Caustic soda is an essential ingredient in an array of industrial applications. In addition, consumers use caustic soda when using cleaners, such as oven and drain cleaners.
Caustic soda is highly corrosive and reactive. Caustic soda can be irritating to the skin, eyes and gastrointestinal tract.
Occupational and consumer exposure is dependent upon the conditions under which caustic soda is used.
Caustic soda is used in the following industries and applications:
Pulp and paper – the largest application for caustic soda world wide. Uses include the de-inking of waste paper and water treatment as well as being a raw material in the pulping and bleaching process.
Textiles – used to process cotton and dye synthetic fibers, such as nylon and polyester.
Soap and detergents – used in saponification, the chemical process that converts fat, tallow and vegetable oils into soap. Caustic soda is used to manufacture anionic surfactants, a crucial component in most detergents and cleaning products.
Bleach manufacturing – used to make bleach which has industrial and consumer applications such as mold and mildew control around the home or to control microbial levels in swimming pools and hot tubs.
Petroleum products – used to explore, produce and process petroleum and natural gas. Caustic soda removes objectionable smells from these materials that result from the presence of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and mercaptans.
Aluminum production – used to dissolve bauxite ore, the raw material for aluminum production.
Chemical processing – used as a basic feedstock for a wide range of downstream products, including solvents, plastics, fabrics, adhesives, coatings, herbicides, dyes, inks, pharmaceuticals, etc.
Other small applications for caustic soda include water treatment, cleaners for beverage bottles, cleaning products such as drain and pipe cleaners, oven cleaner and other household cleaning products and home soap making.