The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Food grade lye on airplanes?

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tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Food grade lye on airplanes?

Up here in Alaska, finding food-grade lye is difficult.  I live near the largest city (Anchorage), yet still haven't found a source for it.  I'm planning on flying down to Vancouver over the holidays however and found several places to buy it down there ...which means I'd either have to ship it back (hazmat) or bring it back on the airline.  Alaska Airlines told me it was OK as long as it was in my luggage, in original packaging, and was appropriately labeled.  But they also told me that ACIDS were NOT allowed ...don't they know that a caustic is just as bad but at the alkaline end of the scale?  It's powdered rather than liquid, so maybe that makes a difference to them.  What I'm wondering is, how likely is it that the TSA folks will get their undies in a twist if they find this stuff in my luggage?  I have no idea if it's on the list of substances that bad guys could use to do nefarious things or not ... Does anybody here know?  Has anyone here transported food-grade lye in their luggage before?  Comments?


Brian


PS: I'll be using the stuff for dipping pretzels and bagels, and if they force me to buy several pounds, then I may experiment with making homemade soap as well.


 

proth5's picture
proth5

making any reference to the "security theater" that the TSA seems determined to carry out (oops, I just did...), our friends at the FAA (www.faa.gov) consider drain cleaners (like - lye maybe?) to be hazardous materials that should not be transported on airplanes at all.  You can try the TSA website also (www.tsa.gov).  You might contact either directly. The websites have contact numbers.


The FAA also reminds us that hazardous materials need to be declared and have some pretty hefty fines for not doing it.


The TSA is notoriously coy about their procedures as being too specific will tip off terrorists as to what to expect.


So you can "try" to fly with it undeclared but if it is found (and some powders read like liquids in the scanners used for carry on baggage - learned that the hard way), you could be in for a very hard time.  Or you can declare it and risk that the person you declare it to is enough of a zealot to confiscate it.


I fly pretty much twice a week and refuse to check baggage, so it would never occur to me to do anything but ship a quantity of food grade lye.  Surely of the places that would sell it to you, there is one that will ship the stuff in the proprer manner.  It will be easier all around.


Good luck!


 

brewboy's picture
brewboy

Not sure how much the HAZMAT fee is, but I'd go that route before trying to take it on a plane. As previously mentioned, drain cleaners are not allowed and this would fall into the same category. Without going into a lot detail, someone else could be carrying on another chemical that when mixed, could produce a small explosion. 


It sucks that we have to be so limited these days, but it is for a good reason. 

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

I looked into it and it appears that buying it locally (Portland, Oregon) and then shipping it myself is the cheapest deal for shipping it to Alaska.  Our trip has us flying to San Diego after Portland/Vancouver, then up to Edmonton, Alberta, then back to Alaska.  I think that especially because of the international portion of the travel that I should just plan on shipping it home rather than carrying it in luggage even though Alaska Airlines does know it's the same as drain cleaner and they said it was OK (because it's powdered, not liquid).  I'd rather take the safe route.  Hence this post I guess!


 


Brian


 

proth5's picture
proth5

I'm pretty careful about what I carry in my luggage, but I have seen many, many unhappy scenes at the airport with substances that travellers thought were innocent.  The airlines are not the final arbiter of what you can bring on board (and sometimes provide less than accurate information).  The TSA and the FAA are.  They have been empowered to change their minds at any time and especially by flying over the December holiday travel period unexpected things could occur. (Yes, I live in airports and on airplanes...)


May your flights be smooth and all of them on time!

tgnytg's picture
tgnytg

...and you really should consider alternatives.  


A lye solution is just as reactive as a strong acid and can maim and blind you if not handled with absolute safely.  It's effects are much more dangerous when heated!!  It will destroy skin and other body parts on contact.  There are very good reasons why it is considered such a hazardous material.


For me, this is baking, it is not worth taking such extreme risk. Please reconsider whether bread is worth the dangers of using a hot caustic solution.  Do you have kids or pets who may wander through the kitchen?  How will you store the lye powder? How do you plan to dispose of the used lye solution?


I have used a stout baking soda solution to dip bagels and pretzels with great success.  Baking soda is mildly caustic, but just caustic enough, and it is readily obtained.


No, you won't get exactly the same result as lye, but close enough considering the extreme danger of messing with hot caustic.

highmtnpam's picture
highmtnpam

my computer in one of my two suitcases and check my luggage.  TSA always searches my luggage..but no harm no foul.  Try attaching a recipe to your lye.  I seriously doubt that they would do anything but confiscate it if you put it i in your checked luggage.  But, still, I'd send it to myself...


Pam

Bama's picture
Bama

for my soap making and with caution and common sense it can be used safely. It is almost impossible to get here in Alabama because it is used in the cooking of Meth. So I have to get it from behind the counter at the Ace hardware store. Have you tried asking for it? I don't know about food grade lye but it's possible that it has been secured from the meth makers also. I've been making soap for several years with no accidents, but I do secure the area very carefully. I don't wear a mask or gloves but you may want to do that. Good luck finding a source for lye.

tomtakt's picture
tomtakt

I purchased a large container of lye pellets online, about a quart size. It was a large, durable plastic container that was clearly marked exactly what the contents were.


When I went home for Christmas, I put some into a very small glass jar that had once contained capers (only a few ounces). I checked this and it made it just fine across the country (Baltimore to Oakland).


When I moved from Baltimore to Chicago, I placed the remainder in the large plastic container in a checked bag. I got a TSA notice of inspection and the lye was gone, which is super annoying--the last thing I need is another huge quart size container of lye pellets (basically a lifetime's cooking supply). Grrrrr...


So, I would say you could possibly sneak it through in smaller quantities unmarked, but apparently TSA will take the lye if they know what it is.

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Fortunately for me, I found some food grade lye here in Anchorage at the last minute ...at a scientific supply company.  The price, while not cheap, was less than I would have had to pay if I had purchased it and shipped it here myself (w/hazmat fee).  I decided not to mess with luck and the TSA, so I wasn't going to put it on the plane anyway.  The big sign by security clearly stated 'No corrosive materials' ...regardless of what the airlines said.


 


Brian


 

tgnytg's picture
tgnytg

edited