Difference Between Ammonium Chloride And Sodium Chloride

Ammonium chloride and sodium chloride are two essential compounds widely used in various industries. Though they share the term “chloride,” their properties, applications, and impacts differ significantly. Understanding these differences is crucial for industries that rely on these compounds for diverse purposes, from manufacturing to agriculture.

The primary difference between ammonium chloride and sodium chloride lies in their chemical composition and uses. Ammonium chloride, an inorganic compound with the formula NH4Cl, is mainly used in fertilizers and as a flux in metalwork. Sodium chloride, commonly known as table salt, has the formula NaCl and is essential for human consumption, food preservation, and industrial processes.

Ammonium chloride is highly soluble in water and plays a vital role in the nitrogen cycle, benefiting soil fertility. On the other hand, sodium chloride’s significance extends from culinary uses to de-icing roads during winter. Each compound’s unique properties and uses make them indispensable in their respective fields.

Chemical Properties

Ammonium Chloride Structure

Ammonium chloride (NH4Cl) is an inorganic compound with a simple structure. It consists of an ammonium cation (NH4+) and a chloride anion (Cl-). The ammonium ion is a positively charged polyatomic ion formed by a nitrogen atom covalently bonded to four hydrogen atoms. The chloride ion is a negatively charged ion, derived from chlorine. These ions are held together by ionic bonds, resulting in a crystalline structure.

Sodium Chloride Structure

Sodium chloride (NaCl), commonly known as table salt, is also an inorganic compound. It consists of a sodium cation (Na+) and a chloride anion (Cl-). The sodium ion is a positively charged ion formed by the loss of one electron from a sodium atom. Similar to ammonium chloride, the chloride ion is a negatively charged ion. The ions in sodium chloride are also held together by ionic bonds, creating a cubic crystal lattice.

Chemical Reactions and Behavior

Ammonium Chloride

Ammonium chloride is highly soluble in water. It dissolves, dissociating into ammonium and chloride ions. In an aqueous solution, it can act as a weak acid, releasing hydrogen ions (H+) and lowering the pH of the solution. This property makes it useful in buffering solutions and as a component in fertilizers to enhance soil acidity.

Ammonium chloride reacts with bases to form ammonia gas (NH3) and water. For example:


Sodium Chloride

Sodium chloride is also highly soluble in water. It dissociates into sodium and chloride ions. It does not react with water but remains stable in aqueous solutions. Sodium chloride is known for its role in osmotic balance and as a crucial component in various industrial processes, including the production of chlorine and sodium hydroxide via electrolysis.

When heated to high temperatures, sodium chloride can be melted and then electrolyzed to produce chlorine gas and metallic sodium:


Physical Properties

Appearance and Solubility

Ammonium Chloride

  • Appearance: Ammonium chloride is a white, crystalline solid.
  • Solubility: It is highly soluble in water. At 25°C, its solubility is about 37 grams per 100 milliliters of water. It forms a clear, colorless solution.
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Sodium Chloride

  • Appearance: Sodium chloride is also a white, crystalline solid, commonly recognized as table salt.
  • Solubility: Sodium chloride is highly soluble in water. At 25°C, its solubility is approximately 36 grams per 100 milliliters of water, similar to ammonium chloride.

Melting and Boiling Points

Ammonium Chloride

  • Melting Point: Ammonium chloride decomposes rather than melts, subliming at around 338°C.
  • Boiling Point: As it sublimes, it transitions directly from solid to gas, so it does not have a conventional boiling point.

Sodium Chloride

  • Melting Point: Sodium chloride has a melting point of 801°C.
  • Boiling Point: The boiling point of sodium chloride is 1,413°C.

Density and Hardness

Ammonium Chloride

  • Density: The density of ammonium chloride is 1.527 grams per cubic centimeter.
  • Hardness: Ammonium chloride is relatively soft, with a Mohs hardness of 2-2.5.

Sodium Chloride

  • Density: Sodium chloride has a density of 2.165 grams per cubic centimeter.
  • Hardness: Sodium chloride is slightly harder than ammonium chloride, with a Mohs hardness of 2.5.

Production Methods

Manufacturing Ammonium Chloride

Ammonium chloride can be produced through several methods. The most common method is the Solvay process, which involves the reaction of ammonia (NH3) and carbon dioxide (CO2) with water (H2O) and sodium chloride (NaCl):

  1. Ammonia and carbon dioxide are absorbed in water to form ammonium bicarbonate (NH4HCO3).
  2. Ammonium bicarbonate reacts with sodium chloride to form ammonium chloride and sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3).
  3. Sodium bicarbonate is then removed by filtration, and the remaining solution is evaporated to crystallize ammonium chloride.

Another method involves the direct reaction of hydrochloric acid (HCl) with ammonia:


Producing Sodium Chloride

Sodium chloride is typically extracted from salt mines or obtained from sea water through evaporation processes:

  1. Mining: Salt deposits are mined using traditional mining techniques, such as room-and-pillar or solution mining.
  2. Solar Evaporation: Sea water is collected in shallow ponds. The water is allowed to evaporate naturally under the sun, leaving behind salt crystals. This method is particularly effective in regions with high temperatures and low rainfall.
  3. Vacuum Evaporation: In regions with less sunlight, sea water or brine is heated under vacuum conditions to accelerate the evaporation process and produce salt.

