Potassium chloride

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Potassium chloride
Potassium chloride.jpg
Other names
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.028.374 OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
E number E508 (acidity regulators, ...)
PubChem CID
RTECS number
  • TS8050000
  • InChI=1S/ClH.K/h1H;/q;+1/p-1 Yes check.svgY
  • InChI=1/ClH.K/h1H;/q;+1/p-1
  • [Cl-].[K+]
Molar mass 74.555 g·mol−1
Appearancewhite crystalline solid
Odor odorless
Density 1.984 g/cm3
Melting point 770 °C (1,420 °F; 1,040 K)
Boiling point 1,420 °C (2,590 °F; 1,690 K)
27.77 g/100mL (0 °C)
33.97 g/100mL (20 °C)
54.02 g/100mL (100 °C)
Solubility Soluble in glycerol, alkalies
Slightly soluble in alcohol Insoluble in ether [1]
Solubility in ethanol 0.288 g/L (25 °C) [2]
Acidity (pKa)~7
39.0·10−6 cm3/mol
1.4902 (589 nm)
face centered cubic
Fm3m, No. 225
a = 629.2 pm [3]
Octahedral (K+)
Octahedral (Cl)
Std molar
83 J·mol−1·K−1 [4]
−436 kJ·mol−1 [4]
A12BA01 ( WHO ) B05XA01 ( WHO )
Oral, IV, IM
Kidney: 90%; Fecal: 10% [5]
NFPA 704 (fire diamond)
NFPA 704.svgHealth 1: Exposure would cause irritation but only minor residual injury. E.g. turpentineFlammability 0: Will not burn. E.g. waterInstability 0: Normally stable, even under fire exposure conditions, and is not reactive with water. E.g. liquid nitrogenSpecial hazards (white): no code
Flash point Non-flammable
Lethal dose or concentration (LD, LC):
2600 mg/kg (oral, rat) [6]
Safety data sheet (SDS) ICSC 1450
Related compounds
Other anions
Potassium fluoride
Potassium bromide
Potassium iodide
Other cations
Lithium chloride
Sodium chloride
Rubidium chloride
Caesium chloride
Ammonium chloride
Related compounds
Potassium hypochlorite
Potassium chlorite
Potassium chlorate
Potassium perchlorate
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
X mark.svgN  verify  (what is  Yes check.svgYX mark.svgN ?)

Potassium chloride (KCl, or potassium salt) is a metal halide salt composed of potassium and chlorine. It is odorless and has a white or colorless vitreous crystal appearance. The solid dissolves readily in water, and its solutions have a salt-like taste. Potassium chloride can be obtained from ancient dried lake deposits. [7] KCl is used as a fertilizer, [8] in medicine, in scientific applications, domestic water softeners (as a substitute for sodium chloride salt), and in food processing, where it may be known as E number additive E508.


It occurs naturally as the mineral sylvite, which is named after salt's historical designations sal degistivum Sylvii and sal febrifugum Sylvii, [9] and in combination with sodium chloride as sylvinite. [10]



The majority of the potassium chloride produced is used for making fertilizer, called potash, since the growth of many plants is limited by potassium availability. Potassium chloride sold as fertilizer is known as muriate of potash. The vast majority of potash fertilizer worldwide is sold as muriate of potash.[ citation needed ]

Potassium chloride, compacted, fertilizer grade. Compacted potassium chloride, fertilizer grade.jpg
Potassium chloride, compacted, fertilizer grade.

Medical use

Potassium is vital in the human body, and potassium chloride by mouth is the common means to treat low blood potassium, although it can also be given intravenously. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines. [11] Overdose causes hyperkalemia which can disrupt cell signaling to the extent that the heart will stop, reversibly in the case of some open heart surgeries.

Culinary use

Potassium chloride can be used as a salt substitute for food, but due to its weak, bitter, unsalty flavor, it is often mixed with ordinary table salt (sodium chloride) to improve the taste, to form low sodium salt. The addition of 1 ppm of thaumatin considerably reduces this bitterness. [12] Complaints of bitterness or a chemical or metallic taste are also reported with potassium chloride used in food. [13]


In the United States, potassium chloride is used as the final drug in the three injection sequence of lethal injection as a form of capital punishment. It induces cardiac arrest, ultimately killing the inmate. [14]


As a chemical feedstock, the salt is used for the manufacture of potassium hydroxide and potassium metal. It is also used in medicine, lethal injections, scientific applications, food processing, soaps, and as a sodium-free substitute for table salt for people concerned about the health effects of sodium.

