Chemistry:Sodium metabisulfite

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Sodium metabisulfite
Sodium metabisulfite
Structure of sodium metabisulfite
Other names
Sodium pyrosulfite
Sodium disulfite
3D model (JSmol)
EC Number
  • 231-673-0
RTECS number
  • UX8225000
Molar mass 190.107 g/mol
Appearance White to yellow powder
Odor Faint SO2
Density 1.48 g/cm3
Melting point 170 °C (338 °F; 443 K) decomposition begins at 150 °C
  • 45.1 g/100mL (0 °C)
  • 65.3 g/100mL (20 °C)
  • 81.7 g100 mL (100 °C)
Solubility Very soluble in glycerol
Slightly soluble in ethanol
Safety data sheet Mallinckrodt MSDS
GHS pictograms GHS05: CorrosiveGHS07: Harmful
GHS Signal word Danger
H302, H318
P264, P270, P280, P301+312, P305+351+338, P310, P330, P501
NFPA 704 (fire diamond)
Flammability code 0: Will not burn. E.g. waterHealth code 2: Intense or continued but not chronic exposure could cause temporary incapacitation or possible residual injury. E.g. chloroformReactivity code 1: Normally stable, but can become unstable at elevated temperatures and pressures. E.g. calciumSpecial hazards (white): no codeNFPA 704 four-colored diamond
NIOSH (US health exposure limits):
PEL (Permissible)
REL (Recommended)
TWA 5 mg/m3[1]
IDLH (Immediate danger)
Related compounds
Other anions
Sodium sulfite
Sodium bisulfite
Other cations
Potassium metabisulfite
Related compounds
Sodium dithionite
Sodium thiosulfate
Sodium sulfate
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Infobox references

Sodium metabisulfite or sodium pyrosulfite (IUPAC spelling; Br. E. sodium metabisulphite or sodium pyrosulphite) is an inorganic compound of chemical formula Na2S2O5. The substance is sometimes referred to as disodium metabisulfite. It is used as a disinfectant, antioxidant, and preservative agent.[2]


Sodium metabisulfite can be prepared by treating a solution of sodium hydroxide with sulfur dioxide.[3] When conducted in warm water, Na2SO3 initially precipitates as a yellow solid. With more SO2, the solid dissolves to give the disulfite, which crystallises upon cooling.[4]

SO2 + 2 NaOH → Na2SO3 + H2O
SO2 + Na2SO3 → Na2S2O5

which yields a residue of colourless solid Na2S2O5.

Chemical structure

The anion metabisulfite consists of an SO2 group linked to an SO3 group, with the negative charge more localised on the SO3 end. The S–S bond length is 2.22 Å, and the "thionate" and "thionite" S–O distances are 1.46 and 1.50 Å, respectively.[5]


Upon dissolution in water, bisulfite is generated:

Na2S2O5 + H2O → 2 Na+ + 2 HSO3


Sodium and potassium metabisulfite have many major and niche uses. It is widely used for preserving food and beverages.

  • Sodium metabisulfite is added as an excipient to medications which contain adrenaline (epinephrine), in order to prevent the oxidation of adrenaline.[6] For example, it is added to combination drug formulations which contain a local anaesthetic and adrenaline,[6] and to the formulation in epinephrine autoinjectors, such as the EpiPen.[7] This lengthens the shelf life of the formulation,[6] although the sodium metabisulphite reacts with adrenaline, causing it to degrade and form epinephrine sulphonate.[8]
  • In combination with sodium hydrosulfite it is used as a rust-stain remover[9]
  • It is used in photography.[10]
  • Concentrated sodium metabisulfite can be used to remove tree stumps. Some brands contain 98% sodium metabisulfite, and cause degradation of lignin in the stumps, facilitating removal.[11]
  • It is also used as an excipient in some tablets, such as paracetamol.
  • A very important health related aspect of this substance is that it can be added to a blood smear in a test for sickle cell anaemia (and other similar forms of haemoglobin mutation). The substance causes defunct cells to sickle (through a complex polymerisation) hence confirming disease.
  • It is used as a bleaching agent in the production of coconut cream
  • It (or liquid SO2) is commonly used as an antimicrobial and antioxidant in winemaking; bottled wine indicates its use with the label "Contains Sulfites" in the US.
  • It is used as a reducing agent to break sulfide bonds in shrunken items of clothing made of natural fibres, thus allowing the garment to go back to its original shape after washing
  • It is used as a SO2 source (mixed with air or oxygen) for the destruction of cyanide in commercial gold cyanidation processes.
  • It is used as a SO2 source (mixed with air or oxygen) for the precipitation of elemental gold in chloroauric (aqua regia) solutions.
  • It is used in the water treatment industry to quench residual chlorine.
  • It is used in tint etching iron-based metal samples for microstructural analysis.[12][13]
  • It is used as a fungicide for anti-microbe and mould prevention during shipping of consumer goods such as shoes and clothing. Plastic stickers and packaging (such as Micro-Pak) containing the anhydrous, sodium metabisulfite solid active ingredient are added prior to shipping. The devices absorb moisture from the atmosphere during shipping and release low levels of sulfur dioxide.[14]
  • It is used for preserving fruit during shipping.[15]
  • It is used as a solvent in the extraction of starch from tubers,[16] fruit,[17] and cereal crops.[18][19]
  • It is used as a pickling agent to treat high pressure reverse osmosis water desalination membranes for extended storage periods between uses.


