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Sodium Hydroxide

Sodium hydroxide (NaOH), also known as lye and caustic soda, is a caustic metallic base. Sodium hydroxide is a highly caustic base and alkali that decomposes proteins at ordinary ambient temperatures and may cause severe chemical burns.

It is used in many industries, mostly as a strong chemical base in the manufacture of pulp and paper, textiles, drinking water, soaps and detergents and as a drain cleaner.

Sodium hydroxide is a popular strong base used in the industry. Around 56% of sodium hydroxide produced is used by industry, 25% of which is used in the paper industry. Sodium hydroxide is also used in the manufacture of sodium salts and detergents, pH regulation, and organic synthesis. It is used in the Bayer process of aluminium production. In bulk, it is most often handled as an aqueous solution, since solutions are cheaper and easier to handle. Sodium hydroxide is used in many scenarios where it is desirable to increase the alkalinity of a mixture, or to neutralize acids.

Sodium Hydroxide is used in cosmetics diluted as a buffer to increase the alkalinity of an ingredient or product that has a very low pH and to manufacture soaps. True soap is only made using Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) and fats for solid bars or Potassium Hydroxide and fats for liquid soap with the addition in both cases of enough water to dissolve the lye.

In the manufacturing of soaps, sodium hydroxide in the presence of fats (oils and butters) reacts in a process commonly known as saponification to create a salt also known as soap. When the reaction is complete, no traces of sodium hydroxide remain in the final product. A byproduct of the soap making process is glycerin, which can be left in the soap for added moisturizing properties or removed to manufacture lotions and other bath and body products.

When the soap manufacturing process is poor or uncontrolled as it happens in homemade and in some cases artisanal soap, the saponification process is deemed as incomplete, leaving high levels of non-reacted sodium hydroxide floating in the soap, creating a "lye heavy" or highly alkaline soap that can burn and irritate the skin.

Find Sodium Hydroxide in the following BVO products.

View Also Potassium Hydroxide.


For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.