Lye in the concentrations used in a hot tank will fully dissolve a human body in a matter of hours, not something you want to mess around with. I lost a layer of skin and my finger nails after a few minutes of contact due to a hole in a pair of rubber gloves. I’ve spent a lot of time around hot tanks, and I fully understand why they are not as common now.Sodium hydroxide is environmentally safe, easily neutralized and very commonly naturally occurring.
You can clean aluminum with lye, but it’ll become toxic and a hazardous waste to dispose of, and you can only use it for seconds/minutes before it starts to dissolve the aluminum. Another reason it’s not used as often as it once was.
Lye/sodium hydroxide is a great cleaner. Safe and environmentally friendly (after cleaning engine parts) it is not.