Environmental Impact of Production

Ammonium Chloride

The production of ammonium chloride, particularly through the Solvay process, can have environmental implications. The process generates waste products like calcium chloride (CaCl2) and can lead to the release of ammonia and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Proper waste management and emission controls are necessary to minimize these impacts.

Sodium Chloride

The extraction and production of sodium chloride also have environmental impacts. Mining can lead to habitat destruction and soil degradation. Solar evaporation methods can alter local ecosystems, particularly in coastal regions. Additionally, the large-scale use of sodium chloride for de-icing roads can lead to soil and water contamination, affecting plant and aquatic life.

Uses and Applications

Industrial Uses of Ammonium Chloride

Ammonium chloride plays a vital role in various industrial processes. Its applications range across different sectors due to its unique chemical properties:

  • Metalwork: It is commonly used as a flux in metalworking, particularly in galvanizing, soldering, and tinning processes. The flux helps remove oxide layers from metal surfaces, ensuring a strong bond between metals.
  • Batteries: Ammonium chloride serves as an electrolyte in dry cell batteries, specifically in zinc-carbon batteries. It facilitates the electrochemical reactions that produce electrical energy.
  • Textiles: In the textile industry, ammonium chloride is used in dyeing and printing processes. It helps fix dyes onto fabrics, ensuring vibrant and long-lasting colors.
  • Pharmaceuticals: It is used in the pharmaceutical industry to produce cough medicine. Ammonium chloride acts as an expectorant, helping to clear mucus from the respiratory tract.
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Common Applications of Sodium Chloride

Sodium chloride is one of the most widely used compounds globally. Its applications are diverse, spanning several industries:

  • Culinary: Commonly known as table salt, sodium chloride is essential for human consumption. It enhances the flavor of food and is used in food preservation, particularly in curing meats and pickling vegetables.
  • De-icing: Sodium chloride is widely used to melt ice on roads, sidewalks, and driveways during winter. It lowers the freezing point of water, preventing ice formation and ensuring safer travel conditions.
  • Industrial: Sodium chloride is used in the chemical industry to produce chlorine and sodium hydroxide through electrolysis. These chemicals are essential in manufacturing various products, including plastics, paper, and detergents.
  • Water Treatment: It is used in water softening processes. Sodium chloride regenerates ion exchange resins in water softeners, removing calcium and magnesium ions that cause water hardness.

Agricultural Uses

Both ammonium chloride and sodium chloride have significant roles in agriculture:

Ammonium Chloride

  • Fertilizers: Ammonium chloride is a key ingredient in nitrogen-based fertilizers. It provides an essential source of nitrogen, promoting plant growth and improving crop yields.
  • Soil Acidity: It helps adjust soil pH levels. Ammonium chloride can increase soil acidity, benefiting crops that thrive in acidic conditions.

Sodium Chloride

  • Animal Feed: Sodium chloride is added to animal feed to ensure proper nutrient intake. It helps maintain electrolyte balance and supports overall animal health.
  • Weed Control: It is used in some herbicides to control weed growth. Sodium chloride can act as a desiccant, drying out and killing unwanted vegetation.

Health Impacts

Safety of Ammonium Chloride

Ammonium chloride is generally safe when handled properly. However, exposure to high concentrations can pose health risks:

  • Inhalation: Breathing in ammonium chloride dust can irritate the respiratory tract, leading to coughing and shortness of breath.
  • Skin Contact: Direct contact with ammonium chloride can cause skin irritation. Prolonged exposure may lead to dermatitis.
  • Ingestion: Ingesting large amounts of ammonium chloride can cause nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In severe cases, it can lead to metabolic acidosis, a condition where the blood becomes too acidic.

Health Effects of Sodium Chloride

Sodium chloride is essential for human health but must be consumed in moderation:

  • Hypertension: Excessive intake of sodium chloride can lead to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Kidney Function: High sodium levels can strain the kidneys, potentially leading to kidney disease.
  • Bone Health: Excess sodium can cause calcium loss from bones, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

Safe Handling and Storage

Proper handling and storage of ammonium chloride and sodium chloride are crucial to ensure safety:

  • Ammonium Chloride:
    • Store in a cool, dry place, away from moisture.
    • Use protective equipment, such as gloves and masks, to prevent inhalation and skin contact.
    • Ensure proper ventilation in areas where ammonium chloride is used.
  • Sodium Chloride:
    • Store in a dry environment to prevent caking.
    • Handle with clean, dry hands to avoid contamination.
    • Use appropriate containers to prevent moisture absorption.

Environmental Considerations

Ecological Impact of Ammonium Chloride

Ammonium chloride can affect the environment if not managed responsibly:

  • Water Pollution: Excessive use of ammonium chloride in agriculture can lead to runoff, contaminating water bodies and harming aquatic life.
  • Soil Health: Over-application can disrupt soil pH balance, negatively impacting soil health and crop productivity.

