A process for extracting sodium by the electrolysis of molten sodium chloride. The Downs cell has a central graphite anode surrounded by a cylindrical steel cathode. Chlorine released is led away through a hood over the anode. Molten sodium is formed at the cathode and collected through another hood around the top of the cathode cylinder (it is less dense than the sodium chloride). The two hoods and electrodes are separated by a coaxial cylindrical steel gauze. A small amount of calcium chloride is added to the sodium chloride to lower its melting point. The sodium chloride is melted electrically and kept molten by the current through the cell. More sodium chloride is added as the electrolysis proceeds.