This article briefly explains the properties of lye and the importance for lye as part of the soap making process. Please click here to read our full, comprehensive article on soap making with lye, including a free basic soap recipe, or to learn more about homemade soap download our free soap making guide.
You may have asked this before, what exactly is lye?
Lye is a caustic alkaline chemical that dissolves substances like fat, and has a high degree of reactivity with other materials.
It is also known as Sodium Hydroxide.
If you know about soap or have been making soap, you would know that almost all handmade soaps are made of Sodium hydroxide except for a few liquid soaps that are made of Potassium hydroxide. Potassium hydroxide, unknown to many, is also a type of lye used to make liquid soap.
It is important to note though that potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide are not interchangeable in soap recipes. So to put it simply, basically all soaps are made from lye.
Lye is a very important ingredient in making soap as the hydroxide in lye binds with the fats to form soap. Lye has been known as extremely caustic and can burn the skin.
So if people knew this all along, why put something corrosive in your soap?
Let me tell you a little known fact. Remember what we learn in Chemistry?
When you mix a base with an acid, you form a neutral.
This is exactly what happens in the soap making process. Sodium hydroxide(lye) is a base and when mixed with an acid(fats or oils) forms a neutral(soap).
Thus, lye when mixed with the other soap making ingredients will form a soap safe for the skin. Of course, you have to know the correct amount of lye needed in every batch of homemade soaps you make so to balance out the proportion between the acid and the base.
Soap makers have to be very careful to have just the right concentration as too much lye would burn the skin, and too little would keep the soap from hardening.
Many people fear making their own soap because of lye. Yes, lye can cause burns but like any chemical, it can be dealt with safely and properly.
There are some precautions one must take before dealing with lye and one of these is to use protective equipment and clothing.
Also, be sure to purchase lye that is labeled for soap making, There are different uses for lye so make sure you’re getting the right one.
As long as you know what you’re doing, everything will run smoothly.
So how do you make lye soap?
For a basic handmade soap, all you will need is lye, water and some fat or soap making oils.
You will also need a good soap making recipe as well as tons of patience and determination.
Don’t forget to read our full, comprehensive article on soap making with lye, including a free basic soap recipe by clicking here.
Over to you: do you have any tips for using lye? Let us know in the comments below and share your favourite tricks for how to make soap with our readers!
Take the next step
Make sure you download our FREE comprehensive beginners guide, ‘How To Make Soap At Home’, by clicking here.
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