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Am I overly worried about lye?

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Shaylyn Valdez

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Hello, I’m a new soap maker, have studied up on it for years, and have made my first batch just last night, but since then, I’ve been scared that my house is a lye filled place and I’m going to go blind or die! I’ve washed my dishes with a separate sponge like I should and I cleaned my sink with soap and then wiped it down with vinegar but I’m scared to wash my normal dishes now because I don’t want to ingest lye. I know lye is dangerous but am I overly concerned? I’m worried to touch my eyes and I’m scared I didn’t clean enough, and every time I touch anything that is related to soaping I wash my hands a bajillion times. How do you usually clean after soaping? Do you only go blind if you actually got like lye water in your eye? Is everything that is used to make soap contaminated and do I need to clean after touching it? I have done a lot of research on soaping and lye safety but now I’m getting paranoid after making my first batch. I know lye is caustic but I’m worried it will still do harm even in extremely small quantities so I’m going a little crazy and just need some help to calm these worries so I can enjoy soaping!
 

JoeyJ

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Um...This is my experience...but commonsense is king. The fumes do not so much as smell as burn your throat and make you unable to breathe...so be very careful while its doing the thermal reaction in water. It does get very hot!
I certainly know it does sting if you get unsaponified soap batter somewhere on your skin...and its itchy and uncomfortable, but so far where it has got on my arms/knees etc is enought to make you realise you have it there, and want it straight off...I havent got any holes in me yet.
In my experience, the soap batter washes off, and and after a few hours the itch is gone. Long sleeves would help too! I always wear gloves and safety glasses

My scariest thing is that the mixed lye water looks exactly like water...so never mix it in a cup

Just treat it with respect, I think..

I leave my soaping stuff for a couple of days before washing to be sure all the lye has finished activating...and its much much easier to clean up as well.
 

Amonik

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I’m going to start by answering your question in the heading: yes. Yes, you worry too much! Lye is not invisible, it’s either a powder or a liquid. Do a normal cleaning of your work area and you’ll be fine!
 

SunRiseArts

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lol, I was obsessed like that too. It will pass. BUT never underestimate the potential risks. Make sure you ALWAYS wear protective goggles for your eyes, gloves, and long sleeves. Even slippers or socks. One time I had a little of the batch fall on my toe. Personally I think, eyes are of the most importance.

I always put a big trash bag in the area where I work. I get the tall kitchen bags from the dollar store, and open them so I have a big plastic area. Keep a spray bottle with vinegar in case you have spills (do not use the vinegar in your skin ever), but in surfaces it will neutralize the lye.

I prefer to use disposable stuff to mix my lye. I buy the foam cups from the dollar store and mix it with wood ice cream sticks, and through them away. My container for the batch, spatula, etc, I do wash and reuse. I put it aside for 24 to 48 hours and wash with hot water. Personally I use a separate sponge for that too, just in case.

Hope that helps. You will be fine.

Make sure you mix your lye in a ventilated area. I used to mix it in the patio, and then bring it in, but now I just mix it on top of the trash bag, and hold my breath until I am out of the room. It takes practice, lol. Might be a good lung exercise. Ha!
 

IrishLass

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Welcome, Shaylyn! Lye does need to be respected, but yes- you are being way overly concerned! For what it's worth, lye is actually not a poison (just in case you were thinking it was). Lye's danger stems from it's super high alkalinity which is very damaging to things like our skin and mucus membranes. Yes- it can damage your eyes, but only if you actually get it directly in your eyes, which is why we strongly advocate wearing goggles when making soap. If you do happen to get it in your eyes, rinse, rinse, rinse with copious amounts of water immediately.

It can also damage your skin if you let it sit there and do not rinse it off with water. You'll know without a doubt you've gotten it on your skin by the burning/itching sensation that eventually follows. Just rinse with plenty of water.

Also, do not breathe in the vapor when making your lye solution. Either use a mask of some kind or a ventilator, or make the solution outside where the breeze is blowing the vapor away from you. For what it's worth, the vapor is very short-lived. Once the lye solution is cooled down enough, there's no more vapor to worry about. I hold three triple-folded tri-ply cotton diapers over my mouth and nose when mixing my solution.

