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Grease cutting lard soap? Without borax?

 
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Is it possible to make a lard soap that will cut grease without adding stuff that I have to buy from a store?  I'm looking for a good dish washing soap recipe and would prefer to keep it as home-grown as possible.  
Wanted to get some input before I cave and go buy more factory crap.  I haven't been able to find a single online recipe without borax in it!
 
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Lye soap with lard and no borax.

No need to buy lye. It can be made from wood ashes.
 
Jen Fan
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Mike Barkley wrote:Lye soap with lard and no borax.

No need to buy lye. It can be made from wood ashes.



We basically made this same thing last year, and the soap has been fabulous for our skin.  But it doesn't do squat with greasy pans.  Basically I need a grease cutting soap that can clean up all the fat-drenched pans it took to make the lard in the first place :P  Every time we make a few gallons the whole kitchen is swimming in grease, it seams.  We're still buying dish soap and I'd like to stop.  I'd like to produce a good dish soap as home-grown as possible.  We wondered if just upping the lye content in the soap might make it a better grease cutter?  I haven't read anything about it, just a random guess.  
 
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Have you tried using straight vinegar on the greasy stuff, rather than soap? I find that works well for me. After I use the vinegar, I can just rinse with hot water. I don't know why vinegar seems to lift grease so well, but I've used it on my glass stove top when its had greasy splatters on it, and it just works.
 
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I'm having a local soap maker make me some laundry soap bars with lemon oil added to it. Lemon oil cuts grease, even grease from petroleum products.
 
Jen Fan
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Nicole Alderman wrote:I'm having a local soap maker make me some laundry soap bars with lemon oil added to it. Lemon oil cuts grease, even grease from petroleum products.



like lemon essential oil?
 
Nicole Alderman
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Jen I think your hypothesis is right. I make a simple cold process soap (5l oil/lard, 1l liquid lye, 1l water-- probably the romper-room equivalent of soapmaking recipes, but it`s my mother in law's recipe and i'm sticking with it) and that stuff cuts grease like no tomorrow. For a while we had no hot water in the kitchen and if you use that soap it didn`t matter, it got rid of the grease anyway. I make it in big tubs (repurposed ice cream containers) and we keep a container by the sink to use washing dishes. It`s fabulous stuff.

(yes, i know, liquid lye. I could make soap with ashes, but i need to pick my battles. when i retire and have more time on my hands i`ll look at more homegrown solutions)
 
Jen Fan
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Tereza Okava wrote:Jen I think your hypothesis is right. I make a simple cold process soap (5l oil/lard, 1l liquid lye, 1l water-- probably the romper-room equivalent of soapmaking recipes, but it`s my mother in law's recipe and i'm sticking with it) and that stuff cuts grease like no tomorrow. For a while we had no hot water in the kitchen and if you use that soap it didn`t matter, it got rid of the grease anyway. I make it in big tubs (repurposed ice cream containers) and we keep a container by the sink to use washing dishes. It`s fabulous stuff.

(yes, i know, liquid lye. I could make soap with ashes, but i need to pick my battles. when i retire and have more time on my hands i`ll look at more homegrown solutions)




I think we're going to try the higher lye mix.  I don't think essential oils are going to contribute much for grease cutting.  I've added EOs to my soap and you only add like a teaspoon to a big batch, it's not going to do anything chemically that I can think of.  Please enlighten me if I'm wrong though!  I imagine the lemon soap cuts grease because it's processed a specific way, rather than the EO providing the degreasing action.  If it were the EO I could just rinse dishes in EO water, theoretically.  Anyway.  Not trying to poo-poo anything, just doesn't seem to make sense to me

Tereza, we have dry powdered lye.  Do you have any idea what the conversion from liquid to powder might be?  I'm with you; I haven't tried making my own lye.  My partner did once and it melted some stuff and got kind of scary.  I don't know exactly how he processed it or if that's normal, but it spooked him from wanting to try it again.  So for now we have this big jug of pure lye powder that will probably last forever
 
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It's the limonene that cuts the grease. It works, unlike lye, on petroleum-based greases, too--so motor oil, sticker gunk, etc. Tjere aren't many natural/non-toxic solvents that cut that kind of grease (as far as I know, only rubbing alcohol, vodka and limonene). You can also buy straight up D-limonene on amazon (Here's one I found)

I'm trying to find out just how much Limonene is in lemon oil/lemon essential oil. EDIT: looks like something around 75% of lemon essential oil is limonene. The abstract mentions that the riper the fruit, the more limonene there is, but it only mentions the high amount in ripe lemon's essential oil, not in the average essential oil https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jhrc.1240170905

The limonene concentration reached a maximum level of 79.4% when the fruit was in the intermediate maturation stage characterized by greenish‐yellow coloration.



