How to Clean up After a Spill in kitchen

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Nov 27, 2014
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Yesterday I was attempting my first batch of cp soap. When I had just combined the oils and lye solution I used a stick blender and did not realize it was not completely submerged in the mixture. When I turned it on, the mixture splattered a few places, mainly on the floor with a little bit on the top of the stove where my mixing bowl was. I was wearing gloves a mask and goggles at the time, and pants and long sleeves. A few small splashes from the mixture got on my sweater sleeves. I was wondering if I did the right thing to clean up... any feedback would be appreciated as I don't really like the idea of messing around with lye.

I poured vinegar onto the floor and let it sit for a while before cleaning it up with paper towel and disposing of it. I also sprayed vinegar onto the surface of the stove and wiped with paper towel as well.

I put the measuring cup that I used to measure out the lye into the sink and rinses with water and vinegar. All the other supplies that were in contact with the mixture I covered in garbage bags and set out on my balcony, including the soap mixture itself. I also continued stirring the mixture with a whisk for about 10 minutes before also bringing it outside to set on my balcony, hoping to at least combine the solution a little so that it would eventually safely neautralize on its own.

Though I dont think any mixture got on my skin, I also changed my clothes and bagged the ones I was wearing.

My main concerns are:
1. Is it safe to use my stove after cleaning it with vinegar. Since the soap mixture had lye in it, is there any way this is a fire hazard?

2. Is there anything else I should do to make sure the areas where the mixture was spilled are safe/neutral? I was generous with the vinegar, but is that enough? Because it happened near the beginning of blending the mixture, the lye water solution and oils would not yet have been fully incorporated.

3. My purse was sitting in the corner of the room and got a few splashes. I sprayed it generously with vinegar, but do I have to wait a few days before using it?

Sorry for all the questions, they may be a bit ocd, but any feedback would help put my mind at ease and be kindly appreciated! :)
Better to be cautious with the caustic!

Vinegar reacts with lye and a side effect is heat. On a surface/floor I don't think it is an issue, but please PLEASE, if you ever get lye solution or soap batter on your skin, rinse with cold running water only. If you put vinegar on it you will most likely get a burn.

That is skin taken care of. On the surfaces and bag, I think you'll be okay. Another option is to clean it up like you would a custard spill and then wipe over with a mix of vinegar and water. Personally, I just wipe up the batter with a damp cloth, rinse it out and then wipe the surface down again.
Thanks very much for the prompt feedback :)
I didn't know to use only water on skin, as some sources recommend vinegar, so thanks for the tip! Hopefully I won't need to use it anytime soon, though very good to know!
Hopefully not! :D

It can be a source of some contension. The consensus on this particular forum is water only on skin, but sometimes we get in to a 'heated discussion' about it. Alas many books and resources still say to use vinegar, based on the science (strong base is neutralised by an acid - lye vs vinegar) but that doesn't account for the heat generated. We know how much lye heats up just reacting with water, so imagine what it would do with vinegar! I shudder to think
Just toss the clothes into the washer and run it. They may be discolored, but will be safe to wear. Sometimes my clothes get dark dots if I have a splash, sometimes not, so just wash them and see. Worst case scenario, those become your soaping clothes. I am a messy enough person that I wear a long sleeved lab jacket that is fluid resistant to save my clothes and skin.

I am with Effy. On skin, lots of water. NEVER vinegar.

On surfaces, wipe with soapy cloth(wearing gloves) then rinse with vinegar/water solution.
A related question..what happens when you spill either lye solution or soap batter on hardwood floors? Will it damage the finish?
When I have a splatter or spill from soaping, I wipe up as much as possible with dry paper towels or dry "soaping towels" (small squares of old scrap towels). Paper towels go in the trash and soaping towels go into a plastic bucket to be stored safely away from cat and dog noses for a day or two. Any free lye in the toweling will react with the paper and cotton fibers as well as with any oil in the residues, so after a day or two, the lye will be a non-issue.

Next I just clean the area well with plain water and more towels. These towels are handled the same as the others. If you want to substitute vinegar for the water, that's fine too. Any small bits that you might miss will quickly react with carbon dioxide in the air and turn into relatively safe soda ash. By saying this, I don't mean to suggest that it's okay to do a slap-dash cleanup of a lye spill, just that one doesn't need to be paranoid about the kitchen forever being a toxic waste dump. :)

For splashes on clothing -- get them off your body ASAP and take care of your skin first. Clothes can be replaced; your skin can't. When your body is safe, then rinse the clothes in cold water and pop in the washing machine as Susie suggested.

For splashes on wood floors, a purse, etc., I would wipe off the residues and rinse well. In this case, since you probably don't want to use a lot of water on wood floors or your purse, I might use a vinegar solution to get residual lye quickly neutralized by the vinegar, not by the wood or the leather.

I strongly agree with the others -- for lye on the body rinse immediately with water only. Lots of it. Cool or cold, never hot. Never, never vinegar. For burns on the face of any size and for larger burns on the body, get to the doctor as well. Lye burns are not something to ignore.
Oh, for those as messy as I am, an old shower curtain or cut open trash bag taped down provides good floor protection until you get the hang of where the end of the stickblender needs to be when turning it on. I don't need the floor protection any more, but I did back then.
Awesome tips, everyone!

To answer the question about your hardwood floors, yes - lye will damage them. The extent of the damage is dependent on the concentration of your lye solution and how long the lye remains on the surface.

I managed to splash a bit of batter while pouring a few batches back. I saw the spot on my kitchen cabinet, wiped it away immediately, and cleaned it up with wet paper towels. Thankfully, no damage occurred since I got to it so quickly (whew - those cabinets were just redone a few years back). However, I missed the tiny bit that landed on my wooden floor under the cabinet toe kick. There is now a round, bleached spot where the batter ate through the finish. I'm about to have the floors refinished anyway so no biggie. But... now I've added "spot search" to my soaping clean-up routine.

I'm just glad to hear no one was hurt in your incident. I think we can get complacent and need a reminder now and again about being safe and accidents. Thanks for posting!
For the two batches I have made so far, I wear those sleeves that go over your arms. I got them from my spouse's work; he deals with chemicals at his work and it's what they use there.

When I pour the soap batter into my molds, I have them in a kitty litter box. It's tough thick plastic and I can be assured of not spilling any on my floors or counters. At least not yet anyway!
A related question..what happens when you spill either lye solution or soap batter on hardwood floors? Will it damage the finish?

I do routinely clean my hardwood floors (all surfaces really) with a very dilute lye solution. I mean like a tablespoon per bucket of water. It is really amazing for cleaning. I do all my house cleaning with lye, vinegar, borax, rubbing alcohol, baking soda and washing soda. Sometimes I use 100% co soap.
For all us newbies, can this possibly be pinned to the top of the forum so it doesn't get lost?
A related question..what happens when you spill either lye solution or soap batter on hardwood floors? Will it damage the finish?
Yep it will, especially if you have a varethane finish on your floors. Lye will eat through the varathane. Ask me how I know :( Even small drips will show up as bleached spots
All these tips are very helpful, thanks everyone for sharing! :) Hopefully now my story of clumsiness will benefit others who may find themselves in similar situations.

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