Sodium hydroxide, also commonly termed caustic soda, is used for many household and industrial purposes. The chemical forms a strong alkaline solution when you mix it with water. Sodium hydroxide is available in many forms including pellets, flakes, granules and as a 50% saturated solution. It is not only used for household purposes in cleaning, but also used in many industries like paper and pulp, textiles, and used in the manufacturing of soaps, detergents and cleaners. These are just some of the many uses of sodium hydroxide.
Since sodium hydroxide forms a strong alkaline solution when dissolved in water, it is commonly used in many laboratories for experimentation and testing. Since it is cheaply available, many educational institutions use it in student labs. In labs, it is generally used to drive chemical reactions. It is a very good neutralizing agent, especially when used for neutralizing acids and also for refining petrol. In most households and industries, this is used as a cleaner to get rid of excess scale formation. One of the many uses of sodium hydroxide is that it can be used to extract alumina from its ore.
Sodium hydroxide is also used in the manufacturing process of soaps and detergents. It is used in oil refineries and for oil drilling, since it increases the viscosity and prevents heavy materials from settling. It is also used to manufacture paper in the timber, wood and pulp industries. Sodium Hydroxide is used along with sodium sulfide to separate lignin from cellulose. It can also be used as a bleaching agent to bleach brown pulp. Anhydrous sodium hydroxide can be used as a catalyst for preparing biodiesel because it is cheaper than any other alkalines. On the darker side, sodium hydroxide is also used in the manufacturing of illegal drugs like methamphetamine. It is used as cleaner in breweries and wineries and also for etching aluminum surfaces, as it gives it a polished look. Out of the many uses of sodium hydroxide one major use is that it can be used for washing and chemical peeling of fruits and vegetables, chocolates and cocoa processing, as well as soft drink processing.
While most consumers are unaware of sodium hydroxide, they likely come into contact with a product that used sodium hydroxide in its manufacturing several times each day, which makes it an unsung hero of sorts.