But, if you're only concerned about grease/fat from food and cooking oil, than a strong lye should do a great job. The more alkaline the cleaner, the better it does against food-based grime. And, the extra lye in the soap will bind with the fat in the clothes via Saponification, removing it from the clothes or surface.
 
Jen Fan
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Awesome information, thank you
 
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Since soap is made with lye and oil,..
could you just use ashes/lye to remove grease?

Basically turn the grease into soap?

My car runs on vegy and I found some eco stuff to help clean all the old dried oil from stuff.
It's sodium hydroxide: lye water.

Also some bong cleaner is just lye water.
Ashes might even provide a little abrasion.
 
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Hi Jen,
I don't know the conversion. I've seen some discussion on equivalence on the soapmakingforum (https://www.soapmakingforum.com/threads/liquid-lye.28247/ ), but it just makes my head spin. I imagine you might find it easier to search there for a higher-lye recipe (or ask for help. I am far from home and can't tell you what % lye my liquid is, but I imagine they vary anyway so it might not help too much).
Good luck!
 
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Lye is very ineffective on grease cold.  It needs to be near boiling for it to work.  If lye is going to work cold it takes a lot of time.  It will eventually work cold but it takes time.  My experience is with engine blocks and radiators etc.  Cold the caustic(lye) will do about 7/8 of the work in a week or 10 days that it will do hot in an hour or two.  Heat is needed to get that last bit in spite of soak time.
 
Jen Fan
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More good info, thanks guys.  

I found this; http://soapcalc.net/calc/SoapCalcWP.asp viw the link Tereza posted, and got inspired by the concept that different oils have different cleaning properties in soap.

So I just made 2 experimental soaps, vaguely following 2 different recipes.  I'm a little adventurous about tweaking recipes.  1 will be a hard bar soap the other will be a yogurt-y detergent soap.  I'll letcha know how they turn out!

Also, I did use my rancid lard for this.  The hard soap is 2 days into curing and does not smell like rancid oil.  Woohoo!  The yogurt soap I made this morning and already it barely carries that smell (I added some lavender just in case).  

Apparently there was a bunch of water trapped beneath the lard in its container?  I've never seen this happen.  We rendered several gallons of fat, layered cheesecloth over a 5 gallon bucket, and poured our pots of hot oil into the bucket all in one go.  That bucket has sat for maybe a week while we get around to making soap with it and it's been burping out noxious "dog-fart" fumes.  When I dipped into it for soap making I discovered like 3" of water in the bottom!  I poured it out (not difficult as the lard is solid) and man it stinks.  The lard itself actually isn't that bad; no different than the way it smelled before rendering.
So I have no idea what happened there.  The main thing we did differently on processing this lard was to layer and secure cheesecloth over a 5 gallon bucket and pour all of the pots of hot oil into the same bucket.  Whereas normally we pour lard into pint jars, one batch at a time.  The only other thing was that, due to the shear volume of animal product we had to contend with, it took almost a full week to get through all the fat rendering.  We kept the fat slabs on ice, which naturally turned into ice-and-water.  So maybe the fat near the end of our venture was impregnated with excess water that somehow didn't cook out over several hours of simmering on the stove?  It seems unlikely, but those are the only two special factors in this specific batch of lard compared to the nice stuff we got done right off the bat.  

Anyway.  I guess it doesn't matter too much at this point.  Here's to hoping the detergent soaps work well!  Oh, and I caved and put borax in them.  Borax doesn't seem like it's a chemical by-product of science, but a natural resource.  Although that doesn't help when you weigh the consequences of industrial resource mining... but, still, we needed a solution and this stinky lard needed a purpose.
 
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Yay! glad you're trying it! keep us posted on how it turns out.
I also use stinky, nasty oil/lard/tallow/etc to make my soap and you can never tell in the end product. Good way to put a bad thing to use. And compared to some of the other things out there, borax isn't so bad.

