In a post-apocalyptic story, do you know how much lard will be needed for one gallon of biodiesel? Does your character know what to do for windburn? What do grandmothers, lard, and a baby have to do with each other? Find out on this episode! 

Lard and tallow are types of rendered fat. Lard is made from pigs fat, and tallow is made from other fats like beef, or deer, but there are other kinds. While most people know that lard can be used for cooking, they do not know it has many other uses. Today we will cover ten alternative uses for lard and tallow. 

1) Making Soap 

The first known soaps were made of rendered fat and ash. This has been refined over the centuries but is still the most widely used method today. The simplest recipe has only three ingredients: lard or tallow, lye, and water. Making this soap can take between one and two hours for a batch. Batch is just a fancy word for however much you make. It can be a large or small batch. 

However, after the soap is made, it will have a three to six-week curing time, which is why soaps are made ahead of time. They can be used before the curing time is up, but they usually melt when they get wet. You would go through them very quickly. 

These soaps can be called tallow soap or lard soap, but if using lye, they would most commonly be called lye soap. 

2) Making candles 

Tallow and lard candles have been used since about 500 BC when Romans made dipped candles from animal fats. Tallow candles are still used today in many places around the world. 

They are some of the easiest candles to make. You simply take the rendered fat, and instead of pouring it into something to dry, you dip your wicks into it until you have the size candle you want. The tallow could also be poured into a mason jar in a modern story. 

There are some downsides to tallow candles. The dipped candles tend to melt faster than modern candles. There is also the risk that the flame could overheat the tallow, causing it to ignite and start a grease fire. This is more common inside a mason jar, but dipped candles also have the risk of this happening. 

3) Skincare 

Next is skincare. I know I was surprised when I first learned this too, but it is still true. 

Before the invention of modern cosmetics, lard was commonly used for skin care and moisturizing. 

Lard has been proven to

* Help hold moisture in

* It has many of the vitamins your skin needs

* Reduces pimples and helps acne

* Makes skin softer and smoother

* Helps with the redness of rosacea 

* Tones and firms the skin

* Reduce wrinkles and fine lines

Many of today’s common cosmetics have been made to mimic the uses of lard on the skin. An odd concept, but if it works, it works. 

I should point out lard is not the same as bacon grease, as the latter is made by cooking meat, and the former has as much meat taken off as possible before rendering, a fancy way of saying to turn it into a liquid to get rid of impurities and water content. 

4) Maintaining leather 

Lard is also used to help maintain leather. Lard will help keep the moisture in the leather so it stays flexible and doesn’t turn brittle and crack or break. This will also make the leather water-resistant. If beeswax is added to it, it can make the leather waterproof. This was used on virtually all leathers, including, but not limited to, leather pants, bags, pouches, knife sheaths, saddles, gloves, boots, tents, teepees, water bladders, and more. 

5) Preserving meat 

In history, lard has been used to store meat in what is known as a larder. This is where larder gets its name. Larders were originally a barrel that cooked meat was placed into. Lard would be poured in a layer on the bottom of a crock, barrel, or other storage container. Then a layer of cooked meat was added, then a layer of lard, then meat, then lard, until the container was about 3/4ths full. After it cooled and the lard set up, wax paper was placed over the top of the lard, although not everyone used the wax paper. 

I have also heard of adding wood ash or sawdust instead of the wax paper, but I do not recommend this. It would contaminate the lard and possibly cause bacteria to grow or cause the whole thing to turn rancid. 

After the wax paper, the lid is added, it will then be moved to a cool, dry place for storage, such as a basement or root cellar. Uncontaminated meat can be good for 3 to 4 months. After 3 to 4 months, the lard would no longer be good, causing the meat to go bad. 

6) Lubricant for wood and metal 

Lard and tallow have been used on wood and metal since at least the 1800s, if not longer. 

They are used as a wood conditioning for tools, furniture, wood doors, wooden hinges, and much more. This helps to keep them from drying out and turning brittle, along with keeping them a brighter color. 

When used on metals, they help prevent rust and can be used like a machine oil in a pinch to keep metal parts moving freely. Rust prevention was especially important in history. An example would be that hunters need knives and will carry them out in the woods. Many knives in history were made of carbon steel. These rust quickly, and having a rust prevention to use in a humid climate or if it was raining was very important to keep the knife from becoming rusted. 

7) Diaper cream 

Throughout history, and even some parents today, use lard and tallow as an easy go-to for treating diaper rash. I know many grandmothers who swear by this method. However, I know no doctors who recommend it. 

