meat grease: you can't compost it. - so make soap!

sweetannie4u(midOK_z6b/7a)March 27, 2009

If you are like me, you like to recycle, and one thing I can do is make my own COMPOST with kitchen garbage. But you cannot put meat grease in your compost, so what can you do with it?

This is for those who may be interested in rediscovering some "old ways" to recycle kitchen garbage.

MAKE LAUNDRY SOAP out of that old meat grease!

This is my 1976 recipe for Laundry Soap #1

(Without purchasing any of those expensive oils)

NOTE: Do not be alarmed about using LYE in this recipe. ALL real Soap contains lye. It is rendered inert by the process and curing time. (Many so-called soaps on the market are actually detergents. Detergents are not soap. They are not bio-degradable and they DO POLLUTE despite what their labels may say.)

This soap is gentle on your hands and easy on your finest linens and clothing. It does not make a lot of foamy suds, polluting our water ways, but it cleans. I use it instead of products like SHOUT. It even removes bubble gum and melted crayons and ink pen leaks in white dress shirts.

Because the ingredients are rendered inert, they are biodegradable and will return safely to the earth.

(10 minutes mixing time)

FOLLOW these directions EXACTLY - no shortcuts.

* FUMES Warning:

Do this project OUTSIDE ONLY on a sturdy table on a sunny, still day. Wear rubber gloves and protective goggles.

Old-time LAUNDRY & All-Purpose SOAP #1

FIRST - Measure and assemble all ingredients, materials and tools.


5 lbs grease (melted and strained = 11 cups)

1/2 cup ammonia (cleaning ammonia)

1/2 cup Powdered Borax

1 cp Cold Water

1 can pure Red Devil Lye (not the kind with metal bits)

1 cp. Kerosene

1 quart of COLD water

(2) Wooden spoons for stirring and mixing.

(1) big Saucepan for melting grease.

** Do wear protective eye goggles and rubber gloves in case of splashes.

***Do not use aluminum or other metal pans - use a deep plastic dish pan/tub or white enamel coated pans ***


With rubber gloves and protective eyewear on you:

1. In a deep saucepan:

Melt grease and strain out meat bits and other particles.

Add ammonia and kerosene. Stir together with a wooden spoon.

2. Dissolve Borax in (1) cp of cold water and slowly stir into Lye mixture.

  1. In a plastic dish tub, slowly dissolve the can of lye in 1 quart of cold water stirring constantly with the wooden spoon until thoroughly mixed. (Caution: It will get hot)

4. Stir Grease/ammonia/kerosene Mixture slowly into the lye mixture in the plastic tub, stirring until it thickens. This mixture will be hot because of the lye action, but it will cool.

After it has cooled and set up solid, put it somewhere to CURE for at least 2 weeks - 4 weeks is better. I put mine in a large plastic garbage bag after it cools. Keep it out of reach of animals and children until it completely cures. (It will kill mice during this curing time...I discovered). When totally cured, your soap will be light and float in water, just like Ivory Soap. It will be a light cream or tan color.

After it has AGED, it can be cut into squares or grated for laundry soap. It is VERY gentle on your skin and leaves your skin soft. I have always taken it on our camping/fishing trips. Put it inside a knee high nylon hose or in one footed leg of an old pr. of pantyhose and tie a knot. It can be used inside the sock and hung up to dry between uses. It will not pollute lakes or rivers or other water supplies. It is great outside to wash hands after gardening. I hang the socked soap on my water faucet, so it is handy.

To make scented HAND SOAP:

After you have added all the ingredients together and are stirring it to thicken, when the Lye-soap Mixture has cooled and begins to thicken, you can add things like herbs, i.e., chammomile, rosemary, sage, etc., or other ingredients like oatmeal to create varieties of hand soap. Essential oils work too, i.e. Lavender, Rose, Rosemary, &etc. Bits of the fresh herb flowers or leaves can be added, too if you like.

I have made it with and without these additives and like it just as much. In fact, I like the clean, fresh fragrance of Old-time Lye Soap.

