Soap Making Redux | Lye: Little Pot of Horrors

As I mentioned in my earlier post mixing of lye was the scariest part of making lye.  I wanted to have a singular post on sharing my observations on that. Containers:  I see that people suggest using different kinds of container for mixing lye:  plastic, shatterproof glass, stainless steel.  I want to offer some commentary on that.

  1.  Plastic:  Because of the extreme heat given off, I would be wary of using any kind of plastic as the heat could leach out chemicals from the plastic (much like the admonitions of using plastic in the microwave).  Further, if you are new to soap making, the wrong choice of plastic, whose properties you may not be aware of under extreme conditions, could result in a melt down and a potential breach in the container.
  2. Mixing lye:  Some say use plastic, metal or wood.  I used a very long handled stainless steel spoon.  I feel that using a whisk is the right implement though and will do so in future.
  3. Glass: Pyrex when subjected to extreme heat conditions will shatter.  Having a Pyrex container in an ice bath when the lye is boiling away is one such condition.  I've had a Pyrex dish shatter by placing a cooler dish in a hot oven.  It contained only cornbread mix--not a deadly caustic chemical mixture such as lye.  I think that there is too much risk involved to use this container.  Yes, I've only had one Pyrex dish break on me in regular cooking in 3 decades, but it happens.
  4. Stainless Steel:  This is a two thumbs up.  It cannot breach, leach or break. And if you saw the rate of descent of that pot in the snow bank, you would understand why I wrote this post.  I used an asparagus pot.  It's tall and deep, and I felt that there I could handle it easily and that there would be no sloshing.  Would I use my pot to steam asparagus after dissolving lye?  A resounding yes. What possible danger could be lurking in stainless steel?  However, I did put a vinegar solution in everything touching the lye to ensure neutralization. And put everything in the dishwasher.

Measuring container for lye:  Another scary thing that I mentioned in my previous post was the electrical charge of the lye beads and the clear plastic cup that I used.  The beads actual went places that they were not supposed to go (on the stainless steel table).  Now these were maybe 20 or so beads (think head of a pin small), but one is too many.  My expectation is that my measuring cup should not interact at all with the contents--electrically or chemically.  Because of the static, I had some stray beads in my cup.  I will use a different vehicle in the future. I believe this to be the properties of the clear, hard, clear plastic. It's winter, and the air is dry.  I'm confident that in the summer this would not be a problem.

Measuring lye:  I read one place where measurements for lye were given using measuring cups v weight.  I would recommend using a weight scale. I have no baseline experience to give such advice except my cooking experience and the importance of lye to oil measurements.  It can be used for your soap making, and you will appreciate it for your baking needs as well.  It is so much faster to weigh ingredients than measure. If you are worried about having to look up values, put the weight values on the container in which you are storing your dry ingredients.

My bars of soap are very hard this a.m.  I attribute that to the addition of the beeswax.

My husband used some soap this a.m. and was very pleased.  I'm hooked!


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