Difference Between Sodium Perborate And Percarbonate

The evolution of cleaning agents has brought us various compounds that aid in maintaining cleanliness and hygiene. Among these, sodium perborate and sodium percarbonate stand out as prominent choices for various cleaning applications. Each possesses unique chemical properties that make them suitable for specific contexts.

Sodium perborate and sodium percarbonate are both oxygen-based bleaching agents commonly used in household and industrial cleaning products. While they share some similarities in chemical structure and functionality, they differ significantly in their stability, temperature of activation, and impact on the environment. This distinction plays a crucial role in their applicability in different cleaning scenarios.

Understanding the chemical nature and practical uses of these compounds can be crucial for making informed decisions about their use. Both chemicals offer benefits such as color-safe bleaching and disinfecting properties, but their environmental and safety profiles vary, affecting their suitability for use in various applications.

Chemical Profiles

Sodium Perborate

Composition and Properties

Sodium perborate, chemically known as NaBO₃, is a white, odorless, and granular compound. It serves as an important source of active oxygen in various applications, primarily in formulations where a bleaching action is required. Structurally, it may present in several hydrate forms, most commonly as monohydrate (NaBO₃·H₂O) and tetrahydrate (NaBO₃·4H₂O). The compound decomposes into sodium borate, water, and oxygen upon dissolution, providing a mild yet effective bleaching effect.

One key property of sodium perborate is its ability to release oxygen slowly at lower temperatures, which is enhanced in the presence of activators like tetraacetylethylenediamine (TAED). This property makes it especially valuable in applications that require a controlled and sustained release of bleaching agents.

Common Uses

  • Laundry Detergents: Sodium perborate is frequently used in laundry powders and tablets as a bleaching agent to remove stains and brighten colors without the harsh effects associated with chlorine bleach.
  • Tooth Whitening Products: It is also utilized in some tooth-whitening formulas, where it helps to oxidize organic stains on teeth without damaging the enamel.
  • Antiseptic Formulations: The compound finds applications in antiseptic solutions and some contact lens cleaners due to its disinfectant properties.
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Sodium Percarbonate

Composition and Properties

Sodium percarbonate (Na₂CO₃·1.5H₂O₂) appears as a white crystalline powder and is an adduct of sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide. This composition makes it a potent oxidizing agent. Upon contact with water, sodium percarbonate releases hydrogen peroxide and soda ash (sodium carbonate), which provides a high cleaning performance.

The activation of sodium percarbonate occurs at a lower temperature compared to sodium perborate, making it suitable for use in eco-friendly cleaning products and cold water applications. Its ability to break down into natural elements like water and oxygen post-use also underscores its environmental appeal.

Common Uses

  • Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products: Widely used in non-toxic household cleaners including laundry detergents, stain removers, and dishwasher tablets.
  • Odor Control: It is effective in eliminating odors at their source, often used in pet areas and other spaces prone to unpleasant smells.
  • Mold Removal: Offers excellent efficacy in mold treatment products due to its ability to kill mold spores and bleach mold stains.

Production Processes

Manufacturing Sodium Perborate

Key Ingredients

  • Sodium Borate
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Water

Production Steps

  1. Mixing of Raw Materials: Sodium borate is initially mixed with water to form a slurry.
  2. Oxidation: Hydrogen peroxide is added to the slurry under controlled conditions to ensure the formation of perborate rather than decomposition into free oxygen.
  3. Crystallization: The mixture is then cooled, allowing sodium perborate to crystallize out of the solution.
  4. Drying: The crystals are filtered and dried to achieve the desired purity and granular consistency.

Manufacturing Sodium Percarbonate

Key Ingredients

  • Sodium Carbonate (Soda Ash)
  • Hydrogen Peroxide

Production Steps

  1. Mixing: Sodium carbonate is blended with liquid hydrogen peroxide, forming a paste-like mixture.
  2. Granulation: The mixture is then granulated to form small beads, which allow for more controlled release and stability of the product.
  3. Drying and Stabilization: The granules are dried to remove excess water, stabilizing the percarbonate and preparing it for packaging and distribution.

Environmental Impact

Sodium Perborate and Ecology


Sodium perborate is moderately biodegradable. While it breaks down into less harmful substances such as borates and water, the decomposition rate and completeness depend heavily on environmental conditions like temperature and pH. Despite its moderate biodegradability, concerns arise over the accumulation of boron compounds in water systems, which can potentially lead to ecological imbalances.

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The ecotoxicological profile of sodium perborate raises several environmental concerns. It can cause toxic effects on aquatic life, primarily due to the release of boron into water bodies. High concentrations of boron can be detrimental to aquatic plants and animals, necessitating careful management of industrial effluents containing this compound.

