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What is Saponification?



Saponification literally means the making of soap. It is a chemical reaction between an acid and an alkali base. The acids used are generally animal fats such as tallow and lard or, vegetable oils such as coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil and so on.
If a hard soap is wanted the base used is generally Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) known as well as lye. For a soft of liquid soap, the preference is given to Potassium Hydroxide (KOH).
Water is used as a vehicle for the alkali base which is otherwise a dry powder or small pellets. However, water does not enter in the chemical reaction, which is why finished soaps will need few weeks to dry and harden as the water evaporates.

As the oil or fat is combined with the base the saponification reaction starts. The triglyceride inside the acid frees the glycerol allowing the fatty acids to blend with the hydroxide of the base and thus forming soap and glycerine.

Not entering into details regarding the industrial soap making process, nevertheless, suffice is to notice, that manufactured soap has all its naturally-occurring glycerin removed and sold as a separate product. Why, will you ask? To achieve more profit.
It is important to mention that one of the most significant differences between handmade soap and manufactured soap, is simply that the glycerine is left into the handmade soap which retains its natural moisturizing abilities and properties.

Although the method is very ancient, old handmade soaps used to have a bad reputation as they were lye heavy and could irritate the skin. Knowledge of soap chemistry was limited and the weighing and measurement means were rudimentary. Modern soap makers have a better understanding of the process and use an adequate system of calculation. It is still necessary to use lye to make real soap, however, the final product has no lye left in it, as it has all been reacted with the oil or fat used to produce soap and glycerine.

The vegetable oils or animal fats used in hand-crafted soaps are chosen for the feature they bring to the final soap. Have a look at the ingredients list to check the quality of the different oils and additives used in our soaps. As an example, it is good to know that coconut oil will produce a big bubbly and stable lather with a lot of glycerine in the soap, whereas olive oil will make a creamier lather. We are deliberately not using animal fat nor palm oil in our soaps, but for information, they will help with having a harder bar of soap with abundant lather.

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