What is lye (with pictures) j gastrointest oncol impact factor


Lye is a caustic, alkaline chemical that is useful for many purposes but also is hazardous. It can dissolve sticky substances such as fat and has a high degree of reactivity with other materials. Modern lye typically is the chemical sodium hydroxide, but potassium hydroxide was once the chemical compound that was commonly used. Whether in a flake, granular or liquid form, it is very dangerous and can cause damage to surfaces and people. Despite its hazardous nature, it is used in many common household products, such as laundry detergent and oven cleaner, and is even used to cure foods such as pretzels, green olives and mandarin oranges. Production

Sodium hydroxide is created using a chemical reaction between soda, or sodium carbonate, and calcium hydroxide, or lime. In raw form, it is made into solid flakes, chips or grains. Chemical suppliers provide sodium hydroxide to manufacturers for use in the making of a wide variety of products, such as fabric, paper, hand soap, metal polishers and drain de-cloggers.

Before the modern manufacture of lye, people were able to make it out of raw materials. For thousands of years, people have used types of lye for making soap and tanning hides. They burned certain hardwoods at a very high temperature to make white ashes. Water, mixed with a bit of baking soda, then was used to penetrate the ashes and remove the lye that they contained. When the ashes were filtered out, the water would hold enough lye for purposes such as dissolving the fat left on animal furs or mixing with other ingredients to make body soap. Dangers

This is one of many poisonous products that can be found in homes and that should be kept out of the reach of children and used only as directed. For example, a person should carefully follow the directions to clean sterling silver with a lye-based polish, because even the fumes can be dangerous. Lye-based products such as drain de-cloggers and paint stripper should never be used without proper air circulation.

Caustic lye products pose other dangers to surfaces. They can dissolve substances to the user’s advantage, such as hair clogs in a shower drain, as well as to the user’s detriment, such as the adjacent shower curtain. In fact, these products can damage and corrode paint, metal, cloth, plastic and especially skin. It can be so reactive that, in its solid form, it should be kept away from metals, such as aluminum, and the open air. It usually is non-combustible when dry, but it could ignite and cause a fire when mixed with water.

NaOH is useful because it attacks oils and makes them soluble in water. The principal use for NaOH is to add it to fat in measured quantities to make soap. Soap is a wonderful chemical; intermediate between the highly reactive NaOH and the neutral H20, (water) it helps oils dissolve in water without being overly destructive to skin. After all, you don’t want your skin chemically attacked when you clean it, you just want the dirt and oil to be made soluble so the water can wash them off. Try going a day without soap and see how much cleaning power water alone has.

The only reason to use NaOH directly is for very challenging cleaning jobs, where you want the total chemical energy available to dissolve fats. I’m using a little bit right now added to a deep frying tub. The caustic NaOH will attack those stubborn fats and turn them into soap, which I will be able to wash out later. However, the same chemical can turn my skin and subcutaneous fat to soap, which is where the danger is. Gloves are a must.

If you ever get any NaOH or HCl on your skin, you shouldn’t waste time trying to neutralize with vinegar (for NaOH) or baking soda, (for HCl) but instead run the affected part of your body under continuous warm water for 5 minutes. Your best hope is to wash away all of the remaining chemical. If taken internally the same rule applies. Drink as much water as possible to dilute the chemical, then seek emergency medical attention.