The solution is an inexpensive filter mask. These are not painters masks! These are not dust masks! You can not easily find them in stores, if at all.
Tikvah's masks are government rated for lye fumes. Both sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and potassium hydroxide (KOH). These are industrial masks designed for professionals. Most particle masks will not filter for lye. [Note: The technical data that comes with the masks does not specify lye (though it is listed in their respirator selection software) but I spoke with the manufacturer's technical support staff who assured me that this is the correct mask to get for filtering both NaOH and KOH fumes.]
Test run: I usually cough and wheeze around lye fumes. Lye isn't toxic but it is extremely basic and caustic. The fumes are irritants. I mix my lye water outdoors but this didn't reduce the fumes enough for me. I tried holding my breath and that didn't work either. I wore my respirator mask and that works but it's not a solution because it's big and bulky and interfered with my vision.
So I tried one of the soapmaker's masks. Success!! I could breathe normally even while bent over to mix the lye water. No coughing, no asthma, no problems. The mask was comfortable and stayed put on my face. It didn't obscure my vision or get in my way. I wore it while mixing the lye and while bringing the soap to trace.
Tikvah's soapmaker's masks last for several hours of intense filtering. You can use and reuse them for many batches of soap. The manufacturer tells me the masks will survive minor lye splashes, though you should remove the mask and clean off the lye if you get splashed.
So if these masks are good, wouldn't a true respirator mask be better? Actually, no. The respirators have their place but they're overkill here. Not only are they much more expensive but they are less comfortable, bigger and bulkier. I love them for other uses but if I'm bending down over a bowl of lye water or a pot of soap, I find they get in my way and obscure my vision a bit. I think you could still use them safely but why bother when the soapmaker's masks do the job just as well?
Tikvah's soapmaker's masks are not suitable for filtering fragrance oils, perfumes, and volatile organic chemicals. [Note: Use our respirator mask for complete filtration. Or ask us about carbon-lined particle masks. We don't have them in stock but we will get them if there is enough demand. These help with volatile chemicals but will not filter lye fumes].
Tikvah's soapmaker's mask is made by 3M. It contains mostly polyester, polypropylene, and thermoplastic elastomer. This mask contains no components made from natural rubber latex. Your mask(s) will be packaged in a plastic zipper bag, along with a safety sheet, and mailed in a padded envelope. The masks will likely bend in the mail but will not be damaged. If you prefer alternative packing, just let us know.
Two sizes available: regular and small. My bone structure is average for a woman but on the small side. I find the regular too big and the small fits just right. But I've tested the regular and it did work without any leakage.
Don't forget to indicate your size!
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Tikvah - 735 Gossage Avenue, Petaluma, CA 94952. 707-775-4475 (10am-8pm PDT only) - firstname.lastname@example.org