Where to buy food-grade lye for German Laugenbrezeln


Does anyone know where to by food-grade lye either as a poweder or liquid?  I would like to make German Laugenbrezeln and lye is the essential ingredients.  I'm in Melbourne.

218 users have voted.


makebread 2010 March 22

Thank you for the link wforrest_s, however, the company is in US and shipps only to US and Canada (I'm in Melbourne - Australia).

pansyflower 2010 March 22

I bought a bottle to make sour dough pretzels from an asia supermarket  almost on the corner of Nicholson St and Victoria St  Abbotsford

makebread 2010 March 25

Thanks pansyflower, I'll check asian supermarkets.  

Any info on the bottle about percentage/strength of the lye?  Or what is it used for?

How did your precels turn out?

pansyflower 2010 March 25


They turned out great I got the recipe from my first sour dough book it is  called Breads from the La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton it is a great book .It is still available in Australia or you could buy it from Amazon it even has recipes for using up excess starter eg sourbough pancakes my partner made they when he was alive also my starter recipe came from this book and it is now fourteen years old There are no instructions on the bottle but I use 15mls to1.25 lt but you have to ware long rubber glove and goggles as it is caustic

makebread 2010 July 20

Hi pansyflower,

I've found a bottle of LYE WATER in an Asian supermarket.  I've made bretzeln, dipped them in a bit stronger solution than you did, but they didn't have the look or taste of German bretzeln.  Just nice bretzel shaped bread.

The lye I bought is potassium carbonate.  The lye for German bretzeln should be made of sodium hydroxide.  I've found a few sources in Perth and Tasmania, but as a "dangerous" chemical, it can't be shipped, not even in small amounts.  So I'll keep searching for it in Melbourne.

Martin Krause 2012 July 20

 Dear Bill,

Essential depot are an US company and do not deliver anywhere outside of the US. Does anyone know a food grade lye provider in Australia?


Bill_the_Baker 2011 August 19

                                                                                     hey everyone, back once again with yet another update!  Essential Depot is giving out the discount code "EDPC10"  worth a 10% discount on your total order cost - including shipping and handling!

Bill_the_Baker 2011 August 25

Well, just a few days ago i came across this recipe for these really tasty pretzels, (and yes, they are mighty tasty) and as much as i would lke to share the finished product with you guys i cant, but ill share the next best thing, the recipe.. so here it is ....ENJOY!


2 envelopes dry yeast
1 qt. milk, 2% is fine
1/2 c. warm water
3/4 c. shortening (I mix lard & butter & flavored Crisco)
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
12 c. all-purpose flour, unsifted
1 1/2 tbsp. salt
Coarse salt to sprinkle


2 level tbsp. lye
2 quarts. cold water

Soften yeast in 1/2 cup water. Scald milk. Stir in shortening. Cool . Add yeast with 6 cups flour. Beat, vigorously. Cover, sit in warm place until risen , this takes just about 30 minutes.

Add remaining flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix until well blended. Turn out on smooth surface. Cover with moist towel 3 minutes. Knead until elastic. Put in big kettle. Cover with towel.  Put in warm place and Let rise until it has doubled in size, usually takes  1 1/2 hours. Punch dough down and let stand for 10 minutes. Cut into quarters then Cut quarters into 12 pieces. Cover with towel. Roll each piece into long strip for twisting. Place on stainless steel baking sheet, then put one at a time, pretzels on slotted, stainless steel lifter, dip very briefly in lye, usually a 3-5 second bath, drain on lifter and place back on sheet. As soon as cookie sheet is full, sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake in 400 degree oven until brown, about 15 minutes. Place on dry towel to cool. Cover twisted pretzels with towel until half raised.

IMPORTANT: Lye creates a volotile reaction with aluminum! aluminum sheets or dipping tool CANNOT BE USED. Also, I spray sheets with Pam, so there is no sticking.


mshafran's picture
mshafran 2012 October 9

Hi everyone. I still don't think the original question has been answered. Does anyone know where you can source food-grade lye that CAN BE SHIPPED TO AUSTRALIA? I'm baking bagels the old-fashioned way and want to give it a go.


muzz 2015 December 14
Go to the cleaning section of IGA, Coles etc...etc and get 'Diggers' brand of Caustic Soda 99% I use it on pretzels and burger buns. Mix 15grs of Caustic Soda with 100mls cold water. Always mix in a plastic container and spray onto buns using plastic spray bottle. The mixture will get warm when mixing. Not a pleasant smell but worth the effort.
Graham's picture
Graham 2012 October 12

I recently conducted some research for a potential client that wanted to make pretzels. In regards to lye, no supplier I contacted was prepared to sell sodium hydroxide as 'food grade'. My advice to my potential client was to have several styles of sodium hydroxide tested for impurities at a food lab. Ideally both the sodium hydroxide and the finished pretzel would be tested.

