Making homemade laundry soap is so incredibly easy to do, you’ll wonder why you didn’t learn how to make it sooner. Even if you don’t have a good understanding of the soap making process, this recipe is still quite easy to do.
You can render* your own fats or use lard, but rendered beef fat works the best for making laundry soap. You will need 5 pounds of melted fat in a large stainless or enameled pot. (Coconut oil works if you’re opposed to animal fats, but this is an old-school recipe that pre-dates the ready availability of coconuts!) An old canning kettle works best because you will need lots of extra stirring space.
Next you will need to mix 7 cups of water with a 1-13 oz. can of lye. A lye is a liquid obtained by leaching ashes (containing largely potassium carbonate or “potash”), or a strong alkali which is highly soluble in water producing caustic basic solutions. “Lye” is commonly the alternative name of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or historically potassium hydroxide (KOH). You can buy it online. Just be REALLY careful as it’s extremely caustic and can burn or blind you.
When both the fat and the lye water’s temperatures get to between 95 and 100 degrees you can then pour the lye water slowly into the fat. Stir until well mixed, then add 1 cup each of household bleach and borax, and stir this well, too.
If you enjoy hanging your clothes outside, but don’t like the bugs that move into your clothes, try adding 2 tablespoons of citronella oil when you add the borax and bleach. Citronella oil makes your clothes smell light and lemony. You can add any essential oil you like. Lavender oil leaves a pleasent spring like scent. Cinnamon oil makes a warm wintery addition.
When the mixture starts to crumble, continue to stir occasionally for several hours, then leave over night. Over the next several days, mash and stir to break up chunks. An old potato masher with the wavy type wire works the best. When it all looks like a small curd cottage cheese you are ready to dry it. Spread the laundry soap in a thin layer, on waxed paper lined cookie sheets to dry. Depending on the humidity in your area, this can take 4 or 5 days, or sometimes 2 weeks.
After your laundry soap is completely dry, it will need to be made into flakes for automatic washers. To do this, you can run it through a food processor, a blender or a hand cranked meat grinder. Using a hand cranked meat grinder is really the best tool to use for it won’t wear out your kitchen tools. Then take this ground up laundry soap and rub it through an old screen and regrind anything that doesn’t go through, or you can save the larger chunks for hot water washing. If you like to wash in cold water you really should rub your laundry soap through a screen because it helps it to dissolve much faster.
This is a pure soap and not a detergent, so you won’t see a lot of bubbles unless you have soft water. Use about 1/3 to 1/2 cup to a wash load, depending on how dirty the laundry is and how much water your washer holds.
*wet and dry rendering explained below
For slow cooker – Place the clean, meat-free fat in a slow cooker amd set the temperature to low, letting it go for a few hours, stirring from time to time. Clear fat will start to “render” (ooze out) out of the fatty tissues.
For stove top – Set the burner on low. Place the fat in a saucepan with a lid and monitor the fat, stirring occasionally so the cracklings don’t burn.
For oven – Set the oven at 250oF. Place the fat in an oven proof pan with a lid and stir occasionally.
It’s ready when you end up having small, dry looking and browned fatty cracklings in a bath of clear fat. Strain the fat in a fine mesh strainer to separate the cracklings from the rendered fat. It might prove useful to place a piece of cheese cloth in the strainer to retain some of the smaller bits as well. Be really careful with that step as hot fat can burn your skin very badly, much more so than hot liquid.
When dry rendering, you can keep the browned cracklings and use them as a snack later on if you want.
The total time it will take really depends on the amount of fat being rendered, the temperature and the size of the fat chunks.
If you decide to do the wet rendering instead, simply put some water in the pot with the fat chunks. The amount of water doesn’t really matter. Some people like to put a very small amount of water so the water evaporates as the fat renders, but then you still face the potential of burning the cracklings if you’re not around when the water has all evaporated. Or you can put in quite a bit of water and let it go for a much longer time, but at the same temperature that for a dry render.
It’s ready when you get a feel that most of the fatty tissue chunks have given up their fat content. You might end up with a bit less rendered fat with the wet rendering method because you won’t end up with dry cracklings. When it’s ready you can strain it like you would do with dry rendering, then place it in the refrigerator to harden. Once hard, break it up so you can reach and drain the small amount of water that will be on the bottom of the jar.
In conclusion, whether you decide to render beef, lamb, pork or duck fat, and whether you do it with some water or not, you should end up with a delicious, pure and creamy white fat that will taste great and that will be excellent for all your cooking needs — as well as being a great additive for laundry detergent.