Is Potassium Hydroxide Safe For Baby – Yes – once this strong base is neutralized with an acid. Potassium hydroxide is recovered through the chloralkali process from The Dead Sea as well as other bodies of salt water. It has become a preferred alternative to sodium hydroxide as an ingredient for soaps and detergent.

Potassium hydroxide is widely used in the United States with an estimated 440,000 metric tons used in 2005 for the production of various potassium compounds [11].

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Potassium Hydroxide vs Sodium Hydroxide

Lye, a strong alkaline solution, is created from either potassium hydroxide (KOH) or sodium hydroxide (NaOH), a fundamental ingredient of the soap-making process [1].

Both potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide are used to cause a reaction that creates soap. These compounds are rendered safe after they have been combined with other constituents to create an effective, safe, and diverse cleansing agent [12].

It is easy to confuse potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide as both are used in making soap. For solid bar soap, sodium hydroxide is used. For liquid soap, potassium hydroxide is used [2]. This inorganic compound comes in various forms including powders, flakes or pellets.

Potassium hydroxide is applied differently in the manufacturing, industrial, medical, and chemical sectors. Industries use potassium hydroxide as an electrolyte solution for electroplating and alkaline batteries. Potassium soaps are also becoming increasingly popular among gardeners who want to get rid of pests. In the medical field, potassium hydroxide is used in a variety of ways from treating warts to chemical preparations. It is widely applied in the food industry as a food thickener, stabilizer, and control agent. In fact, potassium hydroxide plays a vital role in the manufacture and processing of the cocoa, chocolates, and items that use caramel coloring. It is subject to the implementation of good manufacturing practices as mandated by the United States Food and Drug Administration [3].

As a strong alkali, potassium hydroxide reacts easily with acids. The strong base produces potassium salts that can be used to manufacture fertilizers, batteries, soaps, and even disinfectants. The symbol of potassium is K which comes from the word kalium, the Latin word for alkali. As an alkali, it is best used in soap manufacturing. As a solution, it is an effective electricity conductor. Potassium hydroxide is also used in biodiesel oil production and paper production where it helps separate cellulose and lignin fibers [4].

Origins Of Potassium HydroxideOrigins Of Potassium Hydroxide

People have been making and using soap since as early as 2800 B.C. The Babylonians boiled ashes and fats to create soap. Later, Galen, a Greek physician, recommended it for cleansing and medical use.

Potassium is one of earth’s most abundant elements accounting for 2.1% of its crust. This reactive metal is usually found in compounds and minerals. Sir Humphry Davy successfully isolated potassium using the same method as the isolation of sodium. Potassium is sourced from commonly found minerals such as carnallite, sylvite, polyhalite, and langbeinite. These minerals are most often found in ancient seabeds and lakes. Potassium is also sourced from caustic potash mined in California, New Mexico, Utah, and Germany [6].

Depending on its concentrations and with what it combines, potassium can have vastly different properties. When mixed with chloride at higher temperatures, it becomes potassium chloride or a type of salt (KCl). This type of salt is sometimes used in the food and beverage industries as an alternative to salt made of sodium chloride. The potassium hydroxide structure is created when impure potassium is combined with sodium hydroxide [7].

Potassium hydroxide reacts violently with acids generating high amounts of heat [8]. In moist air, it corrodes metals such as tin, lead, zinc, and aluminum. It releases combustible and explosive hydrogen gas in the process. Chemists will submerge the raw potassium metal in mineral oil during storage. When working with combining potassium hydroxide, chemists must take care to protect their skin and eyes. The strong base is caustic. If it makes contact with the skin, directives call to flush skin immediately [9].

What is potassium hydroxide?

The potassium hydroxide formula is KOH. Here are some other important chemical facts:

  • Potassium hydroxide molar mass 56.1056 g/mol
  • Potassium hydroxide melting point 360 degrees Celcius
  • Potassium hydroxide pH: 12.0 ( strong base)
  • Potassium hydroxide structure: chemical potassium and hydrogen ions
  • Potassium hydroxide toxicity: Also called caustic potash or potassium lye, The CDC states it is caustic if inhaled, ingested, or makes contact with the skin or eyes [5].

