Lye is not all about cheerful things. Of course, it helps in soap making, chemical processes, manufacturing of industrial products and a whole array of applications and uses. Though all these bring cheers to one, it is not a benevolent element like water. It is as harmful as a chemical like sulphuric acid. Often one realizes the caustic side of lye only when one uses it or is hurt by it. This does not happen to many, but a few (the less-privileged) use lye invariably, for almost all kinds of domestic cleaning, and then suffer from it.
Lye – the strongest alkaline: Lye is created out of a chemical reaction between soda, known as sodium carbonate and calcium hydroxide or lime. Lye is present as flakes, chips or grains which you can get from your local chemical supplier or soap making kit. There are several kinds of lye too – for instance, the United States food grade type of lye is harmful for use in food processing or cooking. Whereas lye of the drain cleaner type is highly caustic and concentrated. This is because it needs to be aggressive enough to clean drains, pool-wastes, de-clog sinks etc.
Dangers of lye: Lye or Sodium Hydroxide is not harmful when used in a safe environment, protected from members of family or friends. But it can be caustic if not used properly or used without protective gear.
1. Lye’s hazards in household: Lye drain cleaners are hugely popular that many buy and use them regularly for home cleaning, microbial protection and mild/mold control at home. But there’s a danger to this usage – you may end up culturing a caustic environment around you. Lye can work like an arsenal in your environment, especially if you have children or elders residing in your home. Children tend to taste lye water while pets can accidentally slip on it. Since it is highly toxic, it can cause you a series of troubles and can even turn fatal when ingested into the body.
2. Lye and health toxins: Lye, when combined with other toilet cleaners or products, can cause harmful gases/fumes. Inhaling such gases is something akin to drinking liquid lye. To avoid trouble, stop using lye with bleaches, toilet bowl cleaners, rust removers, acids and other ammonia products.
3. Lye can damage products: Lye can damage even to your drains, PVC pipes, wastewater stream and other related things if use it too much. Combined with acids, it can cause havoc to your bathroom atmosphere. To avoid trouble, use naturally-made products or avoid using lye that is commercially too caustic.
To circumvent dangers, avoid powerful industrial chemicals and too much of lye usage. If you had to use a lye drain cleaner, wear all protection gear like rubber gloves, goggles, long sleeved dress, socks, shoes and if possible, a mask or respirator.