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Soap Making Terms and Acronyms | Start Soap Making Free songs
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Soap Making Terms and Acronyms

Soap Making Terms and Acronyms

This is a list of common soap making terms and acronyms to help other soapers on their path to soap making addiction! The glossary contains a list of terms related to soap and to the process of making soap.

CP (cold process)

CP or cold process soap making is making soap from scratch using sodium hydroxide, oils, and liquid


Curing soap is done by setting soap out in an area where the air can circulate around the bar so moisture evaporation can occur and the bar becomes more gentle on the skin.  This is done right after cutting by setting the soap on a stainless steel, wooden or plastic rack.  You can leave your soap on a solid shelf, but it is recommended you rotate the soap on occasion so the bottom gets some air too.  Recommended cure time for cold process soap making is 6 weeks.  Curing will not only make for a harder bar, but it will make the soap gentler and give it a better lather.


A reduction in the amount of an ingredient. To be honest I don’t like the term “discount”.  It’s confusing!  How I most often discount is on my water or other liquid used.  This makes for a harder bar from the start as there is less liquid that needs to evaporate.  For instance, if your recipe calls for 12 oz of water and 4 oz of lye, you could reduce the water to say 9-10 oz.  (the lowest you should ever reduce your liquids to is EQUAL to the lye amount.  Any less than that and your lye may not dissolve! – this BTW is called a 50% lye solution)

DOS (Dreaded Orange Spots)

DOS appears as spots of orange or brown on soap.  This is may be a sign of rancidity.  DOS oftentimes remains a mystery as to why it has occurred.  Soaps made with high amounts of certain oils tend to get DOS more often than others.  These are usually liquid oils like sunflower, vegetable, and canola oils.  DOS may also occur if your soap has been superfatted too much.


EO stands for a essential oil.  Essential oils can be used to fragrance your soap and other bath and body products as well as candles.  Essential oils are either steam or chemically distilled from plants and considered the most natural fragrance option.  Some essential oils hold up better than others through saponification.  EO usage rates vary from .2 to 1 full oz PPO.


FO stands for fragrance oil.  Fragrance oils can be used to fragrance soaps and other bath and body products as well as candles.  They are synthetic, but still leave your soap far more natural than most store bought soap as the FO component in your recipe is usually less than .5 percent.  Most FO’s can be used at .7 oz PPO.  All fragrance oils must be bath and body safe when used in soap or other bath and body products.

HP (Hot Process)

Hot process soap making is essentially cooking cold process soap to speed saponfication.  This is usually done in a crockpot (CPHP) or in the oven (OHP).  HP soap usually is more rustic in appearance.  The bars can be used as soon as they are cooled, but like all soaps, benefit from a good long cure.  Below is a picture of a HP soap I made using Beer (yep, you can soap with that too!)


Soap gels during saponification.  If it is your first time, you may look at your soap in the mold and be very worried if you catch it in gel.  It may turn clear or look like vaseline and the mold will be hot to the touch.  This is a normal part of saponification, but not all soaps gel.  You will find milk soaps generally gel no matter what you do.   Others you may have to force to gel by covering and insulating.  Soap that does not gel will still be lovely though softer when you go to cut it – it will harden up later though!

Lye (Sodium Hydroxide, NaOH, Caustic Soda)

Lye is the base, or alkaline, used in making hard soaps (as opposed to liquid soaps, which use potassium hydroxide.) Lye is extremely caustic and should be handled with care.   Please use gloves and eye protection when handling lye and during soap making.  Lye will eat through wood and metal besides stainless steel so use plastic, stainless, silicone, or ceramic coated pots and tools when making soap.   Glass is not recommended for making soap batter or mixing lye solution in.  The heat causes weakness in the glass over time and one day the glass may completely explode and shatter all over the place (ask me how I know…I was lucky there was nothing in the bowl when it shattered!)


Movers are things that when added to soap speed up trace.  some are supermovers (or seizers) but most are just things that make it so you have to work quickly.  Most superheaters (milks, beer, honey, sugar) can be movers if not soaped at RT or if used in too high a percentage.  All other movers are Fragrance oils or essential oils.  You will find most floral and “Green” fragrance oils to be movers.

