Make Clear Ammonia From Cloudy Ammonia

Introduction: Make Clear Ammonia From Cloudy Ammonia

About: I like to improve myself and things I find :) Learning new things every day is next to impossible but I still try - only a working brain can work. I have no special sector to cover, electronics, electrical s...

Update 01/04/2013: Warning! If you use the Ammonia you produce my way to make Ammonium Chloride:

Whatever you do or how you do it, do it outside or in a well working fume chamber with proper exhaust!!!

The concentrations are high enough to create "ammonia fog" when mixing - a dangerous mix of hydrochloric acid and ammonium chloride.

This "fog" is no vapor but in fact extreme fine dust for most of it.

This dus will settle and creep everywhere in reach.

Stainless steel will start to rust under exposure and with moisture present.

Other metals will be affected in a similar way, so please avoid making the mess anywhere inside!

Update 24/03/2015: Added Video and some more details


This process produces quite high concentrations of clear Ammonia.

Ammonia is dangerous for your respitory system, bad on your skin and burns in your eyes if the concentration in the air is too high.

On the skin and especially your eyes liquid ammonia can cause severe damages.

I strongly recommend to do this outside and with protective clothing, gloves and a face shield.

In this Instructable I only provide a way to "remove" the sopa from cloudy ammonia, what you do with it is your responsibilty!

This is nothing for kids to play with!

When you decide to use the provided informations you acknowledge the risk involved.

I will take no responsibilty for anything that goes wrong on your end or any damages caused by the process or the final product!

Before you even attempt to do this check if the possession of Ammonia in concentrations higher than supermarket Ammonia is legal!

Step 1: Background for This

Background for this hassle:
I was in need of some Ammonium Chloride for making my own solder flux and I also wanted some clear Ammonia for cleaning purposes on metal.
Sadly I am in a country where clear ammonia is considered a dangerous chemical not available to the public.
This even goes for concentration far below that of cloudy Ammonia - go figure..
Similar story for Ammonium Chloride, I can get some solder fluxes with added Zink Chloride and other chemical but no pure Ammonium Chloride - not even for baking use (licorice for example).
So I tried some chemical suppliers and was quite shocked by their prices and restrictions, one even wanted a copy of my drivers license and a police check before even telling me any prices.
If you check the internet you will find all sorts of ways to make Ammonia but none really easy and simple enough for the home kitchen.
As I already had a little water boiler to make distilled water I though I substitute it for getting the soap out of the cloudy Ammonia.
To my surprise it worked better than I expected, so I decided to share it.

Step 2: What You Need

What you need:
Two jars, plastic bottles or similar to collect the Ammonia and "wash" the leftovers.
A bit of clear plastic tubing or silicone hoses.
Something to boil and create steam - in my case a home destiller like you can get in every home brew shop.
If you don't have such a gadget you can substitue an old pressure cooker or build your own simple pot still.

Requirements for the destillation process:
You want to have a closed system, I connected a piece of latex hose directly to the outlet of the condeser unit on my still - you don't want any steam to escape before it reaches the first jar.
Take a look at the above picture.
Depending on your system it might pay off to wrap some tape or cling wrap tightly around the connecting part of the still - where the rubber seal is.
It was not possible on my model so quite a bit of ammonia gas made it through - that is why you should do this outside!!
Make sure that you leave enough empty space over the "water level", in case it bubbles all up.
If you overfill and this happens you build up a lot pressure and something will let go causing e massive concentration of Ammonia in your kitchen - do do it outside or with a powerful exhaust air system.

Step 3: How Does It Work?

How does it work?
The cloudy Ammonia is of quite low concentration and has a small amount of soap added.
Around 20grams per liter.
The soap is good for your cleaning purposes but makes the stuff utterly useless for everthing else.
Ammonia has much lower boiling point than water, so when you destill it the first thing to come out is Ammonia vapor.
The soap is left in the pot and if you want you can use the leftover to clean your floors, works good.
Unless you have highly efficient reflux still you won't be able to collect any Ammonia as a gas and this is good!
Ammonia is highly soluble in water wich means in a normal still is binds instantly to the water condesing in the cooling coil, only a very small amount will make it out as vapor.
At the beginning of the process you should start with some water in the first container so that the gas can get into the water.
Later in the process there will be water coming out that already has ammonia in it.
The jars should be connected air tight!
A little guide for the hoses: From the condenser to the bottom of the first jar, from the top of the first jar to the bottom of the second, the second lid only has a hole for the air to escape.
For the first run add a small amount of water to both jars so the longer hose is submerged a bit.
The water is to make sure no (or only very small amounts of Ammonia escape the system). The second jar is a "smell tester" - if you are able to smell Ammonia coming out of it your temperature is far too high, this jar should not collect any Ammonia at all.
It helps to have the first jar sitting in ice cold water but you can do without.

Step 4: How to Do It?

