Safe Containers for Master-Batching Lye

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Today I did the rounds of a few local restaurant supply stores to pick up tools to increase my production batch size. While I was there, I found what is essentially a 5-gallon food-grade bucket with a liquid dispenser. (Basically this: https://www.webstaurantstore.com/choice-6-gallon-white-round-beverage-dispenser/176RBD6WH.html)

I was wondering if something like this would be safe for storing and dispensing a master-batch lye solution?

I have read that many people use gallon jugs, but I'd really rather have something with a spigot rather than having to tilt-and-pour and potentially splash the liquid.

I also have empty laundry detergent jugs (this: https://www.amazon.com/BOULDER-CLEANERS-Liquid-Laundry-Detergent/dp/B0058F5I0O/), but I'm not comfortable with the idea of re-using something that might react with a chemical like Lye, even if it's been thoroughly washed.

For my master-batched oils, I also purchased a stainless steel beer pot with a stainless dispenser, which I'm pretty excited about! Ladling oils out of my crock pot is... tedious, at best.

For mixing, I got some large 12quart measuring cups that are basically a giant version of what I have been using. Pretty excited to try them out!

Open to any and all tips about master batching and doing larger scale soap production! So far my batches have all been about 4kg at a time, and I'm looking forward to increasing that.
 

DeeAnna

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I would not use the beverage dispenser for masterbatched NaOH solution for three reasons.

The lid is large and designed to be easy to remove which means it doesn't make a secure enough seal. You need a leak proof seal on the lid to ensure your NaOH solution doesn't degrade with exposure to carbon dioxide and water vapor in the air.

There is usually a gasket inside the spigot to prevent leaks. Gaskets suitable for concentrated NaOH are not necessarily the same as gaskets that work for beverages. You MUST use a gasket that's rated for strong alkalis to ensure that spigot is going to work properly. Not only that, but the spigot may be made of a different plastic resin than the container itself -- you'd want to verify the spigot is also safe for use with concentrated alkali.

"...I'd really rather have something with a spigot rather than having to tilt-and-pour and potentially splash the liquid. ..."

And even if the gasket and spigot are rated for use with strong alkali, I still would not use this dispenser. There will inevitably be drips and leaks simply by using a spigot like this in a normal fashion. And there may come a time when that spigot doesn't get fully closed or the handle gets bumped and the spigot doesn't fully shut off. In a chemistry lab, you won't see dispensers with spigots for concentrated alkalis, acids, and other hazardous chemicals for this reason.

Use the detergent bottle with a secure screw cap. If well washed, there will be nothing in the bottle to react with the lye. It's going to be a much safer choice than the dispenser. If you need to go bigger yet, then get a chem lab carboy rated for concentrated alkalis. You can get a carboy with a tilt and pour holder so the opening of the container faces up, away from the liquid, when the carboy isn't in use.
 
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Thanks for the detailed feedback!

That was my main concern and now with corroboration I know it's definitely a bad idea.

I'll plan on using my detergent bottle for now, and probably upgrading to a carboy once I have some revenue coming in.
 
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Just wanted to update here in case someone comes across this thread with the same question.

I'm still not super comfortable with the idea of reusing a container for lye. I was watching a series of pouring technique videos and noticed that a couple of soapers stored their masterbatch lye in a plastic container that I immediately recognized from the Dollar Tree.

I went yesterday and picked up 4 of these type #5 plastic containers. They each hold 3qts or about 2500ml so should be a good size for the size of batches I make. At only $1.25 plus tax each, I feel that this is a good safe option that will fit easily in my soaping fridge.

Curious to see what others use!
 

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Just wanted to update here in case someone comes across this thread with the same question.

I'm still not super comfortable with the idea of reusing a container for lye. I was watching a series of pouring technique videos and noticed that a couple of soapers stored their masterbatch lye in a plastic container that I immediately recognized from the Dollar Tree.

I went yesterday and picked up 4 of these type #5 plastic containers. They each hold 3qts or about 2500ml so should be a good size for the size of batches I make. At only $1.25 plus tax each, I feel that this is a good safe option that will fit easily in my soaping fridge.

Curious to see what others use!
The container material is appropriate, as is the tight-fitting lid. However, it will be difficult to pour from that opening without spilling. I personally couldn't use that as I don't have steady hands and would be spilling lye solution all over.
 

Babyshoes

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Just wanted to update here in case someone comes across this thread with the same question.