It is used as a supplement in animal feed to boost the potassium level in the feed. As an added benefit, it is known to increase milk production.

It is sometimes used in solution as a completion fluid in petroleum and natural gas operations, as well as being an alternative to sodium chloride in household water softener units.

Glass manufacturers use granular potash as a flux, lowering the temperature at which a mixture melts. Because potash imparts excellent clarity to glass, it is commonly used in eyeglasses, glassware, televisions, and computer monitors.

Because natural potassium contains a tiny amount of the isotope potassium-40, potassium chloride is used as a beta radiation source to calibrate radiation monitoring equipment. It also emits a relatively low level of 511 keV gamma rays from positron annihilation, which can be used to calibrate medical scanners.

Potassium chloride is used in some de-icing products designed to be safer for pets and plants, though these are inferior in melting quality to calcium chloride. It is also used in various brands of bottled water.

Potassium chloride was once used as a fire extinguishing agent, and in portable and wheeled fire extinguishers. Known as Super-K dry chemical, it was more effective than sodium bicarbonate-based dry chemicals and was compatible with protein foam. This agent fell out of favor with the introduction of potassium bicarbonate (Purple-K) dry chemical in the late 1960s, which was much less corrosive, as well as more effective. It is rated for B and C fires.

Along with sodium chloride and lithium chloride, potassium chloride is used as a flux for the gas welding of aluminium.

Potassium chloride is also an optical crystal with a wide transmission range from 210 nm to 20 μm. While cheap, KCl crystals are hygroscopic. This limits its application to protected environments or short-term uses such as prototyping. Exposed to free air, KCl optics will "rot". Whereas KCl components were formerly used for infrared optics, it has been entirely replaced by much tougher crystals such as zinc selenide.

Potassium chloride is used as a scotophor with designation P10 in dark-trace CRTs, e.g. in the Skiatron.


The typical amounts of potassium chloride found in the diet appear to be generally safe. [15] In larger quantities, however, potassium chloride is toxic. The LD50 of orally ingested potassium chloride is approximately 2.5 g/kg, or 190 grams (6.7 oz) for a body mass of 75 kilograms (165 lb). In comparison, the LD50 of sodium chloride (table salt) is 3.75 g/kg.

Intravenously, the LD50 of potassium chloride is far smaller, at about 57.2 mg/kg to 66.7 mg/kg; this is found by dividing the lethal concentration of positive potassium ions (about 30 to 35 mg/kg) [16] by the proportion by mass of potassium ions in potassium chloride (about 0.52445 mg K+/mg KCl). [17]

Chemical properties


KCl is soluble in a variety of polar solvents.

Solubility [18]
(g/kg of solvent at 25 °C)
Water 360
Liquid ammonia 0.4
Liquid sulfur dioxide 0.41
Methanol 5.3
Ethanol 0.37
Formic acid 192
Sulfolane 0.04
Acetonitrile 0.024
Acetone 0.00091
Formamide 62
Acetamide 24.5
Dimethylformamide 0.17–0.5

Solutions of KCl are common standards, for example for calibration of the electrical conductivity of (ionic) solutions, since KCl solutions are stable, allowing for reproducible measurements. In aqueous solution, it is essentially fully ionized into solvated K+ and Cl ions.

Redox and the conversion to potassium metal

Although potassium is more electropositive than sodium, KCl can be reduced to the metal by reaction with metallic sodium at 850 °C because the more volatile potassium can be removed by distillation (see Le Chatelier's principle):

This method is the main method for producing metallic potassium. Electrolysis (used for sodium) fails because of the high solubility of potassium in molten KCl. [10]

Other potassium chloride stoichiometries

Potassium chlorides with formulas other than KCl have been predicted to become stable under pressures of 20 GPa or more. [19] Among these, two phases of KCl3 were synthesized and characterized. At 20-40 GPa, a trigonal structure containing K+ and Cl3 is obtained; above 40 GPa this gives way to a phase isostructural with the intermetallic compound Cr3Si.

Physical properties

"Raise banana yields using Israeli potassium chloride!", an ad above a highway in a banana-growing district of Hekou County, Yunnan, China Red River valley between Manhao and Lianhuatan - P1380210.JPG
"Raise banana yields using Israeli potassium chloride!", an ad above a highway in a banana-growing district of Hekou County, Yunnan, China

Under ambient conditions the crystal structure of potassium chloride is like that of NaCl. It adopts a face-centered cubic structure known as the B1 phase with a lattice constant of roughly 6.3 Å. Crystals cleave easily in three directions. Other polymorphic and hydrated phases are adopted at high pressures. [20]

Some other properties are

As with other compounds containing potassium, KCl in powdered form gives a lilac flame.


