Potassium Hydroxide Lye Flakes ( KOH)
Potassium hydroxide is lye for soft and liquid soap making. Also known as KOH or Caustic Potash, it is a colorless white solid commonly found in flake, pellet or powder form. Like sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide is an essential ingredient in soap making as you can’t make soap without lye. Unlike sodium hydroxide which creates a tight solid crystalline structure (think solid bar soap), use of potassium hydroxide in soap making results in a looser crystalline structure (think semi-soluble soft soap) when KOH lye is reacted with fatty acids (oil or butter), thus allowing the creation of liquid soap like castile liquid soap.
What is Potassium Hydroxide
Potassium hydroxide, also known as potassium hydrate and caustic potash, is a strong alkaline substance (i.e. base) that dissociates completely in water into potassium ion (K+) and hydroxide ion (OH-). Much like adding sodium hydroxide to water, when potassium hydroxide is added to water, the dissolution in water generates heat. Soap makers uses potassium hydroxide to make liquid soap.
While both potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide are strong alkali bases, the amount of KOH (potassium hydroxide) required to neutralize x grams of oil is different from the amount of NaOH (sodium hydroxide). As such, the amount of NaOH and KOH amount used per gram of oil (e.g. coconut oil) is different. soap makers need to refer to the SAP chart for the different.
Potassium hydroxide is commonly used in the manufacturing of liquid soap. Saponifying fats with KOH (lye) is used to prepare the soft soap (“potassium soaps”), which are softer than the more common sodium hydroxide-derived soaps (bar soap). Sodium hydroxide lye makes solid (bar) soap while potassium hydroxide lye (potash / KOH) makes a semi solid paste for dilution into liquid soap.
Potassium Hydroxide in Soap
When making soap from scratch, there’s one thing you just can’t avoid: lye. Without lye, your soap just isn’t soap! Working with lye may seem daunting at first, but if you learn proper handling techniques, take precautions and follow basic safety guidelines, there is no reason to fear it.
If you are familiar with using sodium hydroxide to make cold process soap bars, this is the next level of soap making using potassium hydroxide to make liquid soap or soap paste. Handmade soap makers uses sodium hydroxide to create a lye solution for mixing with oils to make soap bars.
Like sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide is highly hygroscopic (meaning it attracts moisture), so be sure to keep it in a sealed container in a cool dry place. If you leave it in an open container for even a day, it can attract enough moisture to throw off its weight enough to ruin a recipe. If you leave it out for an extended period of time, it can attract enough moisture from the air in the room to turn completely liquid.
Difference between Sodium Soap and Potassium Soap
Liquid soap are made somewhat in the same manner by using potassium hydroxide to create a lye solution for mixing with oils. After saponification, instead of a solid bar, you will create a semi soluble soft soap paste. If the soap paste is properly formulated, you can simply dilute the paste with distilled water to achieve liquid soap. If you are familiar with hot processing your soap, liquid soap making should be easier for you.
Potassium Hydroxide Other Uses
From batteries to fertilizers, soaps and hairspray, there are more uses of the chemical potassium hydroxide than most people are aware. As a strong base it help neutralize acid, but it can also be used as a food thickener or stabilizer. It has medicinal properties for both humans and pets, and is the reagent in many industrial processes.
Potassium Hydroxide as a Cleaner
Potassium hydroxide is an extremely versatile cleaning agent. For example, potassium hydroxide is found in varied items such as liquid soaps, lotions, shampoos, hairsprays, and denture cleaners, but is also found in more industrial compounds such as oven cleaners, drain cleaners, driveway and concrete cleaners, in non-phosphate detergents, and in drain and pipe cleaners.
While it is more common to use sodium hydroxide for soap, potassium hydroxide soaps are actually more soluble in water and are better for the environment. Potassium hydroxide soaps are also referred to as ‘soft soaps’. Though not quite as popular as sodium soaps, potassium soaps are produced in various liquid concentrations and are often used in combination with sodium soaps, for example, in shaving products and also in the textile industry.
Potassium Hydroxide as a pH Regulator
Potassium hydroxide is a strong alkali, or base, and many of its uses are a result of this property. As a base, potassium hydroxide acts as a pH regulator in industrial manufacturing and processing. In the agricultural industry, potassium hydroxide is used to regulate the pH of acidic soils.
Potassium Hydroxide in Medicine
Potassium hydroxide also has medicinal uses. In veterinary medicine, potassium hydroxide is used to disbud calves horns and dissolve scales and hair. In humans, potassium hydroxide can be used to diagnose fungal infections. It can also be used to dissolve warts and cuticles.
Potassium Hydroxide in Common Household Products
Alkaline batteries contain potassium hydroxide. The alkaline solution of potassium hydroxide provides the high ionic conductivity of the battery, and contributes to the reason that alkaline batteries outperform cheaper zinc-carbon batteries.
Potassium Hydroxide in Food
Potassium hydroxide is often found as an additive in commercially processed foods, and as a rinse or chemical peel for fruits and vegetables. It is added to processed foods as a stabilizer to prolong shelf-life, and as a thickener. It’s involved in chocolate and cocoa processing, soft drink processing, and in the thickening of ice cream. Potassium hydroxide is used to soften olives and to glaze pretzels before baking to make them crisp.
Miscellaneous Uses of Potassium Hydroxide
Potassium hydroxide acts as a defoaming agent in the manufacturing process of paper. It is also used as a lawn food, industrial fertilizer, fungicide and herbicide. Heated potassium hydroxide is commonly used for bulk etching of silicon wafers, which is important in the manufacture of certain micro-electronic devices.
Where to Buy Potassium Hydroxide
Looking for where to buy potassium hydroxide lye flakes in Singapore?
Sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide are industrial chemicals controlled as a hazardous substances under the Environmental Protection and Management Act (EPMA) and its Regulations. National Environment Agency (NEA) has informed that no individuals are allowed to import/purchase such controlled chemicals for personal/domestic use. Soap makers in Singapore can only get lye by renting a soap making workshop approved by NEA with a license/permit. These workshops must meet the strict safety requirements imposed by the authority and must be located in a B2 category industrial building.
Looking for lye (potassium hydroxide) to make liquid soap in Singapore at home is simply impossible. However, as an active promoter of real soap making in Singapore, we have set up a private room for soap makers in Singapore to make soap! Now, you can make soap by simply booking a soap making workshop from us! Hooray soap makers!
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References: Sodium Hydroxide: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_hydroxide  https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_hydroxide  The Truth About Lye and Soap  Is there lye in your soap? Won’t it harm my skin?  Can you make soap without lye (sodium hydroxide)?  Making soap without lye: How to avoid the dangers of lye?  How to make your own sodium hydroxide (lye)?  Uses of Potassium Hydroxide  What is Potassium Hydroxide  Chemical structure of Potassium Hydroxide
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