Potassium hydroxide is an inorganic compound with the formula KOH, and is commonly called caustic potash.
There are more uses of the chemical potassium hydroxide than most people are aware. As a strong base it help neutralize acid, but it can also be used as a food thickener or stabilizer. It has medicinal properties for both humans and pets, and is the reagent in many industrial processes.
Potassium hydroxide acts as a defoaming agent in the manufacturing process of paper. It is also used as a lawn food, industrial fertilizer, fungicide and herbicide. Heated potassium hydroxide is commonly used for bulk etching of silicon wafers, which is important in the manufacture of certain micro-electronic devices.
Potassium Hydroxide as a Cleaner
Potassium hydroxide is an extremely versatile cleaning agent. For example, potassium hydroxide is found in varied items such as liquid soaps, lotions, shampoos, hairsprays, and denture cleaners, but is also found in more industrial compounds such as oven cleaners, drain cleaners, driveway and concrete cleaners, in non-phosphate detergents, and in drain and pipe cleaners.
While it is more common to use sodium hydroxide for soap, potassium hydroxide soaps are actually more soluble in water and are better for the environment. Potassium hydroxide soaps are also referred to as ‘soft soaps’. Though not quite as popular as sodium soaps, potassium soaps are produced in various liquid concentrations and are often used in combination with sodium soaps, for example, in shaving products and also in the textile industry.
Potassium Hydroxide as a pH Regulator
Potassium hydroxide is a strong alkali, or base, and many of its uses are a result of this property. As a base, potassium hydroxide acts as a pH regulator in industrial manufacturing and processing. In the agricultural industry, potassium hydroxide is used to regulate the pH of acidic soils.
Potassium Hydroxide in Medicine
Potassium hydroxide also has medicinal uses. In veterinary medicine, potassium hydroxide is used to disbud calves horns and dissolve scales and hair. In humans, potassium hydroxide can be used to diagnose fungal infections. It can also be used to dissolve warts and cuticles.
Potassium Hydroxide in Common Household Products
Alkaline batteries contain potassium hydroxide. The alkaline solution of potassium hydroxide provides the high ionic conductivity of the battery, and contributes to the reason that alkaline batteries outperform cheaper zinc-carbon batteries.
Potassium Hydroxide in Food
Potassium hydroxide is often found as an additive in commercially processed foods, and as a rinse or chemical peel for fruits and vegetables. It is added to processed foods as a stabilizer to prolong shelf-life, and as a thickener. It’s involved in chocolate and cocoa processing, soft drink processing, and in the thickening of ice cream. Potassium hydroxide is used to soften olives and to glaze pretzels before baking to make them crisp.
Potassium Hydroxide is extremely corrosive and can be a hazardous irritant when exposure is at high levels. According to its Material Safety Data Sheet, it “May cause irritation. Prolonged contact may produce discoloration. Potassium hydroxide is corrosive! Contact of skin can cause irritation or severe burns and scarring with greater exposures.” Other studies have shown that it can degrade the natural skin barrier.
However, the Cosmetics Database finds it a low hazard ingredient because of the low levels of concentration found in cosmetic and skin care formulas. It notes cancer, occupational hazard (because it is so volatile and corrosive), organ system toxicity and irritation concerns, and cites studies in which in vitro tests on mammalian cells show positive mutation results and animal studies show skin irritation at very low doses.
The European Union classifies Potassium Hydroxide as toxic or harmful and limits workplace exposure. The severity of the effects caused by Potassium Hydroxide depends on the “concentration, the pH, the length of tissue contact time, and local conditions and skin type,” according to CosmeticsInfo.org. The levels of this ingredient found in skin care products is unlikely to have corrosive or damaging effects.
None are recorded
Also known as Caustic Potash
Source: LiveStrong, http://www.livestrong.com/article/122647-uses-potassium-hydroxide/