Sylvite Sylvin (aka).jpg
Sylvinite Sylvinite.jpg

Potassium chloride is extracted from minerals sylvite, carnallite, and potash. It is also extracted from salt water and can be manufactured by crystallization from solution, flotation or electrostatic separation from suitable minerals. It is a by-product of the production of nitric acid from potassium nitrate and hydrochloric acid.

The vast majority of potassium chloride is produced as agricultural and industrial grade potash in Saskatchewan, Canada, as well as Russia and Belarus. Saskatchewan alone accounted for over 25% of the world's potash production in 2017. [21]

Laboratory methods

Potassium chloride is inexpensively available and is rarely prepared intentionally in the laboratory. It can be generated by treating potassium hydroxide (or other potassium bases) with hydrochloric acid:

This conversion is an acid-base neutralization reaction. The resulting salt can then be purified by recrystallization. Another method would be to allow potassium to burn in the presence of chlorine gas, also a very exothermic reaction:

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Potassium</span> Chemical element, symbol K and atomic number 19

Potassium is a chemical element; it has symbol K and atomic number 19. It is a silvery white metal that is soft enough to easily cut with a knife. Potassium metal reacts rapidly with atmospheric oxygen to form flaky white potassium peroxide in only seconds of exposure. It was first isolated from potash, the ashes of plants, from which its name derives. In the periodic table, potassium is one of the alkali metals, all of which have a single valence electron in the outer electron shell, which is easily removed to create an ion with a positive charge. In nature, potassium occurs only in ionic salts. Elemental potassium reacts vigorously with water, generating sufficient heat to ignite hydrogen emitted in the reaction, and burning with a lilac-colored flame. It is found dissolved in seawater, and occurs in many minerals such as orthoclase, a common constituent of granites and other igneous rocks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sodium</span> Chemical element, symbol Na and atomic number 11

Sodium is a chemical element; it has symbol Na and atomic number 11. It is a soft, silvery-white, highly reactive metal. Sodium is an alkali metal, being in group 1 of the periodic table. Its only stable isotope is 23Na. The free metal does not occur in nature and must be prepared from compounds. Sodium is the sixth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and exists in numerous minerals such as feldspars, sodalite, and halite (NaCl). Many salts of sodium are highly water-soluble: sodium ions have been leached by the action of water from the Earth's minerals over eons, and thus sodium and chlorine are the most common dissolved elements by weight in the oceans.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Potassium ferrocyanide</span> Chemical compound

Potassium ferrocyanide is the inorganic compound with formula K4[Fe(CN)6]·3H2O. It is the potassium salt of the coordination complex [Fe(CN)6]4−. This salt forms lemon-yellow monoclinic crystals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Potash</span> Salt mixture

Potash includes various mined and manufactured salts that contain potassium in water-soluble form. The name derives from pot ash, plant ashes or wood ash soaked in water in a pot, the primary means of manufacturing potash before the Industrial Era. The word potassium is derived from potash.

The term chloride refers to a compound or molecule that contains either a chlorine ion, which is a negatively charged chlorine atom, or a non-charged chlorine atom covalently bonded to the rest of the molecule by a single bond. Many inorganic chlorides are salts. Many organic compounds are chlorides. The pronunciation of the word "chloride" is.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sodium chloride</span> Chemical compound with formula NaCl

Sodium chloride, commonly known as edible salt, is an ionic compound with the chemical formula NaCl, representing a 1:1 ratio of sodium and chlorine ions. It is transparent or translucent, brittle, hygroscopic, and occurs as the mineral halite. In its edible form, it is commonly used as a condiment and food preservative. Large quantities of sodium chloride are used in many industrial processes, and it is a major source of sodium and chlorine compounds used as feedstocks for further chemical syntheses. Another major application of sodium chloride is deicing of roadways in sub-freezing weather.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sodium hypochlorite</span> Chemical compound (known in solution as bleach)

Sodium hypochlorite is an alkaline inorganic chemical compound with the formula NaOCl. It is commonly known in a dilute aqueous solution as bleach or chlorine bleach. It is the sodium salt of hypochlorous acid, consisting of sodium cations and hypochlorite anions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Potassium hydroxide</span> Inorganic compound (KOH)

Potassium hydroxide is an inorganic compound with the formula KOH, and is commonly called caustic potash.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Precipitation (chemistry)</span> Chemical process leading to the settling of an insoluble solid from a solution

