Net Contents Big Enough?

I have a wonderful Facebook feed and see an amazing number of soaps. All sorts of soaps: cold process, hot process, melt & pour, swirled, layered, piped, molded, embossed, stamped, you name it! I also see packaged soaps galore. While the traditional cigar band label is most common, soapmakers also have put together some different kinds of very creative and artistic packaging.

But we need to have a little chat about the net contents.


First off, I am very pleased that most of the recent packaging I’ve seen DOES have the net contents on it. And most of the time it is correctly stated in ounces and grams (for the US).

This is an improvement over past years, when very few soapmakers put the net contents on their soap. I’m proud of y’all!


Boo. Net Contents is Usually Too Small

On almost all of the packaging I’ve seen, net contents is way too small. Sometimes way, way, way too small.

What Is The RIGHT Size?

The size of the net contents is defined in the regulations1 and is based on the size of the Principal Display Panel (“PDP”):

  • PDP less than 5 sq. inches – minimum text size 1/16 inch
  • PDP 5 – 25 sq. inches – minimum text size 1/8 inch
  • PDP 25 – 100 sq. inches – minimum text size 3/16 inch

The PDP for a rectangular package (like a bar of soap) is the area of one flat side. Calculate the area by multiplying the height times the length. A typical 3 to 5 ounce bar of soap usually measures somewhere around 2 inches by 3 inches so the area there would be 6 square inches.

Nearly all bar soaps tend to fall in the middle bracket (5 to 25 square inches), so the height of the net contents should be 1/8 inch.

What Is Measured?

To determine the height of the net contents:

  • Upper case letters only: Measure the height of an uppercase “L” in the font used.
  • Upper and lower case letters: Measure the height of a lower case “o” in the font used.

Print out the label full-size, and actually measure the net contents text with a ruler.

How Big Is 1/8 Inch?

Well, first off, it is WAY bigger than you or your label designer would like it to be. It stands out, takes up too much room and can easily ruin the beautiful layout you designed.

Keep in mind also, that if you are using upper and lower case letters, then the LOWER CASE “o” is 1/8 inch. So any upper case letters are probably around 1/4 inch in height.

What Font Size Is That?

Because the sizes of the letters vary somewhat from font to font, the size will depend on the font being used. Approximate font size for 1/8 inch lower case “o”:2

Arial16 pt
Times New Roman18 pt
Bodoni20 pt
Font Sizes

A Few Other Requirements

There are a couple of other requirements for the net contents. It must:

  • Be placed in the bottom 30% of the label
  • Be parallel to the bottom
  • Have clear space around it (measured by the height/width of an upper case “N” in the font used:

In the image above, the size of the white line should be about 1/8 inch.

Check and Correct

Grab one of your packaged and labeled soaps and check the size of your net contents. By this I mean get out a ruler and actually measure it.

If it meets or beats the minimum required size and is correctly placed—good for you!

If it’s too small, plan on updating your labels before you package your batch of soap.

You can read more about the requirements for type size on a label (page 66) and the quantity of contents (pgs 75 – 92) in my book Soap and Cosmetic Labeling (available through the Amazon link below).

Soap and Cosmetic Labeling cover

To really be able to create your own labels that comply with the regulations, get my book from Amazon and use it.

  1. 21 CFR 701.13(i) ↩︎
  2. See Soap and Cosmetic Labeling page 67 for a complete chart. ↩︎


3 responses to “Net Contents Big Enough?”

  1. Louisa Bailey

    Hi Marie, this is vey helpful but I am still a little confused. My soap label’s PDP is 2 x 3″. But my Net Wt. font “Abadi” is small compared to Times New Roman. How do I find out what 1/8″ and 1/4″ is for that particular font? Right now I have it set to a 12 pt. font. I’m a bit math challenged so any help would be appreciated, Thank you!

    1. Since tthe actual size of the font varies, the only real way to verify the size of the printed font is to print it out and measure it with a ruler.

      If you are using upper and lower case (and therefore measuring the lower case “o”) and the font seems really big, try using all caps (so measuring an uppercase “L”) and condensing the font a bit. See this blog post for a comparison: Making the Ingredients Fit

  2. Thanks so much for the reminder, Marie. I knew our net contents were too small but had resisted changing them. Your post was the impetus I needed and I’ve made corrections on all our products except for our soap boxes. Those will have to wait a bit while we work through the 10,000 we have on hand!

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