Updated: Jul 6, 2019
This could be the most frequently asked question by soap makers in Singapore. Well the search ends here. But let's review some brief Q&As about lye first for those who are new to soap making.
What is lye?
Lye, or sodium hydroxide, is an essential chemical required to make soap. It is caustic by itself but there is no more lye in the end product of any soap because all lye will be reacted with oil to become soap. This process is called saponification. Lye exists in nature when rain water mixes with ashes.
Is there a substitute for lye in soap making?
The short answer is no as all soaps are made with lye. Either sodium hydroxide is used for hard bar soap or potassium hydroxide is used for liquid soap, there is no substitute for lye. Nothing else will make oil to become soap.
We have gathered some resources here if you are interested to find out more about the relationship between lye and soap:
Why you can’t buy lye in Singapore?
Many Singaporeans who are just started to learn about soap making, particularly cold process soap making, may find it a bit frustrated to source for this material in the first place before they start making anything. The main reason why you can't simply buy lye off the shelf in Singapore: It is for the sake of safety and environment.
In Singapore, both sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide are controlled industrial chemicals regulated by National Environment Agency (NEA). No individuals are allowed to import or purchase such controlled chemicals for personal or domestic use because handling of these chemicals requires a high standard of safety measures with a proper plan for waste disposal. With such regulation, injuries to human and introduction of contaminants into the natural environment can be prevented/minimised if there is any mishandling of the chemicals.
So, where can you get lye in Singapore for soap making?
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. As lye is only allowed to be used in these premises, it has become illegal and irresponsible (to ourselves and the environment) to use lye and make cold process soap at home.
We are a group of soap makers who faced the same problem of getting lye to make our DIY cold process soap in the beginning. Eventually we decided to setup a workshop by applying to NEA for the permit and started out our very first soap maker's workshop Sugar & Spice in early 2017.
Now our workshop allows soap makers around Singapore to gather here and make their own cold process soaps with lye safely without any worry of compromising the environment and our own safety.
You can use lye (both sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide) supplied by us in the workshop for soap making at discounted price. Simply rent an hour or two of our studio to use the facilities and equipment freely. Other soap making ingredients and materials are available as well. There is no need to purchase a whole list of soap making equipment and ingredients to start as a beginner! Alternatively you can bring your own ingredients and equipment if you are already a soap maker.
We also conduct easy-to-learn cold process soap making classes for beginners every week in our workshop. All classes and DIY workshop can be booked online. Find out more details about our DIY workshop and classes here.
Hardcore soap makers can even sign up as a member for unlimited use of our workshop and enjoy 50% discount on lye plus other attractive privileges. Check out our member’s privileges here.
Our aim is to provide a convenient and free-and-easy environment for enthusiastic soap makers to make their cold process soaps. A soap maker should enjoy exploring the maximum creativity and possibility of soap making with minimum worry about the rest. We are soap makers too!
We strongly believe nothing can stop us from developing this healthy and yet fun hobby. Though we are unable to enjoy the freedom of making cold process soap at home like in other countries, having a little bit more sense of social responsibility is something we can be very proud of :)
Meanwhile, you may want to check the following three other workshops in Singapore that provide the same services if you have yet to do so:
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