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Author Topic: Well, I've done it now..(Lye explosion)  (Read 3426 times)
StampinFairy
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« on: July 18, 2011, 06:11:59 AM »

I guess it was bound to happen eventually

I was mixing my lye/water in the glass pickle jar as usual (the one I started with last Fall).  It was at room temp and I mixed everything as usual.

Then, as I have been doing this summer so far, I placed the jar (with lid on) in the ice water bath prepared in a tall plastic pitcher.  As soon as I let the pickle jar go, it burst.  Split right in half along the middle of the jar. 

Luckily this was only 8 oz water and 3.2 oz lye as I am experimenting with shampoo bar recipes.  So it wasn't a lot of lye (to be wasted, and to create a larger mess).

My concern now, is what do I do with this mess?  I've placed the pitcher in the slop sink in my basement.  But should I wait 24 hours before I dump it? 

thanks for any opinions on this
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terrisgold
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« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2011, 07:46:37 AM »


I think because Lye can be used to clean drains, it will be ok to dispose of it down the drain.

But you might want to wait for someone else with more knowledge to come along or google Lye and check what it says.

What a pain in the butt when you were looking forward to making some soap.....
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ahanson
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« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2011, 12:15:28 PM »

From the information you provided, it looks like you have a pretty concentrated solution.  So the biggest problem with the lye solution is the high pH of the solution.    You really shouldn't dispose of any solution with a pH of 12.5 or greater in your sink.   Do you have a way to check the pH of your particular solution?      Also, does your sink lead to a water treatment facility or are you on a septic system?    The way you would dispose of the lye solution would also depend on where the solution would end up once you put it down your drain!

As a chemistry teacher, I'm used to neutralizing basic solutions before sink disposing.   I don't think I'd recommend this for doing at home though!      Let me know where your drain leads to and if you can check pH.  Perhaps we can devise a plan to safely dispose of the lye from there.

Amy

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terrisgold
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« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2011, 12:21:38 PM »


Phew, thank goodness Amy came along, I'll stick to stuff I really know about in future.

Good luck StampinFairy.....
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Angie
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« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2011, 05:04:21 PM »

What about white vinegar?
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ceebee2001
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« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2011, 05:50:54 PM »

Since the container your jar exploded in was filled with ice and water you lye should be fairly diluted now.  Unless you have a septic system I would think it's fine to go down your drains.  This was bound to happen, immersing a glass jar of hot liquid into an ice bath repeatedly will weaken the glass.  You were very lucky it broke in the water bath and not in mid air. I would suggest that  if you continue to use glass jars, you replace them after a few months use.  Safety first.
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StampinFairy
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« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2011, 05:50:00 AM »

Amy, oops, i have no way to measure pH.  Our drains go to a Municipal Waste water treatment facility... not septic.

Ceebee
thanks
I ended up dumping it in the basement slop sink and ran cold water for a while over it.  I got splashed too of course and boy did that burn happen fast!
I have several pickle jars and I will rotate them more frequently... I also will go back to mixing the lye and then capping the jar and letting it sit (maybe even overnight.... -room temp CP?)

I saw these yesterday at an Antiques store and nearly got them... but the price was kind of high ($15 each) and I guess they are used, if not several years old.  I will look into new ones.


thanks for your support guys.
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jrose
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« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2011, 12:43:22 PM »

StampinFairy, you may want to switch to a heavy duty plastic pitcher for mixing your lye. I know some people use glass, but, as you know, after time the lye can etch cracks into the glass and it will shatter.

Lye accidents can be so scary - I'm so glad that you weren't seriously injured!
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ahanson
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« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2011, 01:09:47 PM »

Since you don't have a good way to measure pH, I would be tempted to add as much white vinegar as I could into the container that contains the lye.   It will at least start to neutralize the solution before you send it down the drain.   Since you are disposing of the lye into a municipal waste system, you probably can add the vinegar and then dispose of the liquid by flushing your drain with plenty of water.   

If you really want to be safe, take a little bit of red cabbage and boil it in water.   You should end up with a purple colored liquid.    You can use this as a simple pH indicator.   The cabbage juice will turn red/pink in an acidic solution like vinegar and green in a basic solution like lye.   Purple means that you are at a neutral (or near neutral) pH.   

I'm glad you weren't seriously hurt!     I usually keep a jug of vinegar out when making my lye solution.   If I get any on me, I simply wash with a bit of vinegar and then flush my skin in cold water.    Safety protocol is to flush with cold water for 15 minutes, but I usually do less as I get impatient!

One other thing to keep in mind when buying "used" glassware.   You never know what chemicals might have been used in the glassware before you get it.     When I make soap with my students, we use an entirely different set of beakers and plastic containers.    We don't want any chemicals from other experiments accidentally making their way into our soap.   While this might be a bit excessive, I'd rather be safe than have someone have issue with a bar of soap we made in class.

Hope this helps!

Amy
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StampinFairy
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« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2011, 05:56:59 AM »

Amy those are great ideas. thank you

I am glad I had the vinegar close by... I had a label (saying "Lye Solution") on the jar and of course it broke where the label was.  I didn't realize it and when I picked up the top half of the broken jar, it was hanging onto the bottom half.  Suddenly, the label gave way and the bottom of the jar splashed back into the lye/water mixture in the plastic pitcher I was trying to cool it in.  The water splashed onto my arm and I thought "oh crap".  Right then it started to burn, double crap!  I ran for my vinegar which I keep in my work station just outside the room with the sink.  I did pour it on my skin and then flushed it for a bit with water.  It settled down and I have a very tiny scar on my inner arm.... but otherwise I'm fine now. 

