Lye Fumes

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CritterPoor

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What do you guys do to help ventilate the lye fumes? I've been making soap since April, but the weather has always been nice and the windows open. It's winter now, so opening the window is less of an option up here in the tundra- I mean NY. So what do you guys do to help lessen the lye fumes? run a fan? turn on the oven vent?
 

MySoapyHeart

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I have a very small kitchen and no other place I can go to, to soap or mix lyewater. So the oven ventilator works great for me. I add the lye to the water and stir while the ventilator is set on max. It helps that I have really long arms too, lol. (not kidding, they are freakishly long...:mrgreen:)
Doing this I have never had problems. I know how bad it feels to breath in fumes from lye, so this is a lifesaver for me.
 

shunt2011

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I still crack the window a bit over the sink and turn my head away from the fumes while initially stirring. Doesn't take long then I close the window.
 

IrishLass

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I mix mine out in my garage (as long as no one is out there), and I hold a makeshift mask over my nose and mouth that's made out of three thick, triple-ply cotton diapers that are folded over themselves several times to create several layers. I hold that over my nose and mouth with one hand, while I stir my solution with the other.

Thankfully, since learning how to master-batch my lye solution in large enough quantities to last me through several batches of soap, I only have to deal with the annoyance of making up the lye solution every once in a while.


IrishLass :)
 

galaxyMLP

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Correct me if I'm wrong but, I believe its just extremely basic steam.

Basically, the solution heats as some of the sodium hydroxide dissolves and the heat creates steam. That steam contains the dissolved sodium hydroxide which reacts inside of our noses/lungs and stings because its so basic. You're essentially inhaling small amounts of lye. It reacts very quickly so you don't experience any lasting effects. Not the best thing but in relation to most other nasty chemicals, not bad at all.

You may get other compounds forming in alternative liquids though. I wont speculate on those...
 

BrewerGeorge

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Correct me if I'm wrong but, I believe its just extremely basic steam.

Basically, the solution heats as some of the sodium hydroxide dissolves and the heat creates steam. That steam contains the dissolved sodium hydroxide which reacts inside of our noses/lungs and stings because its so basic. You're essentially inhaling small amounts of lye. It reacts very quickly so you don't experience any lasting effects. Not the best thing but in relation to most other nasty chemicals, not bad at all.

You may get other compounds forming in alternative liquids though. I wont speculate on those...
I don't know....steam is typically pure water without solutes.
 

IrishLass

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There must be more than pure steam rising up from the hot lye solution, though, because it sure causes much unpleasant coughing/hacking if you breathe it in.


IrishLass :)
 

shunt2011

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If you breath it in you know it. I learned by doing it once. It may not be a lot but not worth the risk just the same.
 

Wildcraft_Garden

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I have a screened in deck off my back door. I weigh things inside then go mix outside in the deck, regardless of weather. Popping out for a minute or two is fine and bonus that I don't need an ice bath in winter (I'm located in Northern Canada).
 

Relle

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I mix mine in the kitchen sink with a face mask on. Easy.
 

CritterPoor

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I don't know....steam is typically pure water without solutes.
it hurts like a sonofbeep when you breathe it in


I have a screened in deck off my back door. I weigh things inside then go mix outside in the deck, regardless of weather. Popping out for a minute or two is fine and bonus that I don't need an ice bath in winter (I'm located in Northern Canada).
You are a braver person than I am! if it gets below the double digits, I start to hibernate.



Thanks everyone. I don't mind opening the small window over the sink when it's 40-50*s out, but I am dreading Feb / March when it gets into the single digits. Maybe I'll go out and use one of those masks they wear in Breaking Bad. Making drugs or making soap, who can tell anymore
 

Susie

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I turn the vent a hood over the stove on high. Lean back and stir at arm's length with my head turned. Works a charm.
 

topofmurrayhill

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What ARE the fumes, anyway? Chemically?
When you have a volatile solvent and a non-volatile solute, only the solvent will evaporate -- in this case water. Another obvious example is a solution of table salt. You can evaporate the all water and the leave almost all the salt behind.

However, rapid evaporation can also be accompanied by a purely mechanical process that causes droplets to be tossed from the surface of the liquid. Those will be aerosolized droplets of the solution itself, which in this case would contain NaOH. A tiny bit goes along for the ride, and you might almost think of it as getting sprayed into the air.

So, chemically, the fumes are pure water vapor plus tiny droplets of lye.
 

KristaY

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I mix mine in a bathroom with the exhaust fan on and door closed. I also wear a paint/sanding respirator and enclosed goggles. Lye fumes really irritate my mucus membranes. Once I'm done I can leave it there to cool, close the door to keep the fumes out of the rest of the house, and work on my oils.
 

jules92207

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There is definitely lye in the steam, miniscule maybe but its there. The one time I stirred without long sleeves/gloves on and my forearms itched intensely till I rinsed them well...pretty sure there was some lye reaction going on there.
 

BrewerGeorge

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When you have a volatile solvent and a non-volatile solute, only the solvent will evaporate -- in this case water. Another obvious example is a solution of table salt. You can evaporate the all water and the leave almost all the salt behind.

However, rapid evaporation can also be accompanied by a purely mechanical process that causes droplets to be tossed from the surface of the liquid. Those will be aerosolized droplets of the solution itself, which in this case would contain NaOH. A tiny bit goes along for the ride, and you might almost think of it as getting sprayed into the air.

So, chemically, the fumes are pure water vapor plus tiny droplets of lye.
Lye aerosol. Taht makes sense, thanks.
 

luebella

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I use ice cubes now. It makes no fumes.. Or minimal to where I don't notice it. I also mix it in the garage
 

topofmurrayhill

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Lye aerosol. That makes sense, thanks.
Actually I'm curious what specifically causes it. The fumes subside once the caustic is dissolved even though the solution is still hot, so rapid evaporation of the water isn't enough to throw up droplets. I'm thinking it's bubbles of gas breaking the surface of the liquid that throw up the mist -- entrapped air from the caustic and/or bubbles of water vapor from the rapid heating.

In any case, one important part of the answer is that evaporation as a chemical process only involves the water. Whatever is causing the mist of lye is a mechanical process.
 

DeeAnna

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Here's a hint -- Raoult's Law.
 
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