Many people would love to dabble on soapmaking, but are prevented from doing so because they are afraid of lye. A lot has been said about lye, and while they are not necessarily untrue, a good part of them has been misunderstood.
Lye is alkali, and in the acid-base spectrum, lye is the extreme opposite of acid. Lye is necessary for natural soapmaking. Soap is the result of saponification, and saponification can only happen when there is an interaction between the fatty acids of oil and an alkali. In other words, there is no soap unless there is an interaction between oil and alkali. Anything presented as soap, but which did not come from this process, is technically NOT soap.
It is for this reason that every natural soapmaking process requires the use of lye.
Lye has been considered dangerous because it can burn the skin. And if a splatter hits the eye, the damage may be irreparable. However, while lye has to be treated with great respect, it does not have to be feared. There are ways to avoid accidents involving lye.
First, make sure that you are wearing safety gadgest. These are as follows:
1. Goggles to cover the eyes.
2. Masks to cover the mouth and nose, especially if you are preparing lye solution from scratch and are expecting fumes.
3. Longsleeves to cover the arms.
4. Long pants to cover the legs.
5. Apron to protect your clothes.
Also, have a bowl of vinegal close by, as well as a few pieces of paper towel. In the event of a lye splatter, dip a paper towel in the vinegar and wipe the affected area until the burning sensation disappears.
These tips apply only to the handling of lye during the making of soap itself. There is a lot more to be said for lye storage and lye solution preparation. They will be the subject of a separate post.
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