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Soap Terminology & Definitions


What is saponified oil?

Saponification is the process of reacting a fatty acid (oil) with an alkaline base (lye), which produces soap (the alkali salt of fatty acids) and glycerine. The oil(s) may be anything from liquefied lard, shortening, or rendered tallow, to any of the naturally liquid forms of olive oil or other crop oils, i.e., corn, seed, nut, or a blend thereof.


Lye is created by nature whenever water leaches through potash, or wood ash; the accrued result is natural potash lye, or potassium hydroxide. This natural, but variable-quality lye, used by the earliest soapmakers, gave way in 1790 to the discovery of a more reliable, and less expensive, process of running brine through soda ash, producing sodium hydroxide. The term 'lye' is now generally synonymous with sodium hydroxide. Lye can be readily purchased in the dehydrated (unreacted) form.


A type of soap base, alkalis neutralize acids and soften the skin. Too much alkalinity in a soap, however, removes the natural protective film of proteins and oils that coat the skin and guard it against bacterial invasion, moisture, and heat. Commercial soaps are typically high in alkalinity; consequently, the softer a commercial soap promises to make your skin, the more it removes your skin's naturally protective 'acid' mantle.


An ingredient that sheds the superficial, dead skin cells; peels skin away using acids, enzymes, or abrasion. Removal of dead skin cells encourages new cell growth and improves the skin's appearance. Keratin, a keratolytic, achieves the same result.


A solution of a volatile plant oil in alcohol; also called "spirit of" (a given plant). A typical solution consists of one ounce of pure essential oil of herb or plant, dissolved in one or two cups of alcohol, or 1/4 ounce oil to 4 ounces of 50% alcohol.


The natural, raw oil or substance drawn out of a plant, usually by distillation with a solvent, resulting in a concentrated product.

Essential Oil:

That part of the plant that possesses the fragrance of the plant or flower in concentrated form. Essential oil is usually obtained by steam distillation, whereas 'flower oils' are generally extracted by using fats (a process called "enfleurage"). Essential oils do not contain alcohol or other solvents, or other added fragrances, extracts, or essences.

Essential Fragrance:  

Most essential fragrances are based on, or derived from, the essential oil they represent. Usually for reasons of cost of an actual essential oil, it is desirable to extend the genuine oil with solvents or distilled spirits, to stretch or magnify its effect in a soap.

In addition, when actual essential oils are not obtainable, or are cost-prohibitive, fragrances can also be derived, either by combining essential oils with synthetic substitutes, or by using or combining synthetic formulations to closely approximate the original essential oil.

We strive to provide our customers with an all-natural soap product containing only genuine essential oils as often as possible. However, in response to customer queries, we have also developed some fragrance-scented soaps that could not be achieved with only organic, natural scenting ingredients.

These soaps are listed under "Essential Fragrances," and contain a combination of fragrances that include or are derived from essential oils, and synthetically formulated fragrances. Since these formulas are usually commercially patented, we do not have, and so cannot provide, further information on their contents. However, we will pass on our wholesale fragrances source information upon request, to those wishing to follow up.

It is worth noting, for those concerned about using chemical or synthetic products, that the amount of essential fragrance required to scent a batch of soap is generally far less than the amount of essential oil required to achieve the same level of scent. This speaks to both the strength of synthetics, for better or for worse, and to the fact that there is less of it to be encountered, per bar of soap. We have to admit, some of the essential fragrances are quite dynamic; we leave it to you to decide upon your individual preferences.


A term indicating the ratio or balance of acid and alkali in a product. pH ranges from 1 to 14; a pH of 7 is considered neutral. For a visual image of this in relation to goat's milk, see our "Why Goat's Milk" page.



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