Slow trace, hard bar, frothy AND big bubbles, I want it all.

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Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
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Greenville, SC
Ok, fessing up. I have bought CP soap colors since I want to swirl like you guys so beautifully do, BUT, that means a slow tracing recipe and those typically don't lather nearly as much as I like. I like suds almost as much as I like shopping for fragrances, which, let's be honest, is the real reason why most of us soap.:lolno:. So, no swirling dervish am I because any slow trace recipe means the frothy suds that ignite like a match when water strikes the bar are lost. Or are they? And can that slow trace also equal a fast and hard cure? Just say no and I'll be ok living it up with my rich and creamy bars that are hard as granite, using the soap colors to streak up my hair (not really, no, er, not tonight at least).
What have you tried so far, especially in terms of your oils/amounts and any additives?

Hate to break it to you, but a long cure makes for more bubbles.
Fast curing stuff...really doesn't exist. The fastest is about 4 weeks, and I consider that to be on the low side for anything. However, to avoid very long cures, don't use soft oils like olive, soy, sunflower, and so on.

Slower traces tend to be from softer oils, which will lengthen that cure time (and generally not produce much in the way of bubbles). Softer oils tend to also produce softer bars, but there are exceptions (olive goes rock hard after a long cure).

Off the cuff, the best balance might be something like 75% lard, 25% coconut.

Trace will be moderate, and you can slow it by going with full water. Lather will be rich and creamy, with bubbles. You can raise the bubbles by adding 5% castor in place of some of the lard, but it'll speed trace a bit.

Cure time will be on the low end. Four weeks if you absolutely have to, six to eight weeks would be better (but that's true of everything).

Go with 100% lard and the trace slows considerably, but you lose the bubbles. It does have a rich, creamy lather, however, that's certainly extremely nice.
That might be hard to achieve, what kind of skin do you have? Lard makes for a very slow tracing recipe, palm and butters are faster. This is my favorite recipe but it probably isn't bubbly enough for you since its lower on coconut. Its gets nice and hard though and lasts well. Use full water and soap at room temp.

Lard 50%
olive 25%
coconut 20%
castor 5%

You could swap the olive and coconut amounts around to get more lather.
High percentages of lard are slow-tracing *and* produce decent lather, although not of the high coconut kind. Also I find mine get hard pretty quickly, if I soap at night I can generally cut the next am (although I discount water, add SL to all of them and do the split method w/other additives - pretty much always at least coconut milk powder, sugar, and EDTA - of course that makes the soap harder for unmolding/non-cure short term.)

I usually have tons of time to swirl and bars that get hard quickly. Not sure if they would make a super-super-lather lover happy, I avoid high amounts of those oils - CO, PKO, max out at 20% collectively on those - b/c I want more conditioning. Also, not to make another "duh" statement, soaping at lower temps will generally give you more time to swirl no matter what the mix is.

ETA: high lard recipes are so slow to trace that I actually sometimes *try" to make them go faster w/FO's, higher temps, fast tracing additives, etc.
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I've been using a high lard recipe that just wanted to *ZOOM* on me for the last month. It also includes Shea Butter, and while I'm not sure, I think that may be the culprit. (been meaning to research that .... well, another late night .. lol). Anyway, I've found on my last two batches that preparing my lye water a couple hours before my oils and soaping when my oils are cooler has slowed that sucker down and made it "toe the line".

Not sure my recipe would give the big bubbles you want. But, my point is that soaping with lye water that has been prepared well before your oils and allowing your oils to get somewhat cooler will slow down trace for you and should give you enough time do swirls with the favorite recipe that you have been using.
lenarenee- You will be shocked at the castor oil input, lol. Here is a typical recipe: 30-35% palm oil, 10- 12% coconut, 10-15% butter (cocoa, shea, mango, kokum), 20-25% castor, and the rest olive, olive pomace, or avocado. No additives except maybe nat vit e added to soft oils before use as a rancidity preservative at <1% by weight. The total bubble factor per soapcalc is typically 74-84 and hardness about 35. Cut time s typically next day and a true cure about 6-8 weeks for a bar that is very firm, little give when pressed firmly.

Obsidian- I have mediterranean skin. It's relatively tough but prone to rosacea which then makes it sensitive. True soap has almost diminished rosacea outbreaks and works far better than prescriptions.

Not_ally- I have soaped at lower temps and crashed saponification once because both lye water and oils were at room temp. Lye crystals later developed after the loaf seeped and weeped. I'll have to give lard a try but having trouble finding it any more. I have experimented with powdered milks both goat's milk and buttermilk and regular, but "meh" was my thought.
I could see where that recipe would trace fast, any time I use palm at 20% or more, I get instant trace. The recipe I posted was developed for my dry skin but its plenty cleansing while still being gentle since I also have sensitive skin.

