Tuesday, 27 January 2015


Meet my buddy..Sodium Hydroxide aka Lye aka Caustic Soda.

Lye can be Sodium Hydroxide or Potassium Hydroxide. The former used to make a solid soap and latter in the preparation of liquid soap more popularly known as shower gel.

The Chemistry : Formula - NaOH ( Na- Sodium OH-Hydroxide)

Sodium Hydroxide aka Lye is an inorganic compound which is a highly caustic alkali salt available in the form of white flakes, pellets or granules. This alkali is soluble in H2O, Ethanol and Methanol.

Cold process soap makers reply solely on saponification ( I know, fancy name right?!). Saponification is a process wherein the oils and lye solution exchange romantic reactions to create a solid bar of soap. During this process there is a lot of heat generated, known as the gel phase ( to me its more like the soap underwent orgasm). Right after the gel phase the soap cools down, hardens up and releases fluffy bubbles, lather and the aftermath is usually happy skin.  These soaps take about 4-8 weeks to mature aka curing period, in this period excess water evaporates which makes the soap hard.The mature soap is now ready to cleanse, condition and protect your skin on a daily basis.

Please note hand made soaps will never argue with you and only pride on giving your skin  a wonderful cleanse without stripping off the natural oils.

Modern soap-making is indeed very clever. It involves a lot of mathematical calculations. Every oil has a particular SAP value. SAP is just a shorter fancier version for saponification. The amount of lye needed to make a particular batch of soap depends on the oils used. Therefore, as a modern soap-maker we calculate carefully and methodically the amount of lye needed to convert the various oils into soap. Excess lye can hurt the skin. The science of soap-making has expanded widely in the domestic front with information floating all over the internet. But a wise soapmaker must not only rely on the available soap calculators but also have knowledge and know-how on practically doing the math on paper. I may sound nerdy, ridiculous - DO NOT JUDGE ME, but I sort of have this angel over my right shoulder poking me every now and then reminding me of the nasties and dangers of surviving on soap calculators. I remind my self everyday "nothing lasts forever", not even a mere soap calculator.

I am a soap-maker who has done research with the internet as my tool. I am still a novice and always will be. There is a world of oils, butters and exotic natural ingredients yet to be explored by me and converted into soap by my buddy who I cant work without - Sodium Hydroxide.

Other uses of Lye:

The paper industry uses about 25% of the annually produced lye. Lye has many domestic and industrial uses too other than making soap. Its also used to straighten hair :)

The downside of working with lye - Be extremely safe with gloves and goggles. Do not work with bare hands or feet even if you are most professional of professionals. I highly recommend being safe than sorry. Lye in the raw form is hazardous. It is however totally safe once combined with the oils to make soap. Please do not be under the impression its caustic so bad for skin. It is a good chemical if used correctly in the right proportions. It boosts the soaping qualities of each drop of oil and brings out wonderful cold-process soap from Pure Suds to you :)


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