Soap Making Lingo Every New Soap Maker Needs to Know

Reader Contribution by Carrie Miller and Miller Micro Farm
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New to soaping? Confused by all the terms and Acronyms? The terminology in soap making can leave any newbie scratching their head. As hard as soap making is to learn the terms and abbreviations can make it even more confusing. Let’s see if I can help you navigate the soap world in hopes of making life a little easier.


The alkali used in soap making such as; Sodium Hydroxide and Potassium Hydroxide.

Carrier Oil

Any liquid plant-based oil used to dilute essential oils to make them skin safe.

Castile Soap

Soap consisting of 100% Olive Oil, the name comes from where it was first made in the Castile region of Spain.

Cold Process (CP)

A simple method of soap making that only requires heat to melt the oils. No cooking is involved.

Crock Pot Hot Process (CPHP)

This soap is brought to trace and then further cooked in a crockpot.

Cold Process Oven Process (CPOP)

This soap is made in the same manner as a cold process but is then placed in the oven once molded to force the gel stage.


Refers to the time between making the soap and when it is ready for use, typically 4 to 6 weeks. During this time the soap becomes firm and the saponification process is completed.

Essential Oil (EO)

The oil that has been extracted from a plant for its scent or therapeutic properties.

Flash Point

The lowest temperature at which the vapor of a combustible liquid can be made to ignite.

Fragrance Oil (FO)

Synthetic imitations of essential oils and other scents much like perfume.

Gel Stage

Once the soap has been mixed to trace and poured into the mold it will begin to heat up by the chemical reaction. If the soap is properly wrapped and allowed to heat up enough, it will undergo a change looking much like gel. Some like their soaps to gel but others prefer soap that has not.


A thick, sticky, clear substance created during the process of saponification. Handmade cold process and hot process soaps retain the glycerin whereas commercial soaps often remove it to later sell for a separate cost.

Hot Process (HP)

The method of soap making that requires external heat to speed up the process of saponification.


Another name for Sodium Hydroxide.

Melt & Pour Base (MP)

Pre-made soap that can easily be cut up and melted to create decorative soaps. Contains lye like all soaps do and are available with various ingredients. Beginners tend to gravitate to MP due to the fear of working with lye.

Melting Point

The temperature at which a solid substance often oils and butters will melt.

Oven Hot Process (OHP)

Hot process soap making that uses the oven as the sole heat source.

Potassium Hydroxide

Potassium Hydroxide is another name for Caustic Potash. It is the alkali (base) used in liquid soap making.


A preservative is a natural or synthetic chemical that is added to products to prevent decomposition by microbial growth like mold.


Also referred to as hand milling. A home soap maker can hand mill (re-batch) soap by grating it up, adding a small amount of liquid and reapplying heat until it reaches a translucent stage at which time the fragrance is added and the soap is remolded.

Refined Oils

Fats and oils that have had the impurities filtered out.


Ricing occurs when a fragrance oil reacts with your base oils and produces little rice-shaped grains in your soap batter. The soap batter will resemble rice pudding. When using a new fragrance, do not discount the water in your recipe and warm the fragrance oil (while still in its bottle) in a warm water bath before using it.

Room Temperature Method (RTCP)

A soap making method like the cold process method. Instead of using heat to melt hard oils, the hot lye solution is used instead. No thermometers or external heat source is required.


Saponification is the chemical reaction between an alkali (lye) and a fat or oil to form soap.


A rapid solidifying of the soap while still in the soap pan. Usually caused by high amounts of stearic acid, palmitic acid, waxes, or some fragrance & essential oils.


Separation in soap making can happen in a couple of ways. Often right after adding a fragrance or essential oil to your soap batter. The reaction will resemble an apple sauce texture. It can also happen after pouring the soap into a mold before it has reached a true trace. A layer of liquid oil will lay on top of the soap.


The result of a chemical reaction between a lye solution (sodium hydroxide for bar soap or potassium hydroxide for liquid soap) and fats/oils. If it is not made with lye, it is not “true soap” instead will be classified as a detergent.

Sodium Hydroxide

Sodium Hydroxide (lye) is another name for Caustic Soda. It is the alkali (base) used in bar soap making.


Capable of being dissolved or liquified.


The excess oils left after the saponification process in soap. The excess oil contributes to the moisturizing properties of the soap.


The point in soap making where the mixed lye and oils have combined to a thick pudding like substance. When “true trace” is acquired a trail can be left when the batter is drizzled onto itself.

What else can make soaping easier? Research, research, and more research. Don’t be hard on yourself if failures happen along the way, it happens to even the best soap makers from time to time. Start out with an easy recipe and then add or change ingredients as desired. Be careful! Where a mask, glasses, gloves, and other protective clothing when working with lye.

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