WHAT IS ALUMINUM SULFATE?
Aluminum sulfate is an aluminum salt that is odorless, white or off-white crystalline solid or powder. It is created by the addition of aluminum hydroxide to sulfuric acid and is also known as “alum.” Naturally, it is hydroscopic, and can absorb and hold water molecules.
It is found in a number of different forms of hydrates, which refer to the chemical state of water within the chemical structure of the element. Aluminum sulfate, octadecahydrate is one of the most common forms, is formed by the combination of aluminum sulfate with approximately 18 molecules of water.
ALUMINUM SULFATE – USED IN THE HOME AND ACROSS INDUSTRIES
With its wide-ranging set of characteristics and a relatively friendly chemical compound, aluminum sulfate has found uses in areas ranging from the food industry to the medical field.
The most well- known use for aluminum sulfate is in water treatment, where it assists in the purification process. Its coagulation properties lend themselves to this use, for when it is added in the water treatment process, it causes the microscopic impurities in the water to coagulate, or clump together, where they can then be more easily removed. This same process also allows for swimming pools to be treated with aluminum sulfate to make the water clearer.
Aluminum sulfate’s acidity acts as a positive in its use as a fertilizer and in gardening. When soils are very alkaline, the addition of aluminum sulfate helps to balance the pH, providing a more hospitable environment for the surrounding plants. An example of the impact this has on gardening is in hydrangeas. The pH level in the soil affects what color the flower will turn, so gardeners will add aluminum sulfate to the soil in order to reduce the pH and change the flowers colors to blue, from the pink it will be with less acidic soil.
You probably come across uses of aluminum sulfate every day around the home. From its inclusion in antiperspirants and baking soda to use as an astringent to stop small cuts from bleeding, aluminum sulfate is all around.
RELATIVELY SAFE, BUT STILL POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS
Although it is not a volatile chemical compound and is not flammable, aluminum sulfate carries some properties that pose a hazardous threat. It is dangerous to humans if inhaled or swallowed, where it can cause irritation, pain, or internal distress.
On its own, aluminum sulfate is very acidic. When water is added to it in a solution, the resulting pH can drop below two, which can corrode metal and cause severe burns. Store in a cool, dry area and take care to ensure that aluminum sulfate is always stored in tightly sealed containers.
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