What Does Lard Do In Soap?

What does lard do in soap? Lard is a popular soapmaking ingredient, probably a bit misunderstood. It refers to pig fat. Many love using lard for soap making to add a creamy lather, conditioning properties and some hardness to the finished product. Because of these properties, lard is a common substitute for palm oil.

Lard can be purchased from the store, or you can render your own at home. Rendering your own lard is a great way to reduce, reuse and recycle, making it a sustainable ingredient – something I always look after in soap making. The resulting soap doesn’t smell of pork meat….

These are some of the reasons why you can (should?) use lard in soap. What to know more about it? Keep reading.

Lard Can Replace Palm Oil

Palm Oil

Lard has a very similar fatty acid profile compared with palm oil, so it can replace it easily in soap making recipes. 
In lard, the ratios of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are 43:47:10, whereas in palm oil they are 47:45:8.

Fatty Acids Profile

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Palm Oil
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  • Saturated = Lauric + Myristic + Palmitic + Stearic
  • Monosaturated = Oleic
  • Polysaturated = Linoleic + Linolenic + Ricinoleic 

Some people may have problems using pam oil, due to the linked environmental problems with palm oil production. Or perhaps it’s easier – or cheaper – to find lard than palm oil in your local stores.In that case, lard is a very good replacement. The main reason why I use lard instead of palm oil in soap is the price.

Lard Nutrition Facts

According to NutritionData, and in addition to its fatty acid profile, rich in saturated and monosaturated fatty acids, lard also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, essential nutrients for our body, vitamin E, a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory and vitamin D, the “sun vitamin”, a nutrient which a large part of the world is deficient about.

Curiously, it seems that some people with eczema find a lot of relief from using lard directly on their skin or lard soap!! (check out some testimonies here and here). It’s very tempting to try for a cream made with lard. But be aware that good results with eczema happened only with fresh, unprocessed lard, free of stabilizers and other chemicals. Keep reading and learn how to render lard at home.

what does lard do in soap

Lard As Part Of Oil Mixture vs 100% Lard Soap

To make soap, I’ve used 100% lard and I have used it mixed with other oils (around 20%-30%). My experience is that 100% lard soap will go rancid after a couple of months, but mixed with other oils in a percentagem no bigger than 30%, it will last as good as a pure 100% vegetable-oil soap (around 1-2 years).

That was confirmed by more experienced soap makers in the largest and most famous soap making forum in this thread post.

At first the post mentions too much anti-oxidant as the culprit for rancidity, but in the end you have a couple of soap makers stating that after a lot of experimenting, 100% lard soap is good for your skin, but goes rancid easily/rapidly. Can’t be a coincidence that I have had the same experience

“Industrially-produced lard, including much of the lard sold in supermarkets, is rendered from a mixture of high and low quality fat from throughout the pig. Lard is often hydrogenated to improve its stability at room temperature. Hydrogenated lard sold to consumers typically contains fewer than 0.5 g of transfats per 13 g serving. Lard is also often treated with bleaching and deodorizing agents, emulsifiers, and antioxidants such as BHT. These treatments make it more consistent and prevent spoilage. (Untreated lard must be refrigerated or frozen to prevent rancidity.)”

Wikipedia – Lard

Lard Before vs Now

Some of the substances used to hydrogenate and keep lard from spoiling may interact with other anti-oxidants or even lye, creating the opposite effect of preventing rancidity. In the lack of proper studies, this sounds like a reasonable explanation. 

Our grandmothers used to make soap with lard, with very good results. Let’s not forget it was lard used most of the times from farm animals, fresh lard with very little to no processing. The meat was also of much better quality than it is nowadays, it’s scary to hear some stories about industrial meat production. That was not the case some decades ago. Times were different, the reality was different.

