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Lime vs. Lye — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on August 17, 2023
Lime refers to calcium-based compounds, commonly used in agriculture and construction. Lye is sodium or potassium hydroxide, primarily used in soap making and food preparation.
Lime vs. Lye — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Lime and Lye


Key Differences

Lime, also known as calcium carbonate, is a naturally occurring substance predominantly used in construction and agriculture. On the other hand, lye is a caustic alkaline substance, formally known as sodium hydroxide, widely used in soap-making, food preparation, and various industrial processes.
Lime is composed of calcium, carbon, and oxygen atoms arranged in a particular crystalline structure. Lye, conversely, is a compound made up of sodium, oxygen, and hydrogen, known for its strong alkaline properties.
Lye is extremely corrosive and can cause serious burns or even blindness if it comes into contact with the skin or eyes. Lime, although less immediately dangerous, can still cause irritation and discomfort, especially in powdered form when inhaled or contacted with the skin.
Lime, due to its pH-regulating properties, is used in agriculture to treat acidic soils. Lye, with its strong base property, is used for saponification - the process of making soap, curing certain foods, and various cleaning applications.

Comparison Chart


A calcium-containing inorganic mineral
A metal hydroxide traditionally obtained by leaching ashes

Chemical Composition

Calcium carbonate or calcium oxide
Sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide


Natural substance
Chemical substance


Agriculture, building materials, cooking (lime juice), beverage flavoring
Soap making, cleaning, food preparation (such as in pretzel making)


Generally safe, but excessive amounts in diet can have side effects
Can be highly caustic and dangerous if not handled properly

Physical State

Solid (can be turned into slurry when water added)
Solid (usually in form of white pellets or flakes)

Effect on pH

Increases pH (makes a solution more basic)
Increases pH (makes a solution more basic)

Solubility in Water

Low to moderate

Main Hazards

Skin and eye irritation from dust
Severe skin burns, eye damage, inhalation can cause respiratory problems

Compare with Definitions


A type of calcium-containing inorganic material often used in building and industrial processes.
The old cathedral was built using lime and stone, giving it a unique texture and color.


A strong alkaline solution, often sodium hydroxide, used in soap making.
She cautiously added lye into the mixture, mindful of its caustic nature in the soap-making process.


A term in British English for a linden tree or its wood.
We sought shade under the large lime on a hot summer's day.


A component in some hair relaxers used to alter the hair's texture.
Carefully applying the lye, she changed her hair from tightly coiled to straight.


A green, citrus fruit known for its acidic juice.
She squeezed a fresh lime into her water to add a refreshing citrus flavor.


A key ingredient in certain types of homemade soap for its saponification properties.
He gently stirred the lye into the oil, taking the first step in his homemade soap project.


Any of several evergreen trees or shrubs of the genus Citrus having edible green or greenish-yellow fruit, especially the Mexican lime and the Persian lime.


Obsolete spelling of lie.


A tropical evergreen tree that produces the lime fruit.
The lime trees in our backyard give us a constant supply of limes during the summer months.


A lye is a metal hydroxide traditionally obtained by leaching wood ashes, or a strong alkali which is highly soluble in water producing caustic basic solutions. "Lye" most commonly refers to sodium hydroxide (NaOH), but historically has been used for potassium hydroxide (KOH).


A rounded citrus fruit similar to a lemon but greener, smaller, and with a distinctive acid flavour.
Wedges of lime
Lime juice
Roughly chop two limes


A substance historically used in food preparation to enhance certain flavors and textures.
She used a touch of lye to give the pretzels their traditional taste and texture.


Catch (a bird) with birdlime.
The bird that hath been limed in a bush.


A chemical compound used in paper production to break down wood fibers.
The lye solution effectively broke down the wood fibers, accelerating the paper-making process.


To treat with lime.


A chemical agent used in textile industries to process and treat fabrics.
They soaked the fabric in a lye solution to prepare it for the dyeing process.


