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Sodium hydroxide

OH (aq) + H+ (aq) H2 O(l)

Sodium hydroxide (NaOH), also known as lye and

caustic soda,[3][4] is an inorganic compound. It is a
white solid and highly caustic metallic base and alkali
salt of sodium which is available in pellets, akes, granules, and as prepared solutions at a number of dierent
concentrations.[10] Sodium hydroxide forms an approximately 50% (by weight) saturated solution with water.[11]

This type of reaction with a strong acid releases heat, and

hence is exothermic. Such acid-base reactions can also
be used for titrations. However, sodium hydroxide is not
used as a primary standard because it is hygroscopic and
absorbs carbon dioxide from air.

Sodium hydroxide is soluble in water, ethanol, and

methanol. This alkali is deliquescent and readily absorbs 1.2.2 Reaction with acidic oxides
moisture and carbon dioxide in air.
Sodium hydroxide also reacts with acidic oxides, such as
Sodium hydroxide is used in many industries, mostly as
sulfur dioxide. Such reactions are often used to "scrub"
a strong chemical base in the manufacture of pulp and
harmful acidic gases (like SO2 and H2 S) produced in the
paper, textiles, drinking water, soaps and detergents and
burning of coal and thus prevent their release into the atas a drain cleaner. Worldwide production in 2004 was
mosphere. For example,
approximately 60 million tonnes, while demand was 51
million tonnes.
2 NaOH + CO Na CO + H O



Glass reacts slowly with aqueous sodium hydroxide solutions at ambient temperatures to form soluble silicates.
Because of this, glass joints and stopcocks exposed to
sodium hydroxide have a tendency to freeze. Flasks
and glass-lined chemical reactors are damaged by long
exposure to hot sodium hydroxide, which also frosts the
glass. Sodium hydroxide does not attack iron since iron
does not have amphoteric properties (i.e., it only dissolves
in acid, not base). A few transition metals, however, may
react vigorously with sodium hydroxide.

Physical properties

Similar to the hydration of sulfuric acid, dissolution of

solid sodium hydroxide in water is a highly exothermic
reaction in which a large amount of heat is liberated, posing a threat to safety through the possibility of splashing.
The resulting solution is usually colourless and odorless.
As with other alkaline solutions, it feels slippery when it
comes in contact with skin.


1.2.3 Reaction with amphoteric metals and oxides

Pure sodium hydroxide is a whitish solid, sold in pellets,

akes, and granular form, as well as in solution. It is
highly soluble in water, with a lower solubility in ethanol
and methanol, but is insoluble in ether and other nonpolar solvents.


In 1986, an aluminium road tanker in the UK was mistakenly used to transport 25% sodium hydroxide solution,[13]
causing pressurization of the contents and damage to the
tanker. The pressurization was due to the hydrogen gas
which is produced in the reaction between sodium hydroxide and aluminium:

Chemical properties

2 Al + 2 NaOH + 6 H2 O 2 NaAl(OH)4 + 3

Reaction with acids

Sodium hydroxide reacts with protic acids to produce 1.2.4 Precipitant

water and the corresponding salts. For example, when
sodium hydroxide reacts with hydrochloric acid, sodium Unlike sodium hydroxide, the hydroxides of most transition metals are insoluble, and therefore sodium hydroxchloride is formed:
ide can be used to precipitate transition metal hydroxides.
The following colours are observed: blue-copper, greenNaOH(aq) + HCl(aq) NaCl(aq) + H2 O(l)
iron(II), yellow/brown-iron(III). Zinc and lead salts disIn general, such neutralization reactions are represented solve in excess sodium hydroxide to give a clear solution
by one simple net ionic equation:
of Na2 ZnO2 or Na2 PbO2 .

Aluminium hydroxide is used as a gelatinous occulant

to lter out particulate matter in water treatment. Aluminium hydroxide is prepared at the treatment plant from
aluminium sulfate by reacting it with sodium hydroxide or
Al2 (SO4 )3 + 6 NaOH 2 Al(OH)3 + 3
Na2 SO4
Al2 (SO4 )3 + 6 NaHCO3 2 Al(OH)3 + 3
Na2 SO4 + 6 CO2

Sodium hydroxide is also produced by combining pure

sodium metal with water. The byproducts are hydrogen
gas and heat, often resulting in a ame, making this a
common demonstration of the reactivity of alkali metals
in academic environments; however, it is not commercially viable, as the isolation of sodium metal is typically
performed by reduction or electrolysis of sodium compounds including sodium hydroxide.
For further information in historical production,
see alkali manufacture.