Just like with manufactured diaper cream, it is important to ensure the baby’s bottom has been cleaned and, very importantly, it is dry. Lard, tallow, and modern diaper rash cream all lock in moisture, which is what you want to keep out if the baby has a diaper rash. 

Sometimes elderly or other adults become incontinent. They can get diaper rash also. Incontinent means they lost the ability to control their bladder and bowel movements. Lard has historically been used to treat this also. Personally, I have noticed that the elderly run the risk of these turning into yeast infections, and lard and tallow will help keep moisture off the skin folds. According to Google, they have antifungal properties, which is what you need to fight a yeast infection. All that said, I have not personally done this, so if you have, or know someone who has, let me know in the YouTube comments. I would love to hear about it! 

8) Lip Balm 

Tallow and lard have been used for lip care and lip balms. Today you can go to Amazon and look up tallow lip balm to get hundreds of results. Modern ones are flavored and can have many additives, but historically they were used without anything added. Simply get a pea-sized amount, sometimes smaller, and use it like a lip balm. Many frontiersmen wrote about this as a way to deal with chapped lips and windburn. 

9) Itching remedy 

Historically lard has been used as a bug bite remedy for any itching assisted with it. Some recipes were as simple as placing lard directly on the bite, while others called for the area to be washed in salt water and wrapped in lard. It was used for mosquito bites, poison ivy, poison sumac, poison oak, chiggers, ticks, bed bugs, and more. 

This is one I have heard of in a historical context, but I have never seen anyone use it. I would think one of the reasons is that smearing lard on poison ivy without first removing the oils that cause the rash would spread the rash and add the oils to the lard, contaminating anything that had not been covered in poison ivy. I also do not know if it would take the itch away or just remind people not to scratch when they touch the slime on their leg or wherever it is. 

10) Biodiesel 

Lard and beef tallow can be used to make biodiesel. This sounds like a great alternative for a post-apocalyptic story. However, you might want to rethink that. You see, it takes 7.6 pounds of lard to make one gallon of biodiesel. One pound in a liquid form is roughly a quart. Without getting morbid, one pig yields 1 gallon of lard and one cow yields 7 gallons. Thinking about the time to raise the animal, the feed needed, the gas mileage your character will get out of a gallon of biodiesel, and the number of animals it would take to make one gas tank full, it doesn’t make too much sense to make biodiesel this way. 

However, if your post-apocalyptic character already had the animals and was planning to eat them anyways, biodiesel could make a great item to barter and trade with. It would also be a great supplemental income in the apocalypse. So would selling the animals to butcher, which would be a lot easier.

Bonus: You knew we could not get away from this topic without cooking. Lard has been used in cooking for as long as mankind has been around. It is commonly known as grease but is also used in soups and baking. It is still used today as a butter substitute by people who are lactose intolerant. 

Fun fact: Did you know that lard is still sold in most grocery stores today? You can find it in the baking section close to the shortenings and oils, at least here in Tornado Alley. 

What could possibly go wrong: 

Likely to go wrong: Your character didn’t dry the baby’s bottom fully, trapping water on them. This would cause the rash to get worse. 

Likely to go wrong: Your character didn’t let the soap have enough time to set up and used it. This will cause them to go through the soap much faster than they would have otherwise, and it doesn’t work as well. 

Possible to go wrong: Your character didn’t watch a tallow candle well, and the candle became so hot it turned into a grease fire. 

Possible to go wrong: Your character used lard on poison ivy and tried to use the lard for cooking later, giving themselves hives on the inside of their body. This could be painful to potentially deadly. Not likely one would scrape the lard off the body and put it back into a container, but I have known some people who think they are indestructible that have done similar things. 

Unlikely to go wrong: Your post-apocalyptic character has their livestock stolen or slaughtered for their lard, so your bad guy can make biodiesel with them. This could cause the character and their family to starve that winter. It could also be the beginning of a revenge story if their family died. 

Unlikely to go wrong: Your character or maybe their child used so much lard or tallow on the ax handle that when they tried to chop wood, the ax went flying out of their hand. This could be funny or dangerous, depending on where the ax goes. 

Improbable, but technically still in the realm of possibilities: Your character is allergic to lard or tallow, and after using it for skin care, they break out in hives. This is not something I have ever heard of, but technically possible. 

Improbable, but technically still in the realm of possibilities: Your character didn’t realize that the meat needed to be cooked before placing it in a larder, and everything turned rancid. 

Helpful links to learn more:

Uses for Lard:,to%20bolster%20its%20cleansing%20properties

Tallow Soap:

Tallow Candles:

Lard skin care:

Maintaining leather:

Many Uses For Tallow:

How to use a larder: