Soap and Oil Tanning Solution Instructions

This will be another “resource” post. I’ve mentioned my tanning dressing in several posts now, and more or less explained it once, but I want to give clear instructions for the recipe here – for reference!


  1. Handmade natural, plain soap. No essential oils or other additives. I make my own from rendered lard or tallow, sometimes from pure olive oil.
  2. Purified water. If you have hard well water like me, don’t use it.
  3. Neatsfoot oil. Alternatively you could experiment with using other oils, like vegetable or olive, but I like to keep all my tanning fats animal-based in the spirit of using byproducts of meat production.

You’ll also need a large pot for boiling water, a large wooden or nonstick spoon, and a sturdy bucket.


  1. Put about a gallon of water on to boil.
  2. Meanwhile, grate a bar of soap as finely as you can. My bars are 4-5 ounces.
  3. When the water reaches a boil, add the soap and remove the pot from the heat right away
  4. Stir gently; try not to create much lather
  5. After all the soap has dissolved and the solution is cooled but still hot, pour it into the bucket
  6. Add about a cup of neatsfoot oil and stir
  7. You’ll need to stir until you have a homogenous solution
  8. Let cool, and you’re ready to tan with it

Water and oil don’t usually mix, but the soap acts as an emollient, allowing them to form a solution.

This tanning mixture is similar to a brain tanning mix – it has water, fats, proteins, and emollient.