Potassium Chlorate From Household Products

To the upper right we have very pure potassium chlorate, so much so that it bursts into flames when mixed with sugar and catalyzed with some sulfuric acid. [Mr. Home Scientist] produced the KClO3 using household chemicals and some rudimentary equipment sourced on eBay.

The experiment started off with concentrated bleach containing 8.25% sodium hypochlorite. He needed sodium chlorate so a hot plate was used to boil the bleach until crystals started to form. A more efficient way to achieve this reaction would be using electrolysis (check out the HHO generator we saw recently for a homemade rig). The next step is to add potassium chloride, which is sourced from the grocery store as a sodium-free salt alternative. After mixing with the filtered remains of the bleach reaction the two are combined. There is no precipitate from this — an indication that not everything is as it should be. But an overnight stay in the refrigerator results in the potassium chlorate crystals seen above.

Fiery testing (seen below) lets him know the experiment worked. From here the product can be used for things like making solid rocket engines.

[Thanks Bill]

36 thoughts on “Potassium Chlorate From Household Products

  1. Thermal decomposition of sodium hipochlorite to sodium chlorate works much better with dry substance – it should be avaliable as a pool additive.
    Electrolysis can make sodium chlorate (and even better – perchlorate) from plain table salt, you just need pretty good anode (from worst to best: graphite, lead dioxide, platinium).
    To create sodium chlorate from salt you need:
    – power source that can supply 20-30A at at least 3-4V DC
    – container – glass, plastic or ceramic, NOT metal
    – cathode – copper wire
    – anode (that’s the hard part)
    – cover for your containter – gasses coming out will be pretty nasty and corrosive
    – multimeter

    For every 2A of current you need at least 100ml of solution, and in order not to destroy your anode you can push maximum of 20A per dm^2 of electrode (3A for graphite)
    Solution – make saturated solution of salt (40g of salt in 100ml of boiling water), filter out all salt crystals that didn’t dissolve. Add 2-4g of sodium fluoride (for lead dioxide anode) or potassium dichromate (for other anodes).
    If you can, check pH and make it 5.5-6.5, optimally 6 using muriatic acid or sodium hydroxide. It’s not mandatory, but will increase yield when you are making sodium chlorate. Control this twice a day, if you use pH tester papers you will need to boil the sample for 5 minutes in order to destroy all of sodium hipchlorate that would bleach your paper.

    You will also need to control the temperature – the hotter it runs, the faster it will go, but destroy your anode more. Best results are around 60-80C (40C for graphite). If temperature is too low you need to insulate your container with styrofoam and if it’s too high – place it in a bowl of water.

    Usage: 1,5l of solution (600g of salt), 30A power supply. After 109 hours system will create 1085g sodium chlorate. After next 22h it will make 1248g sodium perchlorate that will be converted later to 1410g of potassium perchlorate

    Getting the perchlorate out:
    Filter your solution to make it clear.
    If you were making chlorate, you need to boil the solution for 15 minutes to destroy all remaining hipochlorate. Make saturated solution of 127g KCl per 100g of NaCl that was in initial solution. Mix both solutions – white crystals of sodium chlorate should appear. Heat the solution to boiling and add water 20ml at a time until everything disolves. If you didn’t need to add water – boil it untill a layer of crystals appear on surface and then add 20ml of water, heat it back up. Next cool it down to 0C, strain crystals and wash them with cold water. You can clean them more (using recrystalization) or dry in an oven at 100C.
    If you were making perchlorate, make saturated solution of 127g KCl or 82g NH4Cl (you need to be REALLY sure that you don’t have any sodium chlorate in your solution, run electrolysis longer if you are unsure, ammonium chlorate is VERY unstable). Mix both solutions, bring them to a boiling point and add water until everything dissolves – you will need lots of water (100ml per 24g of KClO4). Check pH and using NaOH bring it to 7 or just above. Cool it down to 0C, drain, wash, dry as before.

