Introduction: How to Make Sodium Nitrate, a Potassium Nitrate Substitute

How to make sodium nitrate, which can substitute for potassium nitrate for most purposes.

Note: Sodium Nitrate is somewhat hygroscopic. Stuff you make from it such as pyrotechnic compositions should be used soon after making and not stored for extended periods of time.

WARNING: Both procedures produce large quantities of ammonia gas. You have to do this experiment outside or in a fumehood.

First get ammonium nitrate from an instant cold pack as seen in our previous video:

For the baking soda method. Get 80 grams of ammonium nitrate and dissolve it in 150mL of water. Filter it off directly into 84 grams of sodium bicarbonate, which is baking soda. Then boil the mixture down to 100mL or less. This is needed to decompose the ammonium bicarbonate that's formed. It cannot be skipped. The boiling will release large amounts of ammonia so you have to do this outside or in a fumehood. Once it's boiled, leave it to evaporate until dry.

For the sodium hydroxide method: Place 80 grams of ammonium nitrate in a tall container and pour 40 grams of sodium hydroxide on top. Then carefully pour 30mL of water and stand back. It will quickly react to generate ammonia gas and sodium nitrate. Stir the mixture to make sure it's completely reacted and then add another 50mL of water and stir until dissolved. Filter it out and let the clear solution evaporate.

Both methods will produce pure sodium nitrate.

To test the sodium nitrate for reactivity just mix it with an equal amount of sugar and set it on fire. Sugar does not burn by itself but with sodium nitrate it will burn with a bright yellow flame.

Sodium hydroxide is also known as Lye, Caustic Soda, or "Red Devil Lye" and can easily be purchased online.


Raccoon77 (author)2015-08-14

Idea for preservation of finished powder: Put finished powder in an airtight container, then put an open container of borax in with it, then seal. don't mix the two.

doran.vaught (author)2015-02-19

can you use ammonia nitrate instead of potassium nitrate to make black powder using the same basic recipe: 75% nitrate; 15% charcoal; 10% sulfur?

jfrazierskybeam (author)2009-04-26

the Ice packs that I have say that they are sodium nitrate already is there a prosses to make this purer or more potent? cause it is not flammable with surger as in the video I'd appreciate the help!

Re-Crystallization... It would also need to be ground up finely, but chances are if your using the stuff strait from the Cold Back that the outside of the Prills are coverd with some Anti-Caking agent, which more then likely doubles as a fire retardent...

Cold Pack not Cold Back... XD

NurdRage (author)jfrazierskybeam2009-04-26

have you tried filtering and recrystalization?

tylervitale (author)NurdRage2010-06-05

Yeah actually, typically in any pyrotechnic composition, purity tends to be fairly important.

TrollFaceTheMan (author)2014-03-03

Thank you for this informative Video NurdRage, I am sorry that you are unable to continue to make videos... But Know that I have learned a lot from the ones you did make, and that It is all greatly appreciated!!

heat700 (author)2009-09-27

why was it bubbling up like solder when u lit it?

TrollFaceTheMan (author)heat7002014-03-03

Molten Sugar

GalaxyX (author)2009-10-06

about how long estimated would it take for the liquid to evaporate in the ammonium nitrate/ sodium hydroxide method?

TrollFaceTheMan (author)GalaxyX2014-03-03

That would matter solely on the conditions you have it in... In a jar it could takes months... In a large pan left in the sun it could take days... So one could not give you an estimate that could even remotely be accurate without more information...

obs1234 (author)2009-07-03

I have pure white Ammonium nitrate. Would I still have to filter???

TrollFaceTheMan (author)obs12342014-03-03

No, you should not

BOOM5601 (author)obs12342009-10-16


antidartan (author)2010-01-30

at the moment I have a white substance at the bottom of the jar and a liquid over top of it. Its only been a day for evaporation but there are no crystals yet. When I boiled the solution I could smell the ammonia, so I assume things were going OK. does this sound like I'm on the right track?

You would have to boil the solution until you smelled absolutely no more Ammonia for this to work fine... But other then that It would seem everything would be fine...

Joona-96- (author)2010-05-31

i tried sodium nitrate/icing sugar mix in small model rocket engine tube, and it didn't work really well, i think NaNO3 doesn't burn fast enough to work in rockets or r candy. but you can try that yourself ofcourse. But if you add some aluminium powder to NaNO3/sugar mixture it will burn faster. i tried that and it burned a lot faster, and brighter.

tylervitale (author)Joona-96-2010-06-05

Bare in mind, that the chemistry for black powder and rocket candy using sodium nitrate as a substitute for potassium nitrate, is a little different. for example black powder is 75:15:10 KNO3 to Charcoal to Sulfur. but using sodium nitrate the ratio amount of NaNO3 is lowered to only 69 parts by mass. The charcoal and sulfur measurments are slightly tweaked too, so google it.

2 parts Oxidizer to 1 part fuel seems to work a lot better with sodium Nitrate as I have found out...

NurdRage (author)2009-07-19

answer in prior comments

TrollFaceTheMan (author)NurdRage2014-03-03

Love your videos, thanks for everything you do!

tylervitale (author)2010-06-05

I really wouldn't recommend it. If you heat it enough, it decomposes into nitrogen dioxide and sodium oxide in a decomposition reaction as follows: NaNO3 -> Na2O + NO2.

It decomposes at 380 Degrees Celsius, more then 3 times the boiling point of water... Unless he heats it up to 716 Degrees Fahrenheit, he will be perfectly fine...

TrollFaceTheMan (author)2014-03-03

It decomposes at 380 Degrees Celsius, so yes it is perfectly fine to boil dry... Just be careful of accidental fires...

