What is lye? – The healthy porcupine
Lye is a very-alkaline product that has been used to make soap for decades. It also has uses in other industries, such as food and cleaning. Lye is a general term for two different alkaline compounds known as Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) and Potassium Hydroxide (KOH). They are both metal hydroxides and basic alkaline, so they have a very high pH. The high pH makes this mixture very caustic, which means that if you don’t protect your skin when you touch it at this stage, it can cause a chemical burn. These two compounds are highly water-soluble and are sometimes referred to as caustic soda.
Though this may sound odd to put in soap, the chemical reactions that occur later in the soapmaking process, called saponification, neutralize the lye in the soap while activating its cleaning power.
How is lye produced?
The traditional way of making lye was by allowing wood ashes to seep into the water, resulting in a lye solution. This process is also known as “potash,” which comes from the method of soaking ashes in a pot. Modern lye, which is normally used for making bar soap, is now made by breaking down a saltwater solution with the chemicals we mentioned above. Salt is an alkaline earth metal, and water is an acid; the reaction between these two creates lyes that vary widely depending on what kind you use: baking soda produces up to 7% NaOH while Epsom salts cause only 10%.
How long has lye been used?
Lye has been used for thousands of years to make many important products like soap, food, and paper. It’s also a key ingredient in producing many other things, such as glass cleaner and fertilizer.
You can’t make real soap without lye. All natural soaps have lye as an ingredient in them; synthetic chemicals can now be used instead of lye (like phthalate-free glycerin), but we wouldn’t consider that natural soap because it contains no botanical ingredients or essential oils from plants or flowers.
How is lye added to soaps?
The process typically involves mixing lye with oils or butters, which contribute to the soap’s scents and other natural properties, such as vitamins and minerals.
After we ground, render, and filter our suet (beef fat), we add lye to our completed tallow product. The reaction between oil and lye leaves no residue in the finished product. At the end of the soapmaking process, there’s no lye left in your soap—it forms a bond with oil and becomes soap!
Is soap made with lye safe to use on the skin?
Yes, soaps made with lye are safe to use on the skin once they have been properly cured. During saponification, the reaction between the fats and lye produces a product that is safe for use on the skin after all curing has been completed. During the soapmaking process, all of the lye is used up, making sure that there are no leftover chemicals or harmful substances in your finished product!
Why do we use lye in our soaps?
There are a few reasons we use lye in our soap:
It’s the most natural way to make soap, allowing us to stick with the most traditional methods possible.
Using lye avoids the use of unnecessary synthetic chemicals larger companies may use that can cause skin irritation or allergies.
Because lye creates soap with powerful natural cleansing properties, it makes for an amazing bar of handmade soap!
Finally, since handcrafted artisans traditionally use lye throughout history, it makes sense that we would choose this method as well when making our own handmade products.”
So, why do we use lye in soap? Well, it’s actually a great question! Lye comes from natural sources like clay and limestone. It is 100% pure sodium hydroxide, which can make all sorts of things like detergent, laundry detergent, or deodorant products. The main reason soap makers use lye in their soaps is that it has many benefits over other ingredients, such as salt or synthetic chemicals found in many non-natural soaps today.