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Salt used as an essential building block in the chemical industry

The chemical industry is by far the largest consumer of salt. Its compounds make salt one of the most important materials in the industry as it is used for the chemical synthesis of more than 50% of chemical products. It is also used in the manufacturing of thousands of other commodities such as glass, paper, rubber, and textiles as well as in water softening systems for industry and domestic use.

Salt is an essential raw material for the production of chlorine and caustic soda performed through the electrolysis of salt brine.


Chlorine is one of the most abundant and common chemical elements on Earth. It is an extremely effective disinfectant mostly known for its use in cleansing drinking water and swimming pools. Chlorine also contributes to advances in areas as diverse as medicine and public safety by easing everyday life.

Moreover, many chemicals, plastics and medicines depend on chlorine during the manufacturing process, although the chemical is not contained in the end product.

  • Some 55% of the European chemical production depends on chlor-alkali products.
  • Two third of all chlorine is used in the production of certain plastics (PVC, Poly-Urethanes, Epoxy-resins, Teflon, Neoprene) which are employed in the construction, automotive, electronics and electrical industries.
  • 85% of medicines, including many lifesaving drugs, are made using chlorine chemistry.
  • 25% of medical devices contain chlorine, including blood bags, sterile tubing, heart catheters, prosthetics and X-ray films.
  • More than 90% of Western Europe's drinking water is safe due to chlorine.

Caustic soda

Caustic soda solution is an essential ingredient in many industrial operations, including pulp and paper, detergent and the chemical processing industry. It is also used in the alumina, petrochemical and textile industries. Applications include:

  • water demineralisation: regeneration of ion exchangers
  • drinking water production: partial water softening
  • beverages: bottle-cleaning
  • dairy: cleaning of production installations
  • rayon industry: preparation of spinning solutions
  • pharmaceutical industry: various products, including sodium lactate
  • cooking oils and fats: refining and purification
  • production of starches and derivatives
  • petroleum industry: refining and desulfurisation
  • waste-water treatment: pH-correction, flocculant enhancers
  • steel production: ammonia recovery in cokes production

Soda ash

Soda ash is one of the three main elements for glassmaking as it helps lower the temperature of the melt during the process. Soda ash is also the raw material for the production of many sodium compounds, such as sodium silicate, sodium bicarbonate and sodium tripolyphospate. Furthermore, the pulp and paper industry uses soda ash in the chemical pulp manufacturing process.

Did you know that salt helps in increasing the lifespan of your household appliances?

Hard water is water that contains invisible dissolved minerals, mainly calcium and magnesium minerals. People usually notice the effect of hard water - a buildup of scale – inside their kettles, on showerheads and other domestic appliances that use water. Hard water use can affect the performance of household appliances and shorten their lifespan. These problems can be prevented by installing a water softener.

How it works

Water softeners eliminate hardness-causing calcium and magnesium minerals from the water through the ion exchange process. In this case sodium is used as an exchange ion which trades places with the calcium and magnesium ions in the resin bead. The hardness minerals are therefore trapped in the resin and removed from the water. The resin is eventually completely covered by hardness minerals and needs to be washed. This is when the regeneration process starts and it implies flooding the resin with brine water to clean the hardness minerals off and send them down the drain.

Hence, water softening is increasing the efficiency and lifespan of energy intensive devices. In doing so, salt helps to reduce energy consumption and cuts waste from defective appliances contributing to the circular economy.

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