Ammonia solution

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Ammonium hydroxide
Ball-and-stick model of the ammonia molecule
Ball-and-stick model of the water molecule
Ball-and-stick model of the ammonium cation
Ball-and-stick model of the hydroxide anion
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.014.225
E number E527 (acidity regulators, ...)
Molar mass 35.04 g/mol
Appearance Colourless liquid
Odor "Fishy", highly pungent
Density 0.91 g/cm3 (25 % w/w)
0.88 g/cm3 (35 % w/w)
Melting point −57.5 °C (−71.5 °F; 215.7 K) (25 % w/w)
−91.5 °C (35% w/w)
Boiling point 37.7 °C (99.9 °F; 310.8 K) (25 % w/w)
−31.5 ∙ 10−6 cm3/mol
111 J·mol−1·K−1[2]
−80 kJ·mol−1[2]
Dangerous for the Environment (Nature) N Corrosive C
R-phrases (outdated) R34, R50
S-phrases (outdated) (S1/2), S26, S36/37/39, S45, S61
Related compounds
Other anions
Ammonium chloride
Ammonium cyanide
Other cations
Tetramethylammonium hydroxide
Related compounds
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
N verify (what is YesYN ?)
Infobox references

Ammonia solution, also known as ammonia water, ammonical liquor, ammonia liquor, aqua ammonia, aqueous ammonia, or (inaccurately) ammonia, is a solution of ammonia in water. It can be denoted by the symbols NH3(aq). It is sometimes thought of as a solution of ammonium hydroxide. Although the name ammonium hydroxide suggests an alkali with composition [NH4+][OH], it is actually impossible to isolate samples of NH4OH. The ions NH4+ and OH do not account for a significant fraction of the total amount of ammonia except in extremely dilute solutions.[4]

Basicity of ammonia in water[edit]

In aqueous solution, ammonia deprotonates a small fraction of the water to give ammonium and hydroxide according to the following equilibrium:

NH3 + H2O ⇌ NH4+ + OH.

In a 1M ammonia solution, about 1.42% of the ammonia is converted to ammonium, equivalent to a pH of 11.63. The base ionization constant is

Kb = [NH4+][OH]/[NH3] = 1.8×10−5

Saturated solutions[edit]

Like other gases, ammonia exhibits decreasing solubility in solvent liquids as the temperature of the solvent increases. Ammonia solutions decrease in density as the concentration of dissolved ammonia increases. At 15.6 °C (60.1 °F), the density of a saturated solution is 0.88 g/ml and contains 35% ammonia by mass, 308 g/l w/v, (308 grams of ammonia per litre of solution) and has a molarity of approximately 18 mol L−1. At higher temperatures, the molarity of the saturated solution decreases and the density increases.

Upon warming saturated saturated solutions, ammonia gas is released. Warming sealed containers can lead to explosions.


In contrast to anhydrous ammonia, aqueous ammonia finds few non-niche uses outside of cleaning agents.

Household cleaner[edit]

Dilute (1-3%) ammonia is also an ingredient of numerous cleaning agents, including many window cleaning formulas.[5]

In addition to use as an ingredient in cleansers with other cleansing ingredients, ammonia in water is also sold as a cleaning agent by itself, usually labeled as simply "ammonia". It may be sold plain, lemon-scented (and typically colored yellow), or pine-scented (green). Commonly available ammonia with soap added is known as "cloudy ammonia".

Alkyl amine[edit]

In industry, aqueous ammonia can be used as a precursor to some alkyl amines, although anhydrous ammonia is usually preferred. Hexamethylenetetramine forms readily from aqueous ammonia and formaldehyde. Ethylenediamine forms from 1,2-dichloroethane and aqueous ammonia.[6]

Water treatment[edit]

Ammonia is used to produce chloramine, which is used as a disinfectant.[7] Chloramine is preferred over chlorination for its ability to remain active in stagnant water pipes longer, reducing the risk of water born infections.

Ammonia is used by aquarists for the purposes of setting up a new fish tank using an ammonia process called fishless cycling.[8] This requires that the ammonia contain no additives.

Food production[edit]

Baking ammonia was one of the first chemical leaving agents invented. Originally harvested from grinding up deer antlers into a powder.[9]. It is useful as a leavening agent because Ammonium carbonate is heat activated. This allows bakers to avoid yeast's long proofing time and avoiding the quick CO2 dissipation of baking soda in making breads and cookies rise. It is still used to make ammonia cookies and other crisp baked goods, but its popularity has waned because of ammonia's off putting smell and concerns over its use as a food ingredient compared to modern day baking powder formulations.

Ammonia Hydroxide is a base that can be used as an acidity regulator to bring down the acid levels in food. It is classified in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) when using the food grade version.[10] Its pH control abilities make it an effective antimicrobial agent.

Furniture darkening[edit]

In furniture-making, ammonia solution was traditionally used to darken or stain wood containing tannic acid. After being sealed inside a container with the wood, fumes from the solution react with the tannic acid and iron salts naturally found in wood, creating a rich, dark stained look to the wood. This was commonly used during the arts and crafts movement in furniture- a furniture style which was primarily constructed of oak and stained using these methods.[11]

Treatment of straw for cattle[edit]

Ammonia solution is used to treat straw, producing "ammoniated straw" making it more edible for cattle.[12]

Laboratory use[edit]

Aqueous ammonia is used in traditional qualitative inorganic analysis as a complexant and base. Like many amines, it gives a deep blue coloration with copper(II) solutions. Ammonia solution can dissolve silver oxide residues, such as that formed from Tollens' reagent. It is often found in solutions used to clean gold, silver, and platinum jewelry, but may have negative effects on porous gem stones like opals and pearls.[13]

When ammonia solution is mixed with dilute hydrogen peroxide in the presence of a metal ion, such as Cu2+, the peroxide will undergo rapid decomposition.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Record of Ammonia solution in the GESTIS Substance Database of the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
  2. ^ a b Zumdahl, Steven S. (2009). Chemical Principles 6th Ed. Houghton Mifflin Company. p. A22. ISBN 0-618-94690-X. 
  3. ^ C&L Inventory
  4. ^ Housecroft, C. E.; Sharpe, A. G. (2004). Inorganic Chemistry (2nd ed.). Prentice Hall. p. 187. ISBN 978-0130399137. 
  5. ^ Christian Nitsch, Hans-Joachim Heitland, Horst Marsen, Hans-Joachim Schlüussler (2005). "Cleansing Agents". Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a07_137. 
  6. ^ Eller, Karsten; Henkes, Erhard; Rossbacher, Roland; Höke, Hartmut (2000). "Amines, Aliphatic". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. doi:10.1002/14356007.a02_001. ISBN 978-3-527-30673-2. 
  7. ^ "Chloramines in Drinking Water". EPA. US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved 6 March 2018. 
  8. ^ "Fishless Cycling". Aquarium Advice. Retrieved 6 March 2018. 
  9. ^ "Ammonia Cookies". Food Timeline. Retrieved 6 March 2018. 
  10. ^ Database of Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Reviews: Ammonium hydroxide, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  11. ^ Rigers, Shayne; Umney, Nick. "Acidic and alkaline stains". Wood Coatings: Theory and Practice. Amsterdam: Elsevier. pp. 618–9. ISBN 978-0-444-52840-7. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ The Jeweler's Bench. 2015. Fine Jewelry Cleaner. Littleton, CO.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]