By David Fisher
Pine tar is a thick, gooey pitch that has a smoky, pungent, woodsy, leathery smell. It is often locally available at farm supply stores as a treatment for horses' hooves and through mail order.
Now, pine tar has some controversy behind it. Creosote, a by product of burning certain materials, is known to be a carcinogen. Creosote is contained in coal tar and, depending on how the pine tar is made, also in pine tar.
Here is where the debate ensues.
Some soap makers say that as long as they use "creosote free" pine tar, there is no risk and they are safe to make and sell their soaps. Some say the amount of creosote in veterinary grade pine tar is so minimal that the risk is negligible - that creosote is found in many things we are commonly exposed to and that the creosote in pine tar is less than would come from cooking over a fire or barbeque.
The matter is further complicated when you consider that by stating that a soap can treat skin conditions, according to soap and cosmetic labeling regulations, you are creating not just a cosmetic, but a drug, which has far more stringent guidelines, testing regulations and laws than plain old soap does.
That's what led Kelly Bloom of Bloomworks Natural soaps to discontinue selling it, either as a finished soap or as a rebatch base. While she was manufacturing it as just a "natural soap," customers were buying it as a treatment. So Kelly stopped selling pine tar soap. She still makes it and loves it though, but just as a "get you clean" soap. The recipe and technique I use to make my pine tar soap was inspired by hers.
So…controversy aside, here's how to make pine tar soap. There are links at the bottom to various online discussions about the creosote/non-creosote issue. There are vendors of "non-creosote-containing" pine tar. As with all things you eat and put on your skin, you need to make your own decisions about ingredients.
Pine Tar Soap Recipe