Some good things to know about lye: Lye, when exposed to air, reacts with the carbon dioxide in the air and will eventually turn into harmless sodium carbonate, and when it's diluted with enough water to bring its alkalinity down, it is rendered harmless.......so you need have no fear about washing your dishes in the same sink in which you've washed your soaping equipment. By that time, it's been so diluted that you can take a bath in your sink with no worries. For what its worth, all of my stainless steel pots and stainless steel utensils that I use for soaping pull double duty around my house for cooking and we are all fine (I've been making soap for 13 years now). Lye solution is also added to lotions in minute amounts to balance the pH.

If it makes you feel any better, I actually even cook with lye and I'm still here and not damaged in any way by it. When I make my soft German pretzels, for example, I brush them with a mild lye solution before baking- that's how they have been traditionally made for years. The lye wash is what gives them that authentic and distinctive pretzel-y taste. Besides pretzels, several other foods are processed with lye, such as Dutch chocolate, olives, hominy, lutefisk (a Nordic dish of fish that's been soaked in lye), Asian noodles, etc.... As a matter of fact, my local Asian market sells prepared lye solution for making noodles.

Having said all of that, please do not drink lye solution or eat lye. It needs to be brought to the proper, safe dilution when using it to make food.


ItishLass :)
 

Shaylyn Valdez

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Welcome, Shaylyn! Lye does need to be respected, but yes- you are being way overly concerned! For what it's worth, lye is actually not a poison (just in case you were thinking it was). Lye's danger stems from it's super high alkalinity which is very damaging to things like our skin and mucus membranes. Yes- it can damage your eyes, but only if you actually get it directly in your eyes, which is why we strongly advocate wearing goggles when making soap. If you do happen to get it in your eyes, rinse, rinse, rinse with copious amounts of water immediately.

It can also damage your skin if you let it sit there and do not rinse it off with water. You'll know without a doubt you've gotten it on your skin by the burning/itching sensation that eventually follows. Just rinse with plenty of water.

Also, do not breathe in the vapor when making your lye solution. Either use a mask of some kind or a ventilator, or make the solution outside where the breeze is blowing the vapor away from you. For what it's worth, the vapor is very short-lived. Once the lye solution is cooled down enough, there's no more vapor to worry about. I hold three triple-folded tri-ply cotton diapers over my mouth and nose when mixing my solution.

Some good things to know about lye: Lye, when exposed to air, reacts with the carbon dioxide in the air and will eventually turn into harmless sodium carbonate, and when it's diluted with enough water to bring its alkalinity down, it is rendered harmless.......so you need have no fear about washing your dishes in the same sink in which you've washed your soaping equipment. By that time, it's been so diluted that you can take a bath in your sink with no worries. For what its worth, all of my stainless steel pots and stainless steel utensils that I use for soaping pull double duty around my house for cooking and we are all fine (I've been making soap for 13 years now). Lye solution is also added to lotions in minute amounts to balance the pH.

If it makes you feel any better, I actually even cook with lye and I'm still here and not damaged in any way by it. When I make my soft German pretzels, for example, I brush them with a mild lye solution before baking- that's how they have been traditionally made for years. The lye wash is what gives them that authentic and distinctive pretzel-y taste. Besides pretzels, several other foods are processed with lye, such as Dutch chocolate, olives, hominy, lutefisk (a Nordic dish of fish that's been soaked in lye), Asian noodles, etc.... As a matter of fact, my local Asian market sells prepared lye solution for making noodles.

Having said all of that, please do not drink lye solution or eat lye. It needs to be brought to the proper, safe dilution when using it to make food.


