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It isn’t clear who first discovered soap, but historians have records of the Sumerians using a mixture of water and ashes about 5,000 years ago in modern-day Iraq. It’s thought that the ashes reacted with the grease on their clothing to make a basic form of soap.

All types of soap are salts made from a chemical reaction between fat and an alkali substance. Many throughout history have used animal fat, also called tallow, to make soap.

When animal fat is mixed with an alkali substance, it can produce sodium, magnesium, or potassium tallowate. All three types of salt are used as soaps.

Nowadays, most soaps you buy in stores are synthetically made. However, you can still find soaps made from animal fat, called tallow soaps. Some people prefer using traditionally made soaps since they often contain fewer chemicals and are often marketed as hypoallergenic.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at how tallow soap is made. We’ll also look at reasons why you may want to use it over a synthetically made soap.

Tallow soap was traditionally made from fat sourced from sheep or cows. Tallow is the marbled white fat you see on cuts of meats in a butchery. It’s solid at room temperature.

As we mentioned, soap is made from a chemical reaction between a fat and an alkali ingredient. Tallow soaps are made by mixing animal fat with sodium hydroxide, more commonly known as lye.

Lye is highly corrosive, but when it mixes with tallow it undergoes a reaction called saponification. After the reaction, a fatty acid salt is formed, known as sodium tallowate.

Some people think soap made from animal fat will have a strange smell or feel greasy compared with other soaps. However, if it’s made correctly, the final product should be odorless or have an extremely mild fatty smell.

The process of making soap is relatively simple. Many people make soap at home.

Sodium tallowate helps clean your skin and hair by helping water mix with dirt and oils so you more easily clean them.

Homemade soaps made from animal fat often have fewer ingredients than many store-bought soaps. Using an unscented and uncolored sodium tallowate soap may help you avoid ingredients that can potentially cause skin irritation.

Here are some other reasons why you may want to use a tallow soap:

  • Hypoallergenic. Many tallow soaps are marketed as hypoallergenic. Tallow soap that doesn’t contain scents or coloring is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction.
  • Foam. Many people like using sodium tallowate soap because it produces a foamy lather when mixed with water.
  • Affordable. Soap made from animal fat is hard, so it breaks down slowly and lasts longer than some other types of soap.
  • Sustainability. Tallow soaps are often handmade, or locally made in small batches. Buying a handmade soap has the potential to reduce chemical runoff and pollution caused by soap factories.

Tallow is on the Food and Drug Administration’s list of Generally Recognized as Safe products. The advocacy group Cosmetic Ingredient Review lists tallow as safe for use in cosmetics. It hasn’t been linked to any specific health issues.

Animal fat–based soaps generally make good hypoallergenic alternatives to other types of soap. Although many tallow soaps are marketed as allergy-free, it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to other ingredients in the soap.

Buying an unscented soap that doesn’t have any added chemicals gives you the smallest chance of having a reaction.

Healthy skin has a pH balance of 5.4 to 5.9. Most soaps made from natural fats, such as tallow, have a pH of 9 to 10. It’s thought that consistent use of any type of soap has the potential to disrupt your skin’s natural pH balance.

Disrupting your skin’s pH balance may disrupt your skin’s natural production of oil and lead to dryness. If you’re prone to dry skin, you might want to search for a soap specifically meant for dry skin.

You can find tallow soap at many grocery stores, drugstores, organic specialty stores, and other retailers that sell soaps.

Buy tallow soap online.

People have been using tallow soap for thousands of years to clean skin and clothing. People with sensitive skin may find they have fewer allergic reactions when they use tallow soap compared with soap filled with chemicals.

If you prefer to use a type of soap that’s vegan-friendly, consider these natural and animal-free soaps: