What Is Sodium Hydroxide and How to Use It for Cleaning and Sanitizing

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When you encounter a word like “sodium hydroxide”, what comes to mind is that it’s some chemical you’ve heard about before during your chemistry class, and you’ve no idea what Sodium Hydroxide is.

Commonly known as caustic soda, lye, and lye soda. Sodium hydroxide is a chemical compound with the formula NaOH. It’s highly corrosive, thus making it a key ingredient in most household and industrial cleaning agents.

You may be surprised that many cleaning products you use have sodium hydroxide in their ingredients. This article will focus on the household cleaning and sanitizing applications of sodium hydroxide.

How to Use Sodium Hydroxide for Cleaning

Here are some helpful tips for you in using sodium hydroxide for cleaning:

Removing Stains and Grease

Sodium hydroxide is a very powerful degreaser and cleaner! It has properties that turn grease or fats into soap that dissolves with water. That is why it is an ideal choice for cleaning stains on pots, ovens, and other utensils that have grease buildup over time.

To remove stubborn grease and stains on pots and accumulated grime in the oven, mix enough sodium hydroxide crystals or granules with water until it forms a pasty texture. Then, apply the paste mixture to the surface to be cleaned and leave it standing for about 10–15 mins.

Afterwards, you can scrub the surface with a ball of steel wool or a scouring pad and wash it off with water. You can repeat the process until you are satisfied with the results.

Take note, however, to avoid using sodium hydroxide on objects of certain metals like aluminium and tin. This is because it chemically reacts with these metals to produce highly flammable hydrogen gas.

De-clogging Pipes and Drains

Hair and grease are some of the most common causes of clogged household pipes and drains. As mentioned earlier in this article, sodium hydroxide is a corrosive chemical; it dissolves hair and grease.

One characteristic of sodium hydroxide, when mixed with water, is that it produces an exothermic reaction. An exothermic reaction produces heat with temperatures high enough to cause burn in human tissue and liquefy hair!

To clean pipes and drains of hair and grease, drop a couple of teaspoons of sodium hydroxide crystals directly into your drain, then pour water into it.

You’ll notice some bubbles and fumes rising from the drain. That would be your NaOH having an exothermic reaction, effectively melting any hair or grease deposits clogging your drain or pipes.

At this point, be careful when it starts to produce bubbles that may pop and get to your skin or eyes. After the bubbling has stopped, let it sit for a couple of minutes, then pour water to flush out any remaining residue inside the pipes.

As a precautionary reminder, ensure the area you are working on is well-ventilated and check if windows are open so that air freely circulates. Fumes may cause permanent lung damage when inhaled or eye tissue damage if splashes get through the eyes.

How To Use Sodium Hydroxide for Sanitizing

Sodium hydroxide has properties that effectively neutralize most microbes, bacteria, and viruses since it can destroy nucleic acids and proteins, which are essential for pathogens to thrive and cause infections in humans.

Sanitizing with sodium hydroxide is optimal for maintaining stringent sanitary conditions in the medical field, food processing, and medicine production, to mention a few.

In industrial settings, sanitizing sodium hydroxide in its form and solid compositions is common. However, it would be wise to avoid harsh sanitizing chemicals such as sodium hydroxide in high concentrations in household applications.

You may make your sanitizing solution by mixing sodium hydroxide crystals with water. Still, it may result in a tedious effort to arrive at the correct amount of dilution that is acceptably safe to use.

Fortunately, ready-made sanitizing solutions for purchase from retailers are safely formulated for home use. That also includes diluted sodium hydroxide, which has a milder yet still potent composition.

In sanitizing the household, whether inside or outside, the precautionary measures required are of no less importance. Even in mild, diluted form, sodium hydroxide still carries the risk of damage to the skin, eyes, and lungs and even accidental ingestion.

Before handling, wear protective equipment, such as gloves, goggles, and masks, to protect yourself from inhaling fumes caused by chemical reactions.

Properly follow instructions on labels on how to use directly or how to dilute the formulation further. Apply the solution as with regular sanitizing solutions using a sponge or cloth over the surface area you would like to sanitize and let it sit for about 10–15 mins.

Afterward, you can neutralize the solution by wiping off the surface with plain soap and rinsing it with water. You can repeat the process until you are satisfied with the results.

Where To Get Sodium Hydroxide

Sodium hydroxide is readily available in most cleaning supplies and hardware stores.

You can find it in diluted solutions and also in pure solid forms. Keep in mind to always read instructions on the bottles or container labels before using them.


Although well known to be hazardous if not handled properly, sodium hydroxide is also a powerful and versatile chemical. Its usefulness and numerous applications have an integral significance in our day-to-day living.

Sodium hydroxide’s extensive use, whether in a household or in an industrial setting, has brought convenience to our cleaning and sanitizing requirements. It’s the ideal chemical to maintain our facilities and environments.

The key to getting the most benefits from using sodium hydroxide is having the proper knowledge about what it is and how to use this versatile chemical appropriately.

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