This is one of the questions I hear answered by our Technical Support Department while helping soap makers when they call wanting help. I thought that I could share some pictures previous soap batches I’ve made and show what you are looking for as indicators of the trace. First things first, what is trace? According to all of our staff that have had experience making cold process soap, trace is simply when there are no more oils floating to the top of the raw soap. We also described it well on Cold Process Soap, Day Three.
Trace is a term that is vague, it is used in every soap book, yet is far more fluid than every beginner expects. Trace is an indication oil will no longer rise to the surface when mixing is stopped. If you aren’t sure if you have achieve trace then stop mixing, go get a glass, fill it with water, do not drink it. Come back to your soap. Is oil floating on the surface? Oil is floating if you see a dark appearance to the top and it appears very slick. A quick press of the button on your immersion blender will tell you if oil has risen. A dark swirl appears on the top of soap close to trace, but not quite there. Keep blending if you see this happen. If the soap looks homogeneous, pour into the mold.
Trace is sometimes explained as having the ability to hold an impression on the surface of the soap. This is true if you have a light across the room and you can see its reflection on the surface of your soap. Gently touch the surface of the soap with a spoon and draw a star or heart. If you can see the raised impression left on the soap from your spoon, you are at trace. Pour into the mold. Trace is not about being as thick as a milk shake, or about being thick at all. If you could see the mixture we pour into the molds, you would be surprised that our soap looks more like pouring skim milk than it does look like cream of a milk shake. Think fluid!