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It’s another story about lard…

It’s another story about lard…
January 7, 2009 Mary Jo

{Insert bells, whistles, applause}

Ladies and gentlemen…this is the 100th post.  Something of a benchmark in blogland, I’d say, and an accomplishment not to be taken lightly.  With that in mind, I’d like to devote this monumental post entirely to….


(that unsung animal fat much maligned and swiftly dismissed)

I could start with a few facts to counter lard’s poor reputation, like it’s potentially high vitamin D content, or the fact that it’s mostly monounsaturated… I’ve soliloquized it before, though mostly tongue-in-cheek as I reported on a cooking experiment gone bad.  But none of this appears to be relevant to this particular story.  This is a story about lard soap, the kind our thrifty ancestors made in times of Waste Not, Want Not.

It turns out I was bequeathed this lard soap, which was indeed made by my very own ancestors and found among the household contents of my Great-Aunt’s estate after her passing.  Grandma remembers it – remembers both the making and using it and therefore wanted nothing to do with it, period.  Mom, on the other hand, carries a bit more sentimentality towards such things and also happens to be my soap-making partner in crime, with more appreciation for handmade soap than the average person.  In all of her wisdom and imagination, she swiftly claimed it for me and set some aside for herself.  Above you can see the box of lard soap pieces I received – a generous endowment.  They must be, by my estimate, somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-75 years old.

The women of my family used it as laundry soap.  It seemed appropriate that I do the same.  I can’t speak to the cleaning ability of lard soap, nor how it compares to other detergents or fat-based soaps.  I’m using it because acquiring a box of handmade lard soap from eons ago presents something of a romantic challenge, just the type I relish.  I’m using it because some women with the same blood as me spent a long time making this soap and I’ll be damned if all of their hard work turns out to be for naught.  Even if the gratification is rather delayed for them, I do imagine that my efforts will be appreciated from their lofty vantage point, wherever that may be.

The women of the soap?  Perhaps.

The women of the soap? Perhaps.

A quick search of handmade laundry soap recipes offered no shortage of concoctions to choose from.   That, paired with the laundry soap expertise gleaned from washing our own cloth diapers, I was able to make a rather educated choice of a good recipe and am entirely confident in its cleaning abilities.  This recipe is in powdered form, which I prefer, though there are plenty of recipes out there for liquid versions.  It’s adapted from one I found on the Tipnut website, linked above.  The ingredients were all on hand, as borax and baking soda are among the cleaning product heavyweights in our house.  I also happened to have the Washing Soda, or Soda Ash, as it’s also known, left over from dying loads of baby clothing.  All of these things can be found in the grocery store, likely in the laundry detergent aisle.

Got Lard? Powdered Laundry Soap

Mix equal parts of the following:

  • Borax
  • Baking Soda
  • Washing Soda (soda ash)
  • Grated Bar soap
  • Essential oils, qty adjusted to your nose’s suggestion

Use 1/8 cup powder per full load of laundry; 1/2 that for a front loader.

The bar soap need not be lard, of course!  Castille or Fels Naptha or any old bar soap should work fine, just try to avoid the heavily perfumed ones.  Grating can be done with your standard box grater or much more quickly with a food processor using the shredding mode.  If your soap also happens to be 50-75 years old, you’ll likely find, as I did, that it crumbles nicely into a fine powder in the food processor.

About the other ingredients:

Baking Soda deodorizes, whitens, brightens, and generally boosts the cleaning ability of the soap or detergent.

Borax acts as a water conditioner, boosting the cleaning power of detergent by controlling alkalinity, deodorizing the clothes and aiding the removal of stains and soil.

Washing soda also helps remove dirt and odors.

The essential oils I used were an off-the-cuff mix of orange, lemon, and lime, for a nice citrus-y smell, as well as some Tea Tree oil, which is a tried and true antibacterial that found its way onto my shelf during the cloth diaper laundering days.

And?  Does it work?  Was it worth it?  I’ll say it does; it was!  Granted, I’ve not submitted my laundry to a lab for actual scientific testing, but I’m completely satisfied with the results.  The essential oils make my laundry smell SO WONDERFUL, in a not-at-all-offensive-like-synthetic-fragrance way.  The laundry appears to be just as clean as with my former Arm & Hammer powdered detergent.  I mixed up enough to fill two empty detergent boxes, so we’ll be in clean clothes for a long time coming, as long as I keep the washer going.  And I have plenty of powdered lard soap for future batches as we approach our reentry into the cloth diaper washing club, just around the corner…

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