"Politically Incorrect"

My soaping journey began with a formulation of Savon de Castile, but I quickly learned that Castille soap was just the beginning. Soaps have many qualities having to do with how well they clean, how well they foam, how well they condition, and how well they keep, and, depending on the oils you use, these dimensions can vary considerably. So, I set out to make a soap that cleaned and conditioned better, had better foam, and kept better than my Savon de Castile.

This goal lead me through a list of oils that either singly, or in combination, would give me a "better" soap. I settled on a combination of four oils: Coconut Oil, Beef Tallow, Canola Oil, and Olive Oil, with the goal of making a soap that I could use to bathe and shave with. And so, the soap that I call "Politically Incorrect" was born.

In soap, Coconut oil lathers well, and makes a great cleanser, stripping dirt and body oils readily away, leaving skin (and hair) oil-free. Beef tallow produces a light, creamy lather, and makes a great moisturizer, replacing some of the surface skin oil that the Coconut oil stripped away. It is readily available (with a small bit of work) from your local butcher, as beef fat trimmings. Canola oil also makes a good moisturizer, with a low, creamy lather. And, finally, Olive oil makes a hard, long lasting soap, with a mild lather. Together, these four oils combine into a good, all-purpose soap for mildly-oily skin and hair.

So, after deciding on the oils, and their proportions, I made up a test batch and tried it out. To me, it was wonderful. It lathered into a mix of large bubbles, and thick creamy foam, just right for shaving or washing hair. It stripped all the dirty oils off my skin and hair, leaving them squeaky clean without drying them out. I was satisfied that I had a winner here. But, what to name it?

After a few abortive attempts, I came up with "Politically Incorrect", due to the nature of the oils that I had selected. I can guarantee that, while giving me the best clean I've had, this soap would upset someone: it used animal fats that would upset the "meat is murder" and vegan crowds, nut oils that would upset the allergics, imported oils that would upset the "use local" crew, and oils with names that sound bad, which would upset most sensitive types. So, of course, this soap is, by it's very nature and formulation, politically incorrect.

But, it's the best damn soap that I've ever made.

"Politically Incorrect": the recipe

To make a 1 litre (1 kilogram) batch of "Politically Incorrect" soap, you will need

  • 234 grams of Beef Tallow,
  • 234 grams of Coconut Oil,
  • 234 grams of Canola (Rapeseed) Oil,
  • 78 grams of Olive Oil,
  • 168 grams of distilled Water, and
  • 112 grams of Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) Lye

This combination will make a hard soap with 5% remaining oils,

Additionally, you will need

  • various glass bowls for measuring and mixing (don't use aluminium, as it reacts badly with the lye),
  • an assortment of silicone spatulas, for stirring the various ingredients
  • a metric kitchen scale
  • goggles and rubber gloves, for handling the Lye
  • a metric thermometer
  • a stick blender
  • a mould capable of holding 1 litre (I use a 12-portion silicone muffin mould)
  • cutting boards and towels to wrap the mould in
  • a warm, quiet place to place the mould in, once filled


  1. Mix the Sodium Hydroxide Lye into the distilled water, and set aside, in a well ventilated area, to cool (it gets very hot).
  2. While the lye solution cools, measure out the fats and hard oils, and melt them to liquid either in the microwave, or on the stove, in a double-boiler, over low heat. They will all melt around or before 40° Celcius.
  3. Measure out all the liquid oils, and blend them (with a stick blender) with the melted fats and oils.
  4. Once the lye solution and blended oils have each cooled to near room temperature (you can allow about 10° C difference in temperature between them), slowly pour the lye solution into the oil mixture and blend with the stick blender until you see trace.
  5. Pour the soap batter into the mould, wrap the mould with towels to keep it warm, and put it into a warm quiet place to cure. You can demould the soap in 24 to 36 hours.

At this point, you have finished the work of making soap, and you can clean up. The soap batter will "cook" itself into soap over the next day or so; the chemical reaction that makes the oils into soap gives off heat. You want to keep the curing soap naturally warm, so that this process will cook the entire batch. If it cools off too soon, the soap won't be usable.

Tomorrow, take the soap out of the soap mould, and cut it into convenient sized bars. The demoulded soap will feel about as soft as mild brick cheese, and is not yet ready to use. Set the cut soap bars aside for about a month to fully harden and complete the saponification reaction. After that, bathe at will.

This recipe makes 1 kilogram (about 1050 millilitres) of soap.


Beef Tallow
I don't know where you can buy Beef Tallow. I make my own from beef fat scraps that I get from my local butcher (for free). I clean as much of the meat off the fat scraps as I can, cube the remaining beef fat, and shred it through a food processor. I put this shredded fat into a slow cooker, set on LOW, and let it cook all day. At the end, I pour off the melted fat into a bowl, and refrigerate it until it gets hard. At this point, I scrape off any gelatin that has accumulated on the bottom, and remelt the remaining fat. A couple cycles of cleaning the exterior of the hardened tallow, and remelting to let more impurities settle, and I have a batch of clean Beef Tallow, which I can then use in my soap recipe. Refrigerated or frozen, this Tallow can keep for months.
Mixing a Lye solution
Sodium Hydroxide Lye is very dangerous, and you must handle it with care. While working with lye, always wear skin and eye protection (long sleeve shirts, rubber gloves, goggles), and work in a well-ventilated area. Lye is very corrosive, and very reactive. Gradually add lye to water, gently stirring with a spatula until all the lye has dissolved. NEVER pour water into lye; it will immediately heat, explode and fountain caustic Lye all over the place, including on to you. Lye burns, and must be treated immediately. Flush with water, see a doctor immediately.
As the lye solution starts to convert the fatty acids in the oils into fatty acid salts (the process known as saponification), the oils will change colour and thicken. At the point that the oils and water have emulsified and saponification has started, the batter will be thick enough to support itself. You should be able to trace a figure by dripping batter from the blender onto the batter in the bowl. You are looking for a consistency between light cream and soft custard.