Discovered by German-Dutch chemist Johann Rudolf Glauber in 1625, Glauber's salt is the processed form of mineral mirabilite, a decahydrate sodium sulfate. The hygroscopic nature of sodium sulfate causes it to absorb water and moisture, forming Glauber's salt. It exists as a natural resource and is found in the bed of lakes such as in Saskatchewan.
Glauber's salt is also a synonym for sodium sulfate anhydrous and is commonly used in the industries. Sodium sulfate anhydrous, also known as thenardite. Sodium sulphate anhydrous formula is Na2SO4. It has an appearance of white crystalline solid and is chemically very stable. It is unreactive toward most oxidizing or reducing agents at normal temperatures. In addition to that, it can be converted to sodium sulfide at high temperature by carbo-thermal reduction.
Sodium sulphate may be manufactured in three ways:
Reaction of sodium chloride and sulfuric acid
H2SO4 + 2 NaCl → Na2SO4 + 2 HCl
Neutralization of sulfuric acid with sodium hydroxide
H2SO4 + 2 NaOH → Na2SO4 + 2 H2O
Purification of natural sodium sulfate from deposits and brines
The major use of sodium sulphate is as a filler in powder products, for example in detergents. It acts as a desiccant, which means they are able to bind to multiple molecules of water, to form hydrates. As a result, this locks up any moisture that enters the detergent, maintaining a dry, free-flowing powdered detergent.
Sodium sulfate is used as a "leveling" agent where it reduces the negative charges on fibers. By doing so, it allows dyes to penetrate the textiles evenly and effectively. In addition to that, it does not corrode the stainless steel vessels used in dyeing as compared to conventional salt; sodium chloride.
In paper industries, sodium sulphate is used in the Kraft process of wood pulp. The wood chips loaded with sodium sulphate and being heated. This causes the sodium sulphate reduces into sodium sulfide that breaks the bond in the cellulose of the wood, therefore the wood chips become soft and easily form into wood pulp.
Another common use of sodium sulphate is in glass industries to prevent the formation of air bubbles in molten glass. Sodium sulphate also acts as a dryer for the organic compound. It removes water from an organic compound, although it removes slower than another drying agent such as magnesium sulphate, it is more efficient.
Sodium sulfate is used as a drying agent in an organic solvent. During separation and extraction between an aqueous and an organic phase, sodium sulfate is often added to the organic extracts to dry the organic phase. It is also used in the de-frosting of windows, carpet fresheners, starch manufacture, diluent for food colors, thermal storage material
inert drying agent, and additive to cattle feed, automotive and Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) batteries.