The following may frighten you,
but I promise that thousands of people make soap everyday without
You need to know all the dangers
present in order to avoid trouble. If you can get past the following
warnings--you are destined to make soap!
Look where drain cleaners are
sold and buy 100% lye (Red Devil is one brand). Don't bother
looking at liquid drain cleaners and don't try Draino (it contains
metal). If you aren't sure the product is 100% lye, then order
lye from a soapmaking or chemical supplier.
Of all soapmaking supplies,
it seems that lye is the most unfamiliar to new soapmakers and
they don't know where to buy it. New soapmakers are also afraid
they will buy the "wrong kind of lye."
I highly recommend the following
company for lye, accurate scales and pH test strips. ChemLab
ships within the United States.
Ask for lye as "sodium
hydroxide technical grade" granular or flake form.
Chem Lab Supplies
1060 Ortega Way, Unit C
Placentia CA 92670
Most good soap recipes list
lye by weight for accuracy. Lye in granular form (drain cleaner)
measures differently than lye in flake form (the form of lye
from laboratory chemical suppliers, pool chemical suppliers,
Scales are a necessary part
of successful soapmaking and allows you to use any type of lye.
Lye can be nasty if handled improperly. Lye (sodium hydroxide)
is also known as caustic soda.
Keep lye tightly capped.
Upon opening a container of lye, the lye crystals absorb water
from the air, which can weaken the strength of the lye and cause
it to form a solid lump. When not in use, keep lye closely capped.
Lye reacts with some metals:
aluminum, zinc, and tin. Safe containers include heatproof stoneware,
glass, enamel, stainless steel and plastic.
Lye can remove paint. If lye,
lye/water or freshly-made soap splatters onto a painted surface,
wipe it off immediately. Wash the area with water and detergent;
wash it with clear water, then wipe it dry. Use old rags, because
lye weakens cloth fiber.
Lye, lye/water and freshly-made
soap can burn and irritate skin. You'll notice itching before
burning. Lye/water on skin is first noticed by a slippery feeling.
Rinse your hands with vinegar and immediately rinse them with
Since lye can burn skin, you
can imagine what it does to eyes! Always wear eye protection!
Wear sunglasses if you have to!
Lye can be fatal if swallowed.
If you have small children, keep lye (and essential oils) in
a locked cabinet. Lye/water sitting at the edge of a counter
can easily be reached by children and even swallowed. Drinking
lye/water is like drinking liquid fire. If someone ingests lye/water,
do not induce vomiting or otherwise try to treat them. Take them
to an emergency room immediately.
Fumes from lye/water. Some people
are extremely sensitive to fumes that come from the lye/water.
Fumes also come from the stirring container. Fumes from small
batches (1 pound) usually isn't enough to cause a problem.
Be aware than larger amounts
of lye (larger batches of soap) create more fumes. With prolonged
contact, fumes can burn the eyes and skin of sensitive people.
If you make soap in large amounts and afterward feel as if your
face is "sun burned," chances are it was caused by
Thousands of people make soap
without mishap. In order to do so, you must be aware of all safety
hazards. Children, pets and feeble-minded people should not be
in the soapmaking area or have access to stored soapmaking ingredients,
especially lye and essential oil.