200px-Potassium hydroxide

Potassium hydroxide is a white solid with the formula KOH. It finds many applications in the lab as a general base, though sodium hydroxide is generally preferred as it is easier to find and slightly cheaper.



Potassium hydroxide dissolves in water and fully dissociates to give a solution of potassium ions and hydroxide ions. Potassium hydroxide solutions will very readily absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide to form potassium carbonate, and must be protected from the atmosphere.  Being a strong base, potassium hydroxide also has the ability to dissolve glass (particularly so at higher temperatures) so solution must be kept in a chemically resistant plastic such as high density polyethylene (HDPE).

Potassium hydroxide can be reacted with the corresponding acids to yield potassium salts. Potassium hydroxide is used along with manganese dioxide and an oxidizer to form crude potassium manganate at very high temperatures.

Potassium hydroxide can also be used in a reaction with magnesium powder or shavings in an inert, high boiling solvent with a tertiary alcohol catalyst to yield clean spheres of potassium metal.


Potassium hydroxide is a waxy white solid which is extremely hygroscopic. It is very soluble in water and its dissolution is highly exothermic. One-hundred percent potassium hydroxide is very difficult to create due to the hygroscopic nature and commercial samples generally contain around 10% water.


Potassium hydroxide is available reasonably cheaply from soap making suppliers and biodiesel companies such as Duda Diesel. It is also available from Elemental Scientific at a slightly higher cost.

Certain barbecue cleaning products contain 25% KOH.


Preparation of solid potassium hydroxide is difficult in an amateur setting due to the highly hygroscopic nature of potassium hydroxide. However, it is possible to make wet potassium hydroxide by reacting potassium metal or potassium oxide with water.




Potassium hydroxide is a strong base and is therefore highly caustic, but is not toxic in the sense that it shuts down chemical processes, like arsenic or cyanide. The potassium ion itself is nontoxic when taken orally, but injected into the blood stream it becomes highly toxic and may cause cardiac arrest. The primary danger is saponification of tissue on contact with the hydroxide ions.


Potassium hydroxide should be stored in closed thick plastic containers, in a dry and cool place, away from any corrosive vapors. Avoid storing it in glass bottles.


Potassium hydroxide will turn to potassium carbonate if left in open air, which poses no toxicity to the environment and it's even used as a source of potassium for plants.


Relevant Sciencemadness threadsEdit

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