I remember when I was a total soap newbie, trying to keep up with posts in forums. It seemed like people were speaking a different language! They were, in a sense. I guess you could call it “Saponese.” I spent hours Googling terms like “ITMHP” and “DWRTCP” so that I could try to follow what people were saying. Sometimes the answers were fairly easy to find, but there were times I came away with the feeling that I was missing something. I’ve been making soap for a few years now, and I’m finally comfortable with those terms. But sometimes I sense that “civilians” (non-soapers) or newbies in forums on etsy and other places are scratching their heads like I used to. So I will be compiling a semi-official Saponese Dictionary of Soaping Terms here on the blog. This is installment one …
The Semi-Official Saponese Dictionary: Ways to Make Soap
M&P (Melt and Pour). Fairly self-explanatory. A base is melted and fragrance, colorant and other additives (exfoliants, moisturizing oils, etc.) are added in. Plop the soap into mold, let it cool and – voila! You’ve got soap!
CP (Cold Process): Soap from scratch. Typically, you melt the oils, combine the lye with your water and add the mixture to the melted oils and stir until trace is reached. Add your fragrance, colorant, other goodies and stir. Then you pour it into the molds, where you can play with it further - adding swirls or crushed herbs or what have you. After a day or so, the soap must come out of the molds and be cut if you’re using a log or slab mold. Then comes the waiting part – cold process soap must cure for several weeks before it’s ready to use. During this time, the last few oil molecules are saponified and the water evaporates from the soap, leaving a nice hard bar.
HP (Hot Process): Just like cold process, only the combined oils and lye water are cooked over a heat source such as a crockpot, stove, double boiler or in the oven. This forces the saponification process to speed up a bit. It can also cause your more delicate fragrance oils and essential oils to evaporate away, and it makes it almost impossible to do the delicate swirls you can do with CP soaping, so it isn’t ideal for every kind of soap. And the end result is not usually as smooth and clean-cut as CP soap. However it is ideal for the more impatient soaper because HP soap is usually ready to use much more quickly. As a matter of fact, it can be safely used immediately … but it can still benefit from additional cure time if you want a nice hard, gentle bar.
Side note – you may come across several variations of “HP” including …
DHHP - direct heat hot process (stovetop)
DBHP - double boiler hot process
CSDBHP - closed system double boiler hot process (a pot inside another pot, with both pots’ lids on)
CSHP – closed system hot process (pressure cooker)
CPHP - crock pot hot process
MWHP - microwave hot process
RTCP (Room Temperature Cold Process): Throw the thermometer out the door! This process is useful for those who measure out and combine oils for several batches at once (just take as much of the cooled, room-temperature oils and/or lye as needed for that moment and save the rest for later) as well as those who make whipped soap.
CPOP or ITMHP: Cold Process Oven Process or In The Mold Hot Process are basically the same thing – a blend of CP and HP techniques. The soap is prepared as with traditional CP soap, but once the soap is poured into the mold it is placed in the oven at a low temperature. As with traditional HP soaping, the heat causes the saponification process to speed up, and can also help speed up evaporation somewhat. One benefit is that you can still come away with the nice, smooth appearance CP soap usually has. Again, the heat can also cause some fragrances to disappear – which leads us to …
LTCP (Low Temperature Cold Process): Sometimes it is desirable to avoid letting the soap reach the gel stage at all, especially if you’re using more delicate essential oils or fragrance oils with a low flashpoint – you don’t want them “cooking off.” Lye and oils, if melted, are allowed to cool considerably before combining. Sometimes the soap in the molds is even placed in a refrigerator or freezer to prevent gel.
DWCP or DWHP (Discounted Water hot or cold process): this is actually something of a misnomer, because it implies that there is a standard lye-to-water ratio that has been “cut” or discounted. The term has been known to cause some soapers to grit their teeth and mumble under their breath. Each soaper is different, and some use a 2-to-1 water-to-lye ratio (33%), some use a 1.5-to-1 ratio (40%) and many points in between, depending on oils and processes used. The idea, though, is the less water that goes into a batch of soap, the less time it takes for that water to evaporate back out.
Those well-versed in Saponese will often combine these phrases. For example, my favorite soaping method is RTDWCPOP. What’s yours?