Potassium bitartrate

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White crystals or powder obtained from wine lees by extraction with water. Potassium bitartrate is used in baking powder, medicine, and as a mordant for dyeing textiles. It is used in combination with other mordants (Alum, Tin) to help maintain the softness of Wool fibers. It was also used for the galvanic tinning of metals and as a reducing agent in glass making. In the 16th and 17th century, impure potassium bitartrate, called Argol, was used as a solder flux in combination with salt and alum. Mixed with water or Vinegar, it has been used as a cleanser for encrusted metal objects, such as coins and kitchenware.

Chemical structure

Potassium bitartrate.jpg

Synonyms and Related Terms

cream of tartar; potassium acid tartrate; potassium hydrogen tartrate; cremor tartari; faecula; faecla; argol; lees; beeswing; Weinstein (Deut.); crème de tartre (Fr.)


  • Fisher Scientific: SDS

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Soluble in hot water, dilute acids, alkaline solutions.
  • Burn test gives purple flame
Composition KHC4H4O6
CAS 868-14-4
Density 1.984 g/ml
Molecular Weight mol. wt. = 188.18

Resources and Citations=

  • R. Mayer, The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques, Viking Press, New York, 1981
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 68
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • Palmy Weigle, Ancient Dyes for Modern Weavers, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, 1974
  • Susan E. Schur, Conservation Terminology: A review of Past & Current Nomenclature of Materials, Technology and Conservation, Spring (p.34-39); Summer (p.35-38); Fall (p.25-36), 1985
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • John and Margaret Cannon, Dye Plants and Dyeing, Herbert Press, London, 1994
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: entry 7776