Caustic soda is an inorganic compound popularly known as sodium hydroxide. It is sometimes referred to as lye. It has the chemical formula NaOH which means that it is the combination of sodium cations and hydrogen anions. It is a white or colorless chemical with crystalline shape and it is odorless.

Caustic soda is a very important chemical that finds application in different industries. It is popularly known for its usage in soap and detergent making industries. Meanwhile, it is also used for paper manufacturing, cleaning agents for cleaning drains and clog pipes, making dyes and bleaches, water treatment, and other applications.

Sodium hydroxide or caustic soda is a corrosive chemical. It has an adverse effect on the human body. The article will inform you about the hazards associated with caustic soda and necessary safety precautions.

1. Contact With Skin

Initial contact of caustic soda with the skin may not immediately have any effect. However, prolonged contact of the chemical on the human body has an effect. When the chemical, low or high concentration, is exposed to skin for a period of 5 minutes or beyond, it will result in skin burn. The severity of the burn depends on how long the chemical is in contact with the skin.

In a situation where there is contact of caustic soda with the skin, you must wash the skin thoroughly with water. It is advisable to use running water and wash thoroughly for 10 to 15 minutes. If the severity of the burn is much, you may see a medical practitioner for immediate treatment.


When handling caustic soda, you must apply some precautions to avoid the posed hazards. It is advisable you make use of impervious clothing to avoid exposing the chemical to your body. You should also make use of hand gloves to protect your hands. The use of boots will protect your legs also in case there is a spillage of chemicals.

2. Contact With Eyes

Caustic soda is categorized as a category 1 hazard when it comes in contact with the eyes. The chemical caused irreversible damage to the eye. It is known as a severe eye irritant and very corrosive. It causes cornea burn and might result in permanent injury of the eye.

In case of eye contact with caustic soda, immediately irrigate the eye with a lot of water. Rinse with water for 15 minutes. Do not close the eyes lead as it can keep the chemical trapped in the eye. Seek medical attention immediately.


To avoid contact of chemicals with the eye, you should make use of eye goggles when handling caustic soda. Avoid touching the eye area when handling the chemical. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling the chemical to avoid putting a contaminated eye in the eye.

3. Ingestion Reactions

Caustic soda can be dangerous to the health when ingested indiscriminately. It can result in vomiting or nausea. It may also cause gastrointestinal tract burns and abdominal pain. Other effects of ingestion are swelling of the larynx, suffocation, coma, perforation of the intestine, and collapse of the cardiovascular.

When the chemical is ingested, do not induce vomiting. Give water to the victim to wash the mouth. Immediately seek medical attention before the reaction gets worse.


To avoid caustic soda poisoning, you must be very careful while handling the chemical. It is advisable to use a respiratory mask which covers the mouth while handling. Likewise, avoid eating, drinking, or smoking while handling the chemical. Household items especially the ones used in the kitchen should not be used where the chemical is being handled.

4. Inhalation Reactions

Inhalation of caustic soda can also be dangerous. When the chemical is inhaled, the effects are and not limited to lesions to the nasal cavity, pneumonitis, pulmonary oedema, and emphysema. Meanwhile, the temperature can either increase or decrease the effect of these reactions. High temperature will result in severity of this corrosive reaction.

When the caustic soda is inhaled, the victim should be taken to an open space where there is ventilation. Clothes and other materials where the chemical has come in contact with should be removed. The victim should be kept in the most comfortable position and must be kept warm. Medical attention should be sought immediately after.


To avoid inhalation of caustic soda, make use of a respiratory mask while handling the chemical. Ensure there is enough ventilation where chemicals are being handled. Likewise, remove all clothing used while handling the chemical and wash your hand appropriately after handling the chemical.

5. Leakage During Storage

If caustic soda is leaked during storage, it might also lead to an accident. Release of the chemical on the floor can become slippery and cause injury to the victim. Leakages can also lead to inhalation, accidental ingestion, and skin contamination. In case of spillage, use absorbents to collect the chemical and avoid it running into waterways.


Caustic soda should be properly stored in a cool and dry place. It must be a well-ventilated area and away from direct sunlight. The storage material must be non-corrosive and must be kept standing upright.

6. Environmental Harm

You should avoid releasing caustic soda to the environment either for disposal or for any other reason. The chemical should not be released to waterways. The pH effect of the chemical is harmful to aquatic life. The chemical is corrosive to terrestrial species. It also hydrolyses the soil and may partition into water.


The chemical should be disposed of accordingly with the local waste disposal authority. It is expected that both chemicals and containers should be recycled. Do not flush the chemical down the drain as it may find its way to the waterways and the environment.

7. Is Caustic Soda Flammable

Caustic soda is a non-combustible material. It does not explode nor does it cause a fire outbreak. In case the chemical is involved in a fire accident, you can make use of water log, standard foam or alcohol resistant foam, and any dry agent in firefighting.

Safety Tips While Handling Caustic Soda

Caustic soda must be appropriately handled to avoid accidents. The following are safety tips to follow when handling sodium hydroxide:

  • Wear protective clothing, gloves, and shoes while handling.
  • Make use of an eye protector to keep your eyes safe from contact.
  • Use a respirator to avoid inhalation of chemicals.
  • Do not breathe the gas, fume, or vapor.
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke where the chemical is being handled.
  • Keep chemicals in an original and non corrosive material. Keep in a well-ventilated and dry place.

Wash your hand, face, and other exposed body thoroughly after handling the chemical.