Problems tracing

Discussion in 'Recipe Feedback' started by hotdog, Aug 11, 2019.

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  1. Aug 11, 2019 #1

    hotdog

    hotdog

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    Hello all, I've recently started soapmaking and run into trouble namely that I simply cannot get to trace no matter how much I try.

    I use specific recipe metrics with adequate lye and no saponification. I use an electric whisk rather than a stick blender but surely that would not be a cause, would it? It does whip up a storm in the container!

    The only other causes I'm wondering are the Lye solution which does mix and heat up but does stay cloudy no matter how much mix it, could that be due to hard water where I am?

    The recipe I use is 300g coconut oil, 700g sunflower oil, 135g NAOH, 300g water.

    I made an earlier batch minus the coconut oil which also did not seem to trace but i moulded anyway and it is hardened but still a very soft bar.

    Any help on getting to trace would be appreciated!
     
  2. Aug 13, 2019 #2

    Dawni

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    Ouch.. That's a lot of oils wasted. Try smaller batches next time.

    I wonder if it's your lye? Is it newly bought and sealed well? I'm no way experienced but I hope our experts can figure this out for you..

    How long have you mixed before deciding it's not tracing? I've hand mixed several batches, some with a whisk, some with just the spatula and so far all have traced. Have you tried manual mixing?

    What was your lye concentration? Superfat? Did you take any temps? It'll help the others figuring out your issue if you give us everything.

    I tried your recipe with a general 2:1 lye ratio and this is what I got. Not only is my water less, my lye is more. Honestly though, I don't really know if it's significant in CP, sorry.
    IMG_20190813_124302.jpg
     
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  3. Aug 14, 2019 #3

    hotdog

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    Hi Dawni,

    Thanks for the information, it was new packed lye from a decent soap provider in UK. The temp got up to 55c on dissolving in water, I let it cool to 40c before mixing oils in. I was mixing for about 10 min before it seemed to emulsify but no real trace.

    Perhaps I didn't use sufficient NAOH then. Or possibly I need to use distilled water.
     
  4. Aug 14, 2019 #4

    Dawni

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    I use filtered water, not distilled. Most do though.

    I haven't tried sunflower oil in that amount, but my plain olive oil took more than 30mins of not-continuous hand stirring hehehe

    What calculator are you using? How did you arrive at the current measurements you used? You can use the one I did, here, and see what results you'll get. It's the best in my opinion.

    Experiment with smaller batches, like maybe 400-600 total batch size (not total oil amount) til you get something you're happy with.
     
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  5. Aug 15, 2019 #5

    earlene

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    Are you sure you bought sodium hydroxide and not postassium hydroxide?

    Incidentally, I can reach trace with only hand stirring with a spoon or a whisk with some recipes, so no, a SB is not a requirement. It makes it go faster, but it is not absolutely necessary.
     
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  6. Aug 21, 2019 #6

    hotdog

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    Thanks for the calculator. I possibly may have used too much water but even with that amount of water it was not going clear although it mostly dissolved. I wonder therefore if the problem is with the water...

    Will try again with your calculator and a smaller batch!
     
  7. Aug 21, 2019 #7

    hotdog

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    That's good to know, thanks, so I don't need to invest in yet another kitchen tool. Yes, it's definitely NAOH, 99% purity. It has been sealed so I reckon the tap water may well be the issue..
     
  8. Aug 21, 2019 #8

    earlene

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    Well, then it could simply be a measuring error. That can happen. Errors measurements can happen, by forgetting to tare the scale, or by leaning on the scale (my husband has actually seen this happen at a grocery check-out), or by user error, as well as other factors.

    Also the NaOH could also be the culprit. Have you used it before? Is it new? Is it old? Has it been kept air tight, or has it been left open and exposed to humid conditions. The latter will result in water getting into the dry lye because it loves to draw ambient water from the air and suck up as much as is available. If the lye clumps up inside the container, it has probably absorbed some water, making is less pure than stated on the bottle.
     
