Lets Talk Lye! - FostersFields

Lets Talk Lye!

Well hello there my soapy followers, before we can make soap we should touch on a little safety and history.

Fosters Fields soaps are mainly Cold Process with a few being made using a Hot Process. Both of these methods use the same ingredients and the same basic rules apply. These ingredients are oil or fats mixed with an alkali solution which than chemically transforms your batter into a salt or soap through a cool process called saponification. This chemical reaction isn't possible without all the ingredients and an accurate soap making recipe.

Long before our modern day soap makers perfected this technique, it wasn't nearly as simple. Many years ago the alkali used for soap making was actually wood ash. Now we are lucky enough to have sodium hydroxide available as well as lye calculators to make our job much simpler. Soap calculators haven't been around that long so every recipe had to be calculated by hand. Every modern soap maker should know how to do this even though it isn't necessary these days! It sure is good practice to have an idea of what the soap calculator spits out, technology isn't always perfect!

If we were to formulate a recipe by hand, each oil or fat has a special number that is used to calculate the amount of sodium hydroxide or lye needed turn all those fats into soap. These calculations need to be precise, too much or too little of an ingredient will ruin your soap.

When you are working with lye, safety is absolutely necessary. There are a few things to keep in mind before you start.

1. Prevent skin burns by wearing long sleeves and gloves. If you get the solution on your skin, wash immediately.

2. Wear googles or some form of eye protection. If an accicental splash into the eyes happens, flush immediately and get medical attention.

3. Always pour the lye into you water, never the other way around.

4. Your lye and water should be mixed in a well vented area to avoid the lye fumes which can be very harmful.

5. Use plastic preferably to mix lye, or glass but never aluminum. This will cause a reaction that can be very harmful or deadly!

6. Vinegar is handy to keep close as it neutralizes the lye.

So there it is, a few lye basics. I admit that this scared me to death when I started but with proper handling and safety, soap making is a very addictive science!

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