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Video:How to Get 'Trace' in Soap Making

with David Fisher

One of the most misunderstood terms in cold process soap making is the word "trace." Find out what how to test and achieve trace in your next soap project.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Get 'Trace' in Soap Making

Hi, I am David Fisher for About.com. One of the most misunderstood terms in cold process soap making is the word trace. All of the recipes you would see in books and websites say, mix your lye and oils together until you reach trace.

What Does Trace Mean?

But what do the mean by the word trace? The importing thing to remember is that trace is a point of no return. It is the point where you have mixed your oils and lye together where there is no risk of separation. Past that, you are pretty free to interpret trace however you like.

Where Does "Trace" Originate?

Traditionally, trace meant that when you dribbled a little of the soap mixture back into the pot, you would see a trace of it left behind, a sort of indentation in the top of the soap. But you do not have to mix that much anymore with the use of modern stick blenders. Again, the thing to remember is everything is completely mixed together. In this video, I am going to show you the steps in mixing your oil and lye together until we get to trace.

Testing Trace

The first thing to do is to slowly pour the lye into your oils. You will see right away that they get a little bit cloudy - and in using your stick blender like a spoon rather then turning it on, just stir a little until it is well blended together. Then, turn your stick blender on in just a few second blasts. You can see almost immediately that the soap mixture is starting to come together.

What we are looking for before we pour into the mold is called trace. As you can see here, everything is really pretty mixed together even though it is still really still very watery. You could call this a very light trace. You could pour this into the mold without any risk of separation.

Keep blending a little and stirring a little with your stick blender. You can see the mixture starting to thicken up a just little bit. This would be completely safe to pour into the mold at this time. We are not quite at what we would call traditional trace. The whole notion of trace comes from when you dribble the soap mixture back onto the top of the pot; you can see a little trace of it left behind. This is more then ready to pour into the mold.

Adjusting Trace for Different Soaps

So hopefully now you have a better understanding of just what trace is in soap making. Different soap makers have different preferences for how far they want to take their batch. Some will pour into a mold at a very, very light trace. Others wait until they have a very thick and hardy trace before they pour into the mold. It is really up to you; just remember that everything has to be mixed completely.

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