Sodium hydroxide can be used for the base-driven

hydrolysis of esters (as in saponication), amides and
alkyl halides. However, the limited solubility of sodium
hydroxide in organic solvents means that the more soluble
potassium hydroxide (KOH) is often preferred. Touching
sodium hydroxide solution with the bare hands, while not
recommended, produces a slippery feeling. This happens
because the oils of the hand are converted to soap.


3 Uses


Sodium hydroxide is industrially produced as a 50% solution by variations of the electrolytic chloralkali process. Chlorine gas is also produced in this process. Solid
sodium hydroxide is obtained from this solution by the
evaporation of water. Solid sodium hydroxide is most
commonly sold as akes, prills, and cast blocks.[12]
In 2004, world production was estimated at 60 million
dry metric tonnes of sodium hydroxide, and demand was
estimated at 51 million tonnes.[12] In 1998, total world
production was around 45 million tonnes. North America and Asia each contributed around 14 million tonnes,
while Europe produced around 10 million tonnes. In the
United States, the major producer of sodium hydroxide
is the Dow Chemical Company, which has annual production around 3.7 million tonnes from sites at Freeport,
Texas, and Plaquemine, Louisiana. Other major US producers include Oxychem, PPG, Olin, Pioneer Companies, Inc. (PIONA, which was purchased by Olin), and
Formosa. All of these companies use the chloralkali process.[14]

Canister of sodium hydroxide.

Sodium hydroxide is a popular strong base used in industry. Around 56% of sodium hydroxide produced is used
by industry, 25% of which is used in the paper industry. Sodium hydroxide is also used in the manufacture of
sodium salts and detergents, pH regulation, and organic
synthesis. It is used in the Bayer process of aluminium
production.[12] In bulk, it is most often handled as an
aqueous solution,[16] since solutions are cheaper and easier to handle.

Sodium hydroxide is used in many scenarios where it is

Historically, sodium hydroxide was produced by treating desirable to increase the alkalinity of a mixture, or to neusodium carbonate with calcium hydroxide in a metathesis tralize acids.
reaction. (Sodium hydroxide is soluble while calcium
carbonate is not.) This process was called causticizing.[15] For example, in the petroleum industry, sodium hydroxide is used as an additive in drilling mud to increase
alkalinity in bentonite mud systems, to increase the mud
Ca(OH)2 (aq) + Na2 CO3 (s) CaCO3 + 2
viscosity, and to neutralize any acid gas (such as hydrogen
sulde and carbon dioxide) which may be encountered in
This process was superseded by the Solvay process in the the geological formation as drilling progresses.
late 19th century, which was in turn supplanted by the Poor quality crude oil can be treated with sodium hydroxchloralkali process which we use today.
ide to remove sulfurous impurities in a process known as


Dissolving amphoteric metals and compounds

caustic washing. As above, sodium hydroxide reacts with

weak acids such as hydrogen sulde and mercaptans to
yield non-volatile sodium salts, which can be removed.
The waste which is formed is toxic and dicult to deal
with, and the process is banned in many countries because of this. In 2006, Tragura used the process and
then dumped the waste in Africa.[17][18]
See also: Hydrodesulfurization


Chemical pulping

Main article: Pulp (paper)

3.3 Dissolving amphoteric metals and

Strong bases attack aluminium. Sodium hydroxide reacts with aluminium and water to release hydrogen gas.
The aluminium takes the oxygen atom from sodium hydroxide, which in turn takes the oxygen atom from the
water, and releases the two hydrogen atoms, The reaction
thus produces hydrogen gas and sodium aluminate. In
this reaction, sodium hydroxide acts as an agent to make
the solution alkaline, which aluminium can dissolve in.
This reaction can be useful in etching, removing anodizing, or converting a polished surface to a satin-like nish, but without further passivation such as anodizing or
alodining the surface may become degraded, either under
normal use or in severe atmospheric conditions.
In the Bayer process, sodium hydroxide is used in the rening of alumina containing ores (bauxite) to produce
alumina (aluminium oxide) which is the raw material
used to produce aluminium metal via the electrolytic
Hall-Hroult process. Since the alumina is amphoteric,
it dissolves in the sodium hydroxide, leaving impurities
less soluble at high pH such as iron oxides behind in the
form of a highly alkaline red mud.

