Is Lye Bad for Environment?

On one side, Lye is a major ingredient of soap. That means it plays a vital role in making the environment clean.

On the other hand, it is undeniably caustic to the extent that one has to use it wearing safety glasses. So, one can say that Lye is controversial to a great extent.

Despite that, is Lye bad for the environment? Given its main purpose, is it natural, and how gentle is it on the skin?

By the end of this discussion, the answer to this vital question will be crystal clear. So, let’s find out whether Lye is bad for the environment.

What Is Lye?

Understanding what one is referring to or dealing with is always good. It turns out that it is another name for sodium hydroxide hence alkaline.

It is famous for being caustic. Did you know it damages various surfaces upon contact with them, and your skin is no exception?

It also comes in various forms, including crystals, liquid, and flakes.

It is usually a result of a chemical reaction between lime or calcium hydroxide and soda or sodium carbonate. However, that’s an evolution regarding Lye.

Sometime back, Lye in bottles wasn’t available. However, people needed it to make soap and tan hides and hence had ways of making it using various raw materials.

These ingredients included white ashes from burning hardwoods, and the temperatures had to be high for effectiveness. Removing Lye from the ashes usually involves mixing baking soda and ash.

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Upon filtering out the ashes, the water left contained Lye. They would go ahead and use it accordingly.

So, Is Lye Bad for Environment?

Due to its caustic nature, Lye is bad for the environment. It is extremely corrosive to many things, including your clothes, skin, paint, plastic, and metal.

Why do manufacturers use sodium hydroxide in skin care products if that’s the case? Wouldn’t that be dangerous to one’s skin and eyes?

Whereas sodium hydroxide can be dangerous, you will get away with that if dealing with low concentrations and doses. That’s usually the case for these products.

Releasing lye fumes into the air is also harmful. That’s because it poses a danger to anyone who breathes these fumes.

Again, that’s surprising since FDA approves its safety as a food ingredient. Whereas that’s the case, it isn’t for actual foods but rather washes.

Besides, Lye may be caustic, but that property is gone when the soap processing is over. The saponification process permanently transforms Lye into a new substance by bonding it with oils.

Equally important, avoid mixing Lye with water. After all, wet Lye is extremely dangerous and can lead to a fire with adverse environmental effects.

The bottom line is that Lye by itself is bad for the environment. However, that’s not the case for the ones in soaps and other skincare products.

Is Lye Biodegradable?

Lye is a common ingredient in the soap-making process. Other ingredients include oil and water.

All these essential soaps’ ingredients have one thing in common: biodegradability. So, Lye in soap is biodegradable and doesn’t threaten the environment.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Lye?

For several reasons, Lye, caustic soda or sodium hydroxide is a common ingredient in skincare products such as soaps and cleansers. They include the following;

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Advantages of Lye

Lye benefits are as follows

  • Since it is alkaline and pH is 14, Lye is responsible for balancing the pH of various skin care products for the body and face.
  • It plays a pivotal role in cleansers and soaps, bounding oils and fats together for the end product.
  • It is versatile and usable in various cleaning products such as drain cleaners, oven cleaners, detergents, aluminum, and paper.
  • Lye doesn’t harm your skin as long as the dose and concentration are low and the skin care products users highly appreciate the gentleness.
  • It plays a huge role in ensuring that the soap foams and lathers
  • Besides soap, Lye has other uses, including nail polish remover, body cream, face wash, nail polish, hair dye, and makeup

Disadvantages of Lye

Some side effects may arise despite being an important ingredient in soaps and other skincare products. It usually emanates from using pure Lye on your skin.

In other instances, the manufacturers use it in high concentrations. Under such circumstances, the following mild or severe side effects may arise;

  • Chemical burns can either be mild or severe
  • Discoloration
  • Flaking skin
  • Hives
  • Holes in the underlying tissues
  • Increased sensitivity
  • Irritation
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Redness
  • The holes may also occur in your skin

Therefore, always be careful when choosing skin care products containing Lye, known as sodium hydroxide. Ensure that its concentration is low to prevent the above side effects.

If you have sensitive skin, always proceed cautiously. Otherwise, a product may do more harm than good.

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Besides side effects in the skin care products, Lye has other issues, especially when mixing, including the following;

  • If you ingest it, esophageal stricture may arise
  • Its ingestion can even be fatal
  • Blindness
  • Scarring
  • Permanent injuries
  • Chemical burns

Which Precautions Should You Take When Using Lye?

Lye on itself is dangerous and bad for the environment. It explains the need to take the following precautions when handling it.

  • Use gloves and eye protection if you have to mix Lye
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after dealing with Lye since even a single grain of the substance can lead to intense irritation
  • In case of a burn, ensure that you use water on it immediately hence the need to have it on standby for such unprecedented incidences
  • Always stand back instead of leaning over your lye mixture to avoid breathing in its fumes
  • Use the surface you will use to mix the Lye to prevent its corrosion
  • Don’t leave your lye mixture unattended, even for a short period
  • Mix your Lye in heat-proof containers since their counterparts can melt or crack, and the substance will consequently escape
  • Dabbing vinegar on the area burned by the lye mixture will relieve its pain

Is Lye a Natural Chemical?

Yes, Lye is natural. So, it turns out that some natural ingredients can be bad for the environment, especially if not used properly.

So, don’t let its environmental unfriendliness make you assume it isn’t natural. Besides, it is good to take note of the following.

Despite being a natural ingredient, Lye isn’t organic. On the contrary, it is non-organic and an exception of the few things USDA approves as having met the organic standards regardless.



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