Soap requires two major raw materials: fat and alkali. The alkali most commonly used today is sodium hydroxide. Potassium hydroxide can also be used. Potassium-based soap creates a more water-soluble product than sodium-based soap, and so it is called "soft soap." Soft soap, alone or in combination with sodium-based soap, is commonly used in shaving products.
Animal fat in the past was obtained directly from a slaughterhouse. Modern soapmakers use fat that has been processed into fatty acids. This eliminates many impurities, and it produces as a byproduct water instead of glycerin. Many vegetable fats, including olive oil, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil, are also used in soap making.
Additives are used to enhance the color, texture, and scent of soap. Fragrances and perfumes are added to the soap mixture to cover the odor of dirt and to leave behind a fresh-smelling scent. Abrasives to enhance the texture of soap include talc, silica, and marble pumice (volcanic ash). Soap made without dye is a dull grey or brown color, but modern manufacturers color soap to make it more enticing to the consumer.