Sodium chloride
IUPAC name
Sodium chloride
Other names
Common salt

Rock salt
Sodium chloric

Table salt
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.028.726 Edit this at Wikidata
EC Number
  • 231-598-3
MeSH Sodium+chloride
RTECS number
  • VZ4725000
  • InChI=1S/ClH.Na/h1H;/q;+1/p-1 checkY
  • InChI=1/ClH.Na/h1H;/q;+1/p-1
  • [Na+].[Cl-]
Molar mass 58.44 g mol−1
Appearance Colorless crystals
Odor Odorless
Density 2.165 g cm−3
Melting point 801 °C (1,474 °F; 1,074 K)
Boiling point 1,413 °C (2,575 °F; 1,686 K)
359 g L−1
Solubility in ammonia 21.5 g L−1
Solubility in methanol 14.9 g L−1
Acidity (pKa) 6.7–7.3
Basicity (pKb) 6.7–7.3
1.5442 (at 589 nm)
Face-centered cubic
(see text), cF8
Fm3m, No. 225
a = 564.02 pm
Octahedral (Na+)
Octahedral (Cl)
36.79 J K−1 mol−1
72.11 J K−1 mol−1
-411.12 kJ mol−1
NFPA 704 (fire diamond)
NFPA 704 four-colored diamondHealth 0: Exposure under fire conditions would offer no hazard beyond that of ordinary combustible material. E.g. sodium chlorideFlammability 0: Will not burn. E.g. waterInstability 0: Normally stable, even under fire exposure conditions, and is not reactive with water. E.g. liquid nitrogenSpecial hazards (white): no code
Lethal dose or concentration (LD, LC):
3000–8000 mg/kg (oral in rats, mice, rabbits)[1]
Related compounds
Other anions
Sodium fluoride
Sodium bromide
Sodium iodide
Other cations
Lithium chloride
Potassium chloride
Rubidium chloride
Caesium chloride
Supplementary data page
Sodium chloride (data page)
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Sodium chloride, also known as salt, common salt, table salt or halite, is an ionic compound with the formula NaCl. Sodium chloride is the salt most responsible for the salinity of the ocean and of the extracellular fluid of many multicellular organisms. As the major ingredient in edible salt, it is commonly used as a condiment and food preservative.


Solubility of NaCl in various solvents
(g NaCl / 1 kg of solvent at 25 °C)[2]
H2O 360
Formamide 94
glycerin 83
propylene glycol 71
Formic acid 52
Liquid ammonia 30.2
Methanol 14
Ethanol 0.65
Dimethylformamide 0.4
1-propanol 0.124
Sulfolane 0.05
1-butanol 0.05
2-propanol 0.03
1-pentanol 0.018
Acetonitrile 0.003
Acetone 0.00042

See also: Cubic crystal system

Sodium chloride forms crystals with face-centered cubic symmetry. In these, the larger chloride ions are arranged in a cubic close-packing, while the smaller sodium ions, fill all the cubic gaps between them. Each ion is surrounded by six ions of the other kind; the surrounding ions are located at the vertices of a regular octahedron. This same basic structure is found in many other minerals and is commonly known as the halite or rock-salt crystal structure. It can be represented as a face-centered cubic (fcc) lattice with a two atom basis or as two interpenetrating face centered cubic lattices. The first atom is located at each lattice point, and the second atom is located half way between lattice points along the fcc unit cell edge.

Thermal conductivity of pure NaCl as a function of temperature has a maximum of 2.03 W/(cm K) at 8 K and decreases to 0.069 at 314 K (41 °C). It also decreases with doping.[3]

Small particles of sea salt are the dominant cloud condensation nuclei well out at sea, which allow the formation of clouds in otherwise non-polluted air.[4]


Modern rock salt mine near Mount Morris, New York, United States

Salt is currently mass-produced by evaporation of seawater or brine from other sources, such as brine wells and salt lakes, and by mining rock salt, called halite. The United States had been the world’s leading salt producer until 2005, when it was surpassed by China.[5] In 2010, world production was estimated at 270 million tonnes, the top five producers (in million tonnes) being China (60.0), United States (45.0), Germany (16.5), India (15.8) and Canada (14.0).[6]


As well as the familiar uses of salt in cooking, salt is used in many applications, from manufacturing pulp and paper, to setting dyes in textiles and fabric, to producing soaps, detergents, and other bath products. It is the major source of industrial chlorine and sodium hydroxide, and used in almost every industry.[5]

Sodium chloride is sometimes used as a cheap and safe desiccant because of its hygroscopic properties, making salting an effective method of food preservation historically; the salt draws water out of bacteria through osmotic pressure, keeping it from reproducing, a major source of food spoilage. Even though more effective desiccants are available, few are safe for humans to ingest.

