How to Make Super Simple DIY Tallow Soap [30 Minute Recipe]

I don’t get a lot of time during the week so soap making, for me, needs to be quick and efficient. No small little batches, but pounds at a time, and I need to get it to trace (trace = when soap thickens, further explanation below) as quick as possible so I could batch it up and leave it to cure.

My soaps generally use tallow (beef fat). We raise our own beef cattle and I don’t like wasting anything, bring in the steak & kidney pies and liver wurst – and tallow soap!

I will write a tutorial on how to make your own tallow one of these days (I make mine in 100 ltr batches), but for now, you can either buy tallow or use a replacement. Tallow and lard make a nice hard soap, but shea or cocoa butter would be suitable as a replacement.

Add some beeswax if you aren’t using tallow to harden your soap up a bit more; we don’t want it going all gluggy the minute it gets wet!

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Now, this may not be the most decorative soap. But it is fantastically practical! You can whip up 12 bars of soap, 130gr each, in 30 minutes. That includes getting (and finding; always a problem in my house) the ingredients!

How to Make Your Own Super Simple Soap

30-minute-soap
Calculations from Soapcalc.net for 30 Minute Soap

Ingredients

You can get your ingredients from Amazon (links above) or Starwest Botanicals.

I use soapcalc.net for all my soap calculations, and running this through the calculator at 1000gr oils, 5% superfat, ends up with:

  • Beef tallow – 450gr
  • Coconut oil – 250gr
  • Olive oil (Pomace) – 200gr
  • Castor oil – 100gr
  • Water – 380gr
  • Lye (NaOH) – 142.14gr
  • Fragrance/essential oil – 31gr

Tools You Need

soap-diy-tools-you-need
My big scales with unmelted tallow
  • Pyrex jugs. I use a 500ml (but would use 1ltr if I had one) and a 2ltr.
  • Plastic container for lye (I use an old cup that I don’t need anymore. Keep this cup for lye only!)
  • Scales. I have 1 big one and 1 very accurate, small one. The big one is for big amounts of oils, tallow, etc. where it doesn’t come down to an oz. The small one is for lye, essential oils etc. because I want them to be as accurate as humanly possible.
  • Microwave
  • Whisk or spoon (stainless)
  • Stick blender/immersion hand blender
  • Thermometer (pictured below)
  • Mold. I used to use a plastic container. Any plastic container, pretty much. Now I’m getting more fancy with a beautiful silicone mold that makes perfect shaped soaps. Both are perfectly fine, you just need to cut the soap to shape with the plastic container, and you’ll need to do this before the soap is hard as a rock. I like the silicone mold because I can easily get the soaps out, even after leaving them for weeks. Just in case I forget…. Which happens all the time.
  • Blankets/towels for insulation. One of these days I’m going to whip up a cozy, snuggly soap-sleeping-bag. Until then, I use hand towels, or old washable cloth nappies. This is optional, really, but I find that the soap comes out better with insulation.
how-to-make-simple-soap-small-scales
My little scales with lye
diy-soap-thermometer
The thermometer!

30-Minute Soap Instructions

  1. Measure out the water in a Pyrex jug (mine is 500ml, but bigger would be better).
  2. Measure out the lye, very carefully. Lye is caustic and can burn the skin. Wear gloves and protective gear if you like, don’t touch it and don’t get it on your skin.
  3. Add the lye to the water (not the other way around!) and stir to dissolve. The mixture will get hot, and will give off a fume. Don’t breathe the fume and make sure you’re in a well-aerated space, or outside. Again, don’t get it on your skin or other surfaces.
  4. While the lye is cooling down, add tallow to a big Pyrex Jug (2ltr or bigger).
  5. Melt tallow in the microwave. This takes about 6-7 minutes in my microwave, but I melt it in 2-minute blocks. Be careful grabbing the jug, it might be hot.
  6. Once the tallow is pretty well melted, add the other oils; the coconut, olive, and castor oils. Sometimes the coconut oil can be solid, in cold weather or early in the morning. If it’s in a wide-mouth jar or similar, that’s no problem. Just scoop it out to the right measurement. If it’s in a bottle, it can be hard to get out. I usually give it a bit of a go in the microwave to liquefy or sit it in a bath of hot water.
  7. Give the oils another blast in the microwave, until they are all melted. Stir to combine them all.
  8. Check the temperature of the lye, and the temperature of the oil. Once they are both at the same temperature, you can mix them. If the oils cool down faster than the lye, wait until the lye is at about 60C / 140F, and gently re-heat oils until they are also at 60C / 140F.
  9. Once lye and oils are at about 60C / 140F, pour the lye and water mixture into the oils, and stir, stir, stir!
  10. At this stage, I introduce my stick blender. A 5-minute blast with the stick blender gets the mixture to trace. ‘Trace’ is when your oil and lye mixture thickens. When you pull the stick blender, or a spoon, through the mix, you’ll see a trace or trail. Rather than being fully liquid with a smooth surface, you’ll now see lines through your soap. The photo below shows a good, thick trace. See the lines in the mixture, and it’s kind of like muffin-mixture; a landscape rather than a flat lake? That’s what you’re aiming for. I blend until I get a thick trace. You could batch it up with less trace than the photo, but a nice thick trace speeds up the hardening process.
  11. Once you get to trace, add your essential oils and stir them through.
  12. This thickens quickly, so you want to be in a bit of a hurry. Get the mix into your mold straight away.
  13. If you use a silicone mold, place it on a chopping board. This gives it a bit of rigidity and allows you to bang it on the bench a few times to get rid of air. That makes a nice smooth-topped, flat soap.
  14. Cover your soap with plastic wrap. Then, wrap the whole lot up in a nice warm blanket to stop it cooling down too quickly, resulting in cracks, etc.
  15. Leave for a couple of days, and voila! You have soap! I like to leave mine to cure for as long as possible, but they’re generally curing for about a month. The longer the better though!
  16. Toss all your tools and jugs into a bucket of vinegar and water. Vinegar neutralizes lye. Same for you – if you were to get some on your skin, rinse with vinegar rather than water.
DIY-soap-trace
We have trace!
make-your-own-soap-trace
And more trace!

Extra Soap Notes

  • Measure all your ingredients very carefully, especially the lye.
  • Be careful handling lye; don’t breathe the fumes, make sure your workspace is well aerated (in front of a window or outside), and don’t touch the lye or get it on your skin.
  • The longer you leave your soap, the better it gets.
Soap-wrapped-up
Cover your soaps with cling film
soap-wrapped-in-towel
Keep them warm and cozy
in-the-sink-vinegar
Clean up with vinegar (neutralize the high pH of lye)
tallow-lard-soap
Ah, voila!

You can get all your soap making equipment in a kit, too. Some of these will be melt & pour, which is great for doing it with kids, and some of them are fully from scratch. Have a look at some bestsellers:

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Last update on 2021-10-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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