by Andrew Rumbold
Many people are somewhat familiar with biodiesel, a biodegradable replacement for petroleum diesel fuel that is made from any vegetable oil and can be used in virtually any diesel engine or home-heating furnace without modifying the equipment. One of biodiesel’s main benefits is that it can be made from the recycled fryer oil of local restaurants. Of course, any vegetable oil that is liquid at room temperature works, including unused, or virgin, oils; soy and canola are the most common types used. Additionally, biodiesel is cleaner burning than petroleum, the exhaust smells much better and has a higher flash point (making it less likely to combust). Yet, because most folks don’t know much about the process of making biodiesel, they have no idea that one of its byproducts can be just as useful.
Making biodiesel uses relatively simple, high-school-level chemistry. The process begins by filtering the oil to remove any leftover food. After filtering, the oil is heated to 140 degrees. Then, a mixture of alcohol and a caustic catalyst is mixed into the oil causing a reaction called transesterification. In simple terms, this means that the glycerin component of the oil molecule is removed. As the mixture sits overnight, the oil separates from the water while the glycerin settles to the bottom.
The founders of WashTyme started making biodiesel in 2008 and became curious about what to do with the leftover glycerin, which comprises about 25 percent of the volume of the initial vegetable oil used to make biodiesel. They discovered that this natural byproduct can be distilled into a fantastic soap and cleaner. The distillation process removes the residual alcohol from the previous process and sterilizes the glycerin at temperatures exceeding 260. Additional processing transforms the glycerin into a soap, which can be finished as either a liquid or a bar.
Recycling used cooking oil into both biodiesel fuel and a natural soap creates a multidimensional cycle of wins. By using biodiesel to heat homes and power vehicles, the dependence on toxic petroleum is reduced and new products are generated from what would have been waste. WashTyme’s biodiesel is purchased by local farms that grow produce for local restaurants, which in turn recycle their cooking oil with WashTyme.
Andrew Rumbold co-owns WashTyme with his wife Dorinda. For more information including retail outlets or to order, visit WashTyme.com, April 2013