To entangle; to insnare.
We had limed ourselves with open eyes, and we must take the chance.


A caustic substance used in certain industrial processes, such as metal cleaning.
He used lye to clean the machine parts, removing the stubborn grime and rust.


A white caustic alkaline substance consisting of calcium oxide, which is obtained by heating limestone and which combines with water with the production of much heat; quicklime.


A strongly alkaline solution, especially of potassium hydroxide, used for washing or cleansing.




An alkaline liquid made by leaching ashes (usually wood ashes).


Containing lime or lime juice.


A short side line, connected with the main line; a turn-out; a siding.


An informal social gathering characterized by semi-ritualized talking.


To treat with lye.


Sit or stand around talking with others.
Boys and girls were liming along the roadside as if they didn't have anything to do.


A strong caustic alkaline solution of potassium salts, obtained by leaching wood ashes. It is much used in making soap, etc.


To hang out/socialize in an informal, relaxed environment, especially with friends, for example at a party or on the beach.


Sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, or a concentrated aqueous solution of either compound.


Having the aroma or flavor of lime.


A falsehood.


A thong by which a dog is led; a leash.


A strong solution of sodium or potassium hydroxide.


The linden tree.


A cleaning agent used for various purposes, including unclogging drains.
After fruitless plunging, he finally resorted to lye to unblock the stubborn drain.


To cement.


A basic compound often used in chemical experiments and teaching.
In chemistry class, we used lye to demonstrate a base's reaction with acids.


A caustic substance produced by heating limestone.


A substance used in the process of biodiesel production to act as a catalyst.
The addition of lye in the process sped up the transformation of vegetable oil into biodiesel.


A white crystalline oxide used in the production of calcium hydroxide.


A sticky adhesive that is smeared on small branches to capture small birds.


Any of various related trees bearing limes.


Any of various deciduous trees of the genus Tilia with heart-shaped leaves and drooping cymose clusters of yellowish often fragrant flowers; several yield valuable timber.


The green acidic fruit of any of various lime trees.


Spread birdlime on branches to catch birds.


Cover with lime so as to induce growth.
Lime the lawn.


A bright shade of green, similar to that of the lime fruit.
He painted his room lime to bring a sense of freshness and vibrancy.


The evergreen citrus tree which produces limes, widely cultivated in warm climates.


A bright light green colour like that of a lime.
A lime-green shirt


A deciduous tree with heart-shaped leaves and fragrant yellowish blossom, native to north temperate regions. The pale timber is used for carving and inexpensive furniture.


Treat (soil or water) with lime to reduce acidity and improve fertility or oxygen levels.
They were liming acidified lakes.


The fruit of any of these plants, having a pulpy interior and usually acid juice.


Any of various mineral and industrial forms of calcium oxide differing chiefly in water content and percentage of constituents such as magnesia, silica, alumina, and iron.


To smear with birdlime.


To catch or snare with or as if with birdlime.


(chemistry) Any inorganic material containing calcium, usually calcium oxide (quicklime) or calcium hydroxide (slaked lime).


(poetic) Any gluey or adhesive substance; something which traps or captures someone; sometimes a synonym for birdlime.


(theatre) A spotlight.


A deciduous tree of the genus Tilia, especially Tilia × europaea; the linden tree.


Any of several green citrus fruit, somewhat smaller and sharper-tasting than a lemon.


Any of the trees that bear limes, especially Key lime, Citrus aurantiifolia.


(uncountable) A brilliant, sometimes yellowish, green colour associated with the fruits of a lime tree.


A casual gathering to socialize.


(transitive) To treat with calcium hydroxide or calcium oxide (lime).


(transitive) To smear with birdlime.


(rare) To ensnare, catch, entrap.


(transitive) To apply limewash.




The fruit of the Citrus aurantifolia, allied to the lemon, but greener in color; also, the tree which bears it.


The color of the lime, a yellowish-green.


