I know that the best source of lye is hardwood. A brief search tells me that Bamboo is considered a hardwood of the monocotyledon variety. I've done a lot of searching to find this answer, but I can't seem to find if I can use the same process with bamboo ash as I would with, say, Apple ash, to extract lye.

My question is two-fold:

1) Is it possible to extract lye from bamboo ash?

and if so,

2) Would this lye be a quality lye, capable of being used to create bar soap?


2 Answers 2


Yes, it's possible but as pointed out in Bamboo: an overlooked biomass resource? Biomass and Bioenergy, Vol. 19, pages 229-244:

[bamboo] shares a number of desirable fuel characteristics with certain other bioenergy feedstocks, such as low ash content and alkali index

Potassium oxides are between 33-50% of the ash depending upon species and age of the plant.

Potassium oxides were between 0.16-0.58% of dry matter.

Sodium oxides were about a factor of 100 lower.


I know that the best source of lye is hardwood.

Is that really so?

In THE SODIUM, POTASSIUM AND PHOSPHORUS CONTENTS OF TREE SPECIES GROWN IN CLOSE STANDS, published in New Phytologist, 1958, 57(3), 273–284 (DOI), J. D. Ovington and H. A. I. Madgwick state:

[...] In nearly all cases, conifers contain greater weights of sodium, potassium and phosphorus than hardwoods of the same age grown under similar conditions. [...]

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This still doesn't answer the question. Perhaps I could rephrase it to what would be the best source of natural lye? The caveats being it needs to be easily and quickly grown in a contained space (such as an in-door greenhouse with no natural lighting). It should also be capable of being used for heat, thus not burning too quickly. $\endgroup$ May 6, 2014 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not going to pretend to be an arborial (arboral?) expert by any means, but while it refers to averages of certain elements, do those necessarily directly correspond to 1. purity of sodium hydroxide formed in the ash and 2. The ease of extracting said sodium hydroxide (possibly chemically bound or reacted to other compounds during the asking process)? I skimmed thru the paper and saw nothing in it that addressed these points. Again tho, not my field. $\endgroup$
    – Broklynite
    Jun 3, 2016 at 11:23
  • $\begingroup$ The answer above is more like a comment $\endgroup$
    – Technetium
    Aug 3, 2016 at 4:23

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