Classic Bells > Soapy stuff > Tips 'n tricks

Tips 'n tricks for new soap makers

Is there an easy way to know when soap is ready to be taken out of the mold and cut into bars?

You will figure out what works best for you as you gain experience, but this is my rule of thumb to help get you started --

There is no set time for cutting soap, speaking in general, because many factors affect this, not just the proportion of solid fats or the amount of water in the recipe. You have to cut soap when it is ready to be cut.

When you're familiar with a particular recipe, you will get a rough idea of the time it takes between making it and when it's ready to cut. Until then you have to go by feel. Some soap is ready at 6 hours and some soap is not ready until 2-3 days go by.

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 yet. Give it more time to firm up in the mold.

When the soap has firmed up a bit more but isn't quite firm enough to cut, you can try to gently remove the soap out of the mold, then leave it on the counter until it is firm enough to cut cleanly (see previous paragraph.)

Soap that is very hard and does not yield to a gentle press of the finger, similar to Parmesan or aged cheddar, is probably 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. A knife has a triangular shape, and that wedge shape can cause brittle soap to snap apart, rather than cut cleanly.

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)

References

(1) Zing. When to de-box and cut? Soap Making Forum. https://www.soapmakingforum.com/threads/when-to-de-box-cut.82914