound like a good idea for your skin.  Used in other things like nail polish and hair spray, this chemical is also linked to breast cancer risk because it disrupts the hormone release in humans.  

There Is A Better Way – Homemade Soap

So after what can only be considered a “total soap bummer” so far, the good news is… there’s a better way!  Did you know that you can make your own soap from just a few basic ingredients?  Believe it or not, our grandparents or great grandparents likely made their own soap.  They couldn’t just buy it from the store because there wasn’t one!  Historically they would have done it with hardwood ash (to make lye), rainwater (closest to pure water), tallow, and maybe some essential oil if they had it. Talk about ingenuity!

In our home, we are on a journey to replace as much of what we buy as possible.  It is not an overnight process though because of how reliant we’ve become upon a system of manufacturers and stores.  If the last three years has taught us anything, it is that supply chains are fragile at best.  That’s if you even still WANT to buy soap at a store now that you’ve learned what’s in it.

Homemade soap blocks can be cut up into more usable sections by using a soap cutting kit.
Homemade soap blocks can be cut into more usable sections by using a soap cutting kit.

How We Make Homemade Soap

We make soap bars that are a safer alternative that’s better for our family. Everything from personal care to cleaning products are being swapped with products we can produce right on our homestead.  You will need tallow for this recipe and we make our own by rendering down beef fat.  Yes, that’s right, the main ingredient of soap… is rendered beef fat.

If you want a video guide, you can check out our video below as well!

If you’re still wondering what it means to “render” fat, it’s simply the process of cooking it down until the oil is released from the fat and you can separate it from the bits of meat and water from the fat.  We render our fat in an electric roaster because it has a good amount of surface area to cook on and we can easily scoop off the waste bits as the fat cooks down.

We do not currently raise our own hogs or cattle but Lord willing, in the coming years we will. For now, we can purchase all our suet (beef fat) and leaf lard (fat from around the pigs organs) from a local family owned ranch store and you can do it too! Once you have rendered your beef tallow, here’s our ingredients for our soap.

Homemade Soap Recipe

Soap Bars Ingredients:
Tallow 1000g
Sodium hydroxide 136g
Distilled water 205g
Lavender essential oils 1 t

1. Melt your tallow down before you weigh it so it’s easier to pour and measure (tallow is pretty hard)
2. Warm the oil
3. When the oil cools down to 100°, begin mixing your lye solution OUTSIDE.
4. Wearing safety equipment*, pour the lye into your water.  Never do it the other way around.
5. Let the lye cool outside until it reaches 115°
6. Carefully bring the lye inside and pour into your oil
7. Use an immersion blender and mix until the mixture becomes thick
8. Pour into a soap mold
9. Let it sit for 22-24 hours.
10. Slice
11. Let it sit for 4-6 weeks before use.

*It’s very important to use goggles and gloves when working with lye. Make sure you’re working in a well-ventilated area or outdoors so you’re not breathing the lye in.

A word of caution, lye is a strong base and a chemical that should be handled carefully.  You shouldn’t be scared of lye any more than you should be scared of the explosive nature of gasoline.  Instead, we want you to do your own research on making soap and handle the lye in a deliberate and safe way.

If you liked this article, check out some of our other backyard homesteading posts! Click here!

Happy Homesteading!

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