DIY Tallow Soap for Laundry

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Make your own tallow soap for laundry.

What is Tallow

You’ve heard of lard, the rendered fat of pig, but what about tallow? Tallow is derived from the fat of cows or sheep, and is rendered much the same way as lard.

Why Use Tallow for Soap Making

We purchase grass-fed beef, and it’s important to us that nothing be wasted, including the fat. Tallow is wonderful for cooking, soap making, and skin care. We have found that most homemade soaps made from vegetable oils melt away rather quickly. But soap made from tallow is hard and lasts a long time. That’s important when you’re trying to be frugal in this natural living journey. Soap made with all coconut oil is also quite hard, but I prefer to use an ingredient that I’ve obtained locally when possible.

Tallow is a traditional ingredient for soap making. Homesteaders had all they needed right on the farm for making soap with tallow rendered from beef fat after slaughtering their cattle, and lye made from wood ash. To think of purchasing ingredients for their soap making was not even considered. In addition, tallow soap cleans well, and is gentle on clothing.

What is Super-Fat

In the process of making soap, it is important to use a lye calculator to be sure you are using a proper lye / fat (or oil) ratio. A chemical reaction occurs in the process and the final, cured product will be free of lye. Super-fatting is the process of adding more fat than is required so that the soap is moisturizing.

For laundry, you want your soap to be 0% super-fat because you want your soap to get rid of fats and oils on your clothing. To use this soap on your skin would be drying. A moisturizing skin soap could certainly be made with tallow by super-fatting by at least 5%. Just put the percent you want your soap to be super-fatted, and the lye calculator will figure it all out for you.

How to Render Tallow

Here’s my post on rendering lard; tallow is rendered in the same manner.

Recipe for 0% Super-Fat Tallow Soap for Laundry

First, please read my post on the basics of soap making so that you can familiarize yourself with the equipment needed, the safety concerns, and the process.

At trace, swirls in the soap will stay in place.

At trace, swirls in the soap will stay in place.

Ingredients – by weight

  • 14 ounces distilled water
  • 5.64 ounces lye
  • 40 ounces tallow, preferably from grass-fed cows.

Directions – be sure to read here first for more specific instructions. 

  • Have your mold ready before beginning.
  • Carefully weigh all of your ingredients.
  • Slowly add the lye to the water in a well ventilated area; continue to stir until dissolved. Cool to 120 degrees.
  • Melt the tallow. Cool (or heat) to 120 degrees.
  • Now very slowly drizzle the lye mixture into the tallow while stirring.
  • Stir until the mixture comes to trace, and then pour into your prepared mold.
  • Allow your soap to set for several hours until it is firm to the touch. Remove from the mold, cut into bars, and allow to cure for 4 weeks. (If you cut the soap into 9 equal bars, they will each be just the right size to use in the laundry detergent recipe below).

Recipe for Laundry Detergent


  • 1 bar of tallow soap from recipe above, grated
  • 2 cups of washing soda (like this)
  • essential oil (optional)


Combine the grated tallow soap and the washing soda. Mix thoroughly and keep in an airtight, waterproof container. Use 1 to 2 Tablespoons per load of laundry. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to each load, if desired.

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  1. kirsten says

    Susan, at what point do I combine the tallow with the lye & water mixture? Do I melt the tallow in the lye & water or combine the two after the tallow is melted?

    • Susan Vinskofski says

      Ah. I did skip a step, didn’t I? I edited the post, but at the point where both the lye mixture and the tallow are at 120 degrees, you very slowly drizzle the lye into the tallow while stirring. Sorry about that!

  2. says

    Awesome post! I love making my own laundry soap! Thanks for linking up with From the Farm…this was chosen as one of this week’s favorites! Hope to see you again this week!

  3. Amy Soety says



    • Susan Vinskofski says

      Hi Erin, That’s a great question. Since I don’t have a septic system myself, I’ve never researched the question, so I’m afraid that I won’t be much help. The soap doesn’t have extra oils because it’s not super-fatted, but it also should not have lye left in it to damage the bacteria in your septic system.

  4. kristie says

    When I was rendering my tallow it got a bit burnt. The finished product is the color of French vanilla ice cream and has a toasted smell to it. Can it still be used for soap?

    • Susan Vinskofski says

      Hi Kristie! Does the tallow still taste good? Do you still plan to use it for cooking? If so, I’m inclined to think that it is still good for soap making, but the soap will likely have that same smell.

  5. Lisa says

    Would it hurt to use this in place of fels naphtha in the other homemade recipes floating around? My recipe uses washing soda, borax, baking soda , oxi clean and fels naphtha. ( Although I wonder if the baking soda is even necessary)

    • Susan Vinskofski says

      Hi Lisa, yes, you could definitely use the tallow soap instead of Fels Naphtha in your recipe. That’s just how I use it myself.

  6. Emily says

    Can this soap be used in HE washers? Since it’s not super fatted, I’m guessing there aren’t many suds, so it would be okay. Rather be safe than sorry, so I thought I’d ask to be sure! :)

    • Susan Vinskofski says

      Hi Emily, since I don’t have a HE washer, I’ve never done the research, so I’m afraid that I really don’t know. It is low suds.

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