Pyro the maniac (author)2010-10-12

For the baking soda method, is proportion important? Due to the fact im using used coldpack water i cannot really measure 80 grams of ammonium nitrate due to the fact its already disolved. Any suggestions?


If you do not have the right proportion then the product will be contaminated... Example: To much Ammonium Nitrate to To little Sodium Bicarbonate means that all the Ammonium Nitrate will not react, and instead of having pure Sodium Nitrate as a product you will have Sodium Nitrate and Un-reacted Ammonium Nitrate...

Same goes for Sodium Bicarbonate, to much will mean not all of it will react with the Ammonium Nitrate and your Outcome product will have Un-reacted Sodium Bicarbonate in it...

I know that it is a little late, but you could always dry out the Ammonium Nitrate Water from the cold pack and get Ammonium Nitrate Crystal's from that, which you could weigh Instead...

cucolea (author)2011-07-15

very nice tutorial . I have some questions:
How can i test if my ammonium nitrate fertiliser its good enough to make sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate?(it was delivered with no info and in a normal bag without no brand name)
How can i purify my ammonium nitrate fertiliser without using methanol(rare and expensive in my country)?

TrollFaceTheMan (author)cucolea2014-03-03

This might help ( also yes... Through a process called recrystallization...

Oh! Actually for fertilizers you should mix the Fertilizer with Generous Amounts hot water, and leave it for a time... A couple hours maybe..? So that the bigger non dissolved sediment settles... After that, you should pour of the clearish liquid that is on top of the insoluble layer, through a filter, and then undergo the process of "Recrystallization" to purify it...

The Liquid you had collected should have Nitrates in it (Ammonium, Sodium, Potassium) Along with Salts (NaCl, Limestone) possible Urea, and a number of other water soluble things... But for the most part, if it is a Solely Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer, you should not have to worry, for these impurities are rather small amounts and the Ammonium Nitrate should be pure enough after a couple of recrystallization for most common uses, Including making Sodium Nitrate...

TaylorLA (author)2012-01-25

when i make sodium nitrate how i store it ?

TrollFaceTheMan (author)TaylorLA2014-03-03

It is safe to store, for it does not decompose at room Temperatures/Pressures, how ever it can be a fire hazard seeing as it is an oxidizer... So nowhere around Flames/Extreme Temperatures...

Also because it is Hydroscopic, it should be stored in an air tight container to avoid saturation... HDPE plastic I would believe to be best, seeing as metal might corrode over time... But other then that their shouldn't be any other real prerequisites...

XOIIO (author)2011-08-01

you can safely makeit inside using amonium nitrate (from cold packs) and potassium chloride (salt substitute)

TrollFaceTheMan (author)XOIIO2014-03-03

Actually your thinking of how to make Potassium Nitrate... Not Sodium Nitrate...

corradini (author)XOIIO2012-07-06

Uh - let's go with basics, here:

Where, exactly, in ammonium nitrate and potassium chloride would you find SODIUM?

As in "sodium nitrate".....

electronicz (author)XOIIO2012-05-04

That makes Potassium Nitrate, not Sodium Nitrate. I have tried it.

charlie c (author)2010-02-18

 what can this b used for? can it be packed together to make a small charge or something?

corradini (author)charlie c2012-07-06

Sausage making.

(You think I kid. You're wrong.)

It is true... Used as a preserver...

It is a strong oxidizer, and can be used alternatively for Potassium Nitrate which is Primarily used for Gunpowder, fireworks, and general Pyrotechnics... Also Smoke bombs can be made using this... If you look up uses for Potassium Nitrate you should get an Idea of uses for this...

garpigeon (author)2012-08-15

If I have ammonium nitrate with limestone mixed into it will this still work?


To be honest I would Believe that it would it should still work... An easy process to get rid of the limestone could possibly be to dissolve the Ammonium Nitrate in cold water, and use a fine filter (Coffee Filter Should do) to filter out the Limestone which should only weakly water soluble, even less so in cold water... But if done directly this way, the formula will need to be re-balanced in order to equalized the solution, seeing the Original Weight is not the "True Weight" of Ammonium Nitrate... Otherwise you might get a product that is a "Base" which then would need to be neutralized with Acid to balance it out, but that then causes impurities in the outcome product...

But alternatively you could filter out the solution to remove the Insoluable Limestone and dry it to get relatively pure Ammonium Nitrate crystals that can be used normally... And would provide a more perdictble outcome product...

In a video here I do a similar procedure (Measurements are different) but what I actually use is "CAN" or Calcium Ammonuim Nitrate, even with just using it directly that way (Without Removing The Calcium First) I was able to produce the Sodium Nitrate without issue... So I would think even without primary filtration you should still be fine... But sometimes things react differently so make sure you look up all the precautions of mixing the limestone with whatever chemicals your using...


junits15 (author)2009-08-15

will this method work to make r candy?

krazy9987 (author)junits152010-05-12

i would like to know the answer to this as well

Joona-96- (author)2010-03-11

I made this stuff yesterday like half a kilogram, and it worked really well! thx for instuctable!

Kaiven (author)2009-06-15

Sweet. I might subscribe. Chemistry pwns

Thundertydus (author)Kaiven2010-03-07

Time travelling stalkers, great!

Kaiven (author)Thundertydus2010-03-07

Wtf...? (author)2009-10-21

 If you did this with potassium chloride, would you get ammonia chloride and potassium nitrate?

About This Instructable




Bio: NurdRage is a dedicate group of science nerds trying to further amateur science with direct how-to instructions in video format. We saw what was already ... More »
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