I also have had so many experiences like yours either rendering, filtering, or just gathering the oil. That nasty smell seems to be par for the course, one way or another.
If it makes you feel better, I can tell you something much worse that I've done--- was doing oil pulling and just hated the idea of spitting all that oil out into jars and throwing it in the trash (since it couldn't go down the drain), figured I would be able to separate it out and use it for soap if I collected it. You can imagine the stink after a few days of "collection". ^facepalm
 
Jen Fan
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Oh!  I forgot to mention the part of the soapcalc inspiration; the hard soap I did has sesame and coconut oil in it (oils on the shelf that needs to get used because we stopped using them when we started rendering lard last year).  So they will hopefully have some better lather and cleaning properties, not that I'm complaining about pure lard soap.  It's just not that good for anything but washing skin.   Eager to see the difference when it's ready!
 
Jen Fan
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!!!
Okay, so I just jumped the gun and used my liquid soap for dishes today.  It's a bit wet and cold this morning so we had an excuse to fire up the wood stove and make some hot water (our solar hot water is in need of repair).  We've had a few of the last 'lard dishes' literally evicted to the porch because the lard adventure a couple weeks ago produced such a disaster zone of grease that we ran out of soap; which, combined with not a lot of hot water resulted in hoping some dog and cat tongues would help de-grease this mess.  They didn't.  Spoiled brats.  lol.

So with that shameful information out of the bag, I decided to tackle these greasebomb lard dishes with the new soap, even though it's only 24 hours old. I'm completely amazed!  My first experiment was the worst; one of the stainless steel pots with burnt cracklings coating the bottom.  This pot has ALREADY been tackled with hot water and conventional soap and get re-evicted to the porch and we joked about throwing it away.  3 dollops of soap between 3 light scrubs (no hot water, no hard scrubbing, no soaking) and 90% of the contents came out!  Just down to a few solid burnt cracklings that are now soaking.  Inspired, I tackled the worst offenders I could find and was so excited I even photographed it for you.  Who gets this excited about soap, I mean really?

Challenge #2, THE LID.  Totally caked front and back with lard.  Normally this would take hot water and a lot of lathering with our usual soap (Eco's coconut dish soap, which if funny that we buy it because I actually strongly dislike it, anyway).  I put on a small dollop of my yogurt-soap and soaped the whole thing all around with my fingers; no scrubbing and no added water.  Rinsed and photographed, sparkly clean.

Challenge #3, THE WOODEN SPATULA.  This spatula has likewise been through soaps, scrubs, and soaking to get it to the point it started at in the photos.  It was a potential throw-away as well.  Burnt cracklings totally welded to it.  I made 1 non-scrubbing pass over it with a dollop of soap, just worked it in with my hands a bit and rinsed.   Nothing but the hardest cracklin's and the slat-stuffers left behind.  I did 1 more soap-up and gave it a  1 minute scrub with a brush and butter knife to clean the slats out.  Again, no hot water at all.  Good as new!  (had to work a bit more after to get those last tiny cracklin' chunks off)

Challenge #4, THE LARD JAR, our worst enemy when doing dishes.  The emptied lard jar.  A pint jar completely caked in lard.  These always eat up loads of dish soap and hot water.  So I did a single pass over it with nothing but my fingers; just gently work the new soap around the jar and rinse.  boom.  done.

The soap is extremely diluted and doesn't burn the hands even though it's not aged.  I'm slightly worried it'll lose some of this awesomeness as it sets up, but we'll see.  First impressions are very high for now!  Excited to kick the dumb factory soap out the door and work with my rescue-rancid lard soap!  It's got a 'low-fat yogurt'/fat-free kefir consistency right now and doesn't lather or bubble.  Not sure if it will later on but I kind of don't care.  
dish-2.jpg
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#2; THE LID, raw, with soap dollop
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#2; THE LID, with soap worked in by hand over whole thing, no scrubbing, no water, just rinsed off
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#3; THE SPATULA, raw test subject, already been soaped/soaked/scrubbed to no avail with regular soap
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#3; THE SPATULA, with a once-over soaping worked in with fingers, no water or brush
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#3; THE SPATULA, after a good scrub and pick with the new soap
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#4; THE JAR, raw
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#4, THE JAR, just a dollop of soap worked in by hand, no lather, hot water, or scrubbing
 
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That’s very exciting! So, can we ask, what approximate recipe did you end up following, or what ratios, for the “yogurt soap”?
 
