Technical VS Food Grade Sodium Hydroxide

Without sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or lye, soap ceases to exist. Did you know there is ‘technical grade’ and ‘food grade’ lye?

Today’s post is about the general differences between the two grades in regards to soapmaking. 

The Differences

Food grade, the higher grade, is used to process many foods like hominy, pretzels, and olives and even used in Chinese and Scandinavian cuisine. Soap supply company Essential Depot states via their website: “Food grade has a lower parts per million of heavy metal impurities.” In the U.S., food grade lye must meet strict guidelines prescribed by the FDA.

Technical grade sodium hydroxide contains more impurities. It is used for commercial or industrial purposes and is not suitable for food. The drain opener you find at the hardware store is tech grade.

Which Should You Use?

Technical grade is more readily available at most hardware stores, while food grade can be harder to find and may require you to purchase it online. I find that food grade is less expensive online, but once you factor in shipping costs it’s about the same as technical grade locally. When buying tech grade at the store always buy only 100% sodium hydroxide.

Technical grade can be found at hardware stores. Use only 100% sodium hydroxide for soapmaking.

Technical grade can be found at hardware stores. Use only 100% sodium hydroxide for soapmaking.

Soapers differ on which grade they prefer with some even saying they can tell a difference. To me they look the same and perform the same in soap. Both grades produce excellent soap! I like the convenience of tech grade but I like the purity of food grade.

Choosing which grade to use in soapmaking is completely up to each soaper. Find what works best for your situation and then go forth and soap!

Purchasing Sodium Hydroxide

If you are not able to find lye locally, below are soap supply companies that I’ve had excellent experience with:

Essential Depot

Before purchasing make sure you understand the dangers involved with using lye. Always, always wear the proper safety gear when working with it.