Soap Making Terminology

Here is a list of common terms used in soap making and a few other terms thrown in of general soaping interest!

CP - This stands for Cold Processing. This is a soap making method. This is the method I use. It involves combining your liquid/lye mixture with your oils and stirring until you reach trace (as defined below). Then pouring the mixture into molds. In a day or two you unmold, cut the bars and let the soap cure anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks depending on the recipe.

HP – This stands for Hot Processing. You follow the same procedures as CP but instead of pouring into your mold you keep cooking the soap. The soap is heated and cooked all the way through to the end. After you remove it from the mold you can cut the bars and pretty much use them right away.

Trace – This happens after you mix your liquid/lye and oils together and thickens. At first you will have thin creamy mixture. This is light trace and as you stir your mixture will become thicker much like pudding that is still soft. When you drizzle a bit of the soap over the top of the pot the drizzle lines will stay there for a moment before sinking into the pot. If you are doing CP soap, this would be the time to pour the soap into the molds.

Saponification – When you mix the liquid/lye and the oils together they go through a chemical process. When that chemical process is done what you are left with is soap!

FO – This is the abbreviation for Fragrance Oil.

EO – This is the abbreviation for Essential Oil

Flashpoint – all fragrance oils and essential oils have a flash point. this is the temperature that you will see your oils evaporate. If you add the oils when the soap is too hot the oils will hit the hot soap and immediately evaporate. So be sure to know what the flash point is of your oils. In general fragrance oils have fairly high flashpoints and you don’t need to be too concerned. Essential oils can have very low flash points and you do need to know this.

SAP Values – This is the abbreviation for saponification values. Every oil requires its own amount of lye to turn it into soap. If you make up your own soap recipe or want to check someone else’s recipe then you need to make sure that you are checking these values. Too much lye will burn and not using enough lye will mean you will not make soap. The nice thing is that today you can go online and find “Lye Calculators” to do the math for you! You can find a very good lye calculator at:

Superfat – this is a term to tell you how much fat is leftover in a recipe that is not saponified. I usually do about 5% superfatting and this is most typical. Having a little fat that has not saponified means your soap will have some nice moisturizing ability. If you leave to much leftover fat then your soap can end up being soft and can even go rancid.

Additives – these are things you add to enhance your soap. They are not needed for the soap making process. Such things like oatmeal or cornmeal for exfoliating, or flower buds or petals for smell and to look pretty. You add these to the soaps at a light trace.

Curing – this is the time your soap needs to just sit and complete it saponification. The cure time makes the soap milder and makes a harder bar that will last longer.

Detergents – these are made using petroleum products instead of vegetable oils. Most of the soaps you buy in the store are actually detergents. They have had all the natural glycerin removed from them as well which they then sell to you as expensive glycerin soap.

Glycerin – this is a by product of CP soap making. It is naturally occurring and is wonderful for the skin!


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