Safety Tips for Making Lye Soap

   Lye has been used in soap making for centuries. It begins as a dangerously corrosive alkaline that, when mixed with oils, is chemically altered and becomes harmless soap, with gentle cleansing properties and the mild and moisturizing byproduct of glycerin.
However, before it goes through the saponification process, it remains caustic. Often used in drain cleaning products, for example, the corrosive properties of lye allow it to burn through tough drain clogs, dissolving what stands in its way. Soap makers must practice caution when working with lye.

Only pure lye should be used for making soap, without any additional ingredients. For protection, when working with pure lye, make sure to always use safety goggles, thick rubber gloves that cover your forearms, an apron, and hard close-toed shoes in case of spills.

You will need a very heat-resistant container for stirring lye with water, before it is added to the oils. Use a pitcher or handled pot with a lid. Make sure this container is large enough for safe stirring. Also, do not use tin, aluminum, or zinc for storing or stirring lye, as lye will corrode these metals. Stainless steel is best, but a thick heat-resistant plastic will do.

When mixing the lye with water, it is imperative to remember to add the lye to the water, not the other way around. Add lye slowly and carefully to the water as you stir. Pouring water onto lye can cause a dreadful accident. Mix the lye into the water, while the container is in your sink, in case of a leak or spill.

Breathing lye fumes can burn your lungs. So, as you work with the lye, make sure the room is well-ventilated preferably with an open window and a fan to cycle the air. Try to stand back while you stir the mixture.

As with adding lye to the water, add the lye-water to the soap oils. Make sure that lye is always added slowly and carefully. Keep vinegar, an acid, on hand to quickly neutralize any lye that spills on you and then rinse the affected area with cold water.

For soap making at home, lye is a necessity that can be intimidating to would-be soap makers. But soap making can be a pleasurable and safe activity, when safety guidelines for working with lye are carefully followed.
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