As of 2015, purchase sodium hydroxide (lye) online from Amazon.com. Sodium hydroxide is frequently available at craft stores as an ingredient in soap making. Sodium hydroxide is sometimes available in stores in the forms of pure-lye drain opener, caustic soda or Red Devil lye. Some specialty-health food stores may also stock food-grade sodium hydroxide.
Sodium hydroxide is a powerful base that is frequently used to neutralize acids in industrial situations. Its used extensively in the paper industry to separate lignin from cellulose fibers and to bleach brown pulp. Sodium hydroxide is also frequently used as a cleaning agent in industry. This is due to its effectiveness at dissolving fat and protein-based deposits that build up in equipment, tanks and pipes. Sodium hydroxide is used in some food dishes as an ingredient. For instance, some German pretzel and roll recipes call for the items to be glazed in sodium hydroxide to help make them crisp during baking.
Use caution when handling or using sodium hydroxide, because it can cause the decomposition of proteins and lipids inside living tissue. This can result in chemical burns on the skin and permanent blindness upon contact with the eyes. For this reason, always wear rubber gloves, safety clothing and eye protection when handling sodium hydroxide or a solution containing it.