In an aqueous solution, precipitation is the process of transforming a dissolved substance into an insoluble solid from a supersaturated solution. The solid formed is called the precipitate. In case of an inorganic chemical reaction leading to precipitation, the chemical reagent causing the solid to form is called the precipitant.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Potassium chlorate</span> Chemical compound

Potassium chlorate is a compound containing potassium, chlorine and oxygen, with the molecular formula KClO3. In its pure form, it is a white crystalline substance. After sodium chlorate, it is the second most common chlorate in industrial use. It is a strong oxidizing agent and its most important application is in safety matches. In other applications it is mostly obsolete and has been replaced by safer alternatives in recent decades. It has been used

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sodium sulfate</span> Chemical compound with formula Na2SO4

Sodium sulfate (also known as sodium sulphate or sulfate of soda) is the inorganic compound with formula Na2SO4 as well as several related hydrates. All forms are white solids that are highly soluble in water. With an annual production of 6 million tonnes, the decahydrate is a major commodity chemical product. It is mainly used as a filler in the manufacture of powdered home laundry detergents and in the Kraft process of paper pulping for making highly alkaline sulfides.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Potassium sulfate</span> Chemical compound

Potassium sulfate (US) or potassium sulphate (UK), also called sulphate of potash (SOP), arcanite, or archaically potash of sulfur, is the inorganic compound with formula K2SO4, a white water-soluble solid. It is commonly used in fertilizers, providing both potassium and sulfur.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sodium bromide</span> Inorganic salt: NaBr

Sodium bromide is an inorganic compound with the formula NaBr. It is a high-melting white, crystalline solid that resembles sodium chloride. It is a widely used source of the bromide ion and has many applications.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sodium perchlorate</span> Chemical compound

Sodium perchlorate is an inorganic compound with the chemical formula NaClO4. It consists of sodium cations Na+ and perchlorate anions ClO−4. It is a white crystalline, hygroscopic solid that is highly soluble in water and ethanol. It is usually encountered as sodium perchlorate monohydrate NaClO4·H2O. The compound is noteworthy as the most water-soluble of the common perchlorate salts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Caesium chloride</span> Chemical compound

Caesium chloride or cesium chloride is the inorganic compound with the formula CsCl. This colorless salt is an important source of caesium ions in a variety of niche applications. Its crystal structure forms a major structural type where each caesium ion is coordinated by 8 chloride ions. Caesium chloride dissolves in water. CsCl changes to NaCl structure on heating. Caesium chloride occurs naturally as impurities in carnallite, sylvite and kainite. Less than 20 tonnes of CsCl is produced annually worldwide, mostly from a caesium-bearing mineral pollucite.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carnallite</span> Evaporite mineral

Carnallite (also carnalite) is an evaporite mineral, a hydrated potassium magnesium chloride with formula KCl.MgCl2·6(H2O). It is variably colored yellow to white, reddish, and sometimes colorless or blue. It is usually massive to fibrous with rare pseudohexagonal orthorhombic crystals. The mineral is deliquescent (absorbs moisture from the surrounding air) and specimens must be stored in an airtight container.

A balanced salt solution (BSS) is a solution made to a physiological pH and isotonic salt concentration. Solutions most commonly include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride. Balanced salt solutions are used for washing tissues and cells and are usually combined with other agents to treat the tissues and cells. They provide the cells with water and inorganic ions, while maintaining a physiological pH and osmotic pressure.

Potassium hypochlorite is a chemical compound with the chemical formula KOCl, also written as KClO. It is the potassium salt of hypochlorous acid. It consists of potassium cations and hypochlorite anions. It is used in variable concentrations, often diluted in water solution. Its aqueous solutions are colorless liquids that have a strong chlorine smell. It is used as a biocide and disinfectant.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leonite</span> Hydrated double sulfate of magnesium and potassium

Leonite is a hydrated double sulfate of magnesium and potassium. It has the formula K2SO4·MgSO4·4H2O. The mineral was named after Leo Strippelmann, who was director of the salt works at Westeregeln in Germany. The mineral is part of the blodite group of hydrated double sulfate minerals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Potassium chloride (medical use)</span> Electrolyte replenisher used to treat hypokalemia

Potassium chloride, also known as potassium salt, is used as a medication to treat and prevent low blood potassium. Low blood potassium may occur due to vomiting, diarrhea, or certain medications. The concentrated version should be diluted before use. It is given by slow injection into a vein or by mouth.


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Further reading