I will be looking into new lye containers soon
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Martha
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« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2011, 05:49:22 PM »

Amy - love the homemade ph indicator. Red Cabbage is on my shopping list.... And when I am done boiling the cabbage, I can take half for the pH indicator and the other half for soup...

Got to remember to respect the lye.

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panzerakc
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« Reply #11 on: July 21, 2011, 07:48:25 PM »

SF (may I call you SF?   Cheesy ), a couple of things:

It's my understanding that if you splash lye solution on yourself, the first thing you should do in rinse with cold water for several minutes.  Somebody on another forum I belong to mentioned that OSHA has the water rinse as part of their spill protocol.

Secondly, I'd be willing to bet a substantial sum of money that the breakage of your jar actually had very little to do with the lye per se, but was a function of the abrupt change of temperature.  Placing a glass container containing something as hot as a freshly made lye solution into an ice water bath is too abrupt a temperature change to inflict on glass.  The physical nature of glass means there's no flex.  The rapid expansion of the molecules from the heat followed quickly by a rapid contraction from the cold almost guarantees breakage.  I imagine you'd have gotten the same result if you'd poured boiling water in that jar and then put it in the ice water bath.

Anita

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StampinFairy
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« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2011, 04:48:02 AM »

Anita, you are funny, you remind me of my husband. With your scientific explanations... its all good. Smiley

Yes, I know this, and I don't know why all my years of waiting tables and getting hot, freshly washed glasses out of the dishline and putting cold soda in them didn't stay in my mind while I did this.  The thing is, I had put that jar in icy water for weeks now...
I dunno, maybe I put ice in the pitcher, then placed the jar on top of that, then put a little water in, just to make it float a little.  Maybe that is the difference.
ah, well, still.  you live and learn.
My husband says Pyrex would be a better choice than pickle jars. (but plastic is better still)

Also, I have seen it somewhere else on this forum about not using vinegar on your skin, but the thing is, it worked VERY FAST at making the sting go away.  And I don't have a burn scar, so I'm still not convinced.  But, I did the water flush too, just to be safe.  Do you know of anything that says that vinegar would HURT you?
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soap1967
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« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2011, 04:58:49 AM »

SF - I would ditch glass completely for mixing your lye solution.  I agree with others about the temperature change on the glass, but I am more concerned about the fumes i.e. combustion.  When you mix the water and lye together have you ever seen steam come off it?  I have.  Pickle jars are made to withstand boiling water (if you have ever pickled) - in my opinion (and its only mine) when you capped the solution you left the fumes with no where to go - hence the glass shattered.  I use a heavy duty plastic pitcher like to mix iced tea.  I place the lid on for safety but turn it toward the slots exposing one or two so the fumes can escape.  Yes if I were to drop it the top may or may not come off and I have a mess but I am not picking through glass to add to clean up.
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panzerakc
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« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2011, 10:29:45 AM »

Anita, you are funny, you remind me of my husband. With your scientific explanations... its all good. Smiley 

My dad's a retired chemist, and I originally wanted to be a veterinarian, so I come by it naturally.  Smiley  I should add that my dad probably now knows more about soapmaking than he ever expected to, due to my questions.

  My husband says Pyrex would be a better choice than pickle jars. (but plastic is better still)


Actually, Pyrex is iffy as well.  It evidently has the same response over time that glass does to a lye solution (etching into the glass).  I think it will take longer with Pyrex, but I wouldn't want to sit around waiting for it.   Cheesy

I've got a small pyrex-type measuring cup that I weigh out my Fo/Eos into.  (Learning the hard way not to use plastic for that stuff as I watched the plastic soften!)  I have a largish-plastic pitcher that is my standard lye mixer-upper-in container.  I've recently bought some plastic measuring cups to freeze goatsmilk/beer/a combination of the two in.  I mix my lye into whatever frozen stuff is in there, and I don't want to have to worry about busted Pyrex at a really bad moment.

Also, I have seen it somewhere else on this forum about not using vinegar on your skin, but the thing is, it worked VERY FAST at making the sting go away.  And I don't have a burn scar, so I'm still not convinced.  But, I did the water flush too, just to be safe.  Do you know of anything that says that vinegar would HURT you? 

I tracked down that post I was referring to about rinsing with water versus vinegar, and she made the obvious point that water will dilute the lye solution very quickly, and is usually easy to get to.  She also suggested, after the water rinse, to use a very dilute vinegar/water solution, a 1/5 ratio.

As far as the hurt question, I had to call my dad.  Cheesy  He said that if you put an acid (the vinegar, in this case) with a base (the lye solution), you can generate heat.  Obviously the stronger these solutions are, the more powerful the reaction would be.  Vinegar is about a 5% solution.  The concern for me would be if you had a stronger than usual lye solution.  Say you were making GM soap, and your method was to split the liquid requirement 50/50 between water and GM, mixing your lye with the water and adding the GM a bit later in the process.  If you're just using half the usual water amount to mix your lye, it will be twice as strong a solution as usual.  I'm thinking if you splashed some of that on you, and then went straight to the vinegar, you could end up with an even worse burn than starting with the water.

Hope you've managed to stay awake for this.   Cheesy

I also agree with soap1967 about the fumes.  (I evidently just skipped over the part where you had a lid on the jar.)

I'd be VERY hesitant to put a solid lid on a freshly-made lye solution.  Even if you use a plastic container, if your lye solution takes up most of the space in the container, and that container is sealed, the pressure has to go somewhere.  Since plastic won't break like glass would, the pressure could blow the lid off, and spray lye solution all over the place.

Anita
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