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Is Lye Necessary For Soap Making?

Updated on December 29, 2015

Why "lye" in soaps

Yes! All soaps have this very important ingredient. Lye is the reaction between sodium carbonate and calcium hydroxide. I have had several people over the years come to my booth at local farmers markets asking me if my soaps have Lye in them.

Yes, Lye is needed to make the soap, and actually turns into something completely different once the soap making process is complete. This is called saponification, which is the mixing of water, lye, and fats or oils. When a strong Alkali is mixed with oils or fats it produces soap and glycerin.

Many think that Lye in soap must be unsafe, considering how dangerous Lye by itself can be. Lye can cause serious burns, blindness and permanent scaring. This is why it is extremely important to make sure you follow all safety precautions when handling Lye during the soap making process.

When handling Lye one should wear rubber gloves, long sleeve shirt, and eye protection. You should also be in a well ventilated area; I always perform this task outside. You should also always make sure that the lye you are using to make soaps is 100% Lye or sodium hydroxide, other forms of lye have added ingredients in them that are unwanted in soap making

Back in the olden days Lye was leached from hardwood ashes. Households would have wooden bins they would keep outside to dump the ashes from there wood stoves in. When it came to time for making soap they would pour water through the ashes and siphon off the liquid Lye. This was done with extreme caution, for too much Lye could burn and irritate the skin and too little could prevent the soap from actually hardening.

Today soap makers have perfected the levels of Lye in making handmade soaps producing much milder soaps than that of a century ago. Just remember that the Lye is no longer Lye once the soap making process is complete and it is a needed ingredient to make the soap and is totally safe once the soap making process is complete

© 2010 rpalulis


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    • rpalulis profile image

      rpalulis 3 years ago from NY

      Thanks Kathleen for reading this hub on soap making with lye, and for your comment- I checked out your Etsy shop your soaps look beautiful!

    • profile image

      Kathleen Ruzanski 3 years ago

      I use only goat milk soap and body butter! Nothing but the best for my family! Stop by my etsy shop and browse my amazing products,

    • rpalulis profile image

      rpalulis 7 years ago from NY

      Thanks for reading and rating this hub. If you would like to learn more about soap and natural skin care you should also check out our blog, I have written hundreds of post this past winter on such topics as I have researched them felted compelled to share. Goats Milk is awesome stuff! Hope your having a fantastic day!

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

      rpalulis, Love this hub and must rate it up for two reasons. 1) I learned the science behind soaps and I like to learn! 2) I love goats milk soap, I buy all my bath and body products from Burts Bees and Zum Body! and now I have a new company to try. I like to shift my thinking in terms of lifes experiences. Thanks and Peace ;)

    • rpalulis profile image

      rpalulis 7 years ago from NY

      Thanks Darelene! We specialize in goats milk soaps, and use no synthetic ingredients, and no animal tallow. Instead of fragrance oils we use pure essential oils and many of the herbs that we use such as lavender, rosemary, sage and calendula to name a few are from what we grow ourselves in our gardens. I will send you a link and would love to know what you think of our site.

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 7 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Great hub, I didn't know that lye was in soap, and I appreciate the lesson in the making of soup. Tell me about your soap or send me a web page with your products, I would like to see what you carry. Great job thumbs up...