Unfortunately the tests did not proceed due to various OHS reasons. However I am happy to get the testing done for the Sourdough Companion forum if someone has $ for this type of thing. Impurity testing would probably cost around $250 per product, depending on what we are looking for.

After many phone calls, one product stood out as having the most potential (in Australia) for pretzel making...would suggest testing this one first. It does appear that it can be shipped btw, within Australia and with an appropriate carrier. Graham

RAQUELPA21 2014 August 20

For those who are looking for lye water, go to Springvale, one of the store opposite the butcher shop sell the lye water. Pls show a picture of the lye water bottle because when I asked they told me that they don't sell it and I decided to show the picture and they easily understand what I'm talking about. Good luck! 

onlycookie 2014 September 4

Baking soda produces a mild lye when just mixed with water.
However, if you heat the lye mix, the effect will become stronger.
I have used this successfully, using the appropriate protective gear:
Protective glasses, stainless steel and plastic tools and pots,an
 apron and houshold gloves (underarm) plus old clothing, as well as making sure there is as little
spill as possible (I am a lab-scientist, I have seen photos of lye skin damage, not pretty).
The problem with lye is - I was told -  that it often does not hurt to start with, but the next day it may be raw flesh.
The amount was about 4 Tbsp per 1.5 L of water.
I let it simmer and carefully placed the bakeware into the lye. Let it boil for 10-20 seconds, then
turned it upside down, another 10-20 seconds and then placed it on the baking paper.
(I used a fresh sheet on a baking tray onto which I transferred the items, non-stick bakeware
is not happy about the caustic stuff being baked in btw).
You could see the stains on the baking paper after baking where I spilled a little.
It helped that the individual items were frozen. I got this hint from a webpage, they said it helps
with the handling and also allows the yeast to keep rising a little bit whilst in the oven, so they don't collapse.However,
I have stopped making Pretzels and stick to lye rolls - the rolling, shaping and fiddling is just too annoying
and the bread rolls, baguettes and sticks are just as yummy.
The freezing also allows you to prepare a batch and then take them out when you want to bake them.


If you bake the baking soda in the oven just above 50 degrees, it will disintegrate to
sodium carbonate, which is even stronger.


Sodium carbonate is highly caustic compared to baking soda.
A 50 g solution in 1 L apparently has a pH of 11.5 (not sure how much of this you understand,
but make sure you do your homework understanding the safety precautions)
I would not heat that personally any more.
It is in the same league as sodium hydroxide. Don't mess with it.

Howevver, you will (probably) not get 100 % sodium carbonate by heating baking soda,
so I would go with heated baking soda dissolved in water.Then you
know what you have in there exactly - at least to start with. You can try measuring the pH though, if you are keen.
(I would assume the boiling drives the equilibrium to less hydrogen carbonate (baking soda)and
you are actually getting sodium carbonate in the water dissolved - releasing CO2 and increasing the pH to stronger lye).

If you notice a spill on your skin - anywhere - WASH immediately - if eye contact
occurs rinse with tap water for 15 min and see doctor if anything comes up (redness,
pain, etc). If you have spills on your clothing, change clothing and wash immediately,
if lucky it may not fall apart.

The caustic reaction in the dough surface is what makes Bretzeln and Laugenbackwaren (Pretzels
and Lye bake ware) special. It also is the step you want to be careful with.

It is your responsibility to keep yourself safe, it may sound exaggerated, but honestly - this is better
safe than sorry territory! (You should be all fine, if you keep the dog, the kids and your skin and eyes etc out though).

You can use the cooled down lye to clean your drains if you like (if they are fine for caustic cleaning).
Just rinse with lots of water!
Otherwise keep it for next time, but safe, sound and well labeled preferably in a non-breakable well sealing bottle.
Good luck and enjoy your fantastic homemade pretzels!

(For those who would like chinese lye water - kansui - you can buy potash or pearl ash (pottassium carbonate) as a leavening agent similar to baking soda as a powder - making it automatically food grade. If not in Australia, then you could get it sent from overseas. It is used in traditional German Christmas specialties (baked) such as gingerbread.
Do a bit of research on the ratios, but you can mix potash with baking soda (or baked baking soda) and that's pretty
damn close.)

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