What is Potassium Hydroxide? A Detailed Investigation.

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What is Potassium Hydroxide?

Looking to Buy Potassium Hydroxide (Caustic Potash, KOH)? DIYChemicals does sell it in various sizes, but we also want to take a moment to educate our readers a bit more about it too. It’s an odorless, slightly yellow or white, bumpy, flaky acid. It’s used for making soap, as an electrolyte in electroplating, within alkaline batteries, in lithography, and in varnish and paint removers. Interestingly, it’s also found in drain cleaners in 25% to 36% concentrations.

Potassium Hydroxide Uses


KOH reacts with fats and oils under conditions with heat, known as saponification. Logically, this helps with producing potassium soaps – as these are more soluble and softer than those made with sodium hydroxide. Liquid soaps usually are made with potassium hydroxide, whereas solid soaps are usually sodium soaps.


Potassium Hydroxide is very versatile for cleaning. For instance: you will find it within shampoos, denture cleaners, oven cleaners, pipe and drain cleaners, concrete and driveway cleaners, and in detergents that don’t contain phosphates. 

Household uses

unsurprisingly, one of the biggest places that you will see potassium hydroxide is in the soaps in your house, particularly in your liquid soaps. In addition, it’s often found in hairsprays and in shaving products since it helps with hair removal. As mentioned before, you’ll also find it in some of the products that unclog your pipes and drains. 

Industrial uses

Because of its bleaching, drying, and caustic properties, potassium hydroxide is widely used in the automotive, beauty, detergent, food, and pharmaceutical industries.

Below are some of the applications where KOH is used industrially.

  • Alkaline batteries
  • Bio-fuel
  • Bleaches
  • Detergents
  • Dyes
  • Impregnants used for preservation and the hydrophobization (water repelling) of granite, limestone, paving blocks, sandstone, and travertine.
  • Laboratory reagents.
  • Smoothing of silicon photovoltaic cell (batteries).
  • Food (if using food grade materials), it’s used for regulating and stabilizing acidity, which is added to many processed products like preserves, dietary supplements, cocoa, and confectionaries.


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Bulk Packaging available

We Stock 40lb Pails!


Potassium hydroxide is very useful in the agricultural field. Below are some of the common uses it sees.

  • Adjusting and regulating soil pH.
  • Producing fertilizers by supplying the necessary potassium to crops.
  • Detoxifying glycerin to make it safe for animal feed.
  • Used in fungicides and herbicides to prevent diseases and pests.
  • Washing of fruit before storage or sale.


Chemical Industry

With its properties, it’s no surprise that it is widely used in chemistry. 

  • Used for making different chemicals such as formate, bromate, bromide, laurate, gluconate, potassium aluminate, and others.
  • Adjust chemical solutions’ pH level.
  • Remove water from solvents, particularly pyridines and amines.
  • Acts as a catalyst when producing biodiesel from oils and fats.
  • Performing chemical analysis.



Just like other chemicals, it’s found in quite a lot of cosmetic applications.

  • Used for making beauty products.
  • Used for shaving products since it helps with hair removal.
  • Helps produce shampoos, hairsprays, lotions, and other kinds of cosmetic products.

Food Industry

Finally, you will notice food grade potassium hydroxide in a variety of applications within the food industry. 

  • Used for softening olives.
  • Additive for making chocolate, cocoa, and soft drinks. 
  • Acts as a stabilizer and thickener in foods like ice cream.
  • Helps with making things like pretzels.
  • Added in to help preserve food.
  • Used for producing the color caramel.
  • Used for chemical peeling and washing of vegetables and fruit.




Be Careful Handling!

KOH Fun Fact

The properties that are specific to potassium hydroxide also are typical for something called “caustic potash”, which is a lot like potassium hydroxide… because its the same thing! Funnily, potassium hydroxide has many different aliases like caustic potash, KOH, and potash lye, so it’s important to understand all of these names refer to the same chemical!

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DIYChemicals’ 2lb package of KOH

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As you can see, there are a lot of industries and applications for which potassium hydroxide is used. However, it’s important to keep in mind that when you are using Potassium Hydroxide it can irritate your skin, mucus membranes, and eyes. Additionally, it also will generate heat when it touches water (or when water touches it), which will cause spontaneous ignition / combustion. So… be very careful when using KOH. It also is corrosive to tissue matter (which means human tissue; our bodies)! Therefore, always wear gloves, goggles, protective clothing, and a mask to protect your face.

Although you may not see it, potassium hydroxide is there helping many of your favorite industries get the job done.

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