How to deal with damp and sticky lye in lye pitcher

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alexanderte

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My lye pitcher is a small plastic bowl. It’s round, a bit flat, and it doesn’t have a spout that would make pouring easier. I’m attaching a picture. It’s the smallest of those.

The problem is – as I pour the lye into the lye water solution, some of the lye in this measuring bowl becomes sticky and damp, which I assume prevents some of the lye from getting into the lye water solution. It sticks to the sides on the bottom of the measuring bowl, and the only way to loosen it is to put the lid on and shake it.

Another disadvantage using this bowl is that it’s easy to lose it while pouring, as there is no handle. Happened once. Fell into the lye water solution.

I also find it hard to clean since the lye is sticky. I only shake it and use paper towel to clean it right now. Don’t want to get water anywhere near it. :?

There has to be a better way. Maybe the solution is to simply use a plastic pitcher container instead of a plastic bowl?

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shunt2011

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I use plastic measuring cups to measure my lye into. A spatula will help get the bit of lye that may stick though I don't usually have a problem. When done. I just run water into it and then dry it. It will get moist if it's humid but I just move fast. I have my water/beer/coffee, silk, sugar mixed first then do my lye and immediately pour the lye into my water or other pre measured liquid.
 

alexanderte

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I use plastic measuring cups to measure my lye into. A spatula will help get the bit of lye that may stick though I don't usually have a problem. When done. I just run water into it and then dry it. It will get moist if it's humid but I just move fast. I have my water/beer/coffee, silk, sugar mixed first then do my lye and immediately pour the lye into my water or other pre measured liquid.
Is it like the keychain-like measuring cups? Does it have a pouring spout?

Do you use a spatula when mixing the lye water solution? I currently use a spoon, but switching to a spatula would probably make it easier if I need to get out sticky lye.

These questions might seem very detailed, but I’m just starting out, and I want to establish some good habits early on. The equipment for measuring water and lye (not the lye solution) isn’t mentioned in the couple of books that I’ve gotten.
 

ngian

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The "lye" you are both referring is simply NaOH? I'm used to understand that lye is NaOH in water solution.

If you have problem with NaOH granules and static electricity then it is better to buy NaOH in flakes or pellets form.
 

alexanderte

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The "lye" you are both referring is simply NaOH? I'm used to understand that lye is NaOH in water solution.
Yes. My current understanding is that NaOH, lye, and sodium hydroxide all refer to the same thing. I’ve heard the other referred to as lye water solution. Would be nice if someone could clear this up. I’m sure that in this context (soap making) it could make sense that the lye referred to the lye water solution. I have a strong preference for definitions that are unambiguous. NaOH granules becoming damp and sticky is what I tried to convey.

If you have problem with NaOH granules and static electricity then it is better to buy NaOH in flakes or pellets form.
Okay. So far I’ve only had this damp and sticky problem with NaOH granules.
 
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TeresaT

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Someone (IrishLass maybe?) posted that if you rub your NaOH container with a dryer sheet it helps reduce the static electricity (thereby minimizing loss of product). I have started doing that and it totally works. Now, I quickly rub the dryer sheet over the outside of the NaOH container before I open it and everything else that may come in contact with the NaOH granules before I pour them. This has helped me not to lose any of the NaOH to static. Before, I would have to rinse out my NaOH measuring dish with the actual lye solution to ensure I got all of the NaOH granules out. I don't have that problem anymore. The nice thing about the dryer sheets is that I can re-use them several times before they lose the ability to do their anti-static magic. I use generic (cheap!) dryer sheets, so any dryer sheet will do. You don't need expensive name-brand sheets. Since I keep my NaOH bottle in a plastic bucket with a gamma lid, I keep a handful of dryer sheets in there and just grab a sheet when I open the bucket. Personally, I'm going to stick with the granules. I have not used anything but the granules; however, in my mind, it seems they would dissolve quicker and be easier to measure more accurately than pellets or flakes. But then again, in my mind, I'm six feet tall, weigh 120 pounds, look like Salma Hayek and sing like Adele. Yep. I'm that good...at make believe.
 

DeeAnna

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"...My current understanding is that NaOH, lye, and sodium hydroxide all refer to the same thing...."

No, that's not exactly correct, but I agree that many people use the names interchangeably. It works okay as long as the context is clear, but it leaves room for confusion.

NaOH and sodium hydroxide and caustic soda are the same thing and can be referred to as "lye". KOH and potassium hydroxide and caustic potash are the same thing ... and this alkali can also be referred to as "lye". There are other alkalis that can also be used to make soap, such as sodium carbonate (soda ash or soda), potassium carbonate (potash), etc., and they also can be called "lyes". Bottom line is any alkali that can be used to make soap can be called "lye". Speaking strictly, the word "lye" means the water solution of any soap-making alkali, not its solid form.

So if you want to be perfectly clear to most people most of the time, it's always best to use the chemical name (sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide) or its abbreviation (NaOH, KOH).

KOH or NaOH absorb water quickly from the air, which is why your NaOH is sticking to the sides of your container. I have this problem when the relative humidity is over 50%. You can reserve a bit of the water you are using to make your lye solution and rinse your container with this plain water after pouring most of the NaOH granules out.

For example, if you are using 200 g of water + 150 grams of NaOH, pour about 25 g of water into a separate container. Pour your NaOH into the remaining 175 grams of water in your lye container. Set the NaOH container down, pour the 25 g of plain water in the NaOH container, and stir or gently swirl to wash the solid NaOH into the water. Pour this into the main lye container and mix.

When the RH is under 50% (dry winter air), then I have problems with bits of NaOH flying everywhere due to static charge. The dryer sheet trick works well.
 
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IrishLass

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Ditto what DeeAnna and Theresa said.

Your sentence in your opening post, "as I pour the lye into the lye water solution was very confusing to me upon my first reading of it, but upon further reading, this is what I think you meant to say: "as I pour the lye into the water to make my lye solution".... which is much more understandable/makes more sense. :)

When I pour my (dry) lye out to weigh it for my batch, I use a stainless steel sauce-pot that has a handle and a pour-spout on it. Before weighing my (dry) lye into it, I first wipe it out with a fabric softener dryer sheet, which helps to eliminate any static clinging of the lye to it.

If you are experiencing stickiness from dampness/humidity in the air, that's a whole different problem from static. Thankfully, I live in a very arid climate and don't have much dealings with that (mostly just the static problem), but DeeAnna's remedy for the dampness sounds perfect.


IrishLass :)
 

topofmurrayhill

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Yes. My current understanding is that NaOH, lye, and sodium hydroxide all refer to the same thing. I’ve heard the other referred to as lye water solution. Would be nice if someone could clear this up.
By far the primary definition of "lye" would be a solution of sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide in water. No water, no lye. I tend to adhere to this definition. I refer to sodium or potassium hydroxide by name or chemical formula. If I am speaking about either/both of them in the context of soapmaking, I normally refer to the "caustic."

So, the most correct usage of the terms at this time:

There is sodium hydroxide or NaOH.
There is potassium hydroxide or KOH.
Those are the caustics typically used in soapmaking.
You can dissolve them in water to make lye.

The meaning of words comes from how people use them, and I respect the nature of language. I have heard complaints for instance about the use of "impact" as a verb rather than a noun, but if you pay attention to contemporary usage it is obvious that "impact" is now both. In an English-speaking country you can hardly go through a day without hearing a use of "to impact." Dictionaries have come to reflect this.

Among hobbyist and artisanal soapmakers, the word "lye" commonly refers interchangeably to the dry caustic or the aqueous solution, so you can only understand the meaning (hopefully) by context. To at least that extent, the meaning of "lye" has become more ambiguous. I resist the ambiguity in this case, and dictionaries lean in my direction so far.

Soapmakers are a small proportion not only of the general population but of the scientific and technical population. These are rather scientific and technical terms, and it is normal to keep the meanings of such terms precise. For instance, I would point to Scientific Soapmaking by Kevin Dunn -- the most popular scientific publication about hobbyist and small-scale soaping -- as an example of a work that STRICTLY adheres to the meaning of "lye" as a solution of NaOH or KOH in water.
 
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alexanderte

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Thank you all for throughout and insightful replies.

I wish to communicate as clearly as I can, and use terms as correctly as possible, so I appreciate your comments on what I wrote.
 

DCRIII

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I'm definitely going to give the fabric softener sheet wipe trick a try when I make my next batch of soap. I had lye granules all over the place last night because of static.
 

Teresa408

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I had some trouble with lye granules sticking when the vapor caused the bits holding on due to static to stick, but it got a lot better once I started being more mindful of the vapor the lye solution produces. I dump maybe 1/2 at a time into the water, moving the lye container away from the water and vapor as fast as I can. If I keep the vapor from condensing inside the lye container, then just tapping the last few crystals out is easy.

Definitely will try the fabric softener sheet but it’s important to me to not depend on that because my mother is super allergic to everything so I like to have peace of mind that no funny scented stuff came in contact with her soap.
 

Clarice

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I used to use Dixie Cups (the waxed paper kind) for weighing NaOH. I could snap the bottom of the cup and all the beads came out. I would then, in an abundance of caution, throw away the cup.

NOW - I master batch my lye and it is brilliant. No more fighting with obstreperous little beads of NaOH! Fabulous!

Check this out https://www.soapmakingforum.com/threads/lye-solution-master-batch.18098/
 
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