ItishLass :)
That’s so helpful! Thank you! That eases my worry soooo much haha! Actually making the soap is much different from seeing it be made but I love it and am so excited to start more batches! The first one came out great and is now on to curing! Thanks again!
 

szaza

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Oh you definitely worry too much;)
I think a lot of things have been said already, I just want to add that lye is very water soluble, so if you spill some and rinse well with water it will be gone.
Soap batter is mixed with oil and is therefore not as water soluble, it has to be rinsed off with soap and warm/hot water (or if you're washing utensils you can wait until saponification is finished and wash off the resulting soap). After that it's safe.
Since cleaning lye is so easy, you don't need single use products imo.
When lye touches your skin, it won't start burning immediately, you have several seconds to wash it off with either plenty of water for lye or soap and water for soap batter. If you don't stall, you generally have enough time to wash it off before it starts burning.
Definitely wear safety goggles and make sure you never mistake lye solution for drinking water and I think you'll be fine;)
 

Kathymzr

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Rather than overly-worry, set up your soaping station the same every time, have a weighing station, with a lye station. Keep a “used soap stuff” basin in the sink. Make your lye containers distinct - I use a dedicated little stainless saucepan and lid. No mistaking it for drinking. Suit up when you begin your session. Set up your “soap lab” mindfully and you will be fine.
 

Michele50

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Welcome, Shaylyn! Lye does need to be respected, but yes- you are being way overly concerned! For what it's worth, lye is actually not a poison (just in case you were thinking it was). Lye's danger stems from it's super high alkalinity which is very damaging to things like our skin and mucus membranes. Yes- it can damage your eyes, but only if you actually get it directly in your eyes, which is why we strongly advocate wearing goggles when making soap. If you do happen to get it in your eyes, rinse, rinse, rinse with copious amounts of water immediately.

It can also damage your skin if you let it sit there and do not rinse it off with water. You'll know without a doubt you've gotten it on your skin by the burning/itching sensation that eventually follows. Just rinse with plenty of water.

Also, do not breathe in the vapor when making your lye solution. Either use a mask of some kind or a ventilator, or make the solution outside where the breeze is blowing the vapor away from you. For what it's worth, the vapor is very short-lived. Once the lye solution is cooled down enough, there's no more vapor to worry about. I hold three triple-folded tri-ply cotton diapers over my mouth and nose when mixing my solution.

Some good things to know about lye: Lye, when exposed to air, reacts with the carbon dioxide in the air and will eventually turn into harmless sodium carbonate, and when it's diluted with enough water to bring its alkalinity down, it is rendered harmless.......so you need have no fear about washing your dishes in the same sink in which you've washed your soaping equipment. By that time, it's been so diluted that you can take a bath in your sink with no worries. For what its worth, all of my stainless steel pots and stainless steel utensils that I use for soaping pull double duty around my house for cooking and we are all fine (I've been making soap for 13 years now). Lye solution is also added to lotions in minute amounts to balance the pH.

If it makes you feel any better, I actually even cook with lye and I'm still here and not damaged in any way by it. When I make my soft German pretzels, for example, I brush them with a mild lye solution before baking- that's how they have been traditionally made for years. The lye wash is what gives them that authentic and distinctive pretzel-y taste. Besides pretzels, several other foods are processed with lye, such as Dutch chocolate, olives, hominy, lutefisk (a Nordic dish of fish that's been soaked in lye), Asian noodles, etc.... As a matter of fact, my local Asian market sells prepared lye solution for making noodles.

Having said all of that, please do not drink lye solution or eat lye. It needs to be brought to the proper, safe dilution when using it to make food.


ItishLass :)
Lol, you covered (as did others) many of the points I was going to cover......beat me to them, ya did. Including the hominy--:nonono:not for me, ick!! My husband's mom made it often and, until he told me it was only corn but made by soaking it in lye, I had no idea. I love corn but NOT hominy!!
 

cerelife

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Girl, I know exactly how you feel!!
When I made my first batch of soap (after months of research) I realized that I didn't know much about how to clean up afterwards. I was sure that I was going to kill our pets/poison and blind myself and my husband if I didn't do a full 'Hazmat' cleaning of the kitchen!! I went through half a gallon of vinegar cleaning every possible surface I may have touched and got down on my hands and knees to scrub the kitchen floor with vinegar before I would let my husband and our pets back into the area!! I was so stressed out that I sat down and cried afterwards and wasn't sure if I would EVER make soap again...
But here I am over 10 years later still making soap :)
 