  9. Jan 5, 2020 #9

    hotdog

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    Thanks all for your help. Just as an update, I tried playing around with the measurements, the water content, filtered water, temp. etc. and no difference. I got very light traces and although the soap did solidify it was very soft despite adding hard oils.

    So on a hunch I replaced my hand mixer with a stick blender and it worked- not only did I get trace quickly but it's very thick trace! It's still slightly puzzling because the hand blender was very fast and indeed caused quite a mess. But not only does the stick blender get to trace but it doesn't cause any mess at all. My guess is it must be something about the blading which causes the water and oil molecules to come together in a way the hand blender, no matter how fast, cannot.

    Moral of story: stick to conventional wisdom! Hope this helps someone else. I'm going to now explore all the exciting soap making recipes....
     
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  10. Jan 6, 2020 #10

    TheGecko

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    The hand mixer shouldn't have made a mess unless you had it at too high of a speed. Trace is not as important as emulsion; trace is highly encouraged for beginners to make sure your batter is emulsified or it will split during saponification. People have successfully made soap for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years without stick blenders, it's a convenience.

    When I first started making soap a year ago, I was in a hurry...gotta make that soap. But I have slowed my roll and have come to great enjoy the physical and emotional aspects of the process...much like making my own pasta or bread. And mind you, I have a bread machine, a pasta machine and a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, but most of the time they sit unused as I mix and knead by hand. Yesterday I was in the garage admiring a batch of GMS that I had made completely by hand...so smooth and creamy looking. I made that.

    NOT saying that you shouldn't use a stick blender...I'm not giving up mine...but sometimes it's nice just to stop and smell the roses.
     
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  11. Jan 7, 2020 #11

    hotdog

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    <Trace is not as important as emulsion; >

    This surprised me but digging more into it I see how it's correct. And on reviewing what I did, I think it was not all the same each time. This last time, I used the lye which was still hot with warm oil (melted coconut) whereas before I had learned (incorrectly) that lye and soap have to be 10 degrees of one another and ideally room temp. I was also much more strict about amount of water. Both those factors could have affected traceability so maybe it wasn't the stick blender after all .

    Also found the think trace more difficult to handle than my first cut emulsions so mixed blessings I guess....
     
  12. Jan 8, 2020 #12

    Mobjack Bay

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    The stick blender = high intensity mixing + shear force. Great explanation here:
    https://classicbells.com/soap/stickBlender.asp
     
  13. Jan 8, 2020 #13

    TheGecko

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    It’s a continuous learning process. I thought I was really prepared to make soap...tons of research, hundreds of hours of YouTube. First batch was perfect. Looking back...it was beginner’s luck...an old stick blender that kept cutting out on me so I gave up after a half dozen or so bursts. After that, I had as many opportunities to learn (what I call failures) as I did successes.

    A year later...I didn’t use my stick blender nearly as much as I did in the beginning. I like stirring...I stir my lye solution, I stir my melted hard oils, I stir in my soft oils, I still in my lye solution...and then I give it a few quick burst (I make small batches so you don’t need much). I still in my colors and I stir in my scents. The only time I pick up the stick blender again if if I am using TD. It is my humble opinion that I have better control if I stir.

    But every soap maker has to find what works for them.
     
  14. Jan 8, 2020 #14

    dndlyon

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    This is the truest thing I've learned about soaping. I'm still learning, and sometimes what worked last time, doesn't work the same way this time...and I usually forgot to write something down :D

    In case this is helpful in your troubleshooting - As long as your water is drinking quality (so it doesn't have a lot of heavy metals, organic material, microbes, etc.), it will work with your lye to make soap. Distilled, or filtered is usually best and recommended, but I've made a few batches with tap water in the past, and as long as the water is relatively clean, it will make soap.
     
  15. Jan 12, 2020 #15

    Molly13

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    I use rain water instead of distilled water, it works well
     

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