How to Make Soap – Recognizing Trace
Whether you realize it or not, being able to recognize “trace” is a vital skill that you will need to hone in order to be an accomplished soap maker. Trace is the point where saponification, the chemical reaction that creates soap, takes place. Of the steps necessary for making soap, recognizing trace is probably the one that causes the most trouble to beginners.
Testing for Trace
The name “trace” refers to the patterns will appear when you do the following test. As you mix the soap, take a wooden, rubber, or plastic spoon and scoop a small amount of the mixture. The slowly drizzle the mixture back into the pot with a back and forth motion. Be sure not to spill any of the mixture during the process.
If the drizzled mixture leaves patterns on the surface of your soap, you have reached trace! If you do not see any patterns, then the soap mixture is not ready and you will need to continue to stir/blend it.
Trace is Where it Happens
It’s true; trace is where it all happens. Nearly every recipe and article will tell you that trace is the time to add the extra ingredients. These ingredients may be essential oils, herbs, clays, or colorants. No matter what the case may be, they are generally all added at trace.
Additionally, trace signals the beginning of the pouring stage of the process. Without being able to recognize trace, you run the risk of pouring too soon or pouring too late. Pouring too soon will not allow the saponification process to begin and will cause your soap mixture to separate. Pouring too late may cause your mixture to harden, making it difficult to get your soap in to the molds.
Again, learning to recognize trace is incredibly important. Be sure to educate yourself on the signs so that you can spot it quickly when making your own soap.