The distribution of salt consumption in the US in 2008 was as follows: ice control 43%; chemicals 35%; wholesale and retail sales 8%; agricultural, food processing, general industrial, and primary water treatment applications consume 3% each. The amounts used for ice control vary significantly over time due to weather fluctuations that strongly affects the salt price.[5]

Road salt

Phase diagram of water-NaCl mixture.

While salt was once a scarce commodity in history, industrialized production has now made salt plentiful. Approximately 51% of world output is now used by cold countries to de-ice roads in winter, both in grit bins and spread by winter service vehicles. Calcium chloride is preferred over sodium chloride, as CaCl2 releases energy upon forming a solution with water, heating any ice or snow it is in contact with. It also lowers the freezing point, depending on the concentration (see image and data table). Whereas the minimum freezing point is −21.12 °C for 23.31 wt% of salt, the freezing near this concentration is so slow that the eutectic point of −22.4 °C can be reached with about 25 wt% of salt.[7] NaCl does not release heat upon solution; however, it does lower the freezing point. Calcium chloride is thought to be more environmentally friendly than sodium chloride when used to de-ice roads, however a drawback is that it tends to promote corrosion (of vehicles) more so than sodium chloride. NaCl is also more readily available and does not have any special handling or storage requirements, unlike calcium chloride.

Salt also is added to stabilize the soil and to provide firmness to the foundation on which highways are built. The salt acts to minimize the effects of shifting caused in the subsurface by changes in humidity and traffic load.[5]


Most table salt sold for consumption is not pure sodium chloride. In 1911, magnesium carbonate was first added to salt to make it flow more freely.[8] In 1924, trace amounts of iodine in form of sodium iodide, potassium iodide or potassium iodate were first added, to reduce the incidence of simple goiter.[9]

Salt for de-icing in the United Kingdom predominantly comes from a single mine in Winsford in Cheshire. Prior to distribution it has an anti-caking agent added: sodium hexacyanoferrate(II) at less than 100 ppm. This treatment enables rock salt to flow freely out of the gritting vehicles despite being stockpiled prior to use. In recent years this additive has also been used in table salt.

Other additives had been used in road salt to reduce the total costs. For example, a byproduct carbohydrate solution from sugar beet processing was mixed with rock salt and adhered to road surfaces about 40% better than loose rock salt alone. Because it stayed on the road longer, the treatment did not have to be repeated several times, saving time and money.[5]

Environmental effect

Road salt ends up in fresh water bodies and could harm aquatic plants and animals by disrupting their osmoregulation ability.[10] The omnipresence of salt posts a problem in any coastal coating application, as trapped salts cause great problems in adhesion. Naval authorities and ship builders monitor the salt concentrations on surfaces during construction. Maximum salt concentrations on surfaces are dependent on the authority and application. The IMO regulation is mostly used and sets salt levels to a maximum of 50 mg/m2 soluble salts measured as sodium chloride. These measurements are done by means of a Bresle test.

In highway deicing, salt has been associated with corrosion of bridge decks, motor vehicles, reinforcement bar and wire, and unprotected steel structures used in road construction. Surface runoff, vehicle spraying, and windblown actions also affect soil, roadside vegetation, and local surface water and groundwater supplies. Although evidence of environmental loading of salt has been found during peak usage, the spring rains and thaws usually dilute the concentrations of sodium in the area where salt was applied.[5]


The industrial uses of salt include, in descending order of quantity consumed, various applications, oil and gas exploration, textiles and dyeing, pulp and paper, metal processing, tanning and leather treatment, and rubber manufacture.[5]

