Caustic Soda

Product Description

Sodium hydroxide (NaOH), also known as lye and caustic soda, is a caustic metallic base. It is used in many industries, mostly as a strong chemical base in the manufacture of pulp and paper, textiles, drinking water, soaps and detergents and as a drain cleaner. Worldwide production in 1998 was around 45 million tonnes. Sodium hydroxide is a common base in chemical laboratories.

Pure sodium hydroxide is a white solid; available in pellets, flakes, granules and as a 50% saturated solution. It is hygroscopic and readily absorbs water from the air, so it should be stored in an airtight container. It is very soluble in water with liberation of heat. It also dissolves in ethanol and methanol, though it exhibits lower solubility in these solvents than potassium hydroxide. Molten sodium hydroxide is also a strong base, but the high temperature required limits applications. It is insoluble in ether and other non-polar solvents. A sodium hydroxide solution will leave a yellow stain on the fabric and paper.

Chemical Properties

Sodium hydroxide is completely ionic, containing sodium cations and hydroxide anions. The hydroxide anion makes sodium hydroxide a strong base which reacts with acids to form water and the corresponding salts, e.g., with hydrochloric acid, sodium chloride is formed:

NaOH(aq) + HCl(aq) → NaCl(aq) + H2O(l)

In general such neutralization reactions are represented by one simple net ionic equation:

OH−(aq) + H+(aq) → H2O(l)

This type of reaction with a strong acid, releases heat, and hence is referred to as exothermic. Such acid-base reactions can also be used for titrations, which is a common method to determine the concentration of acids. Another type of reaction that sodium hydroxide is involved in is with acidic oxides. The reaction of carbon dioxide has already been mentioned, but other acidic oxides such as sulfur dioxide (SO2) also react completely. Such reactions are often used to "scrub" harmful acidic gases (like SO2 and H2S) and prevent their release into the atmosphere.

2NaOH + CO2 → Na2CO3 + H2O

Sodium hydroxide slowly reacts with glass to form sodium silicate, so glass joints and stopcocks exposed to NaOH have a tendency to "freeze". Flasks and glass-lined chemical reactors are damaged by long exposure to hot sodium hydroxide, and the glass becomes frosted. Sodium hydroxide does not attack iron since iron does not have amphoteric properties. A few transition metals, however, may react with sodium hydroxide in a vigorous way.

In 1986 an aluminium road tanker in the UK was mistakenly used to transport 25% sodium hydroxide solution, causing pressurization of the contents and damage to the tanker. The pressurization was due to the hydrogen gas which is produced in the reaction between sodium hydroxide and aluminium:

2Al(s) + 6NaOH(aq) → 3H2(g) + 2Na3AlO3(aq)

Unlike NaOH, the hydroxides of most metals are insoluble, and therefore sodium hydroxide can be used to precipitate metal hydroxides. One such hydroxide is aluminium hydroxide, used as a gelatinous floc to filter out particulate matter in water treatment. Aluminium hydroxide is prepared at the treatment plant from aluminium sulfate by reacting with NaOH. This reaction is highly profitable, and is hence an important synthesis reaction.

Sodium hydroxide reacts readily with carboxylic acids to form their salts and is even a strong enough base to form salts with phenols. NaOH can be used for the base-driven hydrolysis of esters (as in saponification), amides and alkyl halides. However, the limited solubility of NaOH in organic solvents means that the more soluble KOH is often preferred.


25 kgs bag


Caustic Soda is the principal strong base used in the chemical industry. In bulk it is most often handled as an aqueous solution, since solutions are cheaper and easier to handle. It is used to drive chemical reactions and also for the neutralization of acidic materials. It can be used also as a neutralizing agent in petroleum refining. It is also used for heavy duty and industrial cleaning.

Alumina production

In the Bayer process, Caustic Soda is used in the refining of alumina containing ore (bauxite) to produce alumina (aluminium oxide) which is the raw material used to produce aluminium metal via the electrolytic Hall-Héroult process.

Soap production

Caustic Soda is traditionally used in soap making (cold process soap, saponification)..It was made in the ninteenth century for a hard suface rather than liquid product because it was easier to store and ship.

Oil drilling

Caustic Soda is used as an additive in drilling mud to increase alkalinity. This serves two functions. Firstly raising alkalinity in bentonite mud systems increases the mud viscosity. A secondary function of raising alkalinity is to neutralise any acid gas (such as hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide) which may be encountered in the geological formation as drilling progresses.

Fuel production

Caustic Soda can be added to poor quality crude oil to remove sulphurous impurities in a process known as caustic washing. The process forms a highly toxic waste which containing hydrogen sulphide, organic disulphides and mercaptans. Because of this the process is banned in many countries but in 2006, Trafigura used the process and then dumped the waste in Africa.

Pulp manufacturing for producing paper

Caustic Soda was also widely used in making paper. Along with sodium sulfide, NaOH is a key component of the white liquor solution used to separate lignin from cellulose fibers in the Kraft process. It also plays a key role in several later stages of the process of bleaching the brown pulp resulting from the pulping process. These stages include oxygen delignification, oxidative extraction, and simple extraction, all of which require a strong alkaline environment with a pH > 10.5 at the end of the stages.


For the manufacture of biodiesel, Caustic Soda is used as a catalyst for the transesterification of methanol and triglycerides. This only works with anhydrous Caustic Soda, because combined with water the fat would turn into soap, which would be tainted with methanol. It is used more often than potassium hydroxide because it is cheaper and a smaller quantity is needed.

Aluminium etching

Strong bases attack aluminium. Caustic Soda reacts with aluminium and water to create hydrogen gas. The aluminium takes the oxygen atom from Caustic Soda(NaOH), which in turn takes the oxygen atom from the water, and releases the two hydrogen atoms. In this reaction, Caustic Soda acts as an active catalyst. This reaction can be useful in etching through a resist, removing anodizing, or converting a polished surface to a satin-like finish, but without further passivation such as anodizing or alodining the surface may become degraded, either under normal use or in severe atmospheric conditions.

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Product Specification

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