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David Fisher

It's Not a Lye!

By September 19, 2005

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When I read it, I didn't believe it! Red Devil Lye has been discontinued! For those of you who are just candle makers, not soap makers, this would be akin to wicks being discontinued. Without lye, there is no soap! For years, soap makers have relied on getting Red Devil lye from their grocery stores. But no longer. When I called the manufacturer, Reckitt-Benckiser, they confirmed that indeed they were discontinuing it, but didn't give me a clear answer as to why. They sort of alluded to that it wasn't a strong seller. I have also heard that law enforcement agents are putting pressure on lye suppliers because it is a common ingredient in homemade meth labs. Whatever the reason, we've got a challenge on our hands. But soap makers are a pioneering, inventive group. We'll find a solution. Till then, get to your grocery store or hardware store and buy what they have left! Click here for more information and a list of online lye vendors.


October 20, 2006 at 2:15 pm
(1) Brad says:

Yes. RDL was discontinued because of the meth lab issue. The Feds have been trying to decrease the availability of chemicals used to (in theory) decrease the meth production.

The same thing happened to pseudoephedrine and ephedrine.

February 22, 2007 at 1:46 am
(2) ANON says:

“soap makers are a pioneering, inventive group”

so are meth cooks, therein lies the problem lolz. idk why the feds think they won’t find an alternative.

April 4, 2007 at 2:08 pm
(3) Delicia says:

I can understand that the Feds might have a “just cause issue”; however, it seems to me that an alternative solution could have been found other than just yanking lye off the counters. What’s next….farmers not allowing their cows to poop or use fertilizers {both known to be used to make bombs}?
This is absolutely ridiculous going from one extreme to the other…a favorite strategy of the government by the way.
Get with it Feds. I’d like to think we are still in a free country. Do your job without making everyone else suffer.
Sudephrine an Ephedrine are now behind the counter and one must show ID in order to purchase it and it works. Why not use the same strategy with lye? This makes complete sense and can be tracked easily. Meet us half way for God’s sake! I don’t want Meth on the streets but in all reality does anyone really believe that this will slow down or stop the production of Meth NOT ON YOUR LIFE. Control lye sales yes, keeping it from us soapmakers-NO.

March 2, 2008 at 5:00 am
(4) Ken says:

I was looking for some Red Devil Lye for a few weeks and was wondering what the heck was going on. I have a bottle somewhere I just couldn’t find it.

GAH! I use it for the intended purpose, clearing drains. Give me a break. Draino and the other solutions don’t work as well. Stupid meth heads ruining it for everyone. Just track the buying patterns or something. This is ridiculous.

March 2, 2008 at 5:28 pm
(5) David Fisher says:

The good thing is that a lot of the anti-lye hysteria has settled. While can’t get Red Devil anymore, there are several other brands (Roebic is one) that you can get in hardware stores like Lowes. Or there are lots of online vendors like the ones listed here:

April 4, 2008 at 10:35 pm
(6) Paul Crissman says:

When the government made stores take Gunk off the shelves(the good stuff), the replacement was RDL. I used it to clean grease off engines and other greasy dirty things. Makes a dirty old lawnmower look new. Even works great cleaning coffee makers and removing old paint from antiques. Why can’t the government go after the dopers and quit trying to piss off the whole country!

August 21, 2008 at 9:31 pm
(7) Fred Resnik says:

I FOUND RED DEVIL LYE! I bought some Lye from Biodiesel Barn at Biodiesel Barn Sodium Lye I have used the Red Devil Brand forever and no others could compare and have the same results until now. I use the same amount and my soap turns out great everytime.

August 22, 2008 at 9:46 am
(8) candleandsoap says:

Thanks for giving us that link Fred. Many people don’t understand that Red Devil was just a brand name for sodium hydroxide/lye…and that any kind of lye, as long as it is 100% sodium hydroxide and of good quality, will work. There are a number of great lye suppliers out there – some for soap making in particular, others for soap and for biodiesel. I’ve listed many of them at Where to Buy Lye for Soap Making. I would disagree with Biodiesel barn that they “are the only true replacement for Red Devil lye” like they say on their site – there are a number of quality lye vendors out there, some of whom I know personally. There is also some debate out there in the lye-sellers community as to whether food grade or technical grade lye is the best for soap making. Some people swear by using only food grade lye in their soap. (The same would go for biodiesel I bet.) The majority of soap makers use technical grade though. (I don’t believe Red Devil lye was food grade lye.) I have added the link to the list. Thanks for giving us another option for where to buy lye!

September 3, 2008 at 3:42 pm
(9) Renna says:

I’m wanting to get into soapmaking for my family’s personal use, as well as possibly gift giving (in other words, small scale). I just discovered that Red Devil was no longer sold, googled Sodium Hydroxide, and landed here.

My question to you veterans is, how does one know if a lye is of “good quality” or not?


September 14, 2008 at 2:06 pm
(10) PW says:

I wanted to let people know that I found sodium hydroxide at Lowes. It’s with the drain cleaners. The brand is Roebic. It is $7.66 for 2lbs.