Sodium Percarbonate and Ecology


Sodium percarbonate boasts a high level of biodegradability. Upon its use, it decomposes into natural elements like water and oxygen, and soda ash—substances that have minimal impact on the environment. This decomposition ensures that sodium percarbonate does not accumulate in the environment, making it a preferred ingredient in eco-friendly cleaning products.


Although sodium percarbonate is environmentally friendly due to its breakdown products, it can still pose risks to aquatic life in its active form. The released hydrogen peroxide can cause oxidative stress in aquatic organisms if not properly diluted. However, these effects are generally less severe compared to other industrial bleaches, provided the usage guidelines are strictly followed.

Health and Safety

Handling Sodium Perborate

Risks and Precautions

Handling sodium perborate requires awareness of its oxidizing properties, which can pose health risks if not managed properly. Direct contact with the compound can lead to skin and eye irritation, and its dust can cause respiratory issues.

Safety Measures

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Wearing gloves, goggles, and face masks can prevent direct contact with the compound.
  • Proper Ventilation: Ensuring good ventilation in areas where sodium perborate is used or stored minimizes inhalation risks.
  • Storage Requirements: Sodium perborate should be stored in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight and incompatible materials.

Handling Sodium Percarbonate

Risks and Precautions

Similar to sodium perborate, sodium percarbonate also poses risks due to its oxidative nature. However, it is somewhat more reactive, especially when wet, which can lead to rapid decomposition and release of oxygen that might cause pressure build-up if enclosed.

Safety Measures

  • Prevent Moisture Contact: Store in a dry environment to prevent premature decomposition.
  • Use Suitable Containers: Containers should be airtight but not completely sealed, allowing any oxygen generated to escape safely.
  • Training on Handling: Workers should be trained in the proper handling procedures and emergency responses to manage accidental exposures effectively.

Comparison and Analysis

Effectiveness in Cleaning

Comparative Studies

Studies comparing sodium perborate and sodium percarbonate have shown that percarbonate tends to activate at lower temperatures and is more effective in removing organic stains due to its rapid oxygen release. This makes it particularly useful for household cleaning applications where lower temperatures are preferred.

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User Feedback

User reviews generally favor sodium percarbonate for its efficacy and environmental safety. It is praised for its ability to brighten fabrics and surfaces without leaving harmful residues, whereas sodium perborate is sometimes noted for its slower action and the need for higher temperatures.

Cost Efficiency

Market Prices

Sodium percarbonate typically commands a higher market price than sodium perborate, reflecting its enhanced cleaning capabilities and safer environmental profile. However, the cost must be weighed against the efficiency and the lower temperatures required for effective cleaning, which can translate into energy savings.

Usage Ratios

Due to its concentrated effectiveness, sodium percarbonate is often used in smaller quantities than sodium perborate. This can offset the initial higher cost, making it a cost-effective option in the long term, especially when considering the reduced environmental impact and potential savings in energy costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Sodium Perborate?

Sodium perborate is a white, water-soluble compound often used as a bleaching and oxidizing agent in detergents and household cleaners. It releases oxygen slowly, making it effective for stain removal and disinfection at lower temperatures.

What is Sodium Percarbonate?

Sodium percarbonate is another white, crystalline, water-soluble chemical used in cleaning agents. It is often referred to as an “oxygen bleach” and becomes active when exposed to water, releasing hydrogen peroxide and providing a powerful cleaning action.

How do Sodium Perborate and Percarbonate Differ?

The key difference between sodium perborate and percarbonate lies in their activation temperatures and environmental impact. Sodium perborate requires higher temperatures to activate, making it less suitable for cold washes, while percarbonate activates at lower temperatures and is more environmentally friendly.

Are Sodium Perborate and Percarbonate Safe to Use?

Both compounds are generally safe for household use when handled properly. However, they can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory system if not used according to safety guidelines.

Can Sodium Perborate and Percarbonate Be Used Interchangeably?

While both can be used for similar purposes, their different properties often make one more suitable than the other depending on the specific cleaning needs and environmental considerations.


In conclusion, sodium perborate and sodium percarbonate are valuable compounds in the arsenal of cleaning products. They offer robust cleaning capabilities, with differences in chemical stability and environmental impact that should be considered when choosing a suitable agent for particular cleaning tasks.

Both chemicals embody the progress in developing more effective and potentially less harmful alternatives to traditional chlorine bleaches. Understanding these nuances not only helps in selecting the right product but also contributes to more sustainable consumption practices in everyday cleaning tasks.

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