Lye used to be available in the supermarket, but not any more. You can find it in some hardware stores - often in the "drain cleaning" section. You need to be very careful that you're getting "100% sodium hydroxide" - do not buy it if it's not.
If you can't find lye for soapmaking locally, here are some other stores, web sites and solutions for you:
Buy lye direct from one of the following online mail order vendors - you're guaranteed to get high quality pure lye that's appropriate for soap making, and you can buy it in whatever quantity you want:
- The Lye Guy
- Bramble Berry
- Boyer Corporation
- Essential Depot
- AAA Chemical
- Bitter Creek Candle Co.
- Lehman's Soapmaking Supplies
- The Soap Dish
- Biodiesel Barn
Get together with other soap makers in your area and go together and buy a bag of lye from a local chemical supply house - (or one of the online vendors above), carefully splitting it between you. Lots of soap makers buy their lye in bulk. Most large cities have a solvent or chemical company that will sell lye (Sodium Hydroxide) in 35 or 50 lb. bags. You'll pay a fraction (per pound) of what the Red Devil cost, but, you've got to be able to safely store that much lye. Remember the cautions you go through with a 12 oz. jar of lye, now imagine 35 lbs. of it!
Buy a whole bag yourself, knowing that it needs to be stored in an airtight container, safely away from children, pets or other unknowing people.
- Check your local hardware store - Lowe's hardware stores sell Roebic Crystal Drain Opener. One of their long-time employees recently wrote me assuring readers "...that this product is 100% lye and we have recently added that information to our label. It is available in a 2 lb. container and can be found at all Lowes stores." So that's good news! But, it's always best to check the manufacturers site and check the label for the product. I had one user write me and say that while the label (not Roebic's) said 100% lye, the MSDS sheet said otherwise.
Be sure to check out (and add your comments to) the Lye Suppliers thread on the Candle and Soap Making Forum.