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Discussion Starter #1
Due to the restrictions being placed on lye sold in stores because of the criminal use of it, I'd like to bring up an alterative method of making lye that does not require wood ashes.
Note this is presented for informational purposes only, and lye is dangerous, so experiment at your own risk.
I spent many years as a lab tech and learned a few tricks such as this.
I will be testing this method in the next few weeks and give a step by step report. For now, here are the basics.
Get hydrated lime at a hardware store or garden suppy ( Lowes,etc) A 50lb bag goes for $8 here. Next is a little trickier. You need to find some basic washing soap powder. It should be straight Sodium Carbonate with NO additives or perfumes. Arm and Hammer does sell it in the old blue box some of us remember for childhood, but most big box stores don't carry it. Try discount or dollar stores.
If you do get these two , simply make an equal mix of each in filtered or distilled water and carefully combine. I sugest starting out with a cup of each to get used to the steps. This will create a white solid ( Calcium Carbonate = chalk) and a liquid ( Sodium Hydroxide = Lye). Using a funnel and a coffee filter , filter out the white solid.
I will also be experimenting with using baking powder ( Sodium Bicarbonate , a "second cousin" to the soap powder) as it is easier to get.
I realize some may question why you would go from soap powder to make soap, but if there is no other reasonable option, it is better than no option at all. We may see a total ban on lye sales soon, and you may be where there is little wood ash to be had.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Update: Good news/bad news On the good side I found 100% Sodium Carbonate being sold as a pool chemical for$3.90 for 6lbs! On the bad side, the 50 lbs of Hydrated lime for $8 needs to be shipped from another store. I'll check a few more sources for the lime locally, but will order it by next week if I can't get it here. Meanwhile I have some garden pulverized limestone ( about 50% lime ) I can try the mix on.
If the main mix works, which by all the chemical rules it should, you should be able to produce a lot more purer lye for your soap making , at a lower cost and avoid the legal hassles. Stay tuned same bat time,, same bat channel ( for those of you who are as old as me....LOL)
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Latest updateI was able to get a 10lb bag of hydrated lime for $10 ( horrible cost) so I could at least do small test batches. I mixed 1 tsp of the Sodium Carbonate with 3 oz of distiled water, and 1 tsp of the lime with 3 oz of distilled water. I poured them together and waited 5 minutes for the solid and liquid (lye) to seperate , then filtered the mix through a coffee filter in a funnel. The result shows all signs of being Lye. I will test it further tomorrow , and increase the size of the batches. With the 6lb container of Sodium Carbonate for $3.90 and a 50 lb bag of lime for $8 you can theoreticly make a gallon of pure lye for about $12 or so.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Kat
As I have not made soap, I'm not sure about diluting it. It is in liquid form. I'll try to determine the water to lye ratio. I haven't weighted it yet,but it is heavy. The soapmakers out there might be able to advise you. As for me I wanted this to give you all an alternative method that was tested, proven and safe. I use the lye to make waterglass to store eggs ( see my thread on that in the Survival/Prepping section.)
I will, in a way be making soap with it, as it is one of the ways to test the lye. I'll use a dab of Crisco in a solution of the lye to be tested and heat it gently to see if it does make soap.
As to storage, it must be in a glass contaner with a glass lid. Lye ATTACKS METALS I would learn how to make it , then make it fresh as needed. ALWAYS USE GLOVES WHEN WORKING WITH IT. Even the tiny batches I made were enough to feel a tingling on my face
 

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FYI, calcium carbonate is the active antacid found in Tums.

