Soap Making Safety Dos and Don'ts

Like I always say, complacency killed the cat. It wasn't curiosity.

Soap making is a delightful craft. It's fun but it's no game. Due to the nature of the chemicals used in any of the soap making methods, one should at least develop respect for them. Especially lye.

But it doesn't end there. You need to worry about the seemingly little things too when you start crafting your own soap. Keyword: SEEMINGLY. These things seem like you could do away with not worry about them but if something goes wrong, they won't seem so little anymore. Trust me.

As an aspiring soap maker, I'm sure you've bought pretty much all the materials you need to make your own soap. Note that you also NEED to have safety gear. They're not optional. They're compulsory. Have a quick look at our soap making safety gear checklist here to see if you're all set. Once you are, consider the following dos and don'ts when making your own soap.

Handling Lye

The most dangerous substance you'll be dealing with in soap making. Lye, also called caustic soda, is an alkaline substance. With a PH of 13.0, it is highly corrosive and will cause chemical burns when it comes in contact with human skin. It causes blindness and it will cause fatal, almost irreparable injuries when ingested.

  • Add lye to water. Never add water to lye.
  • Use plastic or stainless steel containers with lye.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and protective gloves.
  • Use pure lye powder or granules.
  • Label your lye containers with a red marker indicating the potential danger of what's inside.
  • Dissolve lye in cold water. A good idea would be to have half of your water as ice.
  • Educate other members of your house about the dangers of lye.
  • Keep vinegar and milk near your work area in case of accidents. Both can be used to neutralize lye when it comes in contact with your skin. You can douse your eyes with milk in case you get some lye in your eyes.
  • Inhale the fumes that result from mixing lye and water.
  • Use containers made of aluminum, brass or bronze.
  • Use your utensils which came in contact with lye for anything else other than soap making.
  • Store your lye in places where pets and children can easily get at it.
  • Panic when an accident happens. Presence of mind is the key in getting through mishaps.

General Soap Making

Although you've gotten used to handling lye, there are still a few safety guidelines you need to follow in making soap. You will still come in contact with sharp utensils or hot surfaces.

  • Keep your workplace organized.
  • Have your ingredients, materials and tools ready BEFORE you start with your recipe. Make a checklist and go through it so you don't have to run to other rooms of your house to get an ingredient you've forgotten.
  • Use old beach towels, old newspapers or vinyl tablecloth to protect your table or countertop.
  • Post emergency numbers on the walls of your workplace where you can easily see them.
  • Double-check the recipes you follow by running them through a reliable lye calculator. Never disregard the possibility of typos or miscalculations (even if you obtained the recipe from a reliable source).
  • Test the PH of your soap before and after curing. Ideally, the Ph of your soap should fall between 5.5 and 8.5. Also, test the Ph of a sample solution of your soap.
  • Leave oils, fats or your soap mixture heating over a stove unattended.
  • Forget to maintain presence of mind.
  • Go cheap when buying your weighing scale. Accuracy and precision in measurement is important in following soap recipes.
  • Use the same utensils you use in making soap for making other things like cake or cookies.
  • Eat or drink in your work area while making soap.