    Recipe translated from http://vmc.org.pl/index.php/nieorganiczna/item/174-chlorany-i-nadchlorany-otrzymywanie

    1. I would like to place my vote for Krzysztof Wrześniak to take any of the HAD writers jobs. In fact HAD should can all their wordbeaters, hire one good professional editor. And put the $5 bounty on well written submissions. Then perhaps there will finally be one to read.

  2. During a break at OHSummit yesterday, I was talking with some folks about energetic chemistry, and the subject of Potassium Chlorate came up. How timely!
    I did notice on Thursday that the Home Depot stocks fifty pound bags of KCl for use as a water softener, but i don’t know how pure that stuff is. Mu supposition is that above about 98% it hardly matters unless you’re making sensitive organic peroxides, in which case, DON’T.
    (unrelatedly – I had a great conversation with Caleb Kraft for like an hour, and then we went and had beers at Artisan’s Asylum. He reminded me that I owe Mike an apology for tearing into him in the comments several years ago. i know it’s too little, too late, but you guys put up with an awful lot of abuse in the comments, and I’m sorry to have added to it.)

  3. Have you tried oxygenating tablets for fish? They are about 98% pure Potassium Chlorate, small and easily crushed. They usually come in small amounts but if you don’t have the time to make it yourself that might be the way to go.

  4. Not [meant to Burst any bubbles] but even though this awesome post is quite hacking oriented and okay for sane and logical people, some sick beauracrat [in some government] through a prexisting automated system, may flag this site as one that that aids in the production of [terrorist] weapons. This site and all who visit quite possibly may/shall be placed on a [watchlist].

    Just sayin’ since a [government] agent recently wanted to arrest me without an ounce of probable cause or even reasonable suspicion. Thankfully the C4 [explosives] in my possession were in the trunk and they weren’t mine, since I was holding them for a friend who lifted them from a military storage [facilty]. We plan to use the bricks for serious Bass Fishing…those [suckers] are huge.

    1. Who cares. You can buy high explosives at big box stores. Go in to the firearms section of a Gander Mountain and look for Tannerite exploding target indicators. They’re mostly Ammonium Nitrate and dark Aluminum powder. You can order them on the internet too, Federal Explosives License not needed.

      1. AN/Al mixtures are a secondary. You generally cannot get it to detonate without a decent primary.
        Organic peroxides are good for this purpose, easy to make in the small quantities necessary, and cheap.
        But they’re unstable – TATP is called “Mother of Satan” by islamic terrorist bombmakers because of the dangers involved in safe handling, and how often it will simply take a hand or an arm from you.

        1. TATP… TriAcetoneTriPerioxide… There is no “safe way” of handling it and it’s stupidly easy to make. It can detonate under it’s own weight and has a nasty habit of sublimating. Now imagine that you have a jar of TCAP crystals that started sublimating and resublimating in the threads… Have fun unscrewing the top :D The only safe way of getting rid of it is to dissolve it in diesel fuel and burn it. Have fun.
          I don’t understand why anyone would use it, especially if you can make much more stable TetrAP with the same ingredients with addition of tin chloride, or make HMTD from urotropine using pretty much the same things again. Come to think of it, TATP has the biggest requirements because you need sulfuric or muriatic acid to make it and only citric for HMTD.

        2. Tannerite will detonate when shot with any centerfire rifle cartridge. There are competitor products which are just AN/Al which will detonate with pretty much any cartridge, even 22LR. If you’re someplace setting off explosives chances are you can shoot a gun there too.

          1. You don’t seem to know to whom you’re communicating with. Kiddie? There are no rules for how acronyms work, only arbitrary limits you seem to wish to place upon them. An acronym is merely a convenience. Sometimes the end product is more important than how it is derived, MOFO.

          2. Whom I’m communicating with? Oh right, some big shot kid on the internet who doesnt understand how acronyms work, and has never used explosives which use AN as a oxidizer.

