What Is Sodium Bisulfate?

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Image of a chemist in a laboratory.
Image of a chemist in a laboratory. (Image: slavemotion/iStock/Getty Images)

Sodium bisulfate is a common ionic compound made from the combination of sodium, hydrogen, sulfur and oxygen ions. Although it is acidic and can be dangerous in high concentrations, sodium bisulfate is also an incredibly useful substance. Many of our common household products and processed foods use sodium bisulfate as a key ingredient for cleaning and preservation purposes.

Identification

The chemical formula for sodium bisulfate is NaHSO4. The compound is also named sodium hydrogen sulfate, sodium acid sulfate, bisulfate of soda, monosodium salt and monohydrate. Sodium bisulfate is usually diluted by water when used commercially or in chemical experimentation.

Features

Sodium bisulfate is an acidic ion that dissolves well in water. In its solid form, sodium bisulfate has clear crystals and is odorless. Sodium bisulfate is strongly acidic, with a pH of only 1.4.

Warnings

Sodium bisulfate is a strong acid and can be very dangerous if used improperly. The inhalation of sodium bisulfate fumes can cause irritation of the lungs or mucous membranes. In severe cases, inhalation can even lead to lung injury. If ingested, the corrosive properties of sodium bisulfate can cause internal burns and vomiting. As an acid, high concentration sodium bisulfate causes severe burns to the skin and eyes.

Exposure

It is important to seek medical attention if any accidental exposure occurs, and follow your doctor's instructions. For minor cases of inhalation, your doctor is likely to recommend leaving the area and breathing clean air, and if sodium bisulfite comes into contact with the skin or eyes, she's likely to recommend flushing the area with water. If you ingest sodium bisulfate, it's important not to try to vomit the ingested material. Rather, get immediate medical attention.

Uses

Despite its dangerous properties, sodium bisulfate is a useful product. Many household cleaners, especially toilet cleaning products, contain sodium bisulfate. Sodium bisulfate can also be used to reduce the alkalinity of water in swimming pools. The preservative qualities of sodium bisulfate make it a common part of food preservation and processing.

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