When you are new to soapmaking and you jump into online Facebook groups or forums, it can be hard to know what people are talking about when it comes to soapmaking terms and abbreviations.

Here is a list of common soapmaking terms and abbreviations.


Common Soapmaking Terms

Acceleration – Acceleration is the rapid and fast movement of the oil and lye mixture to trace. Some additives can cause soap to move quickly and heat up including honey, sugar, milk, oatmeal and floral and spice fragrance oils.

Ash – Ash is a white dusty layer of sodium carbonate formed the top of soap exposed to air after being poured into a mold.

Color Morphing – Color morphing is when you make soap one color but it changes either immediately or over time. Dyes are known to color morph in the high pH of soap. There are pH stable dyes available from soap suppliers.

Caustic – Sodium hydroxide is a highly caustic chemical, capable of burning, corroding, or destroying living tissue.

Cure Time – Cure time is the time that you have put your soap to rest to dry and become mild. The normal cure time for cold process soap is four weeks.

DOS (Dreaded Orange Spots) –When you see bright orange spots start to pop up on your soaps this usually indicates that your soap is going rancid. This can be due to improper storage, humidity, soaping with bad/old oils, etc. Always get your oils from a reputable source and store your cured soap in a cool dry place away from heat and humidity.

Distillation – Distillation is one of the processes used to create essential oils. Steam is run through plant material, picking up the essential oil and taking it to another chamber in a distiller. The water is then separated from the essential oil.

Dyes (FD&C and D&C) – Dyes are synthetic colorants used to color soap.

Emulsifier – An emulsifier is something that allows or creates an environment in which oil and water can mix. Soap is an emulsifier.

Emulsion – Emulsion is the point in which your oil and lye solution have been mixed and should not separate. You don’t have to have visible trace to have a solid emulsion. This is the point at which you could separate out your colors to swirl.

Essential Oils – Essential oils are a natural way to scent soap. They are oils extracted from part or the whole of a plant by distillation, expression or extraction.

Expression – Expression is a process used to make essential oils. Most citrus oils are made by expressing the aromatic oil from citrus peel.

Fragrance Oils – Fragrance oils are synthetic aromatic oils that are produced in a lab. They are used to scent soap.

Gel Phase – Gel phase is the heating phase of saponification where the soap heats up and turns translucent in color.

Lye – Lye is the caustic used to turn oils and fats into bar soap. Also called Sodium Hydroxide and abbreviated as NaOH.

Lye Discount – In modern soapmaking we use a lye discount to reduce the amount of lye in a given recipe to leave a certain amount of oil unsaponified.

MSDS – Materials Safety Data Sheets are important to have on hand when working with sodium hydroxide. They tell you (or medical response persons) safety procedures to follow in case of an accident. They also tell you have to store sodium hydroxide safely.

Potassium Hydroxide – Potassium hydroxide is the caustic used to turn oils and fats into liquid soap. Abbreviated as KOH.

Raw Soap – Raw soap is soap that is still in liquid form before it has gone through saponification. It is an emulsion of the lye solution and base oils.

Soap Calculator – A soap calculator easily lets you calculate the amount of lye needed for a mix of base oils. You simply enter the base oils and amounts that you want to use, hit calculate, and it will tell you the amount of lye needed and water recommended.

Saponification – Saponification is a chemical reaction between fatty acids (soapmaking oils) and a caustic soda solution (lye or NaOH) that produces a salt (soap!)

Sodium Carbonate – Sodium carbonate is the result of active lye in freshly poured soap reacting to air. Also called ash, it is harmless when formed on top of soap.

Sodium Hydroxide – Sodium hydroxide is the caustic used to turn oils and fats into bar soap. Also called Lye and abbreviated as NaOH.

Superfat – In modern soapmaking we use a superfat to leave a certain amount of oil unsaponified. We have more fat than we have lye to turn it into soap.

Trace – Trace is when your soap has emulsified and is thick enough to leave a mark on the soap surface when you drizzle raw soap from a spatula or stick blender while mixing.

Tare – Tare means to zero the scale, thereby subtracting the weight of a container.

Volcano – A soap volcano can occur due to overheating. If you pour a soap too hot, it can lift and expand out of the mold. Check out Theresa’s soap volcano pic on the troubleshooting page.

Common Soapmaking Abbreviations

SAP – Saponification Value

CP – Cold Process

HP – Hot Process

RTCP – Room Temp Cold Process

CPHP – Crock Pot Hot Process

OHP – Oven Hot Process

CPOP – Cold Process Oven Process

MP – Melt and Pour

EO – Essential Oil

FO – Fragrance Oil

DOS – Dreaded Orange Spots

KOH – Potassium Hydroxide

NaOH – Sodium Hydroxide

GM – Goat’s Milk

MSDS – Materials Safety Data Sheet

PPO – Per Pound of Oil

SB – Stick Blender


I hope this list helps you as you navigate the soapmaking community!

Attn: Soapmakers, I need your help! Do you have any terms or abbreviations that I should add? Please comment below! Thank you!

Happy Soaping!

Amanda Gail