You can find lard at walmart or any Mexican market. Every grocery store carries it but its not with the other oils (except at walmart), its either with the meats or in the ethnic isle.

I've found that animal milks irritate my skin. I really like coconut milk or aloe juice but they can increase trace, especially the coconut milk. Aloe for some reason seems to really increase lather. I've used it for 100% of my liquid and as long as I soap cool, I have plenty of time to do simple swirls.
Julieanne, what is your recipe, exactly? That bubbly no. is so high, and not one I would have expected from what you posted, except for the castor (but even then, what oils is it maximizing?)

It is true, soaping low/RT can be problematic depending on what the RT is at a given time. I never have problems at 90 degrees, or so, will heat the oils to get there if they get too far below that just to be safe. I've read that others have problems w/lard hardening at low temps, so they keep the mix at 110 or so if they are making a soap that they want to keep really thin for design purposes, but have not experienced that much myself. The only time I try to keep a focused eye on it is when using in a blend with, eg, PKO.
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That is a lot of castor oil, does it make your bar softer? I have read that castor oil can speed up trace, but I haven't experienced that. If you skin will tolerate a little more coconut, maybe 15% you will get more bubbles, and the butters will also cut down on the bubbles, you could subtract the amount you add to the coconut from the butters. Also PKO will add additional bubbles, and for me doesn't strip the skin. I only use 3-4% PKO. Well sometimes more, but just a little will help with the bubbles.
I made a high castor oil soap once and hated it, it had really big bubbles but they didn't last at all, the soap just melted away and it left my skin sticky feeling. I wouldn't use over 10% now.
Thanks for your inputs, all. I was suckered by the post calling me and insisting I purchase Rustic Escentuals 20 FO samples for a buck each. I have a loaf that uses 1 oz almost exactly so I'll be practicing a lot soon. Lard/manteca here I come!!
Castor oil makes a huge difference in trace time. High castor does not necessarily promise lots of lather since it is not a lathering oil per-say but lends support to lather, higher castor usually leaves a sticky bar. It is just a bit tricky to get all three in a slow trace bar. Coconut, pko, babassu give the bursting quick bubbles but a soluble bar that does not last as long. High lard, Coconut 20%, Sunflower HO, Olive or Avocado, castor 3% will give a nice slow trace recipe but will not burst out with immediate bubbles. It will be creamy then added water will help the bubbles. Adding 1T sugar ppo also boost bubbles

Palm 30%
Kokum Butter 10%
Coconut Oil 76 12%
Castor Oil 25%
Olive Oil Pomace 23%

Cleansing is 8
Hardness is 34
Creamy is 49
Bubbly is 31
Hardness is 34
Iodine is 61
Julie, your earlier post said the bubbly fact was 74-84, was that just a mistake, or is it derived from further calculations (ie; like hardness in use is?) If the latter, I would be really curious to know.

ETA: also let us know what you think about lard. I think it is amazing.
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I like to think that I have the hardness and bubble factors worked out. But as I only make vegan soaps and try to limit CO, I rely on palm oil, PKO and butters for hardness and they really speed up the trace even at RT. If someone worked out a slow tracing vegan recipe without Avocado oil that would still produce a hard bar, I would like to know. General outlines without an actual recipe would do for me. I know OO rich recipe would be slow to trace but I found them to be actually little, really tiny bit drying even 6 months out, compared to my other soaps. May be its just me but I am not interested in Bastille soaps anymore.
That amount of Palm, Castor, and butter will make for a fast trace. I don't use pomace but I believe people who use it say it also accelerates trace. It seems like most people keep their butters around 10% before it seems to dampen lather too much, but I would consider adjustments to first, your castor and then second, your palm. That amount of castor won't do what I think you hope it will do and it will make your bar softer. Try dropping it back to about 5%. Add a bit of that to your coconut and the rest to either your palm or OO. I would try regular OO as well.

I have been asked for an exploding lather bar and from a recent swap, people reported that I did get a quick big lather and lots of it. In fact, someone used exactly the word, "exploding". It is possible but the soap calc numbers just don't tell you the whole story.

I definitely agree about the aloe. In our swap, that was very consistent. The aloe bars gave off big fat large bubbles right away and the overall lather was light, fluffy and very abundant.

Okay, I tweaked your recipe on soap calc. You will be disappointed inthe bubbly department but as I said, soap calc is not the end all be all of what you get from your soap. This will give you a very hard bar that will last. If you soap coolish, it should be slow enough to do swirls (if it's not, sub out tallow or lard for palm and see what happens). Use aloe juice as all or part of your liquid, or add some sugar or sodium citrate which will increase the lighter bubbles. See what you think and how it compares to your other recipe. It's all about tweaking to get what you want!

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Ok, for us country bumpkins that have to travel 18 miles in one direction or 23 miles in the other just to get to Wal-mart (where I can't find Aloe Juice), where can I order some online? It sounds like something I should try in one of my batches.

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