What is Lye Water?

Lye could come in different forms. Some are pellets, flakes or microbeads while there are others which come in powder or liquid form. This is used for making lye water to create a cleaning solution. It is also an ingredient for making soap and candles. Interestingly, aside from cleaning and manufacturing, this is also used for some recipes. How can this be?

It is true that lye water can be unsafe for health, particularly when used without proper moderation. Aside from poisoning, this can also cause the throat, esophagus and stomach to corrode. If these are the repercussions, how come this is added to some recipes?

The addition of this solution in food is done in very minimal amount. It is common for a lot of Asian dishes, particularly the traditional Chinese dishes. The main purpose is to create food which can be preserved for extended period of time like Asian noodles or century eggs. Soaking the noodles in this solution allows it to have a yellowish color. On the other hand, it also causes the white part of eggs to form a gel-like texture in order to create century eggs.Lye Water

Aside from Asian recipes, this is also essential for processing of various types of food. For example, it makes peeling of fruits and vegetables much faster. It is also added to manufacturing of some chocolate and cocoa plus other sweets which need a caramel coloring. Even manufacturers of some sodas and ice cream use this as a thickening agent.

For other commercial manufacturers, lye water is also used for achieving the perfect crisp and crunch. The German pretzels have an amazing texture because of this ingredient. The same goes for hominy or dried maize.

It has to be remembered though that this solution should be carefully measured when being used for food. Excessive amount can pose some unwanted health problems so it is not recommended to use this for household recipes especially when preparing food for children.

Aside from food ingredient, lye water is also great for cleaning. Instead of buying lye and then mixing it with water, the best option is to purchase the ones that come in bottles. These contain the perfect mixture of lye and water to prevent it from being too corrosive.

Even if lye has already been diluted with water, this can still have a strong alkaline solution. It is has a pH level that is within 13 to 14. Hence, it is important to avoid touching the solution when using it for cleaning. It is ideal for hard surfaces which have stubborn stains.

Lye water is also perfect for refurbishing the look of cast-iron cook wear and other metal utensils. Simply soak them in the solution for a couple of days to remove the stains. Do not worry that the metal will be damaged so long as you do not leave them there for too long. Make sure to wash it with vinegar and water before use so that the remaining lye will be completely eliminated.


Related Content

Panlasang Pinoy Cookbook Download a FREE copy of the Panlasang Pinoy eCookbook Volume 1. Register now!

Enter your email address:


  1. Paula Jean says:

    Is there a substitute for lye water?

    • Jenn Garr says:

      Lye water is sodium carbonate mixed with water. Convert Baking Soda into Washing Soda (sodium carbonate) by heating in oven @ 400F. for 1 hour. Be careful sodium carbonate is caustic.

Leave a Comment