Simple Old Fashioned Hard White Soap Recipes

Just Like Granny Used to Make

multiple bars of simple old fashioned hard white soap
Simple hard white soap. Getty Images

A recent student in a soap making class I taught asked me how to make her soap whiter. She wanted a simple hard white bar of soap - just like her grandmother had made. No frills - just good old fashioned homemade soap.

I had given the students a basic recipe like my Grocery Store Soap Recipe with an equal ratio of Olive, Palm and Coconut oil, and a little Castor thrown in for extra lather. The recipe was:

  • 35% Olive Oil
  • 30% Palm Oil
  • 30% Coconut Oil
  • 5% Castor Oil

It came out a nice light beige color. Not nearly as beige as with Goat's Milk Soap, but not as white as she wanted. I made sure that her fragrance oil wasn't the culprit. It wasn't. She was using a really nice, clear, lavender-based fragrance oil. So since that wasn't the culprit, I told her how to get her soap whiter.

There are two basic ways to make your soap whiter:

  1. Add some Titanium Dioxide (TD). If you're using Water-based Titanium Dioxide, you add it to your lye-water mixture. If you're using Oil-based Titanium Dioxide, then you can add it to your melted oils at any time up to trace. With either version of TD, I usually add about 1 tsp. per pound of oils. (ie. If your recipe has 32 oz. of oils in it, use 2 tsp. of TD). Once you get the feel for how TD works in your soap, you can use it to lighten the entire batch, or just part of a batch - incorporating it into swirls with other colors.

    OR, to get great hard white soap, you can also:

  1. Adjust your recipe with "whiter" oils

Think "harder oils" and you'll generally get whiter soap. Generally, that is, because most of the "harder" oils will give you a whiter soap as well.

  • Beef Tallow
  • Lard
  • Coconut
  • Palm Kernel

will all give you nice hard white soap.

A little bit of Castor in the recipe will also help give you a nice hard white bar, as will really light-colored Olive Oil.

(Note: usually only the "refined grade A" or extra virgin is light enough color to not impart any of the green to the soap.)

So, here are a few simple recipes using these oils that should give you a nice hard white bar of soap with or without the Titanium Dioxide. (Note: Yes, these all use Beef Tallow. You can order it commercially from soapmaking oil suppliers like Columbus Foods, or it's really easy to render tallow for soap making yourself.)

Basic White Soap

  • 35% Beef Tallow
  • 30% Coconut
  • 30% Lard
  • 5% Castor Oil

Basic White Soap with Shea

A little-refined shea butter will give you some extra moisturizing without imparting much color at all.

  • 30% Beef Tallow
  • 30% Coconut
  • 30% Lard
  • 5% Shea Butter
  • 5% Castor

Basic White Soap with Olive Oil

If you've got some really light-colored refined Olive Oil, you can try that too. It's often worth the slight beige tint to get the extra moisturizing qualities of Olive.

  • 25% Beef Tallow
  • 25% Lard
  • 25% Coconut
  • 20% Olive
  • 5% Castor

So for a nice, hard, white bar of soap, just like Granny used to make, use one of these combinations of oils, or create your own soap recipe using combinations of these oils. If you want to use your tried and true recipe, but want it whiter, add some Titanium Dioxide to the batch.

Or...better yet...use one of these recipes AND add some TD and folks might just think you've slipped a bar of Ivory (Which is really not very Ivory colored, is it?) into the bath! (Heaven Forbid!)