Potassium hydroxide

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  • Potassium hydroxide is an inorganic compound with the formula KOH, commonly called caustic potash. Along with sodium hydroxide (NaOH), this colorless solid is a prototypical strong base. It has many industrial and niche applications.
  • Most applications exploit its reactivity toward acids and its corrosive nature. In 2005, an estimated 700,000 to 800,000 tonnes were produced. Approximately 100 times more NaOH than KOH is produced annually. KOH is noteworthy as the precursor to most soft and liquid soaps as well as numerous potassium-containing chemicals.
  • Historically KOH was made by boiling a solution of potassium carbonate (potash) with calcium hydroxide (slaked lime), leading to a metathesis reaction which caused calcium carbonate to precipitate, leaving potassium hydroxide in solution.
  • Many potassium salts are prepared by neutralization reactions involving KOH. The potassium salts of carbonate, cyanide, permanganate, phosphate, and various silicates are prepared by treating either the oxides or the acids with KOH. The high solubility of potassium phosphate is desirable in fertilizers.
  • The saponification of fats with KOH is used to prepare the corresponding "potassium soaps", which are softer than the more common sodium hydroxide-derived soaps. Because of their softness and greater solubility, potassium soaps require less water to liquefy, and can thus contain more cleaning agent than liquefied sodium soaps.
  • Like sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide attracts numerous specialized applications, virtually all of which rely on its properties as a strong chemical base with its consequent ability to degrade many materials.
  • In agriculture , potassium hydroxide is used to correct the pH of acidic soils. It can also be used as a fungicide or even an herbicide . Other uses include in veterinary medicine in disbudding calves horns and to dissolve scales and hair; in human medicine , to diagnose fungal infections and as a wart and cuticle solvent; manufacture of cleansers.
  • Potassium hydroxide is used in the production of agricultural-grade fertilizers. These fertilizers can be used as a source of potassium (one of three major plant foods) for crops that are sensitive to chloride ions. Potassium soaps include those made from coconut oil fatty acid, vegetable oil, tall oil and toluene sulfonic acid.

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