          3. Yet you continue to insist there are rules for the formation of acronyms. You really should look into it MOFO. I can’t believe you’re not getting that MOFO. You do know what MOFO stands for don’t you? It is just one example of many that don’t follow your rules. I set you up from the outset to be wrong. A pretty sophisticated thing for a kid to do. It really is a shame you weren’t intelligent enough to get it though. If you had any brains this thread wouldn’t even exist. But you just keep on believing what you tell yourself. It is a great way to miss life.

            If you’re older than I am you sure didn’t accrue much wisdom with your years. When I was born coins were still made out of silver. Now tell me how old I am. Or rather how young could I possibly be? All of this just goes to show that you can’t kid a kidder. Although today I wish you could.

          4. @pcf11. It’s just sad if you’re old and immature, calling people mofo. Being young would at least been in your defence. Why does it matter, AMFO or ANFO. ANFO is just more common and logical. You started out complementing your own google abilities, please use them.

  5. Back when my paternal grandfather and great grandfather were alive, they used a mixture of pure sodium chlorate (was available in pure form as a weed killer) and sugar for blasting stumps and boulders. Pack it in tight, add something to kick it off real good and it’ll go boom. One time they were blasting out part of a lava flow to put in a septic tank, that stuff blew rock clear over the house.

    I wish I could’ve met them, both died some years before I was born. (Natural causes, not explosives!)

  6. The Perchlorates make good oxidisers for rocket propellants.
    The Chlorates make good bombs when you try to use them in rocket propellants.
    The Chlorates make good bombs when you are handling them, mixing them, contaminating them with trace impurities or looking at them. Thinking about them may be marginal on occasion.
    Making Perchlorates from Chlorates is a tricky task that can easily fail. Platinum anodes work well – but you can still get it wrong.
    You cannot just “use” lead dioxide . You have to construct the anodes which is an art in its own right.
    Using graphite anodes tends to not work or not work well enough.
    If you “get things wrong” with Chlorates you may never know. The coroner will know.
    Chlorate mixtures are often friction sensitive and may be spark sensitive. adding certain materials greatly increases their sensitivity to auto detonation / explosion/ … .
    If a sample of 1000 typical people followed the above instructions aq number would die and may may die. YMMV, but probably won’t. – Russell McMahon

    PS: I survived ‘playing’ with Chlorates in ‘pyrotechnic’ mixes in my teens & 20’s. Long ago. I know enough to know that even though I was careful, I was also lucky. Each year manyt are not so lucky.

  7. As as pyrotechnically inclined non-chemist, I’ve used sugar and Potassium Nitrate in both rockets and as campfire starters. What is the benefit of using the (presumably lethally dangerous) chlorate over the easy to get and safe (enough to buy at the grocers for use in hotdogs and sausage) nitrate?

    1. KN & Sucrose is relatively low energy. It’s good for “having fun” but far less energetic than eg Perchlorate based propellants.
      At the top end as a solid fuel oxidiser is arguably Ammonium Perchlorate – which is what is used in the the Space Shuttle solid boosters – I say “is” rather than “was” as they are being turned to new uses in the most recent NASA systems.
      The Chlorates are in between and also far more dangerous. They tend to have positive burn rate with pressure exponents which means that the faster they burn the faster they burn the … . You CAN make rockets with Chlorates but its easier to make bombs – intentional or otherwise. Chlorates tend to be impact sensitive and also may be sensitive to initiation due to trace amounts of eg sulfur. Many people have died over the years through not being aware enough and/or careful enough re chlorates’ peccadilloes. Chlorates are often the path to perchlorates – but the final step can be tricky and incomplete and if people are not able to remove the residual chlorates or unaware of the need then they may never realise what killed them.

  8. Electrolysis is a better way to make Chlorates, especially if you want low Sodium contamination for colour compositions. Perchlorates are a safer bet for most compositions, but require Platinum electrodes and are best made from concentrated Sodium Chlorate solutions. The pressure exponent of Chorate-base rocket propellants makes stable operation a bit tricky, not worth it IMO. Chlorate is quite useful in cap and striking compositions and smokes and some blue colour comps, but otherwise I try to avoid it because it can be fairly treacherous.

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