Sodium hydroxide is also widely used in pulping of wood

for making paper or regenerated bers. Along with
sodium sulde, sodium hydroxide is a key component
of the white liquor solution used to separate lignin from
cellulose bers in the kraft process. It also plays a key
role in several later stages of the process of bleaching the
brown pulp resulting from the pulping process. These See also: Ajka alumina plant accident
stages include oxygen delignication, oxidative extraction, and simple extraction, all of which require a strong
alkaline environment with a pH > 10.5 at the end of the Other amphoteric metals are zinc and lead which dissolve in concentrated sodium hydroxide solutions to give
sodium zincate and sodium plumbate respectively.


Tissue digestion

In a similar fashion, sodium hydroxide is used to digest

tissues, as in a process that was used with farm animals at
one time. This process involved placing a carcass into a
sealed chamber, then adding a mixture of sodium hydroxide and water (which breaks the chemical bonds that keep
the esh intact). This eventually turns the body into a liquid with coee-like appearance,[19][20] and the only solid
that remains are bone hulls, which could be crushed between ones ngertips.[21] Sodium hydroxide is frequently
used in the process of decomposing roadkill dumped in
landlls by animal disposal contractors.[20] Due to its
low cost and availability, it has been used to dispose of
corpses by criminals. Italian serial killer Leonarda Cianciulli used this chemical to turn dead bodies into soap.[22]
In Mexico, a man who worked for drug cartels admitted
disposing of over 300 bodies with it.[23] Sodium hydroxide is a dangerous chemical due to its ability to hydrolyze
protein. If a dilute solution is spilled on the skin, burns
may result if the area is not washed thoroughly and for
several minutes with running water. Splashes in the eye
can be more serious and can lead to blindness.[24] This
danger is often overlooked.

3.4 Esterication and transesterication

Sodium hydroxide is traditionally used in soap making
(cold process soap, saponication).[25] It was made in the
nineteenth century for a hard surface rather than liquid
product because it was easier to store and transport.
For the manufacture of biodiesel, sodium hydroxide is
used as a catalyst for the transesterication of methanol
and triglycerides. This only works with anhydrous sodium
hydroxide, because combined with water the fat would
turn into soap, which would be tainted with methanol.
NaOH is used more often than potassium hydroxide because it is cheaper and a smaller quantity is needed.
Sodium hydroxide is also being used experimentally in a
new technology to create synthetic gasoline.[26]

3.5 Food preparation

Food uses of sodium hydroxide include washing or chemical peeling of fruits and vegetables, chocolate and cocoa
processing, caramel coloring production, poultry scalding, soft drink processing, and thickening ice cream.[27]
Olives are often soaked in sodium hydroxide for soft-

ening; Pretzels and German lye rolls are glazed with

a sodium hydroxide solution before baking to make
them crisp. Owing to the diculty in obtaining food
grade sodium hydroxide in small quantities for home
use, sodium carbonate is often used in place of sodium
Specic foods processed with sodium hydroxide include:
The Scandinavian delicacy known as lutesk (from
lutsk, lye sh).
Hominy is dried maize (corn) kernels reconstituted
by soaking in lye-water. These expand considerably
in size and may be further processed by frying to
make corn nuts or by drying and grinding to make
grits. Nixtamal is similar, but uses calcium hydroxide instead of sodium hydroxide.


stainless steel and glass bakeware. It is also a common

ingredient in oven cleaners.
A common use of sodium hydroxide is in the production
of parts washer detergents. Parts washer detergents based
on sodium hydroxide are some of the most aggressive
parts washer cleaning chemicals. The sodium hydroxidebased detergents include surfactants, rust inhibitors and
defoamers. A parts washer heats water and the detergent in a closed cabinet and then sprays the heated
sodium hydroxide and hot water at pressure against dirty
parts for degreasing applications. Sodium hydroxide used
in this manner replaced many solvent-based systems in
the early 1990s when trichloroethane was outlawed by
the Montreal Protocol. Water and sodium hydroxide
detergent-based parts washers are considered to be an environmental improvement over the solvent-based cleaning methods.

