Compound Names for NaHSO4

Sodium Bisulfate Common Names and Misconceptions

What’s in a name? When it comes to chemical compounds, a single letter in the name can make a significant difference in the compound you’re identifying. Also, it’s common for slang or generic names to be given to compounds. Such is the case for sodium bisulfate.

Sodium Bisulfate: Common Names, Compound Name and More

Let’s start with what is clearly defined: the compound name for NaHSO4 is sodium bisulfate.  But when it comes to common names for sodium bisulfate, there are many options.

Sodium bisulfate is also known as sodium hydrogen sulfate or bisulfate of soda. Sodium acid sulfate is another common name for the compound, especially when used as a food ingredient. Many years ago, the phrase niter cake was also linked to the compound.

Regardless of name, sodium bisulfate is an acid, which is perhaps one of the most commonly misunderstood compounds for the general public.

Want more details?

We have everything you need to know about the chemical formula of sodium bisulfate, NaHSO4.

What exactly is an acid?

An acid is any chemical where a hydrogen ion can be released or dissociated. When an acid is added to water, it increases the number of free hydrogen ions, which lowers the pH.

Mathematically, pH is the negative log of the hydrogen ion concentration, and is typically a value between 0 and 14. More hydrogen ions in a solution lowers the pH and makes a solution more acidic.

Organic vs Inorganic Acids

There are two types of acids: organic, which are carbon based, and inorganic, which are mineral based. When it comes to pH manipulation, the pKa of these two types of acids impacts their efficacy. The pKa of an acid indicates how strong or weak the acid is, which relates to its ability to lower pH. Most organic acids have higher pKa values, while most inorganic acids have lower pKa values.

The higher the pKa, the weaker the acid is, and the more acid will be needed to reach a low pH. Since sodium bisulfate has a low pKa, significantly lower addition rates are required when trying to reach a very low pH.

Acids in order of strength (strongest to weakest)

Acid NamepKa Value
Hydrochloric acid-6.1
Sulfuric acid-3.0
Sodium bisulfate1.99
Phosphoric acid2.12
Lactic acid3.08
Citric acid3.14
Formic acid3.75
Acetic acid4.75
Propionic acid4.87

Is Sodium Bisulfite Another Name for Sodium Bisulfate?

No! While commonly confused due to the single letter variation in their spelling, the two are very different compounds. The difference between bisulfite and bisulfate in chemistry is the number of oxygen atoms bound to the central sulfur.  Bisulfate is the anion HSO4 while bisulfite is the anion HSO3. Sodium bisulfite is a white, crystalline solid that has a slight odor similar to rotten eggs.

Below are the chemical structures for sodium bisulfite and sodium bisulfate to compare.


Sodium Bisulfate Chemical Formula

Sodium Bisulfite Chemical Formula

Sulfites in Food

While sodium bisulfite has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in food, the sulfites can cause strong reactions in some people with sulfite sensitivities. Common symptoms of sulfite sensitives include:

Digestive upset

Diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, and nausea

Skin reactions

Red and itchy skin, rashes, and hives

Respiratory issues

Wheezing, difficulty breathing, cough, chest tightness

In food, sodium bisulfate (pHase®) is used as an acidifier to lower pH without generating a sour taste. You can commonly find sodium bisulfate in sports drinks, salad dressings, soups, pie fillings and more. There have been no adverse reactions to sodium bisulfate when used as a food ingredient. Learn more about the use of sodium bisulfate in food processing and food ingredients.


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