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earlene

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Great job, @Prysm!

There are already many good suggestions and lots of discussion as to why some are better included than possibly some of the others, but I'd like to add that since we are an international community the use of Celsius as well as Fahrenheit for temperature would be a very helpful adjustment to the Original Post. (Step 4 in making the first batch)
 

Hertzyscowicz

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Sorry, I am all about lye safety when working with it, but I must disagree with the above.

First, we aren't talking about lye "molecules" - lye is usually in the form of grains, beads, or flakes.

Lye isn't poisonous. A fair number of foods are prepared in lye solutions: olives, bagels, and pretzels, for instance.

Lye solutions are also used to adjust pH for many body-care products that we apply to our skin and hair.

Most importantly, "raw" lye doesn't remain active after exposure to air. It actually absorbs moisture from the air, and ends up as harmless sodium bicarbonate (like the soda ash you see on soap). So, if a grain of undissolved lye somehow manages to attach itself to your stick-blender (despite having been mixed in water, blended into the soap batter, and then thoroughly washed up after), by the time you use the SB to make mayo or blend your butternut squash soup, that bead of lye is no longer caustic or dangerous in any way.

Same with any lye solution that somehow escapes being incorporated into the soap. If it soaks into crevices on your crockpot, as it dries, it will become harmless soda ash.

ETA: If you were to take the "no sharing utensils" rule to its logical conclusion, you should also not soap in your kitchen or in any area used for anything but soapmaking. After all, lye beads are probably more prone to scatter on countertops than to get stuck in the blade of your stickblender. But again, those lye beads on your floor or counters will become soda ash given enough time and humidity.

I started wondering about lye turning to soda ash. I found a figure 1800 mg/m3 for CO2 concentration of room air. A single molecule of CO2 will react with two NaOH molecules, the molecular weights are 44g/mol for CO2 and 40g/mol for NaOH, so to turn a gram of lye into soda ash would take about half a gram of CO2, which would be the equivalent of about 300 liters of air working its way into the lye. Then again, lye grains are way less than a gram so it would be like three liters of air, which is still a lot of air to penetrate into a solid object.

But that's beside the point, as you say we'd be realistically looking at homeopathic dilutions of sodium hydroxide by the time you get to cooking.
 
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I started wondering about lye turning to soda ash. I found a figure 1800 mg/m3 for CO2 concentration of room air. A single molecule of CO2 will react with two NaOH molecules, the molecular weights are 44g/mol for CO2 and 40g/mol for NaOH, so to turn a gram of lye into soda ash would take about half a gram of CO2, which would be the equivalent of about 300 liters of air working its way into the lye. Then again, lye grains are way less than a gram so it would be like three liters of air, which is still a lot of air to penetrate into a solid object.

But that's beside the point, as you say we'd be realistically looking at homeopathic dilutions of sodium hydroxide by the time you get to cooking.
Interesting info, but my understanding is lye is hygroscopic (attracts water from the atmosphere), and that it's actually the water (H20) in the air that is reacting with the NaOH - not the CO2. But I supposed it could be both? Perhaps @DeeAnna could weigh in here.
 

Hertzyscowicz

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Interesting info, but my understanding is lye is hygroscopic (attracts water from the atmosphere), and that it's actually the water (H20) in the air that is reacting with the NaOH - not the CO2. But I supposed it could be both? Perhaps @DeeAnna could weigh in here.

Hygroscopic means it absorbs water from the air. However, to get a carbonate you need to get carbon from somewhere, and that is where the CO2 is needed.
 
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Thanks for clarifying. Would it be correct to say that the first or fastest reaction is for the lye grain to draw water to itself and become wet/diluted? and from there, it would mix with the CO2 to gradually produce sodium carbonate (soda ash) and thus no longer be the caustic NaOH of which the previous poster was so terrified?

I want to be clear that I actually do use separate utensils now, but mostly because I don't want to cart stuff back and forth between kitchen and soaping room (home office by day). However, before my soaping room came into being, I made soap for years with the same crockpot and stick blender that were used to make food. Not only do I doubt that any grain of lye could escape unscathed through the soaping and clean-up process, I also doubt that once dispersed into my food, that it would do any harm.
 

pink-north

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Lye is a caustic, and should be handled with care. Safety googles and protective clothing should be used throughout the process. Also, lye mixed in water gets HOT fast. So always mix cold water or whatever liquid your using with the lye-never use hot or warm liquids. In general, you will use about 2 times the amount of water as lye, but can err on the side of caution with a 2.5:1 ratio- that is, use 2.5 times as much water, by weight, as lye.
I would not recommend this, but instead reiterate the importance of using a reliable soap calculator.

