Lye is used regularly in almost every household and industrial business. However, whether you own a small soap business or simply want to understand essential chemical ingredients, you must know the necessary safety measures, how to incorporate lye, and its storage requirements before it. Here’s what to know about using lye products safely so that you can prevent potential health risks.
First and foremost, make sure you know who to contact in case of ingestion or direct contact. Since lye is corrosive, it can cause eye damage and severe burns if you misuse it.
What Is Lye?
When soda (sodium carbonate) and lime (calcium hydroxide) come together, they create the chemical known as lye. More simply put, lye is an alkaline chemical known for its acidic nature. Coming in liquid, flakes, or crystals, it can damage surfaces that come in contact with it; this includes your skin, internal organs, and eyes.
Before it became purchasable by the bottle, it was used for processes such as tanning hides and making soap. Initially, people would burn hardwood at high temperatures to create white ash. Once they collected the ash, they mixed water and baking soda to remove the lye within the ash. After they filtered out the ashes, the product left behind was lye.
Using Personal Protective Equipment
Since lye is a severe chemical, an essential tip to know about using lye products safely is protecting yourself from direct contact. For example, if your small business utilizes pressure-washing tools, which often utilize lye, handling the lye with caution is necessary. Ideally, if you plan to use lye, make sure you wear eye protection and gloves to create a barrier for your skin. Additionally, cover your surface area with working paper to prevent any damage. Lastly, make sure not to breathe in any fumes, and use heat-proof containers to prevent cracks and leaking.
If the lye does burn you during your work, dab some vinegar on the site to relieve the pain.
Proper Mixing and Incorporation
If weather permits, mixing lye in an outdoor area is best. An open-air environment provides the best ventilation possible without the need to turn on a fan or open a window. Additionally, family members, pets, and other distractions must remain away from the work area.
When you mix water with lye, make sure each ingredient initially stays in separate containers. Once you’ve made the correct measurements, make sure you add the lye to the water, not the other way around. Otherwise, the lye can expand or even erupt, causing a risk of exposure.
Lye is used more often than you might think. From small soap manufacturers to pressure-washing companies, lye helps significantly, even if it requires some additional caution.