Caustic soda: why should it be used with caution?

Caustic soda is an irritant product that can cause respiratory and skin difficulties. How to protect yourself when handling this substance?

Last update: 21 March, 2022

You have probably heard about caustic soda, or it was recommended to you for making homemade soaps; however, have they told you that you should use it with caution? Well, whatever the case, you should know in advance what its risks are if it is handled incorrectly.

Also known as “caustic soda” or “sodium hydroxide” (NaOH), it is a fairly corrosive ingredient. It is often used in the industrial sector as a chemical base in the manufacture of detergents and soaps.

Its most common presentation is in solid pearls, although it is also marketed as a liquid solution at 50% concentration. And although it is easy to acquire in chemical houses, This does not mean that it is risk free. On the contrary, it can burn the skin and cause other reactions. Next, we detail everything about it.

What is caustic soda used for?

This substance is used industrially in the production of soaps and detergents intended for domestic use. For its part, some people use it to level the pH of swimming pools and make the water suitable for bathing.

In both cases, the procedure must be carried out by qualified personnel, since there is a risk of irritation to the skin and mucous membranes. However, since it is easy to acquire, some are encouraged to manipulate it at home.

Some of its common uses are making homemade soaps, cleaning bathrooms, and unclogging pipes. But why is it so important to use caustic soda with caution? Well, the simple contact with the substance is in itself very irritating.

The use of gloves, mask, goggles, hat and other protective elements such as aprons is essential. According to information revealed by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR):

Contact with the eyes can cause pain and irritation and, in severe cases, clouding of the eye and blindness. Prolonged exposure to airborne sodium hydroxide can cause ulceration of the nasal passages and chronic skin irritation.

Caustic soda is often used in the manufacture of soaps and detergents.

What are the precautionary measures when using caustic soda?

It is necessary to follow this series of recommendations to avoid at all costs the risks that naturally arise when using caustic soda domestically. It is important to emphasize that, despite its benefits in specific tasks, handling this substance is very dangerousso you have to be vigilant.

1. Always wear gloves and a mask

This is a paramount rule, as caustic soda should never come into direct contact with the skin. This substance is quite corrosive and will easily burn tissue.

In addition, will irritate the eyes and mucous membranes. Therefore, always use thick gloves, a mask and, if necessary, protective glasses to avoid damage to the cornea.

2. Dilute it with caution

The most recommended thing is that you always pour the ingredient over the water, and not the other way around, since when the substance comes into contact with the water the temperature increases. The water should be lukewarm and you can never use cold or boiling water as it will create a dangerous reaction.

3. Try to keep the area ventilated

When you are using the product, it is necessary that you open all the windows and ensure excellent ventilation. The gases released by the reaction, in addition to being irritating, can cause dizziness and much more if the place is closed.

4. Keep children and pets away

A precautionary measure that should not be overlooked when handling caustic soda is to keep children and pets away from the product. If in their curiosity they come into contact with it, they can suffer serious burns.

5. Seek medical help in an emergency

In case of an accident with caustic soda it is necessary to seek medical help. If the substance came into direct contact with the skin, rinse with plenty of water to calm the irritation while going to the emergency room.

Domestic uses of caustic soda

For many years, caustic soda has been used in the home despite its risks. In any case, its uses are not many due to its corrosive characteristics.

Right now it is possible to buy alternative products that perform the same function, but more safely. Even so, If you choose to use caustic soda, it must be done with the due caution mentioned.

1. Homemade soap

Sodium hydroxide is necessary in the manufacture of homemade soap. And although its presence in soaps can generate a bit of fear, it is a very safe procedure if all the recommendations are followed. At the end of the process, the soda disappears completely and the result is an ecological and biodegradable soap.

In any case, never have direct contact with the substance or with the water in which it is diluted. The mask, gloves and glasses are essential for its handling. In addition, you must make sure to use a container that can withstand high temperatures and to add the soda to the water, never the other way around.

The caustic soda does not completely disappear after preparing the soap. It is necessary to let it rest for 6 to 8 weeks so that there is no risk of irritation.

The longer you let your homemade soap sit, the more time the soda will have to volatilize. So be patient.

2. Unclog pipes

In ancient times it was very common to pour a cup of caustic soda over the sink and let the water run to undo all the possible remains that could be causing the plug. However, Most people don’t know what material their pipes are made of. so this method is not recommended.

When this ingredient comes into contact with water, it generates high temperatures that can damage or melt poor quality plumbing pipes. For this reason, it is better not to use it and opt for more friendly alternatives, such as baking soda reaction, citric acid and an all-purpose cleaner.

Just pour in a cup of baking soda, followed by a cup of citric acid. Then pour out a pot of warm water or straight tap water and let the natural chemical reaction do its thing. This is a less abrasive and safer alternative to unclogging pipes.

3. Grill and grill cleaning

Although there are much safer alternatives for this task, such as biodegradable and ecological degreasers, it is true that caustic soda can be very useful for descaling and completely cleaning barbecues, ovens and grills.

As in the case of soap, It should be handled with gloves, mask and goggles, always diluted in water. The object is immersed in this solution for 6 or 8 hours for best results. Once the time has elapsed, simply rinse with plenty of water.

Before handling caustic soda, wear protective equipment such as gloves, masks and goggles.

Use caustic soda with caution.

This chemical product can be useful in making homemade soaps. However, when it comes to using it for household cleaning, there are better and safer alternatives.

Caustic soda is highly corrosive and It represents a potential danger for those who handle it and their loved ones. So always be careful and use the necessary protection to avoid mishaps.

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