Environmental Effects of Sodium Chloride

The use of sodium chloride, especially for de-icing, has significant environmental implications:

  • Soil Contamination: High levels of sodium chloride can degrade soil quality, affecting plant growth and soil microorganisms.
  • Water Pollution: Runoff from de-icing operations can increase salinity in water bodies, harming aquatic ecosystems and freshwater supplies.
  • Vegetation Damage: Sodium chloride can cause direct damage to roadside vegetation, leading to loss of plant life and biodiversity.
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Waste Management Practices

Proper waste management practices are essential to minimize the environmental impact of ammonium chloride and sodium chloride:

  • Ammonium Chloride:
    • Implement controlled use in agriculture to prevent runoff and water pollution.
    • Dispose of waste material following local regulations and guidelines.
    • Encourage the use of alternative, environmentally friendly fertilizers where possible.
  • Sodium Chloride:
    • Use anti-icing methods to reduce the amount of sodium chloride needed for de-icing.
    • Implement runoff management systems to prevent water contamination.
    • Explore alternative de-icing agents that are less harmful to the environment, such as calcium magnesium acetate.

Market and Economic Factors

Global Market Trends

The market demand for ammonium chloride and sodium chloride varies by region and industry:

  • Ammonium Chloride:
    • The demand is driven primarily by the agricultural sector, where it is used as a nitrogen fertilizer.
    • Growth in the electronics industry also contributes to demand, as ammonium chloride is used in battery production.
  • Sodium Chloride:
    • The food industry remains a significant driver of sodium chloride demand, particularly for table salt and food preservation.
    • The chemical industry also significantly contributes to the demand for sodium chloride, used in chlorine and caustic soda production.

Pricing and Supply Chain

The pricing of ammonium chloride and sodium chloride is influenced by several factors:

  • Ammonium Chloride:
    • Prices are affected by the cost of raw materials, such as ammonia and hydrochloric acid.
    • Transportation costs and regulations also impact the final price.
    • Seasonal demand, particularly in agriculture, can cause price fluctuations.
  • Sodium Chloride:
    • The cost of extraction and production methods influences sodium chloride prices.
    • Logistics and transportation costs play a significant role in pricing, especially for large-scale de-icing operations.
    • Market demand from various industries, including food, chemicals, and water treatment, affects prices.

Economic Importance in Different Sectors

Both ammonium chloride and sodium chloride hold significant economic importance across various sectors:

  • Agriculture: Ammonium chloride is crucial for crop production, enhancing soil fertility and boosting yields. Sodium chloride is essential in animal feed and certain herbicides.
  • Food Industry: Sodium chloride is indispensable in food processing, preservation, and flavor enhancement, driving significant economic activity in the sector.
  • Chemical Industry: Both compounds are vital for producing chemicals like chlorine, sodium hydroxide, and ammonia, supporting a wide range of industrial applications.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Ammonium chloride’s role in medicine, particularly as an expectorant, underlines its economic value in the pharmaceutical sector.
  • Infrastructure: Sodium chloride is essential for maintaining road safety during winter, impacting transportation and logistics sectors economically.


What are the main uses of ammonium chloride?

Ammonium chloride is primarily used in fertilizers, providing an essential source of nitrogen for plant growth. It is also used as a flux in metalworking, aiding in the soldering and galvanizing processes. Additionally, ammonium chloride finds applications in the pharmaceutical industry, where it is used in expectorants to relieve coughs.

How is sodium chloride different from ammonium chloride?

Sodium chloride, commonly known as table salt, differs from ammonium chloride in both chemical composition and usage. Sodium chloride (NaCl) is primarily used for seasoning and preserving food, as well as de-icing roads. Ammonium chloride (NH4Cl), on the other hand, is mainly used in fertilizers and as a flux in metalworking.

Are there any health risks associated with ammonium chloride?

Yes, there are health risks associated with ammonium chloride if it is not handled properly. Inhalation or ingestion of large amounts can cause irritation to the respiratory tract, eyes, and skin. It can also lead to more severe health issues such as metabolic acidosis if ingested in significant quantities. Proper handling and adherence to safety guidelines are essential.

What environmental impacts do ammonium chloride and sodium chloride have?

Ammonium chloride can impact soil and water quality if used excessively in agriculture, potentially leading to nutrient imbalances and water pollution. Sodium chloride, when used for de-icing roads, can lead to soil and water contamination, affecting plant life and aquatic ecosystems. Both compounds need to be managed responsibly to mitigate their environmental impact.


Ammonium chloride and sodium chloride are crucial compounds with distinct roles in various industries. While ammonium chloride serves as an essential fertilizer and metalworking flux, sodium chloride’s uses range from culinary applications to road safety during winter. Understanding their differences is vital for their effective and safe utilization.

Proper handling and responsible use of both compounds are necessary to minimize health and environmental risks. By recognizing their unique properties and applications, industries can leverage these compounds’ benefits while mitigating potential negative impacts.

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