Jen Fan
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The recipe was vaguely based on a "30-minute DIY lard laundry soap", I can try to find that recipe if someone wants me to.
Here's what went into my soap:
6lb lard
1.5lb coconut oil (we have a bunch of old costco coconut oil to burn through, plus it's supposed to have better lather)
18 oz (1.1lb) lye
8 cups borax
3.5~ gallons water
+ 1~ gallon of water

That recipe filled a 5 gallon bucket almost to the brim.  

1. Put oils on stove to melt/warm up
2. mix lye in water; it's super diluted so the water doesn't really heat up.  I did this in the 5 gallon bucket that I made the soap in.
3. stir/dissolve lye
4. add oil (I just made sure they were totally melted and warm since original recipe didn't stress temperatures)
5. add borax
6. stir for a few minutes
7. top bucket off with water

The original recipe called for almost twice the water I used, and I would have otherwise followed, except my bucket was full.  Slight oversight there  The original was portioned around 1lb of oil.  So it was 1lb oil: 1/2gallon water originally, and 2.25oz of lye to 1lb oil was the original ratio.

One important thing to note is the recipe I 'followed' didn't specify what kind of lye to use.  Most liquid soap recipes call for potassium hydroxide.  My lye was sodium hydroxide, which is supposed to be for hard soap making.  

So far my soap is still yogurt-y.  I've been stirring it periodically.  It likes to make a 'soap patty' at the top, like cream separating from milk.  The original recipe said it would do that until day 3.  So we'll find out what the end result is.  I'm currently using this soap to wash clothing, too.  We'll see what it does!

I totally feel like this 'soap; is cheating.  It's too easy.  Waiting for something to go wrong  My bar of hard 'degreasing' soap is still setting up, I won't test it for awhile yet.
 
Beth Wilder
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Thanks, Jen! I definitely want to try something like this. You said you did have hot water to use with it this time, right?

We don't usually have hot water. C. Letellier pointed out that lye takes a long time to work on grease without very hot water. Perhaps in that case limonene would work better/faster?

We haven't made soap yet but always have a good amount of ashes and a lye bucket going (which sometimes gets used very diluted for things like laundry but was originally intended as part of a battery experiment, I believe), so we've been brainstorming ways to do so. We don't keep livestock, so the main area of brainstorming is fats, always scarce in the desert: Buffalo gourd seed oil? Javelina fat?

Has anyone tried what craig howard suggests, adding ashes or lye directly to a greasy dish? I think this was sometimes done traditionally with ash water and tallow. You'd probably still need to add hot water, huh? But I'm thinking of the method of cleaning raw fleece that involves stale urine (alkaline) interacting with the lanolin of the wool "in the grease." If boiling water were applied to this, it would probably felt the fleece, so I think it would usually be done with cold water and more time, right?

For now, I have a decent amount of both dish detergent and laundry liquid that seem to cut grease even in cold water -- Azure Market Dish Soap and Biokleen Cold Water Laundry Liquid -- but when we run out, I may do some experimentation... Watch out, world! ;)

I really enjoy reading of all your experiments, especially since it's so hot here right now that I can neither work outside nor focus enough to get any paying work done. Thank you!
 
Jen Fan
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Beth Wilder wrote:Thanks, Jen! I definitely want to try something like this. You said you did have hot water to use with it this time, right?

We don't usually have hot water. C. Letellier pointed out that lye takes a long time to work on grease without very hot water. Perhaps in that case limonene would work better/faster?

We haven't made soap yet but always have a good amount of ashes and a lye bucket going (which sometimes gets used very diluted for things like laundry but was originally intended as part of a battery experiment, I believe), so we've been brainstorming ways to do so. We don't keep livestock, so the main area of brainstorming is fats, always scarce in the desert: Buffalo gourd seed oil? Javelina fat?

Has anyone tried what craig howard suggests, adding ashes or lye directly to a greasy dish? I think this was sometimes done traditionally with ash water and tallow. You'd probably still need to add hot water, huh? But I'm thinking of the method of cleaning raw fleece that involves stale urine (alkaline) interacting with the lanolin of the wool "in the grease." If boiling water were applied to this, it would probably felt the fleece, so I think it would usually be done with cold water and more time, right?

