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Safety when working with Potassium Hydroxide

Guest Author - Angela Chinhing

As a nurse I would like to emphasize the importance of wearing protective gear and following safety precautions when making soap. During soap making many things can go wrong. Accidents can be prevented by working in a more organized manner. However, prepare for the unexpected.

Raw KOH in water has a pH of 13.5. This means it will irritate skin and mucosal tissue like an acid. During the Saponification process there are two different types of injury that can occur - (1)Irritation from a corrosive chemical and (2) burns because the chemical�s temperature is above 160F. KOH added to water produces an exothermic reaction - it generates heat, lots of it.

Your work area should have a sink available in case you need to rinse. Vinegar should be within easy accessible reach. Contact with skin can cause deep penetrating slow healing ulcers. If the skin comes in contact with KOH, rinse with vinegar then water for up to 15 minutes, even if it is not hurting. Contact with the eye can cause severe damage, even blindness. There should also be an eyewash solution in case of splashes to your eye. The eyewash solution can be stored in a squirt type bottle. The eyewash solution can be plain distilled water or a sterile saline solution. If one has to prepare tap water for the eyewash, boil for several minutes, then cool and place in squirt bottle. Rinse with eyewash solution for 10-15 minutes, then seek medical attention. The poison control number should be by the phone, or you can store the number in the phone's speed dial list. If you make soap alone at home someone should always be aware that you do.

Never eat or drink in your work area while making soap.
Protective gear will only protect you if it is worn properly. If you wear glasses, invest in a face shield. If not, then wear goggles. The goggles should be able to protect your eyes from splashes and liquid dripping into your eyes.

Potassium hydroxide (KOH) is more corrosive than Sodium hydroxide/lye (NAOH). The severity of the injury depends on the duration of contact, the concentration of the solution and the temperature of the solution.

IF you have never seen or looked up a MSDS (Material Data Safety Sheet) look up KOH. It is available online. A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is designed to provide proper procedures for handling or working with a particular substance. MSDS's include information such as toxicity, health effects, first aid, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill/leak procedures. These are of particular use if a spill or other accident occurs.

Remember - PREVENTION IS LESS PAINFUL THAN TREATMENT




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Content copyright © 2014 by Angela Chinhing. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Angela Chinhing. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Winsome Tapper for details.

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