What is Potassium Chloride? - Uses, Formula & Side Effects

What is Potassium Chloride? - Uses, Formula & Side Effects
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  • 1:13 Uses of Potassium Chloride
  • 3:15 Potassium Chloride Levels
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nissa Garcia

Nissa has a masters degree in chemistry and has taught high school science and college level chemistry.

Potassium chloride is a simple compound, but it affects many areas of our lives like our health, food and even our environment. Is potassium chloride a dangerous chemical? In this lesson, we will answer this question and learn all about potassium chloride.

Definition of Potassium Chloride

Potassium chloride naturally occurs as a white or colorless solid that has a powdery, crystalline appearance. Its chemical formula is KCl, consists of one potassium (K) atom and one chlorine (Cl) atom. An ionic compound is made of a metal element and a nonmetal element. In potassium chloride, the metal element is potassium (K) and the nonmetal element is chlorine (Cl), so we can say that KCl is an ionic compound.

Appearance and formula of potassium chloride

Imagine what happens when a potassium (K) atom meets a chlorine (Cl) atom. The K atom will lose one electron and acquire a positive charge, so it will become a positive ion with a charge of +1, written as K+. The Cl atom will gain an electron and acquire a negative charge, so it's going to become a negative ion with a charge of -1, written as Cl-.

Potassium chloride is a salt consisting of a positive ion (K+) and negative ion (Cl-).

Here, we can see that KCl consists of a positive ion (K+) and a negative ion (Cl-). Salts are ionic compounds consisting of positive and negative ions. Because potassium chloride has ions of opposite charges, potassium chloride is classified as a salt.

Uses of Potassium Chloride

Potassium chloride has so many uses in different areas even though it tends to go unnoticed by most people! Let's take a look at some common uses of potassium chloride.

Do you have a flower garden or a vegetable garden that you maintain? If you do, then you've probably gone to the store to buy fertilizer. Some plants need potassium to grow. Muriate of Potash (MOP) is a type of fertilizer that's made of potassium chloride (KCl). It's got around 50% potassium (K) and 46% of chlorine (Cl).

Potassium chloride is used as a fertilizer.

But what makes potassium chloride a good fertilizer? It's the potassium! Potassium can be really helpful in plant growth and reproduction. This type of fertilizer is also great for soil that has low chlorine (Cl) content. By having just the right amount of chlorine content in the soil, the crops will be resistant to disease.

Potassium chloride can also be used as a treatment for hypokalemia. In order for the cells in our body to function properly, our blood needs to have normal potassium levels. There are people who suffer from potassium deficiency in the blood, a condition known as hypokalemia. To treat this condition, potassium chloride pills are taken to balance the blood's potassium levels to a normal amount.

Potassium chloride can also be used as a food additive. If you've ever looked at the ingredients of many foods we eat, you've probably seen potassium chloride make an appearance. In some foods like soups, sauces, cereal, and sports drinks, it's used instead of salt to provide our bodies with potassium. It's also used as a firming agent to give a good and consistent texture to food and to strengthen its structure. It's even used as a flavor enhancer in chocolate milk, cheese, and cream.

Potassium chloride: food additive

There are some of us who want to cut back on our sodium intake. An alternative to using salt, some people use potassium chloride to give their food an extra kick of flavor. However, as with all things, it needs to be used in moderation, because excessive levels of potassium in the blood can be harmful to our health.

Potassium Chloride Levels

As mentioned earlier, we need the right amount of potassium in our bodies to function. The amount of potassium that we have in our blood can affect our internal functions, like of our kidneys, as well as our muscle contractions.

Potassium content of some potassium-rich foods and drinks

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