Is there an easy way to know when soap is ready to be taken out of the mold and cut into bars?
You'll figure out what works best with experience, but this is my rule of thumb --
The soap is ready to take out of the mold and cut when it feels like refrigerator-cold mild cheddar, Gouda, or colby cheese. The soap will be soft enough to yield slightly when you gently press it with a finger tip, but is firm enough that it doesn't actually dent.
Soap that's soft and easy to dent, like cream cheese, brie, or Havarti, is too soft to mess with. Give it more time.
Soap that's hard and does not yield to a gentle press of the finger, similar to Parmesan or aged cheddar, might be too hard and brittle to cut well. Obviously you can take it out of the mold without any problems, but you might need to warm it in the oven and use a wire cutter or a "bench scraper" (rather than a knife) to get a clean cut.
Zing shared this tip -- If your soap is in a silicone mold or silicone-lined mold, when "...it's time to unmold, the sides easily pull away from the soap. If it's hard to pull away, then ... let it sit longer." (1)
(1) Zing. When to de-box and cut? Soap Making Forum. https://www.soapmakingforum.com/threads/when-to-de-box-cut.82914
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