Oxide of calcium, CaO; the white or gray, caustic substance, usually called quicklime, obtained by calcining limestone or shells, the heat driving off carbon dioxide and leaving lime. It develops great heat when treated with water, forming slaked lime, and is an essential ingredient of cement, plastering, mortar, etc.


To smear with a viscous substance, as birdlime.
These twigs, in time, will come to be limed.


To treat with lime, or oxide or hydrate of calcium; to manure with lime; as, to lime hides for removing the hair; to lime sails in order to whiten them; to lime the lawn to decrease acidity of the soil.
Land may be improved by draining, marling, and liming.


Having a yellowish-green color like that of the lime (the fruit).

Common Curiosities

Is Lime water the same as lye water?

No, lime water and lye water are not the same. Lime water is a dilute solution of calcium hydroxide, while lye water refers to a solution of sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide.

Is lye harmful to humans?

Yes, lye is harmful to humans. Its highly corrosive nature can cause burns, and, if ingested or inhaled, can lead to serious internal injuries or death.

Is chuna hydrated lime?

Yes, chuna is another name for hydrated lime or calcium hydroxide.

Is lye used in cement?

While not typically a primary ingredient, lye or sodium hydroxide can be used in some cement and concrete mixtures to alter certain properties, such as setting time.

Is lye in baking soda?

No, lye is not in baking soda. Lye is sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, while baking soda is sodium bicarbonate.

Can we drink lime water?

Lime water referring to water infused with lime fruit, is safe to drink and is often consumed for its refreshing flavor and potential health benefits. However, lime water in the context of a calcium hydroxide solution is not safe to drink as it's used in construction and industrial applications.

What is the source of lime?

The primary source of lime is limestone, a sedimentary rock composed mainly of skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral and shells.

What is lye water called?

Lye water is often referred to as a caustic solution or alkaline solution. The specific name depends on the type of lye: a solution of sodium hydroxide is sometimes called soda lye, while a solution of potassium hydroxide can be called potash lye.

Is lye a good fertilizer?

No, lye is not a good fertilizer. Its highly alkaline nature can harm plants and disrupt soil biology.

What are 5 uses for lime?

Uses for lime include soil amendment in agriculture, pH adjustment in water treatment, ingredient in construction materials like mortar and plaster, ingredient in industrial processes such as steel manufacturing, and in food preparation as a pH regulator.

What is the main ingredient of lime concrete?

The main ingredient of lime concrete is lime, often in the form of hydrated lime or quicklime. Other ingredients include sand and water.

What chemicals make lime?

Lime, or calcium oxide, is produced from limestone, or calcium carbonate, through a process called calcination, which involves heating the limestone at high temperatures in a lime kiln.

What is lime used for?

Lime is used in various applications, including construction, agriculture, water treatment, and industrial manufacturing processes. In construction, it's used in mortar and plaster. In agriculture, it's used to neutralize acidic soil. In water treatment, it aids in purification and pH regulation.

What is the pH of lye?

Lye is highly alkaline, with a pH value typically above 13.

Is lye a chlorine?

No, lye is not chlorine. It is an alkaline substance composed of either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide.

What foods contain lye?

Lye is used to prepare certain foods, including pretzels, lye rolls, and some types of mooncakes. In these applications, it contributes to the browning effect and unique flavor of these foods.

Is lime acidic or basic?

Lime, in the form of calcium oxide or calcium hydroxide, is basic or alkaline.

Is lime plaster strong?

While lime plaster is not as strong or hard as cement plaster, it is flexible and less prone to cracking. It is also breathable, allowing moisture to escape from the structure.

Is lye or lime in concrete?

Both lye and lime can be present in concrete. Lime (calcium hydroxide) is a key ingredient in cement manufacture, which is used in concrete. Lye (sodium hydroxide), while not a traditional ingredient, can sometimes be used in certain concrete mixtures.

What is lye used for in farming?

In farming, lye is used for making soap and detergents that are useful in cleaning farm equipment and structures. However, it is not typically used directly on plants or soil due to its high pH and corrosiveness.