Potassium hydroxide is commonly used in the following commodities and applications:

  • Agricultural chemicals such as herbicides and fertilizers
  • Synthetic rubber
  • Batteries
  • Petroleum products
  • Removal of vegetable and fruit peels
  • Caramelization of sugar
  • Removal of warts
  • Cleaning of dentures
  • Paint removers

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Potassium Hydroxide AppearancePotassium Hydroxide Appearance

In its pure state, potassium is a soft, metal conductor of electricity and heat. While it has a silver luster, potassium causes a flame to have a lavender color. It also produces a green vapor [13].

Soapmakers work with potassium hydroxide in pellet form, but it is also available in flakes, lumps, liquids, or sticks. When storing, consideration must be given to the fact that it absorbs moisture easily and is soluble in glycerol, methyl alcohol, and ethyl alcohol [14].

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Potassium Hydroxide Odor And SmellPotassium Hydroxide Odor And Smell

This inorganic compound is odorless. Up to 36% of liquid drain cleaners are made of this compound. If a large concentration is inhaled, nose and lung irritation may occur.

Excessive inhalation of potassium hydroxide can cause fluid build-up (pulmonary edema) in the lungs. This condition requires immediate medical attention. Other symptoms include vomiting, nausea, and headaches if large amounts of this compound are inhaled [15].

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Potassium Hydroxide TexturePotassium Hydroxide Texture

Potassium hydroxide pellets are generally soft to the touch making them a fitting ingredient for soap, especially liquid soap. In high concentrations, skin contact should be avoided.

Benefits Of Potassium Hydroxide For BabiesBenefits Of Potassium Hydroxide For Babies

Potassium hydroxide is used in baby soaps because it is more environmentally-friendly, water-soluble, and gentle for babies.

Potassium hydroxide has a high solubility level which makes it an ideal ingredient in soap-based products. Liquid soaps that use this inorganic compound contain more cleansing agents than other soaps.

Potassium hydroxide is found in a wide variety of industries. It is an essential ingredient in the production of personal care products such as shampoos, soaps, shaving products, cosmetics, foot powders, and cleaning products. Potassium soaps can be either in solid or liquid form.

Potassium hydroxide can also be of food grade quality. In this capacity, it is used as a food stabilizer in processed foods, food thickener, and a pH control agent. It is often used as a salt substitute.

Potassium Hydroxide Regulations And UsePotassium Hydroxide Regulations And Use

Products that contain lye (potassium hydroxide) are regulated by strict guidelines provided by the Food and Drug Administration.

Most parents use liquid soap made from potassium hydroxide since it is softer and more gentle to baby’s skin. Baby products include this ingredient in shampoos, baby oils, baby creams, baby lotions, baby oils, and baby wipes specifically to protect and cleanse babies with sensitive skin.

Is Potassium Hydroxide Safe In Baby Products?  Yes – Once potassium hydroxide is neutralized with other ingredients, such as citric acid, the resulting compound is preferred in industries ranging from the food and beverage industries to the medical industry and the manufacturing of baby products.

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Is Potassium Hydroxide Safe For Baby Resources:

[1]   Merriam-Webster Dictionary; Lye.
[2]   Merriam-Webster Dictionary; Lye.
[3]   U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, PubChem; Potassium hydroxide.
[4]   Sciencing; Uses of Potassium Hydroxide; Dinshaw Dadachanji,  April 24, 2017.
[5]   Encyclopaedia Britannica; Potassium.
[6]   Maath And Science Activity Center; Periodic Table — The Element Potassium.
[7]   Jefferson Lab; The Element Potassium.
[8]   Encylopedia; Potassium Hydroxide.
[9]   Millipore Sigma; Potassium hydroxide SDS, Safety Data Sheet for Potassium hydroxide 105033.
[10]   Encylopedia; Potassium Hydroxide.
[11]   Encylopedia; Potassium Hydroxide.
[12]   Personal Care: Information Based On Scientific Facts; Kayla Fioravanti, April 26, 2011.
[13]   Encyclopaedia Britannica; Potassium.
[14]   New Jersey Department of Health; Potassium Hydroxide.
[15]   New Jersey Department of Health; Potassium Hydroxide.
[16]   Saponification Definition and Reaction, Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D., October 03, 2017.


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