Soap Making Basics: Safety First
Updated: Jan 24, 2019
Safety is no mundane or laughing matter if you burn out an eyeball or burn off some skin. So let’s talk safety for a sec!
Soap making requires handling lye, also known as sodium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide is highly caustic and can cause severe chemical burns. Be sure to wear goggles with a lip over the eyes to protect against accidental splashes. If you wear glasses, wear goggles that are made to fit over glasses.
Since lye can decompose natural organic matter at room temperature (that means it can eat away your skin) be sure to wear protective gloves while handling.
Wear closed toe shoes, long pants and a long sleeved shirt. If the lye, lye water, or fresh soap splashes, you want all your tender bits covered!
I like to wear an an apron and a handkerchief over my face (like a mask) for an added layer of protection.
When you mix the lye with the water, a very hot chemical reaction occurs, be sure to STEER CLEAR OF THE FUMES! (Hence the handkerchief mask)
A hairnet is optional, but at least pull your hair back cause no one wants to find a hair that ain’t their own in their bar of soap!
Your finished fashion statement should look something like this plus gloves. Get ready for the cat walk!
Lye also reacts to aluminum, so be sure you’re soap making tools are made of tempered glass, stainless steel, and plastic.
This is what I use, it helps me keep it straight in my mind which liquids go into which. You don’t necessarily have to have a set-up like this. Use what’s available to you (in the tempered glass, stainless steel and plastic categories), as long as you do not use your soap making tools for food again after making soap in them. YUK!
(I only make about 25oz of soap at a time, small batch)
This is how I keep it straight in my mind. Lye is ALWAYS added to water, NOT the other way around! Otherwise you'll have an unexpected volcano science experiment in your kitchen. So, this is my little nesting doll-measuring cups. Lye goes into distilled water, lye water goes into oils.
Obviously, you’ll need some more tools, and ingredients but these are the basics for safety. Check out my next blog for a full list.
Ventilation is very important! Don’t miss this step, like I did. Make sure windows are open, and fans are on. The fumes from the lye water can be harmful if inhaled. That being said, stay as far away as possible while stirring.
Having a bowl of white vinegar on hand can be helpful to wipe up minor spills and splashes as it neutralizes the lye. I always keep some on hand and wipe down my work area with some after my soaping session.
The appropriate Goggles 🥽
Long sleeved shirt 👔
Closed toe shoes 👟
Optional but recommended -
Face mask 😷
Also, prepare you’re work area BEFORE mixing and preparing ingredients. This will lessen the chances of errors, mishaps, spills, and makes for easier cleanup! This also includes an hour of uninterrupted focus, NO children, and NO pets in the work area or close vicinity. Again, you’re working with caustic materials, you need to protect all your babies!
One last thing, have emergency numbers on hand.
If you happen to get fresh soap on your skin - rinse under regular tap water for 15 minutes, and seek immediate medical help.
If you happen to accidentally swallow fresh soap, drink some regular tap water, DO NOT induce vomiting, and seek immediate medical attention.
Be be sure to take all safety precautions BEFORE making your first batch of soap and read as much as possible so that you are confident in your creation!