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I think I inhaled lye fumes ... do I need hospital ?

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Gaspar Navarrete

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Hello everyone,

When I was making my lard soap I may have inhaled lye fumes without realizing it. Here is what happened.
I mixed my lye and water. When the lye-water was clear, I dumped it into the oil and mixed it a few minutes with a spatula. Both steps were done OUTSIDE, while holding my breath when I was next to the mixtures, I might add.

I then brought the oil and lye-water mixture inside and started stick blending it for about 1/2 an hour. Then I cooked it for about 2 hours in the crock-pot.
I didn't smell anything, so I thought everything was all right. So I did the above steps again while I was making my castile soap. Only this time, after the soap was done my housemate (who was in another room) informs me that there was a "strong chemical smell" so much so that "she felt her eyes burning". She said she had to open a window. She says that her nose is sensitive. I guess I filled the house with lye fumes from the stick-blending and/or the slow-cook.

I stood there with my mouth gaping open. I was there next to the mixture, stick-blending it for 1/2 hour ! I must have inhaled a lot of lye ! ... and I didn't smell anything ! If you inhale lye, do you tempoarily loose your sense of smell ?

Did I just do something extreemely careless ? Do I need to go to a hospital ? Did I just pay dearly for my inexperience ?

Yes, I know I mentioned a lye smell in my last post. But I don't think I phrased the post properly. The above is what I really meant to say, sorry about that.

Thanks for your input here.
 
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Obsidian

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I agree, if you breathed in lye fumes you would have definitely known it. Its a immediate, painful burning sensation followed by coughing. Still think your room mate is just sensitive to the natural scent of soap.
 

AnnaMarie

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Dennis is right. You won't forget it if you inhale lye fumes. As far as your housemate goes it sounds like she is just sensitive to smells- I really don't think it was a lye fumes issue. My mom is that way, and that makes her a very poor gauge unfortunately when regulating smells. If it was lye you'd be coughing REALLY hard.
Cheers!
Anna Marie
 

DeeAnna

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Exposure to NaOH vapor or mist will cause a near-instant chemical burn to the eyes, nose, and lungs with an immediate, strong, painful physical response. You could NOT possibly stay in an area with NaOH present in the air in more than tiny trace amounts unless you were tied to a chair or knocked unconscious. This is not an exaggeration -- I really do mean this exactly as it's written.

For a relatively mild, brief exposure (and, yes, I do mean mild and brief), your eyes will burn, itch, and tear; your nose will burn and run; and you will cough a lot with varying amounts of mucous and respiratory irritation and pain. The eyes and nose are immediate. The respiratory response may be immediate or take awhile depending on the severity of exposure.

Even if a person cannot smell odors, it wouldn't make any difference -- this is not a smell, this is a chemical burn causing pain and irritation.

If you are experiencing none of those issues, NaOH exposure is not the problem. I don't know what ~is~ the problem, but it's not lye.
 

AnnaMarie

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Is there a chance that the smell is actually the crock pot itself? Occasionally my kitchen appliances go haywire and give off weird smells.
 

Gaspar Navarrete

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Thank you Thank you Thank you

You all have no idea how relieved I was to hear all this. For a moment there, I thought I was in line for lung cancer or something.

It's great to have experienced soapmakers to talk to.

AnnaMarie, you raise an interesting point. I did not think of this. It is a new crock-pot that I bought just for soapmaking. I will heat some plain water in it and see if my housemate has the same reaction.
 

neeners

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if it's a new crock pot, it maybe something in the crock pot that has to burn off (like a plastic coating, or a piece of glue or plastic on the heating pad).
 

AnnaMarie

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Regarding Neener's comment: I've had new appliances do that before as well- the new appliance christening. It maybe that it's already run it's course, but no harm trying. Glad to help bring some peace of mind :) :)
Cheers!
Anna Marie
 

Susie

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Only when stick blending room temperature lye and oils did it ever take that long for me.
 

Smauf

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This almost sounds similar to what happened to me. I noticed a few weeks ago making my first batch of soap, that the fumes coming off of the lye-water mixture were bothering me. I didn't necessarily burn me or damage me, but it irritated me enough that I turned every fan on in my apartment, opened the patio door, and cranked my HEPA air filter on high. It wasn't over the course of 30 minutes though, it was more like within 5-10 minutes I was starting to get irritated. I just recently picked up some R95 respirator masks for household cleansers and paint odors in the hardware department at Walmart. I may just be sensitive to the fumes, but I will be wearing a mask for the next batch of soap I make.
 

Orchidgirl

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Thirty minutes does seem a long time to be stick blending anything! They aren't designed to be used for a continuous length of time; I've always heard to limit their use to bursts of 20 to 30 seconds at a time. Is it possible that the motor overheated, causing the plastic casing to release a chemical smell? I have personally burned out the motor on a cheap handheld mixer in a non-soap related incident :))...was trying to use it to mix a stiff cookie dough), and it did release a noxious smell before it died.
 
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Gaspar Navarrete

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The lye-water was at 120 degrees and I poured it into room temperature pomace olive oil.

It did take a while for me to stick blend it. After about 30 minutes I got a light trace.

My stick blender is a mixing drill bit attached to an old (corded) electric drill.

I did not even consider the possibility of the drill giving off a chemical smell. I will check this, as well as the new-crock-pot smell. Today I will heat some plain water in the crock-pot (no soap, no oils, no lye in it) and stick blend it and see if my housemate smells anything.

Thanks
 

Gaspar Navarrete

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Well I tested out the theory of the stick-blender or the crock-pot causing the smell.

I put some plain tap water in the crock-pot (no oils, no soap, no lye) and slow cooked it for 2 hours. My housemate did not smell anything, even when next to it.

I then stick-blended the water for about 10 minutes. My housemate still did not smell anything.

So the smell wasn't from either of those. It must have been from the soap batter .. (images of lye fumes are creeping back into my mind).
 
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Lindy

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Not lye fumes. After a few minutes after pouring the lye into the water the fumes have outgassed. You will see the steam rising from the water. What she is smelling is simply the soap cooking. My mum hates that smell but it's not dangerous. Some people are just more sensitive to it. It really is that simple. To relieve it when she/he is there simply open some windows where they are sitting.
 

Lauren27

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Help!

I made soap yesterday, mixed the lye and water outside, and I do not remember inhaling fumes at all. No eye burning, didn't smell it, no throat burn but a few hours after I finished making soap, I was experiencing coughing and my breathing was difficult. I am not sick, it has to be from the lye. Should I be concerned? I am a runner and I am afraid that I am causing problems to my lungs, should I be?
 

DeeAnna

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Why does it have to be the lye? If you read the whole thread, you will see that lye causes an immediate reaction. Other things from soaping can cause irritation that may be delayed -- the fragrance, some additives (milk comes to mind), and just the odor created by the soap itself. If this is your first batch of soap, you may want to re-think making soap. If this is not your first batch, then try to analyze what's different about this batch compared with the others you've made. Maybe there's a clue.
 
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