Sodium metabisulfite, despite not being flammable, decomposes in 150°C of heat releasing toxic gasses when decomposed. It is corrosive when dissolved in water.

Harmful if swallowed, it is corrosive to metals and should be stored safely.[20]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. "#0566". National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). 
  2. Barberá, José Jiménez; Metzger, Adolf; Wolf, Manfred (2000). "Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a25_477. 
  3. Catherine E. Housecroft; Alan G. Sharpe (2008). "Chapter 16: The group 16 elements". Inorganic Chemistry, 3rd Edition. Pearson. p. 520. ISBN 978-0-13-175553-6. 
  4. Johnstone, H. F. (1946). "Sulfites and Pyrosulfites of the Alkali Metals". Inorganic Syntheses. Inorganic Syntheses. 2. pp. 162–167. doi:10.1002/9780470132333.ch49. ISBN 9780470132333. 
  5. K. L. Carter, T. A. Siddiquee, K. L. Murphy, D. W. Bennett "The surprisingly elusive crystal structure of sodium metabisulfite" Acta Crystallogr. (2004). B60, 155–162. doi:10.1107/S0108768104003325
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 McGee, Douglas L. (2013). "Local and topical anesthesia". in Roberts, James R.; Jerris, R. Hedges. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine (6th ed.). Elsevier/Saunders. p. 519. ISBN 9781455748594. 
  7. Niazi, Safaraz K. (2009). Handbook of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Formulations. Volume 6, Sterile Products (2nd ed.). New York: Informa Healthcare. p. 410. ISBN 9781420081312. 
  8. Barnes, Andrew R. (2013). "Chapter 48. Chemical stability in dosage forms". in Aulton, Michael E.; Taylor, Kevin M.G.. Aulton's pharmaceutics : the design and manufacture of medicines (4th ed.). Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier. p. 833. ISBN 9780702053931. 
  9. "Ingredients". Summit Brands. 31 October 2019. 
  10. Anchell, Steve (2008). The darkroom cookbook (3rd ed.). Amsterdam: Focal Press. pp. 193. ISBN 978-0240810553. 
  11. [1]
  12. "Color Metallography". 2011-05-04. 
  14. "Micro-Pak Enhanced Packaging Stickers". 2020-05-05. 
  15. "15 - Litchi (Litchi chinensis Sonn.)". Postharvest Biology and Technology of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits. Woodhead Publishing Series in Food Science, Technology and Nutrition. Woodhead. 2020-05-05. pp. 361–409e. doi:10.1533/9780857092885.361. ISBN 9781845697358. 
  16. Manek, Rahul V.; Builders, Philip F.; Kolling, William M.; Emeje, Martins; Kunle, Olobayo O. (June 2012). "Physicochemical and binder properties of starch obtained from Cyperus esculentus". AAPS PharmSciTech 13 (2): 379–388. doi:10.1208/s12249-012-9761-z. ISSN 1530-9932. PMID 22350737. 
  17. Nawab, Anjum; Alam, Feroz; Haq, Muhammad Abdul; Hasnain, Abid (2016). "Biodegradable film from mango kernel starch: Effect of plasticizers on physical, barrier, and mechanical properties" (in en). Starch - Stärke 68 (9–10): 919–928. doi:10.1002/star.201500349. ISSN 1521-379X. 
  18. Nyakabau, Tatenda; Wokadala, Obiro Cuthbert; Emmambux, Mohammad Naushad (2013). "Effect of steeping additives on tef starch extraction and its quality" (in en). Starch - Stärke 65 (9–10): 738–746. doi:10.1002/star.201200241. ISSN 1521-379X. 
  19. Park, S. H.; Bean, S. R.; Wilson, J. D.; Schober, T. J. (2006). "Rapid Isolation of Sorghum and Other Cereal Starches Using Sonication" (in en). Cereal Chemistry 83 (6): 611–616. doi:10.1094/CC-83-0611. ISSN 1943-3638. 
  20. "Sodium Metabsiulfite SDS". 

External links