I'm still not super comfortable with the idea of reusing a container for lye. I was watching a series of pouring technique videos and noticed that a couple of soapers stored their masterbatch lye in a plastic container that I immediately recognized from the Dollar Tree.

I went yesterday and picked up 4 of these type #5 plastic containers. They each hold 3qts or about 2500ml so should be a good size for the size of batches I make. At only $1.25 plus tax each, I feel that this is a good safe option that will fit easily in my soaping fridge.

Curious to see what others use!

I like your serious and appropriate safety notices. 😁

I don't master batch (yet), but my (repurposed) lye container has "LYE - NO TOUCHY TOUCHY" on the lid... 😂

Fortunately, the only person who needs to be warned is my partner who is a responsible adult and has been suitably warned...
 
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The container material is appropriate, as is the tight-fitting lid. However, it will be difficult to pour from that opening without spilling. I personally couldn't use that as I don't have steady hands and would be spilling lye solution all over.

Very good point! I have a rimmed silicone mat that I do all of my pouring over in addition to PPE, but that's definitely something to consider.

Just mentioned this to my boyfriend. He's going 3D print an HDPE or PP pouring lid that fits these containers.

Alternatively, could I use a #5 funnel?

I like your serious and appropriate safety notices. 😁

I don't master batch (yet), but my (repurposed) lye container has "LYE - NO TOUCHY TOUCHY" on the lid... 😂

Fortunately, the only person who needs to be warned is my partner who is a responsible adult and has been suitably warned...

I have a roommate and occasional farm hands who come over, so I don't want to leave any room for error. I also tend to be a bit absentminded so wanted it properly labeled in case I stick it in the wrong fridge.

Working on clearing out the garage fridge to convert it into the "soaping ingredients only" fridge.

Have 3 people helping tomorrow with clearing out the garage to make a suitable soaping studio.
 
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I buy prefer to use large laundry jugs with pour spouts or jugs suitable for caustic chemicals with pour spouts. It is too hard to pour from wide-mouth bottles or jugs without spilling. Spills destroy surfaces. Additionally many detergent bottles with pour spouts have a catch rim to catch drips, just rinse them out well. I usually add a little alcohol or vinegar to cut the soap when I first rinse out the jug, then rinse well.
 

TheGecko

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I Master Batch my Lye Solution. I would NOT use a beverage dispenser for all the reasons previously stated.

Laundry detergent jugs are perfectly safe to use. The only reason why I don't use them is because I buy my soap from Costco and it has a spigot on it. I use 1 Gal HDPE Jug from my local soap supplier and I've never had an issue pouring from them because I use two hands...one on the handle and one to support the jug and it's less about safety (for me) and more about not wanting to make a mess.

I personally would not use those containers...3 quarts is a lot of weight to pick up without a handle and gloves that could be slick with oil and then you are looking at a huge mess. I know that Katie Carson uses the smaller versions...like the ones that can be find in bars. Suckers are easy to fill, but you knock one over or drop one and you are so screwed.

I do not recommend refrigerating your Lye Solution; it doesn't like the cold and will start to form a solid...kind of like what happens if you leave your Lye Solution on top on the dryer in the garage uncovered for a couple of days it develops "lye lint" from being in contact with the carbon dioxide in the air. If it's just a little bit you can strain it or try to stick blend, but if it is more...you're now using less Lye and stick blending doesn't always break it back down. I just store mine in my soaping cart (rolling kitchen island in the kitchen); even when it gets 80F + in my house it still stays fairly cool and when it drops down to 40F, it still stays around the same temp. The only thing I do 'special' is to wipe down the spout and lid when I'm done soaping for the day because drips will crystalize and I want to make sure that I always have a tight seal.
 

earlene

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My preferred storage container for my MB lye is probably too small for your apparently planned large production, but perfect for my (limited strength) two-handed pouring method, and pre-labeled as Lye with a child safety cap. It is made from Plastic #2 – HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) and is what I buy my NaOH in from the vendor. (Not pushing the vendor, but it's the quality of the bottles that I prefer.) The lid is leak-proof when closed correctly, as I have had occassion to 'test' when I knocked one over once (not a common occurrence, but glad it is leak proof.) It can be difficult to open, due to the child proof cap, but I stand it up inside my sink, push down with the palm of my gloved hand and turn, which is a very safe way to open a sturdy HDPE container of lye solution, in my experience. For pouring into my lye container on top of my scale, I use a two-handed method (one hand holds while the other supports the bottle's weight & tilt from the bottom) both for safety and because since breaking my hand last year, my dominant hand is weaker than previously. The bottle top is thin enough that I don't have to worry about spilling or splattering and the lip of the bottle opening is somewhat smooth or slightly rounded and the 50% lye solution (with dissolved silk) is somewhat viscous (more so than water), so even the last drop flows smoothly back into the bottle as I tilt the bottle back into an upright position.

