Common Terminologies Used in Soap Making – Lesson Two

Soap_Making TerminologiesBefore you try out soap making for the first time, it is essential to learn about the jargon of soap making first. This will make it easier for you understanding what you will be doing during the process, and it will also help you to better understand the logic behind the instructions. In this piece, some of the most common soap making terminologies will be discussed.

Terminologies Used in Soap Making

Making your own soap at home can be really fun and exciting especially when you are very particular with details. When you finally decide to try it for yourself, you will probably encounter words or phrases that you are not familiar with. Here are the most common terms that you will encounter when you read soap making recipes and instructions:


Additives are optional ingredients. They are not really mandatory in the whole soap making process but they may be added to enhance the soap. Ingredients such as oatmeal may be added for its exfoliating properties, while flower petals may be added for fragrance. These should be added to your soap recipe at a light trace.


CP stands for Cold Processing, a soap making method.


Curing is the time needed for your soap to just sit in the open for the completion of its saponification process. This allows excess water and moisture to evaporate, creating a harder bar that is milder on the skin and produces better lather.


This is the breaking down or deterioration of a substance chemically.

DOS (dreaded orange spots)


This means that you will have to reduce the amount of a particular ingredient. Most of the time, lye is discounted to make sure that it will all be used up. Discounting certain ingredients also allows the addition of excess oils and other substances (additives). Usually, discounts are shown by percentage.


EO stands for Essential Oils. These are usually extracted from plants through distillation or chemical solvents. These oils may be added to the soap recipe to create scented soaps.


Essential oils and fragrance oils have a flashpoint, or the temperature in which they begin to evaporate. Do not add oils when the temperature of the soap is higher than the oils flashpoints as it will only make the oils evaporate from the soap immediately. Generally, fragrance oils have higher flashpoints compared to essential oils.

Fixed Oils

These oils can withstand high temperatures without evaporating. Some commonly used fixed oils include palm oil, olive oil, and coconut oil.


FO stands for Fragrance Oils, and they are also known as aromatic oils. These come from the combination of synthetic aromatic chemicals and carrier oils like mineral oils or vegetable oils. Like essential oils, these are added to soap recipes to produce scented soaps.

Gel Phase

Gel phase is a phase that occurs in the early stages of the saponification process. In this stage, the soap becomes shiny and translucent, and this usually happens within the next few hours of pouring the soap batter into molds. Not all soap batters undergo this phase.


HP stands for Hot Processing, another soap making method.

SAP Values

SAP value is short for Saponification Value, and it is also known as saponification number or SAP number. This is basically the amount of lye or potassium hydroxide that is needed to saponify one gram of a particular fat. Making your own soap means that you need to know the SAP values of the oils that you are planning to use to balance the amounts of oil and lye (or potassium hydroxide). Of course, the SAP values of oils will be different depending on the hydroxide that you will use, so make sure you specify if you need it for a solid (lye) or liquid soap (potassium hydroxide).


Saponification is a chemical process that occurs when an alkaline base such as lye (sodium hydroxide) or potassium hydroxide reacts with oils and fatty acids to produce soap.


Seizing is an indication that something went wrong during the soap making process. This happens when the soap consistency starts out as a smooth liquid and then becomes very thick and nearly solid like cookie dough. It can be because of the addition of fragrance oils, temperature or ingredient issues, or the problem could be the batter itself.

Shelf life

This is the length of time that a commodity may be stored without becoming unfit for use, consumption, or sale. In other words, it might refer to whether a commodity should no longer be on a pantry shelf (unfit for use), or just no longer on a supermarket shelf (unfit for sale, but not yet unfit for use).


In order to use up all the lye, sometimes you will need to add more oils to the soap. This is what is known as superfatting, and it has two purposes. First, it allows you to have a margin of error in the amount of lye you put in your soap, making sure that all the lye will be saponified. This reduces the dangers of lye burning you. Second, this produces soap that is moisture-rich, as the extra oils serve as skin moisturizers. It is worth noting that many soap recipes would suggest superfatting when a lye discount of 3% to 8% has been applied. Be sure that you don’t put too much oil as it can create a rather unpleasant and greasy soap.


The trace is the beginning stage of saponification. This is the stage when the chemical reactions between lye and oils have started, and they can no longer be separated. The soap batter starts out as thin and creamy, which later on becomes thicker as you stir the mixture. You will know that your soap batter is at this stage when you drip a little liquid soap onto the mixture, and the drizzle lines will stay for a while before it fully melts.

Volcano Effect

Volcano effect happens when you pour water to lye as you make lye-water solutions. This is because as water is added to lye, pressure tends to build in the bottom lye layers until it ruptures the upper lye layers, causing the solution to spray up like a volcano. To avoid this, NEVER add water to lye; add lye to water instead.

Next Read 8 Types Of Soap You Can Make From Home – Lesson Three

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