Lye – Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) soultion: how to make it

Lye a common name for a solution of Sodium Hydroxide dissolved in water.


If you are making lye from NaOH solid granules or pellets its not as simple as just measure out the quantity and dropping it all in the water.

As NaOH dissolves it produces heat so you will need to be able to cool your solution so it does not boil.

This is a good example of an exothermic reaction, a reaction which releases energy as heat.


NaOH must be added slowly to the solution waiting to allow the solution to cool and the pellets to dissolve.

Alkali + metal = Hydrogen gas + metal oxide

You should not use a metal container because metals such as aluminum and zinc (galvanized metals) will corrode rapidly and produce Hydrogen gas.

Stainless steel will not corrode quickly but will produce hydrogen gas which is an explosion hazard.


The creation of Lye also produces some aerosols which will contain corrosive Lye.

Do this is a well ventilated area.


Maximum solubility of NaOH at room temperature (20C) is 111g per 100mL of water.


Where can I get NaOH to make lye?

Quite easily surprisingly.

Most super markets have it in the cleaning products section look for the drain cleaners.

Even smaller convenience stores will often carry this product.

Beware of the Narcissist

Part of living in any community is dealing with people. Most people are usually pretty reasonable to deal with however just like obesity there has been another secret menace plaguing 21 century society, Narcissism.

I spent quite a bit of time researching this one and found a really good book on the subject by  the tennis pro/ science teacher Kathy Krajco. She describes her self as the adult child and sister of a Narcissist, so she knows them quite well. She used to maintain a blog up until her death in 2008. She wrote a book which is a good plain english account of why narcissists do what they do and how they do it. Her book is available online and here too.

Narcissists generally operate in the same way.

Lies and manipulation.

Threats and coercion.

Generally only have three facial expressions bored, happy and angry.

Their responses to you may seem weird like laughing at a dead kitten, and they do this to shock you and then make a psychological attack of some kind.

They are generally lazy and selfish and constantly criticize others to make them selves appear better in comparison.

They do not accept criticism well at all.

They generally hide behind a public face which they attempt to create, to hide their true self. They generally only reveal their true nature when that attack and they do this as secretly as possible.

Quite often they are incompetent or have mediocre skills because they have had a life time of getting other people to do all the real work.

The bottom line is you cant work with narcissists, co-operation is not in their nature, they simply don’t want to share anything fairly.

For the narcissist all they worry about is their public face and what else they can get out of any situation or person, morals just don’t matter to them.

Narcissists will be at least somewhat nomadic not staying in the same place/job/relationship for very long, because of the fear of or result of being exposed.

For the religious readers you might wish to think of narcissists as ‘demons in human form’.

Link to Kathy Krajco’s book ‘What makes narcissists tick’ 4.19Mb

npd Kathy Krajco ‘What makes Narcissists tick’ 2007 4.19Mb

Soap: how to make it

So after explaining how soap works and why washing in water alone will only remove some things from your clothes or yourself, lets look at how to make soap.

Soap is made from a chemical process called saponification.
Oil plus alkali becomes soap.

Depending on the type of oil an alkali used and how they are processed determines the type of soap produced.

The types of alkali

potassium (potash): these soaps tend to be liquid. Bracken ash

Sodium common soft soap. normal wood ash

calcium very hard soap. does not dissolve easily. mineral lime

the types of oils commonly used to make soap

SAP charts:

This chart tells you how much alkali to add for each unit weight of fat/oil.

So for Almond, Sweet oil you will need 0.136 grams of NaOH per gram of this Oil to make soap.

If you are using multiple oils do the same calculation for each oil as though it were a separate soap and then add up all the alkali needed and add to final mixture.

The specific gravity is the density of this Oil relative to water (water = 1.000)  hence anything less dense than water will float on water as almost all of these oils will do.

Soap making SAP chart part 3: Essential Oils ( EO )

During the process of soap making you will either have too much oil or too much alkali.

Too much oil will make the soap greasy and too much alkali will be very harsh on the skin or material washed.

It generally better to have too much oil slightly as a bit greasy is better than very corrosive.

