Caustic Caution !

by Peter Mathews

More beekeepers are becoming aware of health issues with their bees. And, more of us are taking precautions which we didn't bother with in the past. One of these little rituals is washing equipment in a solution of Washing Soda. You may have noticed that after a visit from your local bee inspector, he will wash his hive tool and anything else he has been using.  This will sterilize his equipment and avoid passing on possible infection to the next beekeeper on his round.

I have noticed several people in conversation confusing Washing Soda with Caustic Soda. The two are quite different!

Washing Soda ( Sodium Carbonate) was used for removing temporary hardness in water. I remember it being used for washing up the dishes in the days before detergent based washing-up liquid or rubber gloves. In other words, it is not too harmful to the skin although it will remove protective oils and lead to dryness.

Caustic Soda (Sodium Hydroxide) is used for cleaning drains, stripping paint etc. It will also remove the enamel on your posh French saucepans. And, it is very good at removing the skin from your hands! Caustic burns are very deep and usually infected. They require medical attention.

Be warned - Do not use Caustic Soda for cleaning your beekeeping equipment !!!!

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