Potassium Permanganate and Its Diverse Uses

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Potassium permanganate has been used for its flexibility throughout the ages. It is so diverse it really should be part of everyone’s first aid kit.

Potassium permanganate has been used for its flexibility throughout the ages. It is so diverse it really should be part of everyone’s first aid kit

What is it?

It is a black/purple compound made up of the formula KMnO4 to create a salt that was formerly know as permanganate of potash or Condy’s crystals.

When added to water these little crystals give the water the most intense purple colour but also be aware if you get the crystals on your skin they do leave brown marks, they will also stain other organic material such as paper and clothing materials, so gloves are advisable when handling. If staining does occur the use of lemon juice over the stain should aid in its removal.

The history of this special crystal goes back hundreds of years to the 16000’s when mixtures of different minerals were fused together by Johann Rudolf to produce a green solution. When pyrolusite and potassium were added together in water they first gave off this greenish tinge, which later slowly shifted to violet potassium manganate.

Two hundred years later a London chemist called Henry Bollmann Condy discovered that by adding pyrolusite to the original formula an effective disinfectant was produced and when added to water the out come was eventually more stable than the original discovered by Johann. Condy spent time in litigation in order to stop competitors from copying and marketing similar products. (Wikipedia)

What are its diverse uses?

 

Anyone that has looked into the history of the camera will know that early photographers used it as a component that made up the flash powder. However this all changed when it was discovered that the permanganate mixtures were not that stable and it was replaced with other oxidizers.

Film companies love the stuff and if you ever wondered just how they managed to get that ‘old’ look for their props look no further than potassium permanganate. Brushed or wiped onto paper, rope, clothes or wood you can have that aged look instantly.

It is also a great disinfectant and has been used widely by the medical profession and also the veterinary profession. It was used by soldiers in world war two for trench foot or foot rot and is still an excellent remedy for dispelling athletes foot or any fungal disease by adding to water then soaking the infected area. Dermatitis and skin ulcers can benefit from being bathed in a mild solution.

Used as a mouthwash, it will help mouth sores or sore gums by disinfecting the mouth. It used to be used to treat syphilis and is still used to treat Chlamydia, both are sexually transmitted diseases.

Potassium permanganate works brilliantly in its crystal form as a form of cauterisation. For example veterinary surgeons or people working with dogs will keep some handy to cauterise split, warn or bleeding nails. Always handy if the nail gets cut to far down to the quick when the nails are being cut; potassium permanganate stops the bleeding when applied by cotton bud and keeps out infection.

Some people with dogs whose coats are fading or greying will apply a wash of the solution to the dog’s coat to bring out or enrich the colour. Obviously not a good idea to use it on pale-coated dogs, I haven’t tried it on my grey hair bits but I may in the future!

Disinfecting swimming pools or fishponds is another of its many uses but the dosage would need to be worked out. It works really well on treating fish disease, bacteria or parasite. Also it will get rid of the rotten egg smell that comes up from drains.  

So all in all this is a very handy, very diverse set of crystals that can be purchased from some chemists (they may need to order it in) the Internet and most large pool shops or fish specialists.

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