Lye or Sodium Hydroxide, also known as NaOH or caustic soda, is a major
ingredient used to create soap. It is a caustic metallic base that creates a
strong alkaline solution when dissolved in water. Lye is considered a solid and
comes in many forms including pellets, flakes, granules as well as a 50% liquid
solution. Many industries use lye in the manufacture of items such as pulp and
paper, textiles, drinking water, soaps and detergents and drain cleaners.
All soaps begin with mixing oils or fats with lye. Even glycerin or melt & pour soaps started out with this mixture to make their base. Traditionally soap was made with animal fats, water and lye from wood ashes. Many soaps use vegetable based oils. There is another type of lye that is used for making liquid soaps called Potassium Hydroxide (KOH).
Lye will absorb water from the air so it needs to be stored in airtight plastic containers. As soon as water or any other liquid comes into contact with the lye it will begin to activate. Soap makers must use caution when handling lye as it can cause serious burns and affect the lungs due to the vapors when added to liquid. It is important to keep children and pets away from the area where soap is being created.
Used with care, mixing lye with fats will create wonderful soaps. Once these ingredients are mixed together they undergo a chemical change through the
process known as saponification. A properly devised recipe will no longer have
any lye left after this process and the results are a wonderful, gentle cleansing soap.
The difference between soap and detergents: Soap is generally made with vegetable oils or animal fats mixed with lye that retains the glycerin formed in
the bars. Large manufacturers remove the glycerin from their soaps and sell it to other companies for cosmetics. Detergents are made with petroleum products and alcohol and foaming agents. They add highly scented synthetic fragrances to
cover up the odors created with these products and use antibacterial ingredients
and preservatives to protect them and increase their shelf life.
So when asked if A Touch of Eden uses lye to make soap- yes! We would not be
able to create our specials soaps without it!