Does lime make cement stronger?

Lime doesn't necessarily make cement stronger, but it helps make it more workable and pliable. Lime increases cement's plasticity and makes it easier to spread and work with.

Which is stronger cement or lime?

Cement is stronger than lime. Lime is often used in conjunction with cement for its workability and plasticity but it's the cement that provides strength and durability to the construction.

Why do farmers use lime?

Farmers use lime to correct acidic soil conditions. Lime neutralizes acidity, improving soil health and nutrient availability, which enhances crop yield.

How is lye made?

Lye is traditionally made through the process of leaching wood ashes with water to produce a strong alkali solution. Commercially, it is produced by electrolysis of sodium chloride solution.

Is lye an acid or base?

Lye, which is either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, is a base.

What is the best substitute for lye?

Baking soda is often considered the best substitute for lye in many applications, especially in cooking, due to its alkaline properties, although it is less potent.

What is the real name for lye?

The chemical name for lye is either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, depending on its composition.

Is glycerin the same as lye?

No, glycerin and lye are not the same. Glycerin is a natural by-product of the soap-making process, which involves the reaction between lye and fats or oils.

Is lye all natural?

Yes, lye can be considered all-natural, especially when it is produced by leaching water through wood ashes. However, most commercially available lye is produced synthetically.

Is pure lye toxic?

Yes, pure lye is highly toxic and corrosive. It can cause burns on the skin and eyes, and if ingested or inhaled, can cause severe internal injuries.

What is lye in skincare?

In skin care, lye or sodium hydroxide is used in the saponification process to turn oils into soap. It's also used as a pH adjuster in a variety of skincare products.

What is pure lye made of?

Pure lye is composed of either sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide.

What is the main chemical in lye?

The main chemical in lye is either sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or potassium hydroxide (KOH).

Why is it called lye?

The term "lye" comes from an old English word, "leag," which means to lie or lay down. This could possibly refer to the traditional process of making lye by leaching or laying down water through wood ashes.

What are other names for lye?

Other names for lye include caustic soda (for sodium hydroxide) and caustic potash (for potassium hydroxide).

What is the pH of lime water?

The pH of lime water (a dilute solution of calcium hydroxide) is typically between 12 and 13, which means it is alkaline.

How many limes a day is safe?

While there's no set number of limes a person should consume daily, a balanced diet suggests one to two servings of citrus fruits per day.

Is lime water good for kidneys?

Drinking lime-infused water may benefit kidney health as citrate in lime can help prevent the formation of kidney stones.

Does lime increase pH?

Yes, adding lime to soil increases the pH, making it more alkaline. This is often done in agriculture to correct acidic soil conditions.

What is the ratio of lime to clay in cement?

The ratio of lime to clay in cement is typically around 2:1. This can vary depending on the specific type of cement being produced.

Is limestone stronger than concrete?

No, concrete is generally stronger and more durable than limestone. Limestone is often used as a raw material in the production of cement, which is a key component of concrete.

Why lime is used in construction?

Lime is used in construction for its beneficial properties, such as flexibility, breathability, and self-healing capability. It is used in mortar, plaster, and some types of concrete.

Which lime is best for construction?

Hydrated lime, also known as slaked lime or calcium hydroxide, is commonly used in construction due to its workability, plasticity, and compatibility with other building materials.

Is lime a raw material of cement?

Yes, lime, in the form of limestone, is a major raw material in the production of cement.

Does lime harden concrete?

Adding lime to concrete can increase its workability and make it easier to place. Over time, lime in concrete reacts with carbon dioxide in the air to harden and become more durable.

Does lime weaken cement?

No, lime does not weaken cement. It can be added to cement mixes to improve workability and plasticity. However, adding too much lime can reduce the overall strength of the cement.

Is chuna lime water?

Yes, chuna is another name for lime, specifically calcium hydroxide. When it is dissolved in water, it is often referred to as lime water.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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