What Is Sodium Bisulfate and How Is It Used?

A vial of sodium bisulfate
 Jon/Flickr/CC By 2.0

As noted in the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Household Products Database, sodium bisulfate is one of the many synonyms for sodium acid sulfate. It is a dry acid in crystal, granular or powder form that is used as a pH adjuster, fungicide, herbicide or microbiocide (a product that kills microbes) in a variety of industries, such as household cleaning and swimming pool maintenance.

Sodium bisulfate may also be called sodium hydrogen sulfate, sulfuric acid, monosodium salts, sodium acid sulfate, sodium hydrosulfate or sodium hydrogen sulfate. Also, a quick search on ChemIDPlusAdvanced, a database operated by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, will show a host of other not-so-obvious names for it as well, such as nitre cake or niter cake. It has the chemical formula: HNaO4S

Uses for Sodium Bisulfate

Sodium bisulfate is often used in toilet bowl cleaners and dishwasher cleaning products. It can also be found in a multitude of other industries. Commonly used to control pH, it's found in aquarium and swimming pool products. It can even be found in dietary supplements and antifungal foot creams, according to search results using the National Institute of Health's Dietary Supplement Label Database and Daily Med database, respectively. Finally, it's also used in metal finishing.

Product Brands Containing Sodium Bisulfate

To see if certain products contain sodium bisulfate, try searching these databases using the chemical name, CAS number, or one of its synonyms (noted in the section above):

Regulation, Health, and Safety

When a chemical is used in pharmaceutical preparations, personal care products, or as a food additive, it is monitored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). When it is used for cleaning and industrial uses, it is monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

As noted in MedLine Plus, sodium bisulfate is very irritating to the skin and can cause severe eye damage if contact occurs. Also, swallowing the chemical can cause symptoms, such as diarrhea, vomiting, and low blood pressure. Also, it is considered acutely toxic according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as noted in the Pesticide Action Network of North America database.

First-aid measures include seeking immediate medical attention and not inducing vomiting if the chemical is swallowed. Also, MedLine Plus notes to immediately drink water or milk unless otherwise instructed by medical personnel or if the person is unable to swallow due to convulsions or vomiting, for example. If the chemical gets on the skin, wash with water for at least 15 minutes. If the chemical is inhaled, move to an area with fresh air.

Environmental Effects

According to Scorecard, a pollution information guide part of the Good Guide, sodium bisulfate does not rank very high with regard to concerns about ecological toxicity and persistence, but it does have some concerns nonetheless.

Green Cleaning Alternatives

When it comes to green cleaning products, seek out manufacturers who don't use this chemical or try your hand at some DIY-recipes. For example, sodium bisulfate is used in Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner but is not present in the Lemi Shine Machine Cleaner or this DIY Earth Friendly Dishwasher Cleaner.