In oil and gas exploration, salt is an important component of drilling fluids in well drilling. It is used to flocculate and increase the density of the drilling fluid to overcome high downwell gas pressures. Whenever a drill hits a salt formation, salt is added to the drilling fluid to saturate the solution and to minimize the dissolution within the salt stratum. Salt is also used to increase the set rate of concrete in cemented casings.[5]

In textiles and dyeing, salt is used as a brine rinse to separate organic contaminants, to promote “salting out” of dyestuff precipitates, and to blend with concentrated dyes to standardize them. One of its main roles is to provide the positive ion charge to promote the absorption of negatively charged ions of dyes.[5]

In metal processing, salt is used in concentrating uranium ore into uranium oxide (yellow cake). It also is used in processing aluminium, beryllium, copper, steel and vanadium. In the pulp and paper industry, salt is used to bleach wood pulp. It also is used to make sodium chlorate, which is added along with sulfuric acid and water to manufacture chlorine dioxide, an excellent oxygen-based bleaching chemical. The chlorine dioxide process, which originated in Germany after World War I, is becoming more popular because of environmental pressures to reduce or eliminate chlorinated bleaching compounds. In tanning and leather treatment, salt is added to animal hides to inhibit microbial activity on the underside of the hides and to attract moisture back into the hides.[5]

In rubber manufacture, salt is used to make buna, neoprene and white rubber types. Salt brine and sulfuric acid are used to coagulate an emulsified latex made from chlorinated butadiene. Industrially, elemental chlorine is predominantly produced by the electrolysis of sodium chloride dissolved in water.[5] Along with chlorine, this chloralkali process yields hydrogen gas and sodium hydroxide, according to the chemical equation

2 NaCl + 2 H2O → Cl2 + H2 + 2 NaOH

The thus produced chlorine is used in the synthesis of various chemicals such as PVC, pesticides and epoxy resins.[5] Furthermore, sodium metal is produced commercially through the electrolysis of liquid sodium chloride. This is now done in a Down's cell in which sodium chloride is mixed with calcium chloride to lower the melting point below 700 °C. As calcium is more electropositive than sodium, no calcium will be formed at the cathode. This method is less expensive than the previous method of electrolyzing sodium hydroxide. In the Solvay process, sodium chloride is used for producing sodium carbonate and calcium chloride. In the Mannheim process and in the Hargreaves process, it is used for the production of sodium sulfate and hydrochloric acid.


Defect-free NaCl crystals have an optical transmittance of about 90% between 200 nm and 20 µm. They were therefore used in optical components (windows and prisms) operating in the infrared spectral range, where few non-absorbing alternatives exist and where requirements for absence of microscopic inhomogeneities are less strict than in the visible range. While inexpensive, NaCl crystals are soft and hygroscopic – when exposed to the ambient air they gradually cover with "frost". This limits application of NaCl to dry environments or for short-term uses such as prototyping. Nowadays materials like zinc selenide (ZnSe), which are stronger mechanically and are less sensitive to moisture, are used instead of NaCl for the IR spectral range.

Food industry, medicine and agriculture

Many micro organisms cannot live in an overly salty environment: water is drawn out of their cells by osmosis. For this reason salt is used to preserve some foods, such as smoked bacon or fish. It can also be used to detach leeches that have attached themselves to feed. It is also used to disinfect wounds.

Salt is added in most food items, by the food processor or by the consumer, as a flavor enhancer, preservative, binder, fermentation-control additive, texture-control agent and color developer. The salt consumption in the food industry is subdivided, in descending order of consumption, into other food processing, meat packers, canning, baking, dairy and grain mill products. Salt is added to promote color development in bacon, ham and other processed meat products. As a preservative, salt inhibits the growth of bacteria. Salt acts as a binder in sausages to form a binding gel made up of meat, fat, and moisture. Salt also acts as a flavor enhancer and as a tenderizer.[5]

In the dairy industry, salt is added to cheese as a color-, fermentation-, and texture-control agent. The dairy subsector includes companies that manufacture creamery butter, condensed and evaporated milk, frozen desserts, ice cream, natural and processed cheese, and specialty dairy products. In canning, salt is primarily added as a flavor enhancer and preservative. It also is used as a carrier for other ingredients, dehydrating agent, enzyme inhibitor and tenderizer. In baking, salt is added to control the rate of fermentation in bread dough. It also is used to strengthen the gluten (the elastic protein-water complex in certain doughs) and as a flavor enhancer, such as a topping on baked goods. The food-processing category also contains grain mill products. These products consist of milling flour and rice and manufacturing cereal breakfast food and blended or prepared flour. Salt is also used a seasoning agent, e.g. in potato chips, pretzels, cat and dog food.[5]

Sodium chloride is used in veterinary medicine as emesis causing agent. It is given as warm saturated solution. Emesis can also be caused by pharyngeal placement of small amount of plain salt or salt crystals.