Potash (Potassium Hydroxide, KOH, Caustic Potash)

Potassium Hydroxide is the base, or alkaline, used in making liquid soaps. It replaces the lye used in hard soaps. The different chemical structure of potassium hydroxide, compared to lye, allows liquid soaps to stay liquid.  Please use the same safety precautions for working with lye when working with KOH.


PPO stands for Per Pound of Oils.  This acronym is most commonly used when referring to usage rates for fragrance and essential oils.  When calculating most additives (except colorants) you do so by figuring how many ounces PPO.  So for instance, most fragrance oils are used at .7 oz PPO.


Rancidity can occur over time in soaps that have been superfatted too much, contain food or other organic items that do not saponify.   It can appear as DOS or mold.  It is often accompanied by a foul odor. I have NOT found that properly made milk soaps go rancid.  Below is a picture of a bar of mine that is 7 years old.  It is a 100% milk soap (scented with a darkening FO so that’s why it is dark).  Still smells and feels lovely!


The process of melting down existing soap to create new soap. The term “rebatching” is often used when a soap-maker creates a soap that doesn’t quite work. Rather than throw the soap away, it can be melted down and “fixed” (for example, if the soap has lye remaining in it – it is not usable. But, by melting the soap down, you can add additional oils to correct the lye imbalance, and salvage the soap.)


Ricing is when a fragrance oil makes little rice looking bits in your soap.  sometimes you can stick blend the heck out of it and it will still look ok, other times not.  This generally only affects the look of the soap however.  Most FO’s that rice are also movers.


RT stands for Room Temp

RTCP  (Room Temperature Cold Process)

RTCP is the same as making cold process soap, but all the ingredients are brought to room temperature before combining.  Most soapers use this method when making cold process soap.


The chemical process by which an alkaline base (lye, potassium hydroxide) reacts with fatty acids to produce soap.

Saponification Value

These sometimes call Saponification Number, Sap Number or Sap Value. The number of milligrams of lye or potassium hydroxide required to completely saponify one gram of a specific fat. Use this calculator to figure this out and to calculate my recipes.   NOTE: this number is DIFFERENT for lye (solid soap) and potassium hydroxide (liquid soap). You should always be clear, when looking up a saponification value online, which hydroxide is referred to!

Saponification Calculator

A tool used for calculating how much lye, oils and liquid are required to make a specific soap recipe.  No matter what, even if you found someone else’s tried and true recipe online, always run it through a reputable lye calculator to be safe – humans make errors!!!   As stated above use this tool to calculate your recipes


When soap seizes, it goes very quickly from a smooth, liquid consistency to an incredibly thick, nearly solid (like ultra thick mashed potatoes) state. It can be caused by fragrance oils that were added, issues with the temperatures of the soap or ingredients, or other problems with the batch of soap.  If a batch is in a seize you are pretty much out of luck in getting it liquid again.  Just glop it in the mold and smoosh, pound, whatever you have to do to get it all in there.  It will still be “SOAP” most likely, but probably ugly soap, lol!


Superfat is the amount of oils leftover after saponification.  Lye can only “eat up” so much oil and you can calculate your recipe so it has a superfat leftover.  This makes for a more moisturizing bar.  Most soapers soap between 3-10% superfat.  (be careful on high superfats with bars that have a high percentage of liquid oils or the may get DOS).  When making milk soaps I suggest superfatting at 3-5% because of the milk fat unaccounted for in your calculations.


Superheaters are things you add to soap that make it heat up very quickly which also speeds trace.  If too much of a superheater is added it may even cause the soap to separate in the mold.  The following are well known superheaters (though there are likely more):  Milks, beer, honey, and sugar.


The method most often used when coloring your soap with color variegation.  There are so many ways to swirl!  ITP, side by side, funnels, kaleidescope.  Lots and lots of techniques!


Trace has begun when you are mixing the oils and lye mixture and your mixing tool leaves a “stream” behind it and dripping soap on top of the mixture leave faint little drop marks.  It is a little thicker than honey.  I define that as “thin trace”.  Medium trace is like instant pudding.  Thick trace is thin mashed potatoes


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