This website wellnessmama.com addresses the concerns most people have about lye and offers valuable history and basic scientific background to show how lye is used safely and effectively in making modern soaps.
A word About Lye
Many people are afraid to try recipes that use Lye, but I’ve found that much of this fear is based on misinformation.
Yes, Lye (or Sodium Hydroxide) is extremely dangerous by itself. It can cause skin damage, blindness (with eye contact) and death (if ingested). Lye in its pure form is something that can be very harmful and extreme caution should be used when using it in any way.
Lye is created through the electrolysis of sodium chloride (salt) and it creates an extremely alkaline substance. If added to water, it becomes sodium and hydroxyl ions and creates a strong exothermic (heat creating) reaction. Flashbacks to high school chemistry anyone?
When Lye is used in soap-making, it is what is called a reagent, meaning it is used in a chemical reaction to create other substances. In soap making, a carefully measured water/lye mixture is blended with natural oils in a process called saponification. Lye is simply an agent used to create soap from oils and water.
There is no unreacted Lye remaining in properly made soap. If you’re considering making soap, definitely use extreme caution with unreacted lye and use a soap calculator to make sure you are using the correct ratio of water/lye/oils but don’t be afraid of this age old process.
Where to Find Lye: Some hardware stores carry Lye (sodium hydroxide) though many have stopped carrying it. I wasn’t able to find it at any of our four local hardware stores so I ordered this one online. If you have a local (not big brand) hardware store they might also be able to special order it for you.
Find more about LYE over at wellnessmama.com.
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