Help with soap recipe for Malawi villagers!

Soapmaking Forum - Soap & Candle Forums

Help Support Soapmaking Forum - Soap & Candle Forums:

Landi Simone

New Member
Joined
Mar 7, 2019
Messages
3
Reaction score
3
Location
NJ
I have an oddball request. Background: I'm a commercial beekeeper (Gooserock Farm in NJ) and have been making soap for some 20+ years, using beeswax. I sell it as a value-added product. Several good friends of mine have been going on humanitarian missions to Malawi, Africa, to help subsistence villagers improve their beekeeping skills so they can get income from the sale of honey and other hive products. On the last visit they asked me to give them a soap recipe to try, but it had to be with materials available to the villagers - no e.o.'s or fancy fixed oils. I did that, using beef tallow, beeswax, and coconut oil. Tested it, too. Turns out they didn't have those things and I got a message from Malawi asking for a recipe with goat fat only. Did a quick revision and the team gave that a shot. (I'd taught one member how to make soap so he knew the basics.)

The soap they came back with was pretty awful. Smelled horrible. They'd rendered the fat from internal organs, and only filtered it once. No beeswax. No coconut oil. Very, very hard and brittle. Decent lather, though. They used purchased lye crystals, which I'm told won't fly in the long-run. I asked about vegetable oil. That's a no-go. If the villagers have vegetable oil, they will use it in cooking, not soap. These people are constantly on the verge of starvation and food comes first.

I will be joining the team next year, probably in March. I need to come up with a decent soap using goat fat. Thoughts on fragrancing without fragrance oils or e.o.'s? Figured we must double filter the fat. Need to know how to make lye water from wood ashes and test it so I can calculate correct proportions. Any suggestions or thoughts at all would be helpful. Will have a better handle on what they have that we might use when I get there. The guys might not recognize the potential use of something that grows nearby or even gets thrown away (almost nothing!) Developing a good soap will not only help the villagers themselves with hygiene but might be something they can sell.
 

TennisGirl

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 28, 2021
Messages
62
Reaction score
103
Location
USofA
Not sure how you can have “used” lye crystals, but I’m not the person to explain making lye from wood ash so I’ll have to pass on that issue, sorry.

Regarding the fats, good call to keep rendering the fat till it doesn’t smell. Can they add a pinch of salt to the rendering water to help with that? I would say baking soda but am guessing they don’t have that

For now I’d recommend leaving out the beeswax or at least lowering it. Tallow is hard enough on its own so the added beeswax is making the soap so brittle. But they can use a small amount of honey to increase lather.

Did they make HP or CP? HP will often make the soap more brittle or crumbly bc it dries out so much. If they haven’t already tried CP that could help. CP or HP they could also try increasing the water amount so the soap may not get brittle as fast.

Good luck and thank you for doing this. Whatever you do for one of the least of these….
 
Joined
Aug 15, 2015
Messages
537
Reaction score
346
Location
NY
I have an oddball request. Background: I'm a commercial beekeeper (Gooserock Farm in NJ) and have been making soap for some 20+ years, using beeswax. I sell it as a value-added product. Several good friends of mine have been going on humanitarian missions to Malawi, Africa, to help subsistence villagers improve their beekeeping skills so they can get income from the sale of honey and other hive products. On the last visit they asked me to give them a soap recipe to try, but it had to be with materials available to the villagers - no e.o.'s or fancy fixed oils. I did that, using beef tallow, beeswax, and coconut oil. Tested it, too. Turns out they didn't have those things and I got a message from Malawi asking for a recipe with goat fat only. Did a quick revision and the team gave that a shot. (I'd taught one member how to make soap so he knew the basics.)

The soap they came back with was pretty awful. Smelled horrible. They'd rendered the fat from internal organs, and only filtered it once. No beeswax. No coconut oil. Very, very hard and brittle. Decent lather, though. They used purchased lye crystals, which I'm told won't fly in the long-run. I asked about vegetable oil. That's a no-go. If the villagers have vegetable oil, they will use it in cooking, not soap. These people are constantly on the verge of starvation and food comes first.

I will be joining the team next year, probably in March. I need to come up with a decent soap using goat fat. Thoughts on fragrancing without fragrance oils or e.o.'s? Figured we must double filter the fat. Need to know how to make lye water from wood ashes and test it so I can calculate correct proportions. Any suggestions or thoughts at all would be helpful. Will have a better handle on what they have that we might use when I get there. The guys might not recognize the potential use of something that grows nearby or even gets thrown away (almost nothing!) Developing a good soap will not only help the villagers themselves with hygiene but might be something they can sell.
Maybe developing a hydrosol to use as the water, depending on the plant material, they might be able to get EO's out of it as well, and a primative still is not that hard to make. Cold pressing citrus fruits might get you a good scent if they have anything like that available. Making Baobob oil, Argan oil, Marula oil and Shea is probably an easier source for them to gain income.
 
Joined
Jan 14, 2021
Messages
2,572
Reaction score
6,896
Location
Germany
Great commitment, @Landi Simone & your humanitarian friends! I hope so much that this action brings perspective and self-confidence to the villagers. I like the idea to be self-sufficient about the lye!
Need to know how to make lye water from wood ashes and test it
Lengthy post, from a first-world luxury perspective, but it contains the necessary steps to use wood ash for soapmaking (plus some superfluous, like caustification with slaked lime).
The gist: It's not overly difficult to gather lye from wood ash, by simple extraction (preferentially with soft/rain water), early extracts are strong enough to be usable as-is for soapmaking, later extracts must be boiled down first (but when ash isn't scarce, you might be a bit wasteful with it, before spending fuel on boiling away precious water). An easy way to tell the lye strength (but with caveats) is density (a hydrometer, e. g. for beer-/winemaking is a few bucks, and more or less foolproof once calibrated with a few test batches).

BUT since Malawi is land-locked (far from the sea), wood ash will give mostly potassium lye (KOH), so it might become difficult to obtain bar soap that hardens up satisfactorily, and stays so when in use/prolonged contact with water. Beeswax and/or table salt might be somewhat helpful, but that must be tested beforehand.
I don't know if liquid/cream soap would be an option – with only KOH and goat tallow at hand, it's maybe a more promising option than attempting at mediocre bar soap.

I wish you all the best, and keep us updated!
 
Joined
Apr 5, 2017
Messages
284
Reaction score
732
Location
Massachusetts
Maybe developing a hydrosol to use as the water, depending on the plant material, they might be able to get EO's out of it as well, and a primative still is not that hard to make. Cold pressing citrus fruits might get you a good scent if they have anything like that available. Making Baobob oil, Argan oil, Marula oil and Shea is probably an easier source for them to gain income.
Wikipedia listed a type of jasmine native to the area. The flowers are collected for medicinal use, so villagers may be familiar with it.

There may be native plants that produce a wax that could be added to soap, like the myrtle wax (bayberry) in the Franklin family’s Crown soap.
 

Latest posts

Top