Lye, also known as sodium hydroxide, is a key ingredient in the soap making reaction called saponification. Although this chemical is essential to produce mild handmade soaps, the substance in an unadulterated form is extremely alkaline and caustic.

Sodium hydroxide is leached from wood ash using water. In this process, Soft water (rain water or water from a dehumidifier) must be used because it lacks unwanted substance like calcium, magnesium and acidic chemicals that may react with the sodium hydroxide.

The ashes used in this process must be white ashes only. This type of ash is the result of burning wood at extreme temperatures.

Because of lye's harsh properties, caution must be used when working with it. When handling this caustic chemical, always wear rubber gloves and thick outerwear. You should also keep a supply of vinegar readily available to pour over spills for neutralization.

Also, be sure to only use sodium hydroxide in well ventilated areas to avoid inhaling its harmful fumes

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Follow these soap safety guidelines to learn more about how to safely use lye and other soap making supplies.

Lye Uses

Lye is most known for its use as a drain cleaner, not necessarily for its role in making soap. It can also be used for making paper, glass, textiles and some cleaning supplies.

Unfortunately, this valuable chemical is also used in the production of illegal narcotics and is therefore difficult to find in stores. Many markets, at least where I live, do not carry sodium hydroxide for this reason. Luckily, online retailers supply high quality lye at often better prices then most brick and mortar institutions.

Before you Buy Lye

As a soap maker, buying lye is best done in bulk because of its cost effectiveness. When you purchase the sodium hydroxide, it will come in a dry form. The proper amount of water must be added before it's ready to be used in the soap making reaction.

Make sure that you only shop from reputable online retailers when purchasing soap making supplies. This will increase the likelihood of safe packaging and a superior product.

I recommend getting your lye from boyer corporation. They haven't failed me yet!

Click here to learn more about lye soap.

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