Are you a safe maker? I know. It isn’t pretty, it doesn’t smell good and we would rather spend money on more exciting things.
Still, we need to take a step back and review our processes once in a while to ensure that we are doing what we can to avoid incidents and injuries that can occur when we do not properly protect our environment or ourselves. We never want to spill or make mistakes, but they do happen. Decide now how to avoid incidents and how to best handle various ingredients.
Let’s begin with avoiding accidents.
- Take the time necessary to make it right. A great number of accidents occur because the maker is in a hurry. It is good to be efficient and to streamline processes. Rushing is not.
- Prepare surfaces to avoid damage. Cover surfaces when necessary. If you spill lye water on a wood floor, for example, it will damage the floor, so put a tarp down to catch possible lye spills.
- Handling lye – Lye is not only caustic, but it throws off caustic. It also etches glass, which can then shatter. A container with a #5 recycling code (polyethylene) is much safer. Cover skin. Wear chemical resistant gloves and inspect them beforehand. Wear proper chemical-resistant goggles that do not allow lye to reach the eyes. Long sleeves, slacks and shoes and socks keep splatters from touching the skin. Another tip is to mix lye with ice or use an ice bath. It helps tame those lye fumes.
Limit walking with lye water or caustic soap. Remove possible tripping hazards before you begin.
- Stick Blender – The blades on those rascals are incredibly sharp! To avoid cutting your fingers off, unplug the device immediately after you finish. Also, use a small bottle brush or tooth brush to clean the blade area, not fingers.
- Powders – Powdered ingredients, such as herbs, syndets and lye pose a hazard as the powder can be inhaled while handling the product. Wear a good mask with the proper particle filter while working with them. Wear gloves, as well, to limit exposure.
- Essential or Fragrance Oils – Strictly observe given usage rates; wear gloves and a mask that blocks fumes while handling them. Store properly and in a place they will not easily be knocked over. The IFRA is a good source for essential oil usage rates.
- Carrier Oils – No, carrier oils are not harmful to skin unless the user is allergic to them, but they are a slipping hazard if spilled. Clay cat litter will absorb most of the oil so you can scoop it up and dispose of it. Once the oil is removed, clean the area right away. Dishwashing liquid works well. Finally, wipe the area down with white vinegar or isopropyl alcohol.
- Preservatives – They are meant as a small percentage of a finished product, not to touch skin without dilution. Wear gloves while handling them.
Chandlers, you are not in the clear! Heat is the greatest danger where wax is concerned. Prepare the manufacturing space properly to protect from wax and take great care in handling hot wax. Never leave heating wax unattended. Wear gloves to handle scent and color.
For all ingredients: SDS (safety data sheets) are important tools. They describe how to use products correctly and how to clean up after a spill. Do not ignore them and do not throw them away. Even as a hobbyist, keep them in a notebook to refer to when necessary. Learn how to read them. To the uninformed, they make water look dangerous, so it is important to understand what they are for and how to interpret the information accurately. It is also important to make sure you can handle the material safely if a spill occurs.
What if a spill occurs?
If you prepared, you can quickly consult the SDS sheet and take proper measures to contain and clean the spill. Make sure you have on hand towels, paper towels, a water source, clay kitty litter and other materials to clean up. Adequate preparation means damage will be minimal.
No one plans to have an accident, but the likelihood of its happening to a hobbyist or a business person is too great to ignore. Take measures now to protect yourself and avoid the possibility of something happening. Then, take steps to handle occurrences to keep a mishap from turning into something much more serious.
May your days be filled with bubbles and wax.
Beth Byrne for Making Soap, Cosmetics & Candles Magazine