If it was me I might even include a quick blurb that you can double check your recipes by hand with some simple math and a SAP chart, but this isn't necessarily the norm nor is it necessarily best practice for brand new soap makers without understanding the math and science behind it.
(I mean, I do all of my calculations by hand but that's because that's how I learned and it was outlined in the first soap-making book I was given. There was a whole chapter dedicated to it and math problems to solve. Because you know, grade 10 math wasn't traumatizing enough.)
If you were to add this, perhaps creating a section for extras or bonus information. Something for the individual who can handle the math.

K. I'm being beckoned now by my small humans ...
Lol. Keep the tiny humans safe and loved.

Lye is a caustic, and should be handled with care. Safety googles and protective clothing should be used throughout the process.
Perhaps you could mention having vinegar on hand in case some lye water spills on your skin.

All in all I think this is a pretty good guide. Good luck with your endeavor.
 

Marsi

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Great work Prysm!

A small point (for an update to your notes):
If quality stainless steel is suitable for mixing lye solutions and soap batter, it would also make sense to state that it is suitable in the mold category (it is currently excluded from your list of mold materials).

Side note: On Pryex, I went to the website of the manufacturer of Pyrex and other scientific vessels (Corning).
On page 104 of https://www.corning.com/catalog/cls/documents/selection-guides/CLS-GL-001.pdf, they state the following (my bolding):

Technical Information

Warnings and Suggestions for the Safe Use of PYREX® and PYREXPLUS®
Brand Labware

Glass will be chemically attacked by hydrofluoric acid, hot
phosphoric acid, and strong hot alkalis, so it should never be
used to contain or to process these materials.

So I take the view that using Pyrex (or any glass) to mix hot lye solutions is an absolute no-no.

There is no way I would recommend Pyrex (to anyone, and especially not to a beginner) to mix an exothermic (heat producing) alkali solution, where the manufacturer themselves specifically advise against the practice of using PYREX and PYREXPLUS for hot alkalis.

For the person who adds their lye slowly, in an ice bath, so they can use Pyrex ... I seriously can't be bothered with this level of fuss when there are much safer alternatives to Pyrex (and simpler preparation proceedures) available for this task.

But, that's all just to back up my own experience - I have found nearly every way possible to break glass, and I'm not going to risk glass shards in my hot soap batter if I accidently drop the vessel as I'm pouring (I have done this too, but without the shards ... I save my pyrex to eventually break it while I'm washing it😖).
 

Marsi

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Perhaps you could mention having vinegar on hand in case some lye water spills on your skin.
The CDC (ATSDR) state that neutralizing substances should not be used (for Skin Exposure).
Vinegar is a neutralizing substance.
Vinegar and caustic together generate heat (it is an exothermic reaction).
The resulting reaction (from the use of vinegar on a lye solution spilt on skin) can add heat burns to the affected area of skin.

Prompt and lengthy irrigation with water is less damaging to skin.

Use water.

.
For viewing the source yourself, (it's a REALLY long document), search the term "skin exposure" - the quote is near the end of the document.

Skin Exposure​


Skin burns from sodium hydroxide should be irrigated frequently with normal saline for 24 hours. Consider early (within 1 hour of exposure) institution of continuous hydrotherapy. Neutralizing substances should not be used. Fluid resuscitation should be provided as for comparable thermal burns; keeping in mind that the full extent of the sodium hydroxide burn may not be accurately assessed for 24 to 48 hours and may be underestimated initially.
(quoted from the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry)
 
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Perhaps you could mention having vinegar on hand in case some lye water spills on your skin.
I agree with @Marsi - never use vinegar to neutralize lye on skin. It makes the burn worse! Following the manufacturer's safety recommendation, which is to flush with cool running water, and to seek medical attention if it is a significant burn, or if it involves contact with mucous membranes.
 

Zany_in_CO

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I've learned the best thing for lye burns is lavender oil. Soothes burns immediately and heals without scarring. I keep a small bottle of 5% lavender in jojoba oil handy in my soap box with all my other stuff. Ready to go when I am. 😁
 

Marsi

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I've learned the best thing for lye burns is lavender oil. Soothes burns immediately and heals without scarring. I keep a small bottle of 5% lavender in jojoba oil handy in my soap box with all my other stuff. Ready to go when I am. 😁
Do you rinse the lye off your skin with water first?

I've had spills and splashes on various parts of my body (clumsy, that's me) over the years, so I have got into the habit of getting as much of it off as possible by immediately flushing with (cool/cold) running water, before I even think about applying any other burn treatment.

On burn treatments (not knocking your jojoba/lavendar blend, just adding another choice) ... my personal preference is fresh aloe vera gel to treat mild burns ... more because I always have some, know it works and it costs me nothing ... I have a pot of it growing by the kitchen door ;)
 

Hertzyscowicz

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Thanks for clarifying. Would it be correct to say that the first or fastest reaction is for the lye grain to draw water to itself and become wet/diluted? and from there, it would mix with the CO2 to gradually produce sodium carbonate (soda ash) and thus no longer be the caustic NaOH of which the previous poster was so terrified?