PLEASE use all my precautions and do not allow children to help.


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Nell Jean

My first thoughts were about an old recording from 1952 called "It's In the Book" with a song at the end called "Grandma's Lye Soap."

I can't embed the video here, so I put it on a blog I have for random things like this.


Here is a link that might be useful: Grandma's Lye Soap

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 8:49PM
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thinman(Z5 MI)

Wow, Annie, that's kind of an unusual soap recipe there. I've seen a few soap recipes, but I don't think I've ever seen ammonia or kerosene used before. I know you're not a chemist or anything, but do you have any idea why these two things are added? The borax is surprising too.

Have you found it hard to buy lye, thanks to the meth lab idiots?


    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 5:09PM
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The Chemistry of Annie's Lye Soap:

The Lye reacts to the grease or fat molecules to become soap. (molecular reaction of the Lye to the positive and negative charges on each end of the Fat Molecules).
The borax is added as a softening agent/a wetting agent or a 'surfactant'. (Makes your clothes and skin softer and helps rinse cleaner).
The ammonia is a cleaning agent.(suds)
The kerosene...I think this is for cutting grease. (you do not have to add this to the recipe, but it is a great booster)

How's that?

Sometimes finding Lye for my soap recipe can be tricky, but I get it at my friendly neighborhood grocer's! Good old Red Devil's Lye. Now finding the pure stuff, without metal bits, is the tricky part these days as it is used as a drain cleaner.

Not a LYE: If I made my own lye, this recipe would be the same as Grandma's Old Lye Soap of bye gone days.
You can make your own Lye out of wood ashes. It is a long process, done outside in a big kettle over an open fire. If I had to, I could make it. I just hope that day never comes, but I could...or you could. :)


    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 5:53PM
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P.S. - You MUST follow the recipe exactly.

1. Too much lye will not have enough fat to latch on to and will burn the fire out of you. It will never completely become inert. (Lye or some other Alkali in soap is what causes soap to burn our eyes. Your skin has enough oils on it to protect us from the ph reaction from the lye, but your eyes don't.)

2. Too much fat, and the soap with not clean. It will just be greasy.

So, if you try this recipe, please follow the recipe amounts and steps EXACTLY! It is safe if you do.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 6:04PM
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Nell Jean

I have the kettle, and the wood ashes, but not 5 cups of meat grease. If it ever comes to where I have to make my own soap, I guess I'll have to boil down a nice greasy opossum, which I can catch in my handy armadillo trap.

It's a good idea these days to have contingency plans, just in case.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 9:10PM
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You can substitute a can of LARD, sold in the same section as Crisco shortening. Lard is just rendered animal fat. It makes lovely white soap. Or you can shoot a wild boar and render your own animal fat. :)


    Bookmark   March 29, 2009 at 2:40AM
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Annie, I have been making soap for a year or so. I love doing it and have found that it is really better for your winter white, itchy skin with it.

Your recipe is exactly like Mom's old laundry soap recipe except for the kerosene.

I save all grease for soap making and had the meat processor save the beef fat and pork fat when we butchered last. I rendered both for soap making.

Now that I have the cow, I am making some milk soap. Also buy the canned Goat's milk for a Milk and honey recipe I do.

I love doing everything I can from scratch and recycling everything possible...makes me feel good. I should have been born in pioneer times.

Adding coconut oil to the soap will increase the bubbles and you can buy it in the stores right above the lard.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2009 at 6:54AM
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ajpa(z6 se PA)

So that's how it's made.

Is the soap smelly if the grease is smelly? Like bacon grease?

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 11:15AM
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It smells like Lye Soap, but not meat greases.
I save all of the following greases and oils:

Bacon Grease
Hamburger drippings from my grill pan
Ground Beef grease
Shortening and/or oils used for frying meats.
Oils used for any kind of fast frying (donuts, french fries, etc).
Meat greases rendered from roasts (beef, pork, etc)
and so forth.

