Lye is an alkaline solution that's used for cleaning. If you were a maid about 200 years ago, you probably cleaned the chamber pots with lye.

Lye is an old cleaning product and an old word too. It comes from the Old English léag, which is related to the root for "wash" in our word lather. Lye is still used to make soap, but you probably won't come across the word except in old novels. If you become a historical re-enactor, say goodbye to body wash and hello to lye.

Definitions of lye
  1. noun
    a strong solution of sodium or potassium hydroxide
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    caustic potash, potash, potassium hydroxide
    a potassium compound often used in agriculture and industry
    caustic soda, sodium hydroxide
    a strongly alkaline caustic used in manufacturing soap and paper and aluminum and various sodium compounds
    type of:
    any chemical substance that burns or destroys living tissue
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