Good writeup. That Lime can be the base of so many things it's crazy.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
lathermaker
Could you please be specific as to what part of this is a "recipie for disaster"? If you are refering to the heating of the Crisco ( fat) with the test of the lye produced, we are talking about at best a 1 oz sample under controled conditions and would NOT be something someone else would be doing. I am doing it only as a test of the results of the production of the lye by this method. I didn't go into the details, but to address what you said, I will be using the steam bath/water bath technique to safely heat the mix.
The goal here is an economical , easy and SAFE method of producing the lye as it has become harder for people making soap to get it. Once I am assured of the SAFETY and reliability I will offer the process. This must be something an average person can do without any fancy lab equipment or training and get a good result SAFELY
I respect the fact that you feel your statement was meant in a helpful way, but I also feel it is too general. This does not make your statement wrong, as , yes, lye can go volcanic, but only under a certain set of conditions.
If you feel the information I am giving out is dangerous, then please inform us all by scientific means, that is under what conditions and risk factors. I am taking this slowly and carefully so those reading it can follow me to the end, which is a SAFE means for producing up to a gallon of lye suitable for soapmaking.
What I need to know from the soapmakers reading this is what is the concentration of the lye you use. I am projecting up to 50% possible concentration with this method. Is that enough for your needs?
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
On more additional point , then I'll get off my soap box ( LOL) and back to lab work.
This process does NOT require heating at any stage of it. It is simply dissolving two powders in enough water so they can mix and seperate, and then filtering off the liquid. If you use 1 ( oz, cup etc) of each chemical ( lime and carbonate) and 1 ( oz, cup etc ) of water in theory you'll end up with 1 (oz, cup ) of the solid and 2 (ozs, cups ) of the liquid which will be 50% stength lye.
BUT as they said in MASH "this is meatball surgery" this is meatball chemistry, so you will not get the exactness you'd get under controled lab or industrial conditions.
On the other hand, it will work, and has signs of being economical (yield/cost) and IS an alternative to getting hassled whenever you want to make a batch of soap.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
linn
I've not made soap , so I call upon those with experiance here to advise you. I will be using the chem book guidlines which are on the testing level of 1 oz of lye solution at 50% to 1 gram of fat ( Crisco).
I am trying to make sure that you DON'T have to be a chemist to produce this lye. You should not need any special equipment or have to do any fancy calculations.
So far, my "three cup" theory ( 1 cup of each chemical to 1 cup water making 2 cups of 50% lye solution) seems to be holding. It should take 1 measuring cup, two glass jars, one plastic funnel, some coffee filters and rubber gloves. With glass jars from your recycling or whatever and the other items from a dollar store the "equipment" shouldn't cost more than $10. It is also looking like for 6 lbs of chemicals you will end up with 6 qt. of 50% lye solution.
But I want to test everything totally to be sure of every aspect from cost to result, to safety.
 

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Born in the wrong Century
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Barefootboy you could always make your own hydrated lime.
Limestone to quick lime to hydrated lime.

and if you can't get the Sodium carbonate you can heat the Sodium Bicarbonate to make it.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Update Ok, a little slice of humble pie today keeps the ego away..LOL
My "Theory" of 1+1+1=3 for the mix forgot to take into consideration how much water each of these chemicals need to dissolve. Shows you how long i've been away from the lab.
I found that I had to use 2 cups of water to each cup of lime/carbonate ( 4 cups of water). I am filtering the mix now, and it's looking like I'll recover 2 cups of lye solution, so the 50% strength still looks viable. At the max I'll get 2.5 cups of lye solution, so thats still somewhere between 35 to 40%
I'm trying to keep the boring math to a mininmum here, and I know what you want is the end result. But I also want you to get the most out of this for your $.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Thanks downhome. Yes I was aware of that, but I am trying to keep with the KISS system (Keep it SAFE and Simple ) for all the good people out there. But the more ways we can find the less chance of getting the supply of lye cut off by the next move to keep it from being wrongfully used, so everyone, bring your ideas to the table. No one of us is as good as all of us together.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
downhome,
that is the better known version, but I happen to like this one for this purpose as that is the goal...simple and safe
 

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OK. If you are doing this as a lab experience hopefully you won't have any problems. What concerns me is that you said you were going to heat up the liquid lye. THAT could cause you problems because, like I said, lye on it's own creates it's own heat. If you are using basically an equal part of oil mixed in with it, that would work....pheww. Sorry to fly off my soap box, but over the years I've seen some down right dangerous things posted on the internet. Go about your business, I'll leave you alone now! ;-)
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
lathermaker,
NO offence was taken. Your intent was to protect others and prevent harm. NO one can fault you for that.
Also, I see this site as a pool of information from everyone. I am NOT on here as some great expert. LOL Yesterday's goof up proves that.
There is no question about the chemistry however. It is hard core fact. The fancy term for this is a "double displacement reaction" The Sodium Carbonate swaps with the Calicium Hydroxide ( slaked lime) to create Sodium Hydroxide (lye/liquid) and Calcium Carbonate
( chalk/powder).
What I am attempting to do is make ther process simple, safe and sure fire, and to have the lye solution be sufficent strength for soap making use. That's where I can use your help. What is the concentration of the lye solution you use in soapmaking?
I am working on the math for the yield per dollar based on $4 for 6lbs of carbonate and $8 for 50 lbs of the lime. Right now it is looking quite inexpensive next to $15 for 2 lbs of solid lye at the hardware stores, not to even mention the main point , that there is NO legal hassles buying a pool chemical ( carbonate) and the lime.
Again thank you for the concern for safety and always feel free to contribute your thoughts and ideas.
 
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