For now, I have a decent amount of both dish detergent and laundry liquid that seem to cut grease even in cold water -- Azure Market Dish Soap and Biokleen Cold Water Laundry Liquid -- but when we run out, I may do some experimentation... Watch out, world! ;)

I really enjoy reading of all your experiments, especially since it's so hot here right now that I can neither work outside nor focus enough to get any paying work done. Thank you!



So while I did have warm-ish water when I washed dishes with the yogurt-soap today, I didn't actually use hot water on them to clean.  I wanted to know what the soap would do on its own.  So these dishes were rubbed-down with the soap and rinsed in luke-warm water.  

Did you check out that seed calc link?  They have like 50-100 different oils listed, with crazy ones like emu oil and odd seed oils and other oils used around the world.

We normally do our laundry with just vinegar and baking soda.  Which works, but again, we're stuck buying these supplies.  So if this soap works well as a laundry cleaner I'll be thrilled.  Minimizing consumer dependence is a big focus of mine :P  Buying a little bottle of lye and a box of borax once a year is better than the scores of gallons and big bags of baking soda we go through!

I haven't tried adding ash to mine.  Depending on where your grey water goes, if you're not 'conventional' like us, it may not be a very good option.  Our was going into our greenhouse plants, but we need a better filtration system.  If it still were, I wouldn't want to put ashes down the drain wantonly or regularly.  I don't really know how it would interact with the PH of the soil.  Maybe it'd be fine.  But I managed to kill two fruit trees this spring with just a tiny bit of ash, so I would be hesitant to try that.  That's just our setup though.  For now the water is going into mega compost heaps, but it won't always be that way.
 
Beth Wilder
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You're so right, and I forgot to think about that. We're also not "conventional," and our greywater goes to buried driplines in one of our gardens. I check for "safe for septic" on products I buy, but it gets more complex as we make more things ourselves. You don't think the extra alkalinity of your boosted-lye soap would do anything similar (to ashes killing fruit trees), do you? Our soil is already extremely alkaline, so while I use baking soda for cleaning elsewhere in the house, I try to avoid putting it down the drain unless we really need a boost of bubbles and it's thereby neutralized by vinegar. We also try to let the sun do a lot of our dish-cleaning for us, letting things dry and get UV-cleaned outside until any residue can be easily scraped off into the compost and then brought back in for a quick soap and rinse. That doesn't work for lard jars, though!
 
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Beth Wilder wrote:You're so right, and I forgot to think about that. We're also not "conventional," and our greywater goes to buried driplines in one of our gardens. I check for "safe for septic" on products I buy, but it gets more complex as we make more things ourselves. You don't think the extra alkalinity of your boosted-lye soap would do anything similar (to ashes killing fruit trees), do you? Our soil is already extremely alkaline, so while I use baking soda for cleaning elsewhere in the house, I try to avoid putting it down the drain unless we really need a boost of bubbles and it's thereby neutralized by vinegar. We also try to let the sun do a lot of our dish-cleaning for us, letting things dry and get UV-cleaned outside until any residue can be easily scraped off into the compost and then brought back in for a quick soap and rinse. That doesn't work for lard jars, though!



This yogurt soap is actually way more diluted lye-wise than regular hard soap.  Normally it's like 30% weight ratio, so it'd be like 3oz of lye to 10oz of water.  Roughly.  I've only made hard soap a couple times.  This is 1.1lbs of lye to like... 30lbs of water?  Is that right, 1 gallon of water being like 8lbs?  But it's essentially extremely low-lye, hence it not burning my skin before it's aged.  So I wouldn't worry too much about it going into the soil; no more than I would grocery store soap.  There's quite a bit of borax in it though?  Not sure how that would interact with the soil.

 
Jen Fan
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Update on the soap; it's settled into a thick whipped-cream consistency.  Needless to say it makes me just want to play with it.  Haha.  Still works great for cutting grease without hot water!  When we do have warm/hot water though I can cut it 50/50 with water and use it more sparingly.  

I'm using it as laundry soap as well right now and loving that.  The lavender scent comes through just a bit in the laundry.  I added maybe 20-30 drops pf lavender EO to the mix, fearing it would smell like rancid lard.  The soap itself has a pleasant clean smell.  So far we're loving it!
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