What is Trace?

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!

You can click on the pictures to enlarge them and see the notes that I’ve written on them.

Next week is Hot Process Soap Week!
Andee

9y21-02
9y21-101
9y21-03
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)
What is Trace?, 5.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

9 thoughts on “What is Trace?”

  1. Thank you very much! That definitely helped me understand better.

    VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)
  2. Thanks for the photos and comments. Trace is such a weird concept to sometimes get your head around. I always was under the impression that the soap mixture had to be a thick as pudding to be “trace.” I love being able to pour when the mixture is thin! :)

    VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)
  3. What to do if your soap is not tracing? It’s still liquid after 12 hours? Can I throw in some lye and stir? I was making my soap from scratch with wood ashes and water. Got any remedies? Yeah, I don’t want to throw it out if I can help it. Call it my botched batch test. :)

    VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)
    1. Kris-
      On tracing, heat the soap.  The wood ash water mixture is an unknown amount of lye, but heating this soap will help convert the fat to soap.

      VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)
  4. Hi, Here’s what happened. I heated it for 2-3 hours as in “Hot Process Soap by jaspersgarden” I was excited. It was rolling over on itself and I thought it was going to be done any minute so I lowered the heat and when it got cool it was awful. Looked like malt-o-meal on top and underneath was oil. Oh yeah, and I had added more lye powder straight into the mix. Can’t remember when. But that didn’t work. I can send you some pictures if you want. I had been working to revive this for a couple days. I got disgusted and just left it over night like that. Next morning I scraped off the top malt-o-meal thick stuff and squished it into balls. The oil is in a jar with chunks of that oatmealy stuff suspended. BTW I did not add any oatmeal to this. FYI: I found out my lye water was not strong enough because a hard boiled egg would float, but not a raw egg. so next time I try making caustic water with ashes I will have to make it stronger. When I first mixed it the solution was a nice creamy mixture. Looked right, It just never got to trace. My dad used to make soap. He’d put it in ice cube trays. But, he’s not around now.

    VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)
    1. Kris-
      I would pitch this batch.  There are so many unknowns.  I don’t think you can make something use-able from this material.

      When making your own lye solution you can try to float the raw egg, and you can test the pH.  But you will need to keep the mixture warm, not boiling, and never add dry lye to the mixture.  Always mix a lye solution.

      VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)
  5. I followed some instructions from another place before coming to this better website. I mixed together nearly 2 days ago and didn’t achieve trace – there was a thick layer of oils on the surface (about 1/4 of total height). About 24 hours ago I drained most of this off and it has begun to harden. My question – is this still safe to use, once fully dried out? It may not be a perfect batch, but so long as not harmful…?

    VA:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)
  6. Toss it.

    If you have removed a 1/4 of the ingredients then we just don’t know where this is. Toss it and start over.

    For the next time you have a questionable batch – STOP! HOLD! CALL! I know that was much like we were kids and we practiced Stop-Drop-Roll for the fire drills. HA! That seems like forever ago!

    Anyway, we can help save ANY batch that is whole. Don’t discard anything and we will work you through saving the problem batch.

    Cheers!
    Tina

    VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)
Add Comment Register

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>