Still, lard soap is very good and I wouldn’t advise against trying at least once, at least as a beginner’s recipe. You just have to use 3 ingredients (lard, lye and water) which is very handy for soap maker beginners. You can give it a try at one of your first soaps. Make sure you make a small quantity and that you use lard as fresh as possible, ideally from a butcher store.

I use lard in oil mixtures, due to economic reasons: along olive oil, it’s a cheap ingredient in Portugal.

Lard Is Very Moisturizing

As already mentioned, lard soap is very moisturizing and mild to human skin. That is because lard is highly compatible with the structure of the human cells. Our cell membranes are largely composed of saturated fats, just like the ones found in lard, and it has a similar pH. One fact that skincare experts know: Oil dissolves oil. Since lard is so similar to our own skin oils, it’s a match made in heaven. 

As a cleanser, lard is a gentle and natural way to rid your face of that nasty sebum buildup and the daily dirt in your pores.It is said to have been used as a common moisturizer before modern times. This makes lard not only very moisturizing but also mild to our skin. In addition, lard will make the soap bar hard and long-lasting. 

lard soap 2

Lard Doesn’t Clog Pores

Some people wrongly assume that lard soap will clog pores and damage the skin. This is not true. Lard may actually benefit the skin because it is mild, moisturizing, and conditions very well.

I think that consumers unfortunately associate lard and other animal fats with store bought commercial soaps that incorporate skin damaging chemicals. They don’t realize that it’s the synthetics damaging the skin, not the lard.

Lard not only doesn’t clog pores, it’s even used to treat acne and some other skin conditions!! The statements are still not scientifically proven, just folk medicin and personal experience, but it reinforces that lard won’t clog pores, as this is the main cause for acne.

A bit off-topic: Comedogenic Rating 

What to know if a given fat or oil may be prone to clog pores and, therefore, cause acne? Check out its comedogenic rating.

As example of a fat that actually may clog pores is coconut oil, with a comedogenic rating of 4. Lard has a comedogenic rating of 2, similar to olive oil. Sunflower oil a much lighter oil can be 0-2 depending if it’s high linoleic or not. Rosehip seed, one of the most charished oils in cosmetics due to its strong anti-aging action, also known to fight acne, has a comedogenic rating of 1  

Lard as a Sustainable By-Product

Lard offers other benefits to soapmakers because it is an affordable and easy to find ingredient. As a by-product of pork production, it is also a sustainable soap ingredient, usually cheaper than most vegetable oils. By using the lard we are ensuring that the whole animal (pig) is being used and nothing goes to waste. That is why our grandmothers used to make lard soap.

Still, have in mind the following: as long as we have pork production, lard will always be a cheap, sustainable product, since we use something that otherwise would be waste. Once you start raising pigs to produce lard alone, the economical and sustainabaility advantage are no longer valid – producing palm oil IS cheaper than raising pigs.

How To Render Lard

cutting pork fat

“Lard may be rendered by two processes: wet or dry. In wet rendering, pig fat is boiled in water or steamed at a high temperature and the lard, which is insoluble in water, is skimmed from the surface of the mixture or separated in an industrial centrifuge. In dry rendering, the fat is exposed to high heat in a pan or oven without water (a process similar to frying bacon). The two processes yield somewhat differing products. Wet-rendered lard has a more neutral flavor, a lighter color, and a high smoke point. Dry-rendered lard is somewhat browner and has a caramelized flavor and has a lower smoke point.” – wikipedia

First of all, you need to purchase fresh pork fat, a local market or butcher shop would be good places to start. A butcher shop should have pork fat parts going to waste. Maybe if you ask nicely, you can get them for free!

Then you can read about my personal experience in rendering lard at home – it was quite positive!

I’ve followed this tutorial that teaches how to render lard at home:

It’s actually very easy, you just need to be patient and careful to not overheat the fat. There are also some troubleshooting instructions here.

Where Can I Buy Pure Lard

frying pan with white lard and one herb branch

So, you want to make soap with pure lard, but don’t feel like trying the whole rendering-at-home process? For a higher-quality source of lard typically seek out artisanal producers, for example, on a local market or butcher shop.