Sodium hydroxide is also the chemical that causes

gelling of egg whites in the production of Century
German pretzels are poached in a boiling sodium
carbonate solution or cold sodium hydroxide solution before baking, which contributes to their unique
Lye-water is an essential ingredient in the crust of
the traditional baked Chinese moon cakes.
Most yellow coloured Chinese noodles are made
with lye-water but are commonly mistaken for containing egg.
Some methods of preparing olives involve subjecting Hardware stores grade sodium hydroxide to be used as a type of
drain cleaner.
them to a lye-based brine.[29]
The Filipino dessert (kakanin) called kutsinta uses a
small quantity of lye water to help give the rice our
batter a jelly like consistency. A similar process is
also used in the kakanin known as pitsi-pitsi or pichipichi except that the mixture uses grated cassava instead of rice our.


Cleaning agent

Main article: Cleaning agent

Sodium hydroxide is frequently used as an industrial
cleaning agent where it is often called caustic. It is
added to water, heated, and then used to clean process
equipment, storage tanks, etc. It can dissolve grease,
oils, fats and protein-based deposits. It is also used for
cleaning waste discharge pipes under sinks and drains
in domestic properties. Surfactants can be added to the
sodium hydroxide solution in order to stabilize dissolved
substances and thus prevent redeposition. A sodium hydroxide soak solution is used as a powerful degreaser on

Sodium hydroxide is used in the home as a type of drain

opener to unblock clogged drains, usually in the form
of a dry crystal or as a thick liquid gel. The alkali dissolves greases to produce water soluble products. It also
hydrolyzes the proteins such as those found in hair which
may block water pipes. These reactions are sped by the
heat generated when sodium hydroxide and the other
chemical components of the cleaner dissolve in water.
Such alkaline drain cleaners and their acidic versions are
highly corrosive and should be handled with great caution.
Sodium hydroxide is used in some relaxers to straighten
hair. However, because of the high incidence and intensity of chemical burns, manufacturers of chemical relaxers use other alkaline chemicals in preparations available
to average consumers. Sodium hydroxide relaxers are
still available, but they are used mostly by professionals.
A solution of sodium hydroxide in water was traditionally used as the most common paint stripper on wooden
objects. Its use has become less common, because it can
damage the wood surface, raising the grain and staining
the colour.

Chemical burns caused by sodium hydroxide solution photographed 44 hours after exposure.

ued for at least ten to fteen minutes.

Paint stripping with caustic soda


Historical uses

Moreover, dissolution of sodium hydroxide is highly

exothermic, and the resulting heat may cause heat burns
or ignite ammables. It also produces heat when reacted
with acids.

Sodium hydroxide has been used for detection of carbon Sodium hydroxide is corrosive to several metals, like
monoxide poisoning, with blood samples of such patients aluminium which reacts with the alkali to produce
turning to a vermilion color upon the addition of a few ammable hydrogen gas on contact:[31]
drops of sodium hydroxide.[30] Today, carbon monoxide
poisoning can be detected by CO oximetry.
2 Al + 2 NaOH + 2 H2 O 3 H2 + 2 NaAlO



Sodium hydroxide test for avonoids


Like other corrosive acids and alkalis, drops of sodium

hydroxide solutions can readily decompose proteins and
lipids in living tissues via amide hydrolysis and ester
hydrolysis, which consequently cause chemical burns
and may induce permanent blindness upon contact with
eyes.[3][4] Solid alkali can also express its corrosive nature
if there is water, such as water vapor. Thus, protective
equipment, like rubber gloves, safety clothing and eye
protection, should be always used when handling this
chemical or its solutions. The standard rst aid measures
for alkali spills on the skin is, as for other corrosives, irrigation with large quantities of water. Washing is contin-

2 Al + 6 NaOH + x H2 O 3 H2 + 2 Na3 AlO

+ x H2 O
2 Al + 2 NaOH + 6 H2 O 3 H2 + 2
Sodium hydroxide is also mildly corrosive to glass, which
can cause damage to glazing or freezing of ground glass
joints. Careful storage is needed.

