Making Potassium Hydroxide – Lye

How to make Lye.

Lye made from hardwood ashes is potassium hydroxide and not sodium hydroxide.
And by hardwood I mean something like oak, walnut, hickory etc. and not pine.
But it works the same for our hydrogen generator cells or boosters and some say it is better.
Plus it is easy to make!
My mother and father made lye when I was growing up on the farm in Indiana.
My mother then made soap out of it. I still remember her cutting off small pieces and putting them in the washing machine.
Talk about clean clothes and faded blue jeans! 😆

Anyway here is how it was done.

Drill some holes in the bottom of a wooden barrel. How many? I don’t know but a bunch will do.
You say you don’t have a wooden barrel. Use a sturdy plastic one or a bucket. 🙄
Your batch will just be less.

Put the barrel on blocks so you can have space beneath the barrel for a container.
Use a  wood or glass container under it. Lye will eat some metals although you may use a stainless pan.
DO NOT use an aluminum pan under no circumstances.
When lye hits the aluminum it will make hydrogen gas and dissolve the aluminum. 😯

Put a layer of gravel in the bottom of the barrel, then put a layer of straw over the gravel.
If you don’t have straw then use yard clippings from mowing. This is just a filter anyway.
Fill the barrel with hardwood ash.
Leave some room at the top.
(USE hardwood and NOT softwood). We saved our wood ashes all winter for lye making.
Then pour rainwater into the barrel.
If you don’t have enough ash to fill the barrel then when adding the water use your best guess on when to stop.
If it runs over the top then you have put in to much. 😆
After a long time the water in the barrel will start to drip into the container. When it stops, 24 hours or more, then replace the container with another for any extra drips.

Pour into an old iron pot, or a steel pan.
Boil the liquid to concentrate it so that a fresh egg will float in it.
DON’T let the liquid get on your skin or clothes.

Now you can use this liquid lye to make electrolyte for your hydrogen booster.
I need to add that you can also let it evaporate and just be left with the crystals of Potassium Hydroxide to use.
Be careful with the crystals and do not get any on your hands, wear rubber gloves for protection. Goggles for eye protection is another good safety item, because getting this in your eyes can blind you. Safety first is always a very good idea.

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Posted under Homemade Cell, Hydrogen Boosters

This post was written by Michael on November 28, 2008

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1 Comment so far

  1. admin November 12, 2011 8:44 am

    Hello Richard,
    I just run my gas through a bubbler. I have not had any problems with it hurting my engine.
    The bubbler acts like a water filter and collects the by product of the gas.
    I do change the water in the bubbler about once a week as it does turn cloudy.
    I do not know how others do this but it seems to work for me.
    You might ask your question on this forum…
    There are a lot of people on this forum with good info.

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