A class D fire extinguisher for various metals

Sodium chloride is the principal extinguishing agent in fire extinguishers (Met-L-X, Super D) used on combustible metal fires such as magnesium, potassium, sodium, and NaK alloys (Class D). Thermoplastic powder is added to the mixture, along with waterproofing (metal stearates) and anti-caking materials (tricalcium phosphate) to form the extinguishing agent. When it is applied to the fire, the salt acts like a heat sink, dissipating heat from the fire, and also forms an oxygen-excluding crust to smother the fire. The plastic additive melts and helps the crust maintain its integrity until the burning metal cools below its ignition temperature. This type of extinguisher was invented in the late 1940s in the cartridge-operated type shown here, although stored pressure versions are now popular. Common sizes are 30 lb. portable and 350 lb. wheeled.


Since at least medieval times, people have used salt as a cleansing agent rubbed on household surfaces. It is also used in many brands of shampoo, toothpaste and popularly to de-ice driveways and patches of ice.

Hard water contains excessive calcium and magnesium ions that contribute to the buildup of a scale or film of alkaline mineral deposits in household and industrial equipment and pipes. Commercial and residential water-softening units use salt to remove the ions that cause the hardness. The sodium ions captured on a resin bed are exchanged for the calcium and magnesium ions.[5]

Biological functions

For further information about sodium chloride in the diet, see Salt.

In humans, a high-salt intake has long been suspected to generally raise blood pressure. More recently, it was demonstrated to attenuate nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide (NO) contributes to vessel homeostasis by inhibiting vascular smooth muscle contraction and growth, platelet aggregation, and leukocyte adhesion to the endothelium.[11][12]

See also


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from Salt (PDF). United States Geological Survey.

  1. ^ Martel, B.; Cassidy, K. (2004). Chemical Risk Analysis: A Practical Handbook. Butterworth–Heinemann. p. 369. ISBN 1903996651.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Burgess, J. (1978). Metal Ions in Solution. New York: Ellis Horwood. ISBN 0-85312-027-7.
  3. ^ Dinker B. Sirdeshmukh, Lalitha Sirdeshmukh, K. G. Subhadra (2001). Alkali halides: a handbook of physical properties. Springer. pp. 65, 68. ISBN 3540421807.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ B. J. Mason (2006-12-19). "The role of sea-salt particles as cloud condensation nuclei over the remote oceans". The Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. 127 (576): 2023–32. doi:10.1002/qj.49712757609.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Dennis S. Kostick Salt, U.S. Geological Survey, 2008 Minerals Yearbook
  6. ^ Salt, U.S. Geological Survey
  7. ^ Elvers, B. et al. (ed.) (1991) Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, 5th ed. Vol. A24, Wiley, ISBN 978-3527201242 p. 319
  8. ^ "Morton Salt FAQ". Retrieved 2007-05-12.
  9. ^ Markel H (1987). ""When it rains it pours": endemic goiter, iodized salt, and David Murray Cowie, MD". American journal of public health. 77 (2): 219–29. doi:10.2105/AJPH.77.2.219. PMC 1646845. PMID 3541654.
  10. ^ Does road salt harm the environment?
  11. ^ Osanai T, Fujiwara N, Saitoh M; et al. (2002). "Relationship between salt intake, nitric oxide and asymmetric dimethylarginine and its relevance to patients with end-stage renal disease". Blood Purif. 20 (5): 466–8. doi:10.1159/000063555. PMID 12207094. ((cite journal)): Explicit use of et al. in: |author= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ McCarron, David A. (2008). "Dietary sodium and cardiovascular and renal disease risk factors: dark horse or phantom entry?". Nephrol Dial Transplant. 23 (7): 2133–7. doi:10.1093/ndt/gfn312. PMC 2441768. PMID 18587159.