On an average trip to the supermarket, shoppers may stock up on detergent, purchase a bottle of aspirin and take a look at the latest headlines on newspapers and magazines. At first glance, it may not seem like these items have much in common. However, for each of them, caustic soda plays a key role in their ingredient lists or manufacturing processes.
What is caustic soda?
Caustic soda is the chemical compound sodium hydroxide (NaOH). This compound is an alkali – a type of base that can neutralize acids and is soluble in water. Today caustic soda can be manufactured in the form of pellets, flakes, powders, solutions and more.
What is caustic soda used for?
Caustic soda has become a common ingredient in the production of many everyday items. Commonly known as lye, it has been used to make soap for centuries, and its ability to dissolve grease makes it a common ingredient in oven cleaners and products used to unclog drains.
Caustic soda is often used to manufacture cleaning products like soaps and detergents.
Sodium hydroxide also plays a key role in processing wood pulp to create paper and cardboard boxes, which have become increasingly essential over the course of the global COVID-19 pandemic as medical supplies are shipped long distances.
The chemical compound is also used to break down the sedimentary rock that aluminum is extracted from. The mineral then goes on to be used in a number of items like construction materials, automobiles and consumer goods like food packaging and soda cans.
One perhaps unexpected use for caustic soda is in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals like blood thinners and cholesterol medication.
A versatile water treatment product, sodium hydroxide is often used to maintain the safety and cleanliness of pools by removing harmful metals like lead and copper. As a base, sodium hydroxide lowers acidity, regulating water's pH. Additionally, the compound can be used to create sodium hypochlorite, which further disinfects water.
A co-product of the chlorine manufacturing process, caustic soda has been used for decades to create products that enhance our lives every day.