You can also find homemade lard at Etsy.

Lard Soap Recipes

Homemade Lard Soap Recipe
This is another easy one-fat homemade soap recipe, this time made with an animal fat: lard. Lard soap is very moisturizing, makes a good hard bar, and has light foam.
Difficulty: Easy
Weight: 225g (7,93 oz)
Superfat: 5%
Lye Concentration: 30%
Check out this recipe
Lard and Calendula Soap Recipe
Try this soap recipe filled with lard and lovely calendula infused oils. Foamy, creamy, moisturizing, scented with lemongrass and May-Chang. Add it poppy seeds and it becomes a lovely exfoliating soap to wash your hands from heavy dirt, like gardening or kitchen work. Or just give your body a good scrub.
Difficulty: Easy
Weight: 800 g (28.22 oz)
Lye concentration: 33%
Superfat: 5%
Check out this recipe

Where Can I Buy Handmade Lard Soap

If DIY is not your thing, but you’d still love to try handmade lard soap, here are some links to buy them online:

4 thoughts on “What Does Lard Do In Soap?”

  1. I have been wanting to make my own soap.  And now I see that lard is really the best option.  I want to be able to create a scent I like, a unique scent.  I found the homemade Rose Soap recipe on your site, and I plan on giving that a try.  It says it is ease 😀  I hope so!

    • Hello Leahrae thanks for your comment.

      If you want to create your own unique scent, you can start from there, blending essential oils and fragrances. Please, read my post about Best Essential Oils for Soap Making. Beware that scent in natural soap is NOT as strong as in commercial ones, because it has no chemical enhancers for scent. Besides it’s soap and is not supposed to have a strong scent anyway 😉 If you want good results, especially as a beginner, you are better off using a fragrance (see What Is a Fragrance Oil?), as long as it’s not the cheapest one, fragrances and essential oils have practically the same allergens and concerns. Essential oils are just more natural, and you can use them exclusively as well, if you prefer.

      I still haven’t posted it but you can make homemade perfume with the essential oils/fragrances blend of your liking with 30% of that blend and 70% of pure alcohol (96º vodka). Just leave it to macerate for 1 week, before you use it – basically make the mixture into an amber bottle, or place your bottle inside a dark place, and let it rest for 1 week. I can assure you, *that* will smell great 😉

      As for trying rose soap, yes it is quite easy, and it’s made with 100% extra virgin olive oil, which is my favorite soap of all. It also has pink clay, making it a lovely, mild but cleansing soap.

      Hope you like it!



  2. So we basically bath with pig fat. Well, you learn something new everyday. I did not know that there is so much that goes into making soap. We actually take it for granted hay. I love coming across your website. I am always learning something new everyday with your website 

    • Hello Daniel and thanks for your comment.

      I am so glad you like to read my blog and learn new stuff with it. It encourages me to write and research for more. 

      “So we basically bath with pig fat.” Actually, I am going to challenge you to check out the list of ingredients of many commercial soaps. You will find that some have as one of the first ingredients sodium tallowate (among sodium palmitate and sodium palm kernelate).

      Sodium tallowate is a soap salt made from lye and… tallow – cow fat. The truth is that some of us who use soap are bathing in cow fat 🙂 but it’s not cow fat actually, it’s soap salt made from an animal fat. I believe they use the sub-products from the meat industry (= waste) and make soap out of it…. It becomes much cheaper.

      Why don’t they use lard instead? Probably because it has more value for other sort of products. And lard soap has be vilified due to the bad reputation of lard and pig meat – it’s not very “marketable”. Who knows?

      Fact is, lard soap is quite good, very similar to palm oil soap. We would probably be better served if we were washing ourselves with products made from lard. Instead, we are mostly using synthetic detergents – probably just milder versions of dish/laundry detergent.



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