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I do prepare my MB NaOH in a #5: PP (Polypropylene) container, which is dedicated to use for only that purpose, has a lid to prevent evaporation loss during the heat & cool-down process. Once cool, I pour the lye into the emptied-out ED containers and store them inside another plastic bucket (#2 or #5, I don't recall at the moment) inside a secure-enough location (cat can't get at it & Hubby doesn't bother).

The only issue I have ever had with this storage method for my MB lye, is that as the level of solution diminishes with use, there is more air inside the bottle and that does cause some deterioration of the solution, which resulted in some solids gathering around the lid. Usually, I simply shake it up really well a few times ahead of time, let it settle & come back to it later to open & pour. Only once did this make opening a bottle difficult, due to a sort of crusty residue built up inside the bottle & lid area, and only after a prolonged storage without making soap. Because my hand is so much weaker than normal, I ended up cutting that bottle open and emptying, cleaning & putting the plastic into the recycle bin. As a result, I have decided that I will pay closer attention to how long I go between using/opening the bottles & look at how many times I re-use them. I don't make soap as often as I used to do since I broke my hand, and I also have a lot of soap on hand.
 
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Thank you all very much for the detailed responses! This was super helpful.

Previously I have always fresh-mixed my lye solution, so I have been trying master batching as a way to increase my efficiency. As with any new technique, there was some user error.

I didn't have any issues pouring from the containers. Although there's not a "handle" per se, there are two indented grooves along one side that allow easy gripping. I didn't have any spills, and I also pour over a silicone mat with a ridgeline to catch any spills.

That being said, after reading all your comments I did go ahead and get an empty laundry detergent jug from my mom (I also get mine at Costco in a jug with a spigot - hers are the normal pour spout type). I really liked the points a couple of people made about not only the easier pour spout, but also the drip tray around the spout to catch excess. SOLD. I will be rinsing out the jug with vinegar as well when washing it out, thanks to the suggestion above.

Since I don't use that type of detergent, it should be easy to make sure it doesn't get confused, but I'll also label the heck out of the bottle just in case. (My laundry is in the garage, which is where my soaping studio setup will be moving to.)

@gardengeek and @TheGecko Thanks for the comments on refrigerating lye! I don't know why I thought that was a good idea. I did mess up and refrigerate the first batch, so I learned this lesson the hard way. My lye formed full crystals in the batch - while very interesting, not particularly helpful! haha.

I did call my boyfriend (he's a chemical engineer) to have him walk me through "fixing" it, but even after re-dissolving the lye, the batch of soap I made with it turned out weird. I think the issue was exactly what you predicted - not enough lye ended up in the soap batch. Luckily it was a fairly small amount, as I had used most of the solution soon after mixing for a different batch of soap.

I am always trying to learn from others' experience as much as I can, but it's inevitable that I'll miss something sometimes!

I really appreciate how helpful this forum is, and the thorough responses that people give. You're all fantastic!
 

TheGecko

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@gardengeek and @TheGecko Thanks for the comments on refrigerating lye! I don't know why I thought that was a good idea. I did mess up and refrigerate the first batch, so I learned this lesson the hard way. My lye formed full crystals in the batch - while very interesting, not particularly helpful! haha.

Because refrigeration is a good way to preserve a lot of things, that heat, light and oxygen can be detrimental. I find that milk keeps better in the back of my frig than in the front.

Some lessons I have learned (not in any order):

1) Soap will shatter if you put 3 heaping tablespoons of dry TD in 50 oz of soap batter. Don't do that.

2) Read the production description at least three times and check reviews. Didn't learn my lesson the first time and ended up buying more Mica that was not meant for soap. Tossed the first container 'cuz I couldn't use it for anything, the other two containers I can at least use with bath salts. Thought I had ruined 50 oz of soap only to later find out that the colorant I used morphed from yellow to orange back to yellow.

This is even more important when it comes to Essential and Fragrance Oils. Regardless of 'rave reviews', only purchase the smallest available and then test. I still have the majority of a 16oz bottle of FO that accelerates massively. I also have a 16oz bottle of FO that discolored to deep dark brown and that I have only been able to use thanks to @Todd Ziegler and his ZVS/ZVCS. And when it comes to Essential Oils, you want to follow safe usage rates (see #6).

