Caustic soda is available commercially in various white solid forms and as a solutions of various concentrations in water. It is very soluble in water, alcohol, and glycerin and absorbs carbon dioxide and moisture from the air.
Caustic soda - or sodium hydroxide - is the natural co-product of chlorine production; indeed, the laws of chemistry define that for every