October 18, 2008 at 2:15 pm
(11) blue@ngel says:

I was wondering what happened. Well that’s annoying. As for the naysayers- I hate to say it (because the feds seldom gets anything right) but their strategy HAS worked. Homemade meth labs pretty much dried up after that. Which is a good thing, since they occasionally explode and give of toxic fumes. Mail ordering my lye is a small price to pay for not having one of those next door, imo.

November 6, 2008 at 7:47 pm
(12) Gia says:

I have been using RDL since my age began with a 1 – it now begins with a 4. I have always used this for problem drains. It’s wonderful. I was also wondering what happened, tho I kinda figured it had something to do with the drug situation, I still cannot believe that everyone else has to suffer because of the crap. It’s disgusting. I checked out the above links and made it as far as the order page. I am disgusted further to see that the shipping costs more than the product itself. I used to go to the corner market and pick up a can for $2.99 without any problem. This is ridiculous!!!

November 12, 2008 at 6:24 pm
(13) Sarah says:

I recently ran out of my supply of red devil lye & was shocked to discover the reason why I was unable to find in anywhere!! For 45+ years I have used it in my outhouse . I dump a scoop of lime down there here & there, but NOTHING eats it all up & controls odor like lye!! I have always prided myself on having an odorless outhouse (esp when people make pre-conceived comments ). Now, I am sorry to say…it really is getting pretty funky.

November 22, 2008 at 5:57 pm
(14) lera says:

I just ran into Lowes to buy Roebic, a brand I have used for four years. They no longer carry it. At least my local Lowes.

I found Drano Kitchen Crystals and Zep Crystal Heat Drain Opener (at Home Depot). Neither say 100% lye like Roebics.

Does anyone know if they are safe to use?

April 29, 2009 at 9:17 pm
(15) CAS Reaves says:

I looked at both Drano Kitchen Crystals and Zep Crystal Heat and neither is 100% lye. I looked up the MSDS sheets online and both contain other ingredients, including aluminum granules and sodium carbonate. As much as the shipping costs rankle, looks like we will have to pay them to get the food grade lye that makes the best soap.

June 17, 2009 at 8:27 pm
(16) Donna says:

The person who said the homemade meth labs have pretty much dried up, must have been speaking facetiously or living in a cave, because these labs have not dryed up what so ever. Control sounds like the best avenue to go, but they will find something else and maybe more caustic or maybe something we eat every day who knows, you can’t ban everything.

July 5, 2009 at 5:38 pm
(17) jaax says:

heh, it’s a shame that the feds actually think this policy works, when it only stops soap makers, and amateur chemists from doing what they love. This war on drugs is costing more money and freedom, than what it’s worth IMO.

note: about amateur chemists. I mean the ones that are much like us soap makers, the ones who practice their art safely, and are only looking

August 24, 2009 at 4:20 pm
(18) J ROY ANDERSON says:


May 5, 2010 at 8:57 pm
(19) Becky says:

This angers me so much! Red Devil Lye was the only thing that would work on my stubborn shower drain! I used 2-3 cans every month. Obviously, I was not a large user of their product, but now I am left with no alternative! I used 4 other products to no avail this afternoon. What would you suggest I use? Any ideas would be extremely appreciated!

June 20, 2010 at 4:26 pm
(20) Joe the gardner says:

I dont know about drugs or candles or much of any thing else. But I do know this was the best stuff I could find to pour into a mole hole or in there tunnels. BAMMMMM This stuff stopped them DEAD. I dont know if they ate the lue or got it on them and didnt like it or they licked it up. All I know the moles were gone.

May 9, 2011 at 3:07 pm
(21) Rhonda says:

Try http://www.aaa-chemicals.com/ they’ve been the cheapest by far for soap making.

August 15, 2012 at 3:31 pm
(22) Sam Carson says:

If you need lye then I suggest you go to the following link.
This is a wonderful location for all your soap and candle making needs.

September 9, 2013 at 1:44 pm
(23) Stacy says:
December 28, 2013 at 8:37 pm
(24) KS Sunshine says:

I have a container of Kleen-Out drain opener that says 100% lye on the label by Betterbilt Chemicals purchased at Menards. When I looked up the MSDS sheet, it lead me to think that maybe I shouldn’t use it… Sulfuric acid??? I am getting ready to make my first batch of soap and I’m not sure what to do at this point. Can someone enlighten me? Many thanks!

December 28, 2013 at 10:07 pm
(25) David Fisher says:

Sulfuric acid does NOT = sodium hydroxide…

They may be taking liberties with what they are calling “lye”…but you do not want sulfuric acid…

you want 100% sodium hydroxide…

March 1, 2014 at 9:26 pm
(26) Derek says:

Kleen-out Drain Opener 100% Lye(has to say 100% Lye on the container) is Sodium Hydroxide. Better Built has another product called Kleen-Out Emergency Drain Opener that is Sulfuric Acid, but don’t confuse the two. The bottle that says 100% Lye on it is Sodium Hydroxide. I almost freaked out when I read the above post because I just made 12 pounds of soap with it. I looked at the MSDS sheet on the Menard’s website and in fact it states only Sodium Hydroxide. I believe the MSDS sheet Sunshine(above) was looking at was for the “emergency” product.

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