This post is not meant to freak you out. My goal is to make you feel confident when working with lye (Sodium Hydroxide), so that you can move on to the funner (I know that’s not a word) aspects of soap making.
Lye is a caustic or alkali substance (high PH). It can potentially burn your skin, damage your eyes or cause serious injury when ingested. That’s why it is important to talk about lye safety.
Think of flying in an airplane: it’s very safe, but you have to make sure you know all the safety measures in order to avoid injury and know what to do in case of an emergency. And I will be serving as your helpful flight attendant, guiding you through the Do's and Dont's of working with lye.
Let’s get started:
1. Setting the scene
- Always soap in a well ventilated area (crack a window or turn on a ventilator)
- Never soap around kids or pets
- Make sure you won’t be distracted (sounds like music to my ears)
2. Gearing up
Before you even open your lye container, pretty please:
- Put on your googles and gloves
- Wear long sleeves and long pants
- Put on a pair of close toed shoes
- I also like to wear a dust mask but it’s up to you
4. Creating your lye solution
- Carefully measure out your lye in a small container (I like to use a clean yoghurt cup).
- Choose the right container for your liquid (distilled water): aluminum, tin and zinc will react with lye. Recommended are plastic or stainless steel. Glass may crack due to the heat.
- Always pour your lye into your water. Never, never, never the other way around!
- When lye first reacts with a liquid, fumes are released that shouldn’t be inhaled.
- Hold your breath while stirring, turn your head to the side to inhale.
- As soon as all the lye has dissolved set your mixture to the side away from where you’re going to work next.
- Keep in mind that the lye solution will initially become very hot.
- Never leave your lye solution unattended in a place where kids or pets can get to.
- If you’re going to leave your lye solution unattended for a long period of time, mark your container with a “Danger: Poison” sign.
4. While making your soap
- Keep all your safety gear on for the entirety of your soaping session. Even for the cleanup right after.
Fresh soap is less dangerous than lye solution but it’s still caustic. As a matter of fact the only times I’ve ever gotten burned was by getting fresh soap batter on me. You’re so wrapped up in what you’re doing that you don’t even realize until it stings a few minutes later.
5. Oops, I got some on my skin
- Keep calm and rinse it off right away under plenty of cool water. Then wash with soap.
- If it got on your clothes remove them and wash skin
- If lye batter got on your skin, gently wipe it off and rinse area
- Don’t use vinegar to rinse. Some sources recommend using vinegar- this will only make it worse!
6. I inhaled some of the fumes!
- You'll probably start to cough or have a tickle in your throat. Simply move to fresh air and take a little break.
7. Help! It got into my eye!
- Rinse immediately under plenty of cool water and seek medical attention.
8. Help! Someone swallowed it!
- Drink 2 cups of water and immediately seek medical attention.
9. Storing your lye
- When not in use store your lye container tightly sealed in a place where neither kids nor pets have access to. Label accordingly.
I hope you enjoyed this safety announcement. Now, sit back, relax and enjoy your soaping journey 😉
Until next time. Happy Tinkering!
You may also like:
- Everything you need for your first batch of cold process soap
- Step by Step Beginner's Tutorial to make cold process soap