Lye soap safety

Is it Safe to Use Lye Soap?

Soaps that are made of lye are easy to prepare, and have also been available in stores for decades. However, over the years, they have gathered a bad reputation of sometimes being bad for the skin. In this article, we will study the facts and see if there are any harmful effects of using lye soap.
Did You Know?
The first mention of lye soap was found by archaeologists in ancient Mesopotamian writings on papyrus scrolls that were over 2,000 years old. The scrolls revealed a recipe for creating lye soap through mixing animal or vegetable fat with alkaline salt.
Lye is a substance that is made through a method called saponification, i.e., a process through which sodium hydroxide is mixed with vegetable or animal fat under heat to allow the ingredients to react chemically with each other. In ancient times, lye was a very popular ingredient for creating soap. However, due to the inconsistency in standards of preparation, some of these soaps could turn out to be very caustic, damaging the skin that it was exposed to.

Nowadays, changes and effective standardization in the methods of production and better quality of lye in commercial brands have ensured that any risk posed is minimal and very rare. On the other hand, homemade soaps are much more riskier, as they are not subject to any safety tests, which is why one must be careful with their use.

Uses of Lye Soap
  • When made properly and aged for an appropriate period of time, soaps made of lye are completely safe, and are used to effectively clean dirt and grime, and have even been used to repel insects.
  • In fact, good lye soaps are commonly used for purposes of personal hygiene, and in cleaning household items like clothes.
  • Since this soap is economical, and it comes in various forms such as bars, liquids, laundry soaps, and bath soaps, users have a lot of options to choose from.
  • Lye soap has many medicinal uses. It has been known to make the skin appear young and fresh. Also, regular use has seen reduction in psoriasis, eczema, dry itchy skin, athlete's foot, and other skin conditions.
  • Lye soap is also said to be good for the face, as it can cure acne by cleaning the pores and moisturizing the skin.
  • It is also known for reducing the effects of sunburn, insect bites, and reactions to plants like poison ivy.
As you can see, lye soap that is made properly is not only safe to use, but also very beneficial as well. However, improperly made soap can be hazardous. Let's see why.

Dangers of Lye Soap

In Preparation:
  • Lye is known to be dangerous in the soap-making process. This is because of its caustic nature, which causes explosive reactions when handled improperly.
  • Lye can corrode cloth, metal, plastic, paint, etc. It also produces toxic fumes, and can be fatal if ingested.
  • Also, due to its caustic nature, lye can cause severe chemical burns when directly exposed to the skin. Therefore, serious precautions have to be observed when making this soap.
Effects on the Human Body:
  • Normally, lye soap needs to be aged for several months before it becomes completely safe for use. Soaps which have not be aged appropriately can be caustic, causing harm to the skin.
  • If the ingredients have not been mixed properly, the soap will remain caustic despite the aging process, which can cause irritation to the skin, and possibly even burns.
Despite these harmful effects, it is not completely bad. This is especially true if one follows certain precautions.

Safety Precautions
  • If you are not confident about your soap making skills, buy lye soaps made by reputed commercial brands only, as they are most likely to be safe. But be sure to see that the soap is made of pure lye, without any other chemical additions. Try to avoid homemade versions.
  • If you must prepare a homemade lye soap, never pour water into lye, as it can catch fire or explode.
  • Lye is toxic. So, it should always be kept out of reach of pets and children.
  • One should always use protective clothing and gear in the preparation process.
  • The area where the soap is being made should be properly ventilated.
  • If you do get burned by lye, immediately wash the area with vinegar, which will stop any further damage from occurring. However, any damage sustained can only be healed with time.
Homemade lye soap can be better than commercial brands only if the correct procedures are used, as they usually turn out to be mild. The soap is best used when it is made of only lye, water, and lard.
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