Mercuric chloride

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A colorless crystalline compound that was used in the 19th and early 20th centuries as a Disinfectant, Wood preservative, rat poison, Insecticide, and Fungicide (for paper and books). Mercuric chloride was also used as an intensifier in photography, for tanning leather, for separating gold from lead, and as a paint preservative. It can react with sulfur causing black stains on paper and specimens. Mercuric chloride is highly toxic and its use is currently restricted in the United States.

Synonyms and Related Terms

mercury chloride; mercury bichloride; corrosive sublimate; mercury perchloride; corrosive sublimate; mercury (II) chloride


  • Violent poison, can be fatal in minutes with ingestion of 0.5 grams.
  • Toxic by ingestion, and inhalation.
  • Corrosive to eyes, skin and lungs. Biohazard.
  • Egg white is used as an antidote.
  • ThermoFisher: SDS

Physical and Chemical Properties

Soluble in water, ethanol, ether, methanol, acetone, ethyl acetate, glycerol, and acetic acid. Slightly soluble in carbon disulfide, benzene, and pyridine. Incompatible with alkalis, metals and proteins.

Composition HgCl2
CAS 7487-94-7
Melting Point 276-277 C
Density 5.4 g/ml
Molecular Weight mol. wt. = 271.52
Refractive Index 1.725, 1.859, 1.965
Boiling Point 302 C

Resources and Citations =

  • C.Hawks, D.Bell, "Removal of Stains Caused by Mercuric Chloride Treatments from Herbarium Sheet Labels" in ICOM Preprints, Lyon, 1999. p. 723-727.
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 502
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • Matt Roberts, Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1982
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: entry 5926
  • CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, Robert Weast (ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, v. 61, 1980 Comment: ref. index=1.725, 1.859, 1.965