I don't fry very often, but I still save the oils and grease. It adds up faster than you might think!
NEVER dump grease and oils down drains. Not only does this stop up sewer lines and septic systems, but it is a major cost to the public in city sewage systems repairs and maintenance and sewage processing plants. It pollutes the land and water systems...kills fish and other wildlife, creates algae in water ways, and more. Awful stuff.

The chemical action in the soap making process removes the smelly odors of meat greases. Make sure you strain it well to remove all the bits and pieces. I just use my kitchen sieve.

The soap will not LOOK like commercial stuff. Those are mostly detergents. This soap is wonderful. Leaves your skin soft. Gentle on clothes. The two commercial soaps that I know that are REAL SOAP are Castile and Ivory (or Ivory used to be real soap anyway).

For JUST hand soap, you can add a little glycerin (found at all RX drug store counters), and omit the Kerosene.

OPT. - Kerosene is not necessary for the recipe to work, but it makes the laundry soap better. Boosts the cleaning power.

As mentioned above, you can add coconut oil (and/or other fancy oils) to make it more sudsy and feel softer.
But, the purpose of this topic is HOW TO USE old MEAT GREASE that you should not put in your compost.

There are all kinds of soap recipes on the internet. I've tried a few. The thing I object to in these NEW recipes is the cost and waste. Those fancy oils are EXPENSIVE. Cheaper to buy commercial soap and be done with it.

Hope this explains my purpose in posting this topic:

***Recycling old meat grease rather than throwing it into the garbage that will go into land fills***

We can greatly reduce the amount of trash and garbage that goes into land fills (millions of tons of garbage dumped on the land and in the ocean )just in America) just by practicing the three "R's" of waste management for good conservation - REDUCE -> REUSE -> RECYCLE ->

Don't waste food! Use those leftovers and compost your kitchen garbage. Many household items that most Americans tend to just toss in the garbage daily can be REDUCED, REUSED, and RECYCLED, including clothing, buttons, zippers, snaps, hook and eyes, and other items just in our households alone. Good conservation practices not only saves the Earth by preventing pollution and conserves our natural resources, but it will save each of us MONEY, not only collectively as a society, but in each household!

There is an old Mormon saying: "A woman can throw it out the window with a teaspoon faster than a man can pitch it in the front door with a shovel." - Brigham Young, 1860.

This is so true.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 1:02PM
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While I've only made soap once I wonder about these directions.

"2. Dissolve Borax in (1) cp of cold water and slowly stir into Lye mixture.
3. In a plastic dish tub, slowly dissolve the can of lye in 1 quart of cold water stirring constantly with the wooden spoon until thoroughly mixed. (Caution: It will get hot)"

I think one should first dissolve the lye in the quart of water then add the borax water. Otherwise there will be a very large explosion of lye if one adds one cup of borax water to the dry lye. I think item 3 should be 2 and vice versa. Lye is very dangerous unless handled properly.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 4:44PM
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My bad! You are so right! I guess I got them in the wrong order. I missed that typing mistake. OMG!
Thank you so much!!!

PLEASE everyone!!!.
Please take note to FIRST Dissolve the lye into the one (1)quart of water in the plastic tub, and THEN dissolve the borax in a separate cup of water and slowly stir that mixture into the lye mixture.

Thank you so much for that heads up.


    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 11:42PM
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gonativegal(zone 5a)


Thanks for posting this and answering all the hard questions - something I might try later this summer. I just need enough grease, now - lol. We don't eat too many fried foods.

I already have been making my own laundry soap this last winter (so have the borax already) I guess why not try making soap too!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 11:48PM
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Sorry; I can't get past the spreading-bacon-grease-on-my-skin-to-(clean?!)-it thing, and all the stuff-in-jars-that-usually-have-skull-and-crossbones-on-them that it takes to actually make this soap. Wow.

But the milk soaps intrigue me...

And one would guess that there's no smoking allowed while you're showering with this stuff.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 1:19PM
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