Help! Lye Misbehaving Badly!

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twaburds

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Hi!

I have had this problem a few times now. I mix my water and lye and let it reach room temp but sometimes some of it seems to have solidified at the bottom of my jug???

It creates an opaque white solid layer which you can smash but it doesnt disolve.

I dont use any washing up liquid or chemicals to wash my jugs or spoons so I am wondering if maybe its some soap/oil residue from my washcloth mixing with the lye water?

I then have to throw the water away and start again as any soap i have made when this happens is very soft due to their being less lye in it.

Any suggestions?

I also get white floaters in my lye water too, what is this?!

Thanks in advance!
 

Kamahido

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I would suggest you wash your bowl after every batch as you will get ingredients from batch a in batch b. Makes troubleshooting harder.

Floaters are lyre reacting with the air which makes soda ash.
 

earlene

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Hi!

I have had this problem a few times now. I mix my water and lye and let it reach room temp but sometimes some of it seems to have solidified at the bottom of my jug???

It creates an opaque white solid layer which you can smash but it doesnt disolve.

I dont use any washing up liquid or chemicals to wash my jugs or spoons so I am wondering if maybe its some soap/oil residue from my washcloth mixing with the lye water?

I then have to throw the water away and start again as any soap i have made when this happens is very soft due to their being less lye in it.

Any suggestions?

I also get white floaters in my lye water too, what is this?!

Thanks in advance!
Twaburds, if that kept happening to me, I think I would try a new and different lye mixing container and see if the problem resolved itself.

Do you use the same container for lye and use it only for lye solution? If so, is it a stable material? And what kind of stirrer do you use and do you use it only for mixing the lye solution and is it a stable material? Perhaps changing the stirring tool might be another thing to try to see if it has any effect on your outcome.

Just a couple of thoughts on where I would look first, if it were happening to me.

I have had a problem in the past with a container I used to use for mixing lye deteriorate at the bottom. I suspect that tiny bits of that container probably did end up in my soap (molecular sized bits, I would expect, not particulate sized bits), but that only occurred to me after the fact. Luckily I have always only mixed my lye in a container that sits inside my kitchen sink, so when that one did break through the bottom, it went down the drain. It was after that that I realized I needed to take a bit more care about which containers to use for mixing my lye solution. Now when I shop for lye solution containers (at the Goodwill/thrift store) I choose only something I can be absolutely sure is safe for that purpose. I have 4 such containers, of varying sizes for use dependant on the amount of lye solution I need to make. (Two I have not yet used, as they are back-ups for the most used ones.) My stir stick for my lye solution is an actual stick, well a wooden chop stick really and they do deteriorate, so I toss it after using it a few times and use a new one.

I never use the same material for lye solution preparation for any other purpose, thereby avoiding introducing other contaminants into the lye solution. And, like you, I do not use any cleaning solutions. I merely rinse them very well with water and let them air dry. But I do not use a washing up cloth on them, either, so that might be something that is introducing a contaminant to your lye solution; some residual thing on the washing up cloth itself that leaves a residue you cannot see.
 

dixiedragon

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I have had that happen. HATE IT. I get some paint stirrers from Home Depot (they're free) and I use them to vigorously stir the water AS I am adding the lye. I think it is more at risk in a pitcher that has a dome-shaped bottom - so there is a ring around the edge that is slightly deeper and collects lye.

I used to pour my lye water, then fill my pitcher with water and stick my soapy stick blend into the pitcher when I was done. I have learned not to do that because it is very hard to get rid of every trace of soap from the pitcher and that seems to make the lye water behave badly. I rinse my lye pitcher with HOT water and leave it to dry. Or run it through the dishwasher. I don't hand-wash it with soap.
 

twaburds

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Thanks guys! I have tried different containers and have had the problem occur in both. Think what I will do is use the same containers and spoons all the time and just rinse them instead of using a sponge I have used on soapy dishes.

Cheers!
 

TeresaT

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Obsidian, you beat me to it. I've had that problem twice and both times because I did a poor job of stirring the NaOH into my water. Now, I stir the solution until it is clear. I use a stainless steel spoon most of the time.
 

IrishLass

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Just to make sure- how much water do you mix your lye into? I ask because if the amount of water is anything less than 50% of the total lye/water mix, the lye will precipitate out of solution and collect on the bottom as it cools down. The remedy in that case would be to add more water.

Particles that float on the surface of the solution can be either sodium carbonate (from the lye solution being exposed to air), or else saponified (soap) particles from either soap residue or oil residue that wasn't rinsed out completely our of the container. Or if you are using silk fibers in your solution, they could be un-dissolved silk particles. You can always strain those types of particles out with a stainless mesh strainer.

What type of plastic are you using to mix your lye solution? I ask because not all plastics are compatible with lye solutions, such as PETE #1 and PS #6. The best are either polypropylene #5 (PP #5), Nalgene, or stainless steel. HDPE #2 is also very compatible with lye, but is better used for storing lye solutions rather than for mixing them, because it has a lower temperature tolerance than the other 3 mentioned.

When I mix my solution, I use a PP #5 pitcher and a large stainless steel slotted spoon, and I stir continuously as I'm pouring the lye into the water. And I don't stop stirring until all is clear. Sometimes it takes as much as 5 -7 minutes, but then again, I make a 50/50 solution and I use also silk fibers.


IrishLass :)
 

TwystedPryncess

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Stirring can take forever. I use a dedicated PP5 container and stainless steel spoon to mix with as well, and put up a soaping video on my phone while I am stirring so the time passes better.
 

ca_soap

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I've never had this happen so I can't offer any advice but I do have a question that maybe can be answered. Is it possible the problem is the lye? What brand lye are you using and are you using flakes, beads etc? Also what temp are you mixing at and what temp is your mixed solution?
 

nsmar4211

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I add the lye in a medium stream (not fast or a large amount) or it clumps at the bottom and does the glass layer like you're referring to. If it's a big batch, I'll add 1/3 stirrrrr stirrr add the next 1/3 keep stirring add the last 1/3. Just don't forget to account for the spoon if you leave it in the water on the scale LOL.
 

topofmurrayhill

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You have already gotten the answer, but let me just add that (1) this is a common and well known behavior of sodium hydroxide, and (2) it happens very quickly. Did I mention quickly? You have to stir the lye before the crust forms. My suggestion would be to use the quickest safe method to get all the NaOH into the water. The faster you get it in there, the sooner you can start mixing. There's no advantage to adding it slowly.
 

cmzaha

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^^^ I dump it all in at once and stir. I make 50/50 solution so I do have to stir well. But I never have any problems dumpin in all at once.
 

Susie

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I add between 1/4 and 1/3 of the NaOH at the time, and stir briefly between. Then I stir until clear. NaOH is super easy to mix in compared to KOH.
 

topofmurrayhill

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I add between 1/4 and 1/3 of the NaOH at the time, and stir briefly between. Then I stir until clear. NaOH is super easy to mix in compared to KOH.
Yep, every way avoids the problem if you don't leave the NaOH too long without stirring, because did I mention the crust forms quickly? You can put in smaller portions of the caustic as long as you stir between additions without letting the NaOH sit on the bottom. If you can get all the NaOH into the water quickly, it should be more efficient. There is no downside I have noticed to putting it in all at once, then stirring immediately.
 

shunt2011

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I too dump it in all at once then stir until clear with no issues.
 

Susie

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My lye/water mixing container has a raised portion in the center with a moat around the outside. If I don't mix in between, it gathers there and gets hard.
 

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