Important Homesteading No No: Frightening Adventures with Hydrated Lime

Hydrated Lime can be very useful around the homestead. Food preparation and preservation has involved lime for centuries. However, as with all things, too much of it can be a bad thing. It can be quite the health hazard when used for other purposes.

What is Hydrated Lime?

Hydrated Lime, aka Calcium Hydroxide, is an inorganic substance. It is used to preserve and prepare certain foods. that is used in. The most common place to find it is in pickles, hence the common name of pickling lime. Consequently, it has lots of uses on a homestead. Even preserving eggs!

Given the amount of food we do, and plan on, growing on the homestead it only made sense for us to get a decent supply of this resource. So last spring we purchased a 50 lb bag of food grade lime. Last year our plans got thrown off so our bag of lime sat unopened in the basement this whole time.

Sweet memory pickles ready to eat.
Sweet memory pickles ready to eat.

If we had done a bit more research we probably would have done things a little differently. It turns out Calcium Hydroxide also has the name of caustic lime and has numerous side effects. Wikipedia sums up these effects: “Unprotected exposure to Ca(OH)2 can cause severe skin irritation, chemical burns, blindness, lung damage or rashes.”

What not to do with Hydrated Lime

At this point, I do not recommend leaving a 50 lb bag of lime, unopened or otherwise, anywhere in a house. If you do put it somewhere where little hands can not find it! We learned the hard way….

A little over a week ago Sarah and I had a zoom call we needed to be on in the evening. We set the children up with some entertainment on their tablets and settled in for our call. At some point the children got bored of their tablets and decided to play instead. Not a big deal, their play migrated down into the basement. The children playing in the basement was common enough, they have some toys down there and we knew where they were. We continued on our call unconcerned.

A short while later the children start crying and screaming and running up the stairs. Also, not an uncommon occurrence. When they emerged, they were covered in white powder and screaming that they had gotten it our sons eye. The basement also contains our storage for flour. The children have been know to play in flour. As we asked for details the story came out though. They had been playing in the lime…. They had been throwing it all over the place… Some was in our sons eye….

Everyone is alright

Over the course of the next panicked hour we held down a panicked screaming toddler to rinse his eye out as thoroughly as we could. Both children were given multiple baths. We called poison control to get advice, and ultimately ended up in the emergency room.

Thankfully, no serious or lasting damage was done. Both children have some mild skin irritation in various places but that will heal. The basement is now a no child zone. We learned a valuable lesson and are very grateful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.