Soap 101 Soap 101

Posted on by Jackson Fung

Many customers have a common misconception of lye, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, or caustic soda of being a harmful ingredient in soap.  The answer is NO ! All real soap are made out of oils/butters/fats/grease, lye and water.  Sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide are mixed with water to create the lye.  Therefore, No Lye = No Soap !  No lye remain in the finished product after saponification, and therefore handmade soaps are safe for the skin.

Read the ingredient label, and you will find these similar terms simply meaning oils mixed with lye,

  • saponified oils: oils that are mixed with sodium hydroxide and water (lye).
  • sodium olivate (oils): the generic name for the mixture of olive oil with sodium hydroxide and water (lye).

In the old days when sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide were not exist, people use potash to make lye to make soap.

Conventional Liquid Soaps

Technically, they are detergents because they do not use lye.  They are mass produced in factory by mixing chemical ingredients such as surfactant, glycerin, emulsifier, preservative, foaming agent, colorant, artificial fragrance, stabilizer, and thickening agent.  They are less gentle to the skin.

Conventional Soap Bars

Most conventional soap bars are mass produced using soap noodles.  Soap noodles are hot processed pre-made soap that are in the form of noodles, they are made out of vegetable oils / animal fats, lye, and water.  To increase efficiency manufacturers would purchase soap noodles and blend with other ingredients such as oils, glycerin, preservatives, fragrance, clay, herbs, exfoliant, and color to make the final product.  Most soap noodles are from Malaysia and Indonesia, there are laundry type, toilet type, and multi-purpose type soap noodles.  There are also different grades of soap noodles, you can get really cheap soap noodles containing many harmful artificial chemicals that is very harsh on the skin, and you can get very high quality organic soap noodles containing only saponified vegetable oils or animal fats.

Cold Process & Hot Process Soap

Most artisan soap makers nowadays are using either the cold process method or the hot process method to make their natural soap bars.  Both methods make great soap, but there is a difference.  The main difference is the temperature.

In the cold process method, the oils, lye, and water are blended to a trace under controlled temperature.  It is believed that low temperature can retain some of the natural nutrients from the oils.  The cold process method allows the soap maker to create a very artisan soap.  However, the cold process method requires at least 24 hours to undergo the saponification process, and 4 to 6 weeks of curing before one can use the soap.  There is a drawback for cold process method when it comes to superfatting.

In the hot process method, the oils, lye, and water are cooked in a double boiler until saponified.  The temperature forces the saponification process to take place in a short period of time.  You can use the soap in a few days, and have better control in superfatting.  The drawback is you can hardly make artisan soap because the mixture is so thick.

Melt & Pour Soap

Melt & Pour Soap differs from Hot Process & Cold Process soap making, no soap is created during the process because a glycerin soap base is purchased from from the market.  The process is easy without the handling of lye.  Simply melting the soap base and blending it with fragrance, color, and other addictives.  Most transparent and colorful looking soap bars are made using these glycerin soap base.

Using Potash, The Ancient Method

Using potash to make soap is an ancient method when sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide were not exist. The African Black Soap we are selling is still using this old method (probably they don't have access to sodium hydroxide nor potassium hydroxide).  Amazingly, this method produces very unique soap, the soap is soft, chunky, and contains remaining of ashes, but it does help relief skin problems.  We have many many good compliments for African Black Soap from our customers.

What is Potash? Potash in general is burnt ashes of woods or plants.  In African Black Soap, they burn the cocoa pods, and plantain peels to make the potash.  The potash, oils, and water are cooked and then the soap is separated from the lye water.

Many customers have a common misconception of lye, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, or caustic soda of being a harmful ingredient in soap.  The answer is NO ! All real soap are made out of oils/butters/fats/grease, lye and water.  Sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide are mixed with water to create the lye.  Therefore, No Lye = No Soap !  No lye remain in the finished product after saponification, and therefore handmade soaps are safe for the skin.

Read the ingredient label, and you will find these similar terms simply meaning oils mixed with lye,

  • saponified oils: oils that are mixed with sodium hydroxide and water (lye).
  • sodium olivate (oils): the generic name for the mixture of olive oil with sodium hydroxide and water (lye).

In the old days when sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide were not exist, people use potash to make lye to make soap.

Conventional Liquid Soaps

Technically, they are detergents because they do not use lye.  They are mass produced in factory by mixing chemical ingredients such as surfactant, glycerin, emulsifier, preservative, foaming agent, colorant, artificial fragrance, stabilizer, and thickening agent.  They are less gentle to the skin.

Conventional Soap Bars

Most conventional soap bars are mass produced using soap noodles.  Soap noodles are hot processed pre-made soap that are in the form of noodles, they are made out of vegetable oils / animal fats, lye, and water.  To increase efficiency manufacturers would purchase soap noodles and blend with other ingredients such as oils, glycerin, preservatives, fragrance, clay, herbs, exfoliant, and color to make the final product.  Most soap noodles are from Malaysia and Indonesia, there are laundry type, toilet type, and multi-purpose type soap noodles.  There are also different grades of soap noodles, you can get really cheap soap noodles containing many harmful artificial chemicals that is very harsh on the skin, and you can get very high quality organic soap noodles containing only saponified vegetable oils or animal fats.

Cold Process & Hot Process Soap

Most artisan soap makers nowadays are using either the cold process method or the hot process method to make their natural soap bars.  Both methods make great soap, but there is a difference.  The main difference is the temperature.

In the cold process method, the oils, lye, and water are blended to a trace under controlled temperature.  It is believed that low temperature can retain some of the natural nutrients from the oils.  The cold process method allows the soap maker to create a very artisan soap.  However, the cold process method requires at least 24 hours to undergo the saponification process, and 4 to 6 weeks of curing before one can use the soap.  There is a drawback for cold process method when it comes to superfatting.

In the hot process method, the oils, lye, and water are cooked in a double boiler until saponified.  The temperature forces the saponification process to take place in a short period of time.  You can use the soap in a few days, and have better control in superfatting.  The drawback is you can hardly make artisan soap because the mixture is so thick.

Melt & Pour Soap

Melt & Pour Soap differs from Hot Process & Cold Process soap making, no soap is created during the process because a glycerin soap base is purchased from from the market.  The process is easy without the handling of lye.  Simply melting the soap base and blending it with fragrance, color, and other addictives.  Most transparent and colorful looking soap bars are made using these glycerin soap base.

Using Potash, The Ancient Method

Using potash to make soap is an ancient method when sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide were not exist. The African Black Soap we are selling is still using this old method (probably they don't have access to sodium hydroxide nor potassium hydroxide).  Amazingly, this method produces very unique soap, the soap is soft, chunky, and contains remaining of ashes, but it does help relief skin problems.  We have many many good compliments for African Black Soap from our customers.

What is Potash? Potash in general is burnt ashes of woods or plants.  In African Black Soap, they burn the cocoa pods, and plantain peels to make the potash.  The potash, oils, and water are cooked and then the soap is separated from the lye water.