I’ve been making soap for many years and am very cautious when it comes to lye, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced the affects of a lye splash on my skin. It hurts!
There are many articles out there on the Internet that talk about what to do if you get lye on your skin and some recommend using vinegar to neutralize lye. Please don’t use this method.
When I first starting making soap I was prepared with my big bottle of vinegar just incase! Well the day came that I felt an itch and realized it was actually a splash of lye/water. I was pouring the lye/water into my oils and it splashed up and there was a spot of bare skin between my gloves and the sleeve of the shirt I was wearing.
I put vinegar on the splash and it got hotter and the pain became very intense. I learned that day DO NOT USE VINEGAR to neutralize a lye burn!
The vinegar reacts to the lye and actually heats it up more; where as just plain water dilutes and weakens it. If you get lye on your skin simply flush it with water, which is what I did the next time I was splashed, and it worked much better.
That day I made sure to check some more reliable sources and printed out the MSDS sheets. If you are making soap it’s important to do this. That was a big error on my part and I’m lucky it was just a splash I received and not a larger burn or I would be scarred today.
Please read and print out a copy of the MSDS Sheet for Sodium Hydroxide
So your making soap and you spill some of your lye/water mix on your hand, it starts to itch what do you do?
Grab the vinegar?
It is true that vinegar will neutralize sodium hydroxide, but it will also release an energy that will increase the heat…..and that can further burn your skin.
Rubbing or splashing vinegar onto a lye splash will cause a thermal burn over the chemical burn you already have.
You would have to use about 3 litres of vinegar poured directly on a small splash of lye in order to neutralize a burn with vinegar.
The burn will lessen as it is diluted – running water over the burn would be a much better option.
Flush with water?
When water is added to Lye it heats up. The more water that is added the more diluted the sodium hydroxide becomes, making it the best neutralizer for a lye burn. Just pour lots of water, the more water the more diluted.
I have a sink with a tap in my soap making room and it’s right there easy to use in the event of a spill.
Other things to know about using Sodium Hydroxide and Soap Making
Storing your lye – Make sure your container is clearly marked “lye” and properly labeled “poison” When I order my lye, it comes in clear bags, I pour it into 5 gallon pails that are clearly marked and closed with lids that snap on tightly
If you spill dry lye – sweep it up as soon as possible and mop the area with cold water. You can spray a vinegar/water solution to neutralize the area but only after mopping with water.
Always wear protective clothing when using lye ie: googles and gloves
If you get lye on your skin – follow the MSDS instructions of flushing the area immediately with lots of water.
Pouring your lye – When I pour lye into my container to make soap. I always put it in the sink – this way there is no danger of it getting knocked onto the floor or spilled onto the counter.
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