If you can do the numbers have 4-10% less lye than oil for optimal results.


Glycerine is a component of fatty acids and as the soap is produced the glycerine is produced.

too much glycerine will make the soap prone to converting to mush after its been left wet.

Try to experiment with removing the glycerine as the soap is made to get the right balance.

Production example:

cold process

Olive oil


measure out quantities carefully.

Lye will get hot as you make it from Sodium hydroxide granules a shatter proof glass container is a good idea.

Heat the oil/fat until it is liquid and about 50C-60C and a similar temperature to the lye solution.

mix in an appropriate container, plastic containers are good, don’t use aluminum pots as they will react with the lye.

use blender to mix. 5-6 minutes should be enough.

pour into tray or muffin molds to set.

cover witha towel to keep the soap warm as it sets.

After 24 hours take the soap out of the molds and leave them is a dry warm place to dry fully.

leave the bars to store for a few weeks to fully react all the lye.

test soap with pH strips or pool water pH kit

hot process




Technically oils are acidic and saponification is an acid base reaction and the soap is the ‘salt’ of that reaction

Disturbingly enough during world war I, some bodies left covered in lime became saponified and became soap from the action of the lime on the body fat.

Lye in form of Sodium hydroxide (NaOH)   can be purchased from some supermarkets as high purity beads in a small container. The high purity is useful in the very well measured cold  soap making process, as you will need to measure everything carefully.

Sodium hydroxide is normally used for clearing blocked drains, usually the drains are blocked with hair, soap scum, scale and fat, and int he case of fat the lye solution turns it to soap similar to the way we have just learned.

<more to come>

An excel based calculator for soap making


Basic rule of thumb:

1 part alkali ( by weight as a dry powder)

8 parts oil (by weight)

24 parts water (by weight)

Warming up the oil to the same temperature as the alkali (which will usually heat the water used to create it).


Soaps created from types of hydroxides

Sodium: a solid water soluble soap.

Potassium: a liquid water soluble soap.

Calcium: a solid mostly insoluble soap.

Lithium: a grease possibly with lubrication potential for machines.


Soap: How it works.

No matter what you do you are going to need to get clean.

Even if you are near a large water source and can wash there you will probably need soap. You will probably want to make soap eventually but before you do that well you need to understand how it works in order to do it well.

If you of your clothes were dirty and all the dirt was water soluble you could simply wash in water.

Salt is soluble in water so if you clothes were covered in salt you could just wash them in fresh water and the clothes would be clean.

However not all things are soluble in water, this is where soap comes in.


Almost all things are soluble in water or soluble in oil. In chemistry this is called non-polar and polar.

Water happens to be polar, which means able to form charged ions and other compounds like this will dissolve in it to some extent.

Oils are non-polar and don’t form ions easily and other non polar substances will dissolve in it to some extent.

Soap is a molecule which is both polar and non polar, having a polar  (oil soluble) component and a non-polar (water soluble) component.

It’s polar part is soluble in water it non polar part soluble in oils.

This allow you to use soap and water to wash out both water soluble and oil soluble material from an item.

Chemical structure diagram of a typical soap. The serrated line represents a chain of -CH2- units with a -CH3 at the end.

The soap allows the oil the ability to become partially dissolved in the water and spheres of oil with soap molecules embedded. These are called micelles

A micelle: oil sphere (green) with soap molecules (black) embedded in the surface giving it partial water solubility.

The process of micelle formation looks something like this:

Material (red and flat) and an oil droplet (green and rounded) forming in the presence of a soap, which allow the oil to form micelles, spheres suspended in the water (light blue).

Once the soap has liberated the oil from the material the soap/oil/water solution has to be removed, hence the need for the removal of the water with rinsing.

Rinsing allows more oil to be removed as all of  the initial oils might not have been removed. And excess soap will have more water to liberate the oil into.

Rinsing also allows anything already soluble in water to be removed. this is why a pre-rinse makes sense.

Rinsing also remove the excess soap which would otherwise attract dirt and oil and be an irritant.