DeeAnna

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The first year or so, I had a bad case of nerves every time I made soap. After I'd measure out my fats and make my lye solution, I had to walk away and take a little breather just to chill out before actually making the soap. Not sure why that happened, because I worked around chemicals for years as a chemistry lab tech and process engineer ... but I did. I'm much better now.
 

sirtim100

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The first year or so, I had a bad case of nerves every time I made soap. After I'd measure out my fats and make my lye solution, I had to walk away and take a little breather just to chill out before actually making the soap. Not sure why that happened, because I worked around chemicals for years as a chemistry lab tech and process engineer ... but I did. I'm much better now.
I'm still in that phase. Sometimes after making a batch I feel like I've run a marathon. Good to know it's something you get over
 

Soulboy1973

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I am not concerned whatsoever by Lye, I think you just have to be sensible like when using anything with the possibility to harm. Just treat it with respect. I know many people will not want to hear this but I don't use gloves or eye protection, I am just careful. I don't slosh it around, I mix it into my water carefully and pour it into my oils slowly and carefully. If you feel comfortable with the safety gear then wear it, I know I am capeable of making soap safely, if I ever got lye on my skin I would immediately put the splashed skin under the tap until it was washed off. It really is that simple. I did get a good tip the other day which I thought was good. When washing up, rather than washing your gear immediately, unless you are soaping all day of course, then simply leave your gear, blender bottom, jugs, etc for a day while the gunk turns to soap and the lye is neutralised through saponification then it is safer and easier to wash up. I am definitely going to try that next batch.

DISCLAIMER
This is a safety issue, wear gloves and eye protection, smf, does NOT endorse the information this poster has provided.
 

DeeAnna

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"...I know many people will not want to hear this but I don't use gloves or eye protection, I am just careful. I don't slosh it around, I mix it into my water carefully and pour it into my oils slowly and carefully...."

Yep you're right -- I don't need to hear this. I also do not want the new soap makers reading this forum to think this is acceptable practice. So I'm vigorously objecting. Permanent eye damage will happen within seconds with the highly concentrated lye solutions we are using. Even if there isn't permanent damage, a tiny droplet of soap batter or lye solution in the eye is incredibly painful and takes weeks to heal.

Sh*t happens no matter how careful you are. I work with care too, but I still wear goggles. I've been around hazardous chemicals for years and have seen enough accidents to know just how very simple, quick, and easy it can be to get badly hurt. Especially eyes.
 

Ashleigh

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I think I became more comfortable with lye only after splashing some batter on my cheek for the first time. I didn't die, the world didn't end. I keep a towel nearby so I wiped it off then cleaned with water and ended up with a little burn mark that lasted a few days and that was it. Now that was only a tiny splatter, but knowing I could handle it calmly put my mind at ease.

It's a good reminder of the importance of wearing safety glasses though. If I hadn't been wearing them and it went a little higher it would have hit my eye. I've gotten a bit more lax with not wearing long sleeves because I know I can wipe off any batter really quickly, but will never soap without the glasses. And I'm way too messy to do without gloves.
 

Soulboy1973

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"...I know many people will not want to hear this but I don't use gloves or eye protection, I am just careful. I don't slosh it around, I mix it into my water carefully and pour it into my oils slowly and carefully...."

Yep you're right -- I don't need to hear this. I also do not want the new soap makers reading this forum to think this is acceptable practice. So I'm vigorously objecting. Permanent eye damage will happen within seconds with the highly concentrated lye solutions we are using. Even if there isn't permanent damage, a tiny droplet of soap batter or lye solution in the eye is incredibly painful and takes weeks to heal.

Sh*t happens no matter how careful you are. I work with care too, but I still wear goggles. I've been around hazardous chemicals for years and have seen enough accidents to know just how very simple, quick, and easy it can be to get badly hurt. Especially eyes.
Hey, each to their own. I haven't asked anyone to follow my methods, I did say if you want to wear the gear wear it. Help yourself to a vigourous objection.
 
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