Important Soaping Vocabulary
So what else do you need to know? If you've already started researching soap making the chances are you've come across some of these terms which can be possibly a little bit overwhelming. So let's talk about each of these terms. SAP value. So SAP value is short for saponification value. And that is the technical term of the amount of lye, sodium hydroxide, it takes to turn your fat or your oil into soap. Every single fat or oil has different qualities to it. Different fatty acid chains in it. And so therefore the SAP value, the saponification value, of each oil will be different. So, for example, if you have a recipe and it calls for olive oil and you're like oh I ran out of olive oil. Well I'm just gonna use some sweet almond oil, right? This is liquid and this is liquid. It doesn't work that way. You need to go through and figure out the math for a different saponification value. So, for example, the saponification value for coconut oil is .176. That means for one gram of coconut oil...
it takes .176 ounces of lye, grams, to turn that into one gram of soap. And the SAP value for olive oil is .134. So that means if you used as much lye as you needed for the coconut oil in the olive oil, you'd have extra lye leftover which isn't good for anyone. 'Cause extra lye left over in your soap could cause dry skin, itchy skin, and if you really, really, really overdid it, it really could bother or irritate people's skin. So that's the SAP value. Once we know what the saponification value of different oils are, and don't worry, you don't have to figure that out. There's lots of SAP values that are listed everywhere. My book has all the commonly listed ones. Or the internet is also great for listing out all the common SAP values. We can figure out how much lye we're going to need to start the saponification process. So this is what the lye looks like, the math looks like, if we had to figure out the saponification process on our own and how much lye we would need to use. It's just a very simple math formula. A real life example, for example. 10 ounces of olive oil times the SAP value, .134, means to turn 10 ounces of olive oil into soap, you need 1.34 ounces of lye. That turns into 10 ounces of soap. So it takes 1.34 ounces of lye to turn 10 ounces of olive oil into soap. And if you're looking at that and you're like oh that sounds really complicated. What if I wanted to use five oils, 10 oils? Do I have to do that for every one? So back in the day when I had to walk uphill both ways to school in the snow, I actually did have to figure this out on my own, on paper, for every single recipe. Thankfully the internet has come a long way since then. And what I have on the other side of the screen is the lye calculator from brambleberry.com that you just input the different oils you want to use, the different amounts, and it spits out exactly what you want to use. So, for example, we have a recipe here that's much more complicated, right? It uses three oils. All you have to do is add in how much you want to use and then choose your superfatting level, which we'll get to in just a second, hit calculate and it tells you how much water and how much lye to use. It makes it so much easier for you. There's also a downloadable app for the iPhone on how that you can do this on the fly on your iPhone. So you don't even need to be near a computer to figure our your saponification values and how much lye you'll need to make your own recipes up at home. So that term superfat that you just heard me use. What is a superfat? Why do you care about it? What should you do with that? So once you start making a few recipes, and say you start with my book and you're like oh my goodness I'm gonna make a few recipes from your book. Or say you really, really are excited about the lavender soap we're gonna make and you make it 10 times. Then you're like oh, but I kinda wanna create my own recipes. I wanna branch out, I'm really excited. So you go to the brambleberry.com lye calculator, you add in all your oils and then you get to the bottom and it says superfat. And you're like wow, what is a superfat? So remember how I said that soap making has a chemical reaction? It's a science. If you have just the perfect amount of lye and water and the perfect amount of oils, they mix together, they do their dance, they turn into soap, there's nothing left over. If you have the perfect amount of lye but use just a little bit more oil than you need, there's a little bit more oil in your bar of soap than what's needed. That is called a superfat. And many soap makers use a superfat between three and 7% because they believe that it adds to a more moisturizing bar. Because then a little bit of oil is actually left in your soap. The lye has not reacted with that oil. And so it is sitting in your soap waiting to be moisturizing on your skin as you shower. I always like to use a superfat because every so often human error happens and you might mismeasure something a little bit. So that gives you a margin of safety. And I personally find that a superfat between three and 7% is my favorite range. And if you're thinking to yourself, well I really want my soap to be moisturizing. Why wouldn't I just do, I don't know, 20% superfat? Why wouldn't I have 20% extra oils in my soap? The reason you wouldn't do that is for two reasons. One, it'll shorten the shelf life of your soap, right? If you have a bar of soap and it has 20% extra oil in here that means that that oil is just sitting there and it could go rancid over time, right? That's what vegetable oils do. Also, oil weighs down lather. So think about a beautiful fluffy bubble and then think about shoving 20% of extra oil on there. It just (banging). So the higher amounts your superfat, the more creamy or small your lather is. So every soap maker will have a personal preference for what their ideal superfat is. And just know that when you are starting to formulate your own recipes, something between the range of three and 7% is a great place to start. You'll often see superfat referred to as the term lye discount as well. Because really that's exactly what you're doing. You're discounting the amount of lye you need for the recipe. Or you're letting it have extra oils, A.K.A., superfat. So the terms are used interchangeably. Trace is another term that you will hear referred to often when you're making soap. And this is the process where the lye water and the oils have become emulsified. Meaning they're fully mixed together. You must reach trace. You must reach this point before you pour your soap into your mold. If you don't reach trace before you pour the soap in the mold what ends up happening is the soap can separate in the mold and you end up with kind of a oily mixture on top with some of the lye and the water and a hard fatty acid mixture on the bottom and it's difficult to save. If your soap does separate in the mold just look up what's called hot process hero on the soapqueen.com blog and you can save your bar but it's much easier if you just get trace to start with. The reason trace is called trace is because back in the day when people used to actually hand stir, which would take four to six hours to make your batches of soap, they would take their stirring utensil and they would take a little bit of soap and then they would drizzle and if they could write their name before the soap went back in, if they could trace their name on the surface of the soap they knew that the soap was emulsified and ready to pour. Thankfully now we get to use stick blenders. And so we just drizzle a little bit of soap and we look for that trace. And we look for the thin trailing of soap to remain on the surface of the soap before going back in. There is thin trace, medium trace, and thick trace. And you do them for different techniques. So, for example, the pink soap is a nice, I'd say that's a thin to medium trace. When you're thinking of things like this and you're like oh I really want to make a gorgeous soap that has peaks, that's a very, very thick trace. The soap I'm going to be making in this class, this lavender soap, obviously uses a very thick trace to get this gorgeous peak. It's totally up to you and your design what trace you end up using but the one thing I do see newbies doing a lot is they're so worried about that separation that they over stick blend, over stick blend, and then they end up with soap on a stick is what I call it. So literally the soap gets very hard and you can't even glop it into the mold. And that's frustrating for a variety of reasons. Once soap has hit trace, whether that's thin trace, medium or thick trace, it will continue to thicken. So once your soap has hit trace, you have between one and five minutes depending on your recipe, depending on how thick and thin the trace was, to get that soap design perfected and in the mold. Which is why this recipe with the 13 different colors was so difficult, right? 'Cause you have to get the soap to trace, you have to color it all, you fragrance it all, you have to pour it in, you have to do that very quickly. So once the soap is at trace you literally have between one and five minutes, five minutes max, to get your design, get it in the mold.