3) Test batches. Get thee a 4" Silicone Square Mold (a lot of soap suppliers carry them) and test everything; new recipe, new oil, new butter, new additive, new Sodium Hydroxide/Lye Concentration, new TD, new colorant, new scent, etc. It's a lot easier and cheaper to waste a 20 oz batch than a 50 oz batch (see # 2 and #3 above).

4) Notes. Notes are your best friend, especially when it comes to your Test Batches. If you are a professional soap maker, good manufacturing practices demand that you should be keeping batch records, but it's good idea for private soap making as well. That way you don't keep forgetting that Honeysuckles accelerates...until the next time you go to make it and your plan of a beautiful light yellow with a delicate and wispy orange swirl turns into a frantic PLOP and GLOP.

5) When your daughter offers to package all your lotion bars, don't assume that she knows to keep each fragrance separate until they are labeled or to label them as she goes along. We'll just leave it at that.

6) Take your time and breathe. Whether you are making a 20 oz batch or a 20 lb batch or multiple molds of the same soap...make one batch of soap at a time. Too much multi-tasking can lead you to having to toss your soap batter, bowl and all, in a garbage bag, out the front door onto the driveway because you're afraid it's going to catch on fire. This doesn't mean that you can't Master Batch or pre-prepare multiple batches...just don't try to do different batches all at the same time. Remember, you are making a product that will go on someone's body, even if it's only a wash on/rinse off product that is only on the skin for five or ten minutes, you can hurt someone.

7) Have fun. Whether you are making soap professionally or as a hobby, it should be enjoyable, not a chore. If it's a chore, you tend to make mistakes (see #6). And if soap making is an enjoyable hobby, think not just once or twice or even thrice about turning it into a business. I used to love to sew; after my youngest daughter was born I decided to turn it into a business so I could be a SAHM Mom. It's been almost 30 years now since I have touched a sewing machine, that I have done anything more than sew a loose/missing button or repaired a hem. It was partly my fault (see #8).

8) And never make soap that you wouldn't use; failure is always an option and no way would I want to have 50 bars of soap that I can't stand. At the same time, don't cut off your nose to spite your face. I am allergic to Lavender, but I know that it's a popular scent. I dealt with some headaches until I found a Lavender that I can use (with the windows open and a fan blowing) without issue.

Make the soap you want to make. If you want to use Palm Oil...use it. If you don't want to use it...don't. If you want to make Goat Milk Soap or Lard Soap...make it. If you only want to make Vegan Soap...make it. If you only want to use Essential Oils and natural colorants...do it. If you want to use Micas and Fragrance Oils...do that too. Running a business is tough enough as it is...there are going to be days when you feel like crap or are tired or want to go play in the sun or snow, but you need to soap or lotion or scrubs 'cuz you're running low. But to make something you dislike just to make money...no. That's what happened with my sewing business; I started out with what I loved doing...baby and children and when I quit, I was doing bridal and fat women.

I make no apologies for using Palm Oil. If it bothers you, then don't buy my soap. If you don't like that I use Goat Milk, then don't buy my Goat Milk Soap. If Lard Soap grosses you out, then don't buy my Lard Soap. If you don't like that I use Sodium Hydroxide...well good luck with that. The simple fact is...there are hundreds and hundreds of soap makers and over 300 million people in the US alone...I don't care. Just because YOU don't like this or that or the other thing, there are 299,999,999 who do. That's not to say that I am stupid...I do some custom orders, but with restrictions.
 
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Because refrigeration is a good way to preserve a lot of things, that heat, light and oxygen can be detrimental. I find that milk keeps better in the back of my frig than in the front.

Some lessons I have learned (not in any order):

1) Soap will shatter if you put 3 heaping tablespoons of dry TD in 50 oz of soap batter. Don't do that.

2) Read the production description at least three times and check reviews. Didn't learn my lesson the first time and ended up buying more Mica that was not meant for soap. Tossed the first container 'cuz I couldn't use it for anything, the other two containers I can at least use with bath salts. Thought I had ruined 50 oz of soap only to later find out that the colorant I used morphed from yellow to orange back to yellow.

