Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lye-ing is a Soaper's Best Friend!

Lye is an important ingredient in the soap making process.  It is a caustic material that needs to be treated with respect.  Lye has several names:  Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH), Caustic Soda, Potassium Hydroxide (KOH), Caustic Potash and Potash..  For Cold Process Soap, you use Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH, Lye, Caustic Soda).  For Liquid Soap, you use the Potassium Hydroxide (KOH, Caustic Potash, Postash).  If you are interested in making Cream Soap, you use both types of Lye.

Lye can be purchased in a multitude of forms, pellets, beads/granules, flakes and even liquid.  My preference is the flake form.  As with all ingredients, lye must be weighed and not measured.  A reliable scale is very important in the soap making process.

First, you need to make your Lye Solution.  Making the Lye Water, as it is often called, first is best as it gives it time to start cooling down while you weigh out the rest of your ingredients.  When making your Lye Water, make sure that you are properly outfitted with the correct safety equipment:
Now, get ready to make your Lye Water.  In a sturdy, hard plastic, and preferrably a chemical resistant, container, weigh out your Distilled Water.  I suggest that you permanently mark this container with the word "LYE" to distingusih its use for others that may happen by while you are working.  You can purchase Distrilled Water at almost any chain grocery store.  Make sure you use Distilled Water and not Tap Water.  You can also substitute some or all of your water for other liquids such as Aloe Vera Gel (liquid), Tea or Herbal Extracts or milks, etc.  We will discuss those options, in more depth, in another blog.

Once you have weighed your Water (or liquid of choice), you must weigh your Lye in a safe, and separate, container.  I use a small stainless steel bowl.  Now it is time to incorporate the two together.  This is very important:

Always mix your Lye into the Water and not the other way around.  A simple phrase to help you remember how to mix them together is, "The snow always falls on the lake".  Snow equals Lye and lake equals water.

During the mixing process of the Water and Lye solution, always work in a well ventilated area and take precautions of animals and small children underfoot.

You can now set your Lye Water aside, in a safe place to cool, as your weigh your remailing ingredients and get them melting in your stainless steel pot.

Safety is the main and most important aspect of soap making, along with weighing your ingredients instead of measuring them.  I hope this article has been helpful...
Have a Soapie Day!!

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