How to do it?
Turn the heat on and wait for the system to start bubbling.
If all is ok you should see some bubbles in the second jar but a bit less in the first one - this is because the ammonia is binding to the water.
You will notice that you produce more bubbles than liquid building up in the first jar - again this is a good sign that all is good.
At the beginning no bubbles will make it out of the water in the first container/jar.
The level in the first jar will rise slowly and once almost full quickly take the lid of and fill into a seperate bottle or container that has a tight lid.
Whatever you do don't put your face near the opening of the jar or your collecting container!!!!
Simply trust me that the concentration will be quite high - if you wave with your hand and hold your jar at a distance, you will smell it instantly!
The level in the second jar should not rise at all.
Keep the refilling going and every time and check if it still smells like ammonia - again, only from a distance!!!
Once you notice you only collect water with no smell of Ammonia you are done.
What you have now is purified water with a high ammonia concentration.
If in doubt you can destill it again (add enough water) if you must have higher concentrations but I don't recommend it.

In the below video you can see the process working.
I used two plastic bottles for the collection to make it a bit easier.
As you can see the first one bubbles quite a lot and all the bubbles disappear before reaching the top water level.
The ammonia binds to the water on the way up and usually nothing happens in the second container.
When it goes towards the end you will see the bubbling stops.
Now there is only very little ammonia left in the still (sorry this part is not in the video).
You can change the container and keep going until the still produces only water.
Mind you that there is still a chance of soap making it into the first container, if you can't have small traces of soap in it destill the collection again adding destilled water to the full level of the still.

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    9 Discussions


    6 months ago

    Just a query, do you know what percentage amonia you would get when you distill. Say the stuff you first put in is 5% what will the end clean product be?

    I dont know if you will get this message, but I do hope so.

    Thanks in advance.


    1 year ago

    Why do distillation? To remove soap from cloudy ammonia, just add a small quantity of slaked lime (calcium hydroxide). This will precipitate calcium soap, which you can just filter off.


    Reply 1 year ago

    Beauty, does this method actually work? How long before precipitation?


    Reply 1 year ago

    It does work if the soap used is of that kind.
    But it also leave the problem of having the lime in the ammonia.
    Hence the approach to destill it out and concentrate it while at it if required.


    Reply 1 year ago

    Can i email you privately?


    Reply 1 year ago

    Downunder35m do you mind if i email you privately? Cheers.


    Reply 1 year ago

    Further to my previous reply, yes, you can contact me on What's on your mind?


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you very much for this Instructable!!!

    I have been search for a guide on how to easily distil ammonia at home and your instructable is the only decent one on the net.

    Not only that but I have an almost exact water distiller at home I use to distil ethanol with(originally intended for water distillation) so this makes my life alot easier!!!.

    On that note, I do have one WARNING, those types of distillers have a small hole in the condensation pipe/tube just after it bends when it exists the boiling chamber. This is to let VOC's (Volatile organic compounds) escape during water distillation which this distiller was intended for. So during Ammonia distillation this distiller will actually pump ammonia gas into the air you breath. Not to mention you will loose some of the ammonia gas in the process.

    Just be aware of that as this is a potential health hazard for this method.

    The hole is to small to give any really safety when it comes to pressure build up in the system, and the lid of the distiller pops off easily under pressure, so sealing it with some high temperature silicon will most probably not be dangerous, but will increase your efficiency of the system a bit. I have not tested this yet, but if the bubbles come out to quickly because of the higher pressure one might consider adding a mesh screen inside the water bottle to break up the bubbles and increase efficiency.

    I am going off memory here and I might be completely wrong, but if I recall, it is not that the ammonia has a lower boiling point than water, but that water loses its ability to keep the ammonia gas in solution when the temperature of the water gets high enough.

    I wanted to make a Storm Glass

    And where I live, I can't get access to Ammonium Chloride, but I do have easy access to cloudy ammonia and hydrochloric acid. And now I do my next project!

    (How to make a STORM GLASS to predict the weather! - By NightHawkInLight -

    Thanks again for this great instructable!!


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    My boiler was already modified when I got it.
    Down here it can be quite hot in the summer, so the company selling them blocks the tiny hole with a silicone sleeve to aid the process.
    Additionally they provid a bigger carbon filter which worked great.

    But I started to build a small copper still for the ammonia purification.
    Not ready for an Instructable though.
    While experimenting with it I noticed something very nice:
    The ammonia starts to produce a quite decent stink already at temps below 80° Celsius.
    So I wrecked the setup, removed all that you have in a proper still, like baffel plates, stainless steel wool and so on.
    As a replacement I added a "cold finger" on top inside a clear plastic cup.
    Was dripping quite good but of course just back into still.
    But it got me thinking and I tried what will become my next big Insturctable, the Ammonia Still.
    It is possible to simplify the entire process with far less losses in ammonia gas.
    Currently working on a basic setup to test my theory and to see how make is easy enough for home use.
    If all goes to plan you should see something published within the next 2 weeks.