Lard for Soapmaking
both lard soap and castile soap are truly old-fashioned
Personally, I would not want lard for soapmaking, but a lot of ranch owners, or immigrants, or those old enough to recall their moms making soap at home, are all people that have previously used or made soap with animal fats. I've had some of these lard soap people tell me that the soap had a mild and unpleasant odor, and others had only nice things to say. Either way, lard for soapmaking is one way to use leftover fats from farm animals.
Similar to how some organic soap makers would like to try and not use any chemicals in their soaps, lye included, veggie soap makers would prefer not using animal products in their soap. Usually it is because they don't want to have to kill animals or on some rare occasions their skin is allergic to the animal products. No matter the reason, most veggie soap makers are against lard soap.
Sometimes, the soap users themselves are against using lard for soapmaking. Often it is because this animal product is misunderstood when it comes to soap making. People believe that lard will clog their pores and/or damage their skin. Other times they are 'grossed out' when they think about rubbing animal fat on themselves.
So what exactly is lard soap anyway, and how is it different?
Making soap is chemistry, oils and fats plus a lye solution (lye and water) cause saponification, which is the emulsifying, solidifying and neutralizing of the soap base, which then turns into a nice solid soap. The two basic types of fats in soapmaking are tallow and lard. Tallow is from sheep, cows, and dear and lard is taken from pigs. The different type of tallow or lard will make a difference in your finished bar of soap too.
Lard and tallow needs to be rendered before it is ready for making soap. This means that the lard is heated up till it turns into a liquid, allowing it to be mixable with your lye solution and any other additives. While rendering lard, keep your eye on it so that it doesn't burn, or ignite (all fats and oils have a flashpoint), and look for any color changes.
If your finished lard or tallow renders to a lighter color, this usually means that the animals were grass or grain fed. If you want a specific type of color or quality of lard or tallow, speak to the butcher or farmer and they will be able to get that type and quality that you need.
One nice aspect of lard soapis that they tend to have a creamy lather, as well as a hardness to the bar, which is what all soapmakers hope for. In the finished lard soap bar, the lard has been altered during the saponification process and now is considered a bar that will not clog pores.
I remember many old timers telling me about the soap that their mothers or grandmothers made on the farm, mentioning that it was a harsh soap, but sure got you clean. Which we now know means that it was a caustic bar because the lye solution was too strong, but luckily today, we have some science to refer to and use proper measuring.