Common uses of Potassium Hydroxide

Common uses of Potassium Hydroxide

25 March 2022


Potassium hydroxide (KOH) is a prototypical strong basic, along with sodium hydroxide (NaOH). It has a wide range of industrial and speciality applications, the majority of which take advantage of its caustic nature and acid reactivity. KOH is a key ingredient in most soft and liquid soaps, as well as a variety of potassium-based compounds. It's a caustic white solid with high toxicity.


The thermal stability of KOH is excellent. Because of its excellent stability and low melting point, it is frequently melt-cast as pellets or rods, which have a small surface area and are easy to handle. Because KOH is hygroscopic, these pellets grow sticky in the air. The majority of commercial samples are approximately 90% pure, with the remaining consisting of water and carbonates. Its disintegration in water generates a lot of heat. Potassium lyes are very concentrated aqueous solutions. Solid KOH does not dehydrate easily, even at high temperatures.


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Although KOH and NaOH can be used interchangeably in a variety of applications, NaOH is favoured in the industry due to its cheaper cost.


-The precursor to other potassium compounds:


Many potassium salts are made using KOH neutralisation processes. Treatment of oxides or acids with KOH yields potassium salts of carbonate, cyanide, permanganate, phosphate, and different silicates. In fertilisers, potassium phosphate's high solubility is advantageous.


-Manufacture of soft soaps:


The preparation of "potassium soaps" is based on the saponification of lipids with KOH, which are softer than sodium hydroxide-derived soaps. Potassium soaps require less water to liquefy due to their softness and better solubility, and so can contain more cleaning ingredients than liquefied sodium soaps.


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-As an electrolyte:


Alkaline batteries based on nickel-cadmium, nickel-hydrogen, and manganese dioxide-zinc use aqueous potassium hydroxide as the electrolyte. Because potassium hydroxide solutions are more conductive than sodium hydroxides, it is recommended. The Toyota Prius' nickel-metal hydride batteries include a blend of potassium and sodium hydroxide. Potassium hydroxide electrolytes are also used in nickel-iron batteries.


-Food industry:


Potassium hydroxide is used as a food thickening, pH control agent, and food stabiliser in food items. When used in line with Good Manufacturing Practices, the FDA deems it to be generally safe as a direct food additive. The E number system assigns it the number E525.


-Niche applications:


Potassium hydroxide, like sodium hydroxide, has a wide range of applications, almost all of which rely on its capabilities as a strong chemical base with the capacity to break down a wide range of materials. Potassium hydroxide, for example, hastens the disintegration of soft tissues, both animal and human, leaving only bones and other hard tissues remaining in a process known as "chemical cremation" or "resomation." This procedure can be used by entomologists to analyse the fine structure of insect anatomy using a 10% aqueous solution of KOH.


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When it comes to chemical synthesis, the decision between KOH and NaOH is dictated by the solubility or the quality of the resultant salt.


Potassium hydroxide's corrosive qualities make it a useful ingredient in cleaning and disinfecting treatments and preparations for surfaces and materials that can withstand corrosion by KOH.


KOH is also utilised in the production of semiconductor chips (for example anisotropic wet etching).


In chemical "cuticle removers" used in manicure treatments, potassium hydroxide is frequently the major active ingredient.


Potassium hydroxide is used to chemically help the removal of hair from animal hides because aggressive bases like KOH destroy the cuticle of the hair shaft. To prepare the hides for the unhairing stage of the tanning process, they are soaked in a solution of KOH and water for several hours. Human hair is weakened in preparation for shaving using the same effect. Potassium hydroxide is used in preshave preparations and some shave creams to open the hair cuticle and act as a hygroscopic agent, attracting and forcing water into the hair shaft, causing more hair damage. The hair is easier to cut with a razor blade when it is weak.


Some fungus species are identified using potassium hydroxide. The researcher applies a 3–5% aqueous solution of KOH to the flesh of a mushroom and observes whether the colour of the flesh changes. This colour-change reaction can be used to identify some kinds of gilled mushrooms, boletes, polypores, and lichens.