5 Commercial brands
Red Devil Lye
Lewis Lye

6 See also
HAZMAT Class 8 Corrosive Substances

Common chemicals
List of cleaning agents


[1] Sodium Hydroxide Compound Summary. Retrieved

June 12, 2012.
[2] 1310-73-2|Sodium
Aldrich|sodium oxidanide.
[3] Material Safety Datasheet (PDF).
[4] Material Safety Datasheet 2 (PDF).
[5] Polyprotic Acids & Bases. UC Davis ChemWiki
[6] Zumdahl, Steven S. (2009). Chemical Principles 6th Ed.
Houghton Miin Company. p. A23. ISBN 0-61894690-X.
[7] Michael Chambers.
ChemIDplus 1310-73-2
hydroxide [NF] Similar structures search, synonyms, formulas, resource links, and other chemical
[8] Sodium hydroxide. Immediately Dangerous to Life and
Health. National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health (NIOSH).
[9] NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards #0565.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
[10] Sodium hydroxide solution. Sigma-Aldrich.
[11] Pubchem. SODIUM HYDROXIDE | HNaO PubChem.
[12] Cetin Kurt, Jrgen Bittner (2005), Sodium
Industrial Chemistry,
[13] Stamell, Jim (2001), EXCEL HSC Chemistry, Pascal Press,
p. 199, ISBN 978-1-74125-299-6
[14] Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, 5th
edition, John Wiley & Sons.
[15] Deming, Horace G. (1925). General Chemistry: An Elementary Survey Emphasizing Industrial Applications of
Fundamental Principles (2nd ed.). New York: John Wiley
& Sons, Inc. p. 452.
[16] Document 2 - CausticSodamanual2008.pdf (PDF).
2013. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
[17] Sample, Ian (16 September 2009). Tragura case: toxic
slop left behind by caustic washing. The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-09-17.
[18] Tragura knew of waste dangers. BBC Newsnight. 16
September 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-17.

[19] Ayres, Chris (27 February 2010) Clean green nish that
sends a loved one down the drain Times Online. Retrieved
[20] Thacker, H. Leon; Kastner, Justin (August 2004). Carcass
Disposal: A Comprehensive Review. Chapter 6. National
Agricultural Biosecurity Center, Kansas State University,
2004. Retrieved 2010-03-08
[21] Roach, Mary (2004). Sti: The Curious Lives of Human
Cadavers, New York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN
[22] Sodium: Getting rid of dirt and murder victims. BBC
News. 3 May 2014.
[23] William Booth (January 27, 2009). "'Stewmaker' Stirs
Horror in Mexico. Washington Post.
[25] Mort, Campbell (1856). A treatise on chemistry applied
to the manufacture of soap and candles. Parry and McMillan.
[26] Andrew Hough (18 October 2012). British engineers
produce amazing 'petrol from air' technology. The Telegraph. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
[27] Sodium Hydroxide. 2014. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
[28] Hominy without Lye. National Center for Home Food
[29] Olives: Safe Methods for Home Pickling (application/pdf Object)" (PDF). 2010. Retrieved January 22, 2012.
[30] Page 168 in: The Detection of poisons and strong drugs.
Author: Wilhelm Autenrieth. Publisher: P. Blakistons
son & Company, 1909.
[31] aluminium_water_hydrogen.pdf (application/pdf Object)" (PDF). 2008. Retrieved
January 15, 2013.

8 Bibliography
Euro Chlor-How is chlorine made? Chlorine Online
Greenwood, Norman N.; Earnshaw, Alan (1997).
Chemistry of the Elements (2nd ed.). ButterworthHeinemann. ISBN 0-08-037941-9.
Heaton, A. (1996) An Introduction to Industrial
Chemistry, 3rd edition, New York:Blackie. ISBN

External links
International Chemical Safety Card 0360
NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards
CDC Sodium Hydroxide NIOSH Workplace
Safety and Health Topic
European Union Risk Assessment Report
Production by brine electrolysis
Sodium Hydroxide Safety Data Sheet (SDS)
Sodium hydroxide Safety Summary (BASF)
Titration of acids with sodium hydroxide; freeware
for data analysis, simulation of curves and pH calculation
Caustic soda production in continuous causticising
plant by lime soda process




Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses


Sodium hydroxide Source: Contributors: Rjstott, Danny, Rootbeer,

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