This is even more important when it comes to Essential and Fragrance Oils. Regardless of 'rave reviews', only purchase the smallest available and then test. I still have the majority of a 16oz bottle of FO that accelerates massively. I also have a 16oz bottle of FO that discolored to deep dark brown and that I have only been able to use thanks to @Todd Ziegler and his ZVS/ZVCS. And when it comes to Essential Oils, you want to follow safe usage rates (see #6).

3) Test batches. Get thee a 4" Silicone Square Mold (a lot of soap suppliers carry them) and test everything; new recipe, new oil, new butter, new additive, new Sodium Hydroxide/Lye Concentration, new TD, new colorant, new scent, etc. It's a lot easier and cheaper to waste a 20 oz batch than a 50 oz batch (see # 2 and #3 above).

4) Notes. Notes are your best friend, especially when it comes to your Test Batches. If you are a professional soap maker, good manufacturing practices demand that you should be keeping batch records, but it's good idea for private soap making as well. That way you don't keep forgetting that Honeysuckles accelerates...until the next time you go to make it and your plan of a beautiful light yellow with a delicate and wispy orange swirl turns into a frantic PLOP and GLOP.

5) When your daughter offers to package all your lotion bars, don't assume that she knows to keep each fragrance separate until they are labeled or to label them as she goes along. We'll just leave it at that.

6) Take your time and breathe. Whether you are making a 20 oz batch or a 20 lb batch or multiple molds of the same soap...make one batch of soap at a time. Too much multi-tasking can lead you to having to toss your soap batter, bowl and all, in a garbage bag, out the front door onto the driveway because you're afraid it's going to catch on fire. This doesn't mean that you can't Master Batch or pre-prepare multiple batches...just don't try to do different batches all at the same time. Remember, you are making a product that will go on someone's body, even if it's only a wash on/rinse off product that is only on the skin for five or ten minutes, you can hurt someone.

7) Have fun. Whether you are making soap professionally or as a hobby, it should be enjoyable, not a chore. If it's a chore, you tend to make mistakes (see #6). And if soap making is an enjoyable hobby, think not just once or twice or even thrice about turning it into a business. I used to love to sew; after my youngest daughter was born I decided to turn it into a business so I could be a SAHM Mom. It's been almost 30 years now since I have touched a sewing machine, that I have done anything more than sew a loose/missing button or repaired a hem. It was partly my fault (see #8).

8) And never make soap that you wouldn't use; failure is always an option and no way would I want to have 50 bars of soap that I can't stand. At the same time, don't cut off your nose to spite your face. I am allergic to Lavender, but I know that it's a popular scent. I dealt with some headaches until I found a Lavender that I can use (with the windows open and a fan blowing) without issue.

Make the soap you want to make. If you want to use Palm Oil...use it. If you don't want to use it...don't. If you want to make Goat Milk Soap or Lard Soap...make it. If you only want to make Vegan Soap...make it. If you only want to use Essential Oils and natural colorants...do it. If you want to use Micas and Fragrance Oils...do that too. Running a business is tough enough as it is...there are going to be days when you feel like crap or are tired or want to go play in the sun or snow, but you need to soap or lotion or scrubs 'cuz you're running low. But to make something you dislike just to make money...no. That's what happened with my sewing business; I started out with what I loved doing...baby and children and when I quit, I was doing bridal and fat women.

I make no apologies for using Palm Oil. If it bothers you, then don't buy my soap. If you don't like that I use Goat Milk, then don't buy my Goat Milk Soap. If Lard Soap grosses you out, then don't buy my Lard Soap. If you don't like that I use Sodium Hydroxide...well good luck with that. The simple fact is...there are hundreds and hundreds of soap makers and over 300 million people in the US alone...I don't care. Just because YOU don't like this or that or the other thing, there are 299,999,999 who do. That's not to say that I am stupid...I do some custom orders, but with restrictions.
Thank you for this post!!
Sometimes I feel guilty for spending my limited budget, and even more limited healthy time with my soap. I don't use expensive oils, or fragrances, and it can take me MONTHS to save up for the eo's I really want to use. But boy, the satisfaction I feel when my boys and grands ask for more of them, it warms my cockles!
And this last time, I was making a rather large, multiple batch (taking #6 into account!) one of my older grands asked to help. I said he could help me fill the molds (with safety ppe oc), but only as long as he wanted, and if he got tired of helping he could just say so. He did a great job of it, and was a huge help because I was able to also label the molds as we filled them in their sections. Something that had taken me ages to do previously, and made the job a bit tedious.
Now I've found a perfectly good reason to MB my lye in the bigger laundry containers! 😍
 
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