Lye used to be available in the supermarket, but not anymore. 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, websites, 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:
- 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 manufacturer's 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.
Where ever you find your soap making lye, going with an experienced vendor selling lye specifically to the soapmaking trade is the safest, and believe it or not, usually the cheapest way to go.