With water, the CO2 has a better chance of penetrating into the mixture, and new molecules of NaOH will move in as ones near the liquid surface react, so the reaction will happen a lot faster. That is how you end up with soda ash on top of uncovered soap.

And, as another comment on the risks of sodium hydroxide in food, stomach acid contains hydrochloric acid. Unless the concentration is enough to leave chemical burns in your upper digestive tract, HCl and NaOH react into NaCl and H2O, or table salt and water.
 

backwoods_8589

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Instructions must answer: how, what, when, where, why, who, and assume reader knows nothing.For instance; what is nonreactive? or why not use pyrex or glass, or what happens when water added to lye volcanoes?{skin burned and scarred, vision destroyed, furniture damaged}, trace, what is that, a line on a paper? or a visible ridge left on my pudding as I mix? Simple process, yes, but focas, precision, and safety lead. Measure to the most precise degree possible. Grams is more precise than ounces. Stick blender is essential{and a spare} to get a new maker through the process. Most of us are too lazy and impatient to hand stir to trace. The goal has got to be to expand homemade stuff and ditch the chemical laden soap we use on our bodies. Pictures are a great tool. And last, I do not recommend anything plastic being used in the microwave, recommended or not
 

Johnez

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I see the lye in pyrex argument is alive and well.

My two issues with pyrex:

It has cheapened and is not the same stuff as was made in the '70s. Some pyrex is borosilicate, not all of it is though, and there's no real way to tell. Some say if the name is capitalized, I'm doubtful. Regardless, I can't trust something I don't know what the make up is.

Etching and heat. This is just a bad combo with glass. Some may say they can stick it in the oven, well that's true. Lye hearts up VERY quickly though, and the problem is IMO with the speed of the heating, not so much whether pyrex can handle the heat. Much of the pyrex I've got has very specific warnings not to stick the containers over a burner. Sudden heat+etching...why chance it???

Brambleberry CEO most likely uses those big clear containers for demonstration purposes. It's easier to see, and handle probably with the weight and looks more elegant than some PP containers.

Final thoughts: if we have a good material to use in PP, why bother with Pyrex?
 

earlene

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I would not recommend this, but instead reiterate the importance of using a reliable soap calculator.
Prysm's instructions here under 'Safety' is good and does not contradict how a calculator can be used. She already mentions using a calculator at least twice at the top part of the document.

In addition, and really for another post or perhaps and advanced soapmaking instructional document, I would go so far as to suggest that serious soapmakers really should learn to use sap value charts and gain some rudimentary skill that would allow them to make soap without access to the internet because the potential exists that the day may come when it is necessary.

Or if a veteran soapmaker uses the same recipe(s) over and over again and rarely varies from that, they can certainly make soap without always running it through a calculator. I've done that when repeating the same recipes time and again. (Of course I did use a calculator to create those recipes, and if I alter anything about them, use a calculator again.)

But, I have often been in situations without internet access, and I am sure there are a lot of soapmakers in parts of the world where the use of an internet dependent lye calculator is less available than it may be to many of us here. So knowing how to make soap safely without one is a really good idea. In fact at one point I used a non-internet dependent lye calculator ap on an older mobile phone, but I don't have it anymore, and do not recall the name of it, so have not even been able to find it again to re-install. There is a calculator app that the developer is planning to become offline-usable, so that's promising. I believe that SoapMaker3 is still usable without an internet connection. Many soapmakers use SM3, however many prefer to use one of the free internet accessible ones, for obvious financial reasons.
If you were to add this, perhaps creating a section for extras or bonus information. Something for the individual who can handle the math.
That goes along with what I said above. I do believe knowing how to do this without the aid of internet access or even free-standing lye calculators is wise.
Lol. Keep the tiny humans safe and loved.


Perhaps you could mention having vinegar on hand in case some lye water spills on your skin.
NO. Vinegar will only increase the exothermic reaction of lye upon contact. Dilution with (cool) water is what is recommended by the medical community and by a huge number of well-versed soapmakers.

As said by others before me (also a medical professional, retired.)
 
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As for keeping the implements separate, sodium hydroxide is a component in dishwasher detergent, soap can also be used for washing dishes, and oils can be cleaned off containers and implements with either. I don't think a starting soapmaker needs to shell out for a spare stick blender or extra pots and pans. I occasionally use lye to wash particularly greasy dishes.
This has already been beaten to death, but I agree that this is an unnecessary hurdle to put in front of new soapers! Wiser to focus on the most necessary, agreed-on practices so we don't overcomplicate things for noobs. (Personally, I just don't have enough room for duplicate equipment.)

Q: Do you already have a visual for trace? Easier to recognize trace if they have photos to work off! I'll hunt for pics we can use here without stepping on toes...

You can imagine my delight when I recently learned that Amazon is now offering Borosilicate Glass Measuring Cups for "Commercial Use."

Durable borosilicate glass can be heated from 32°f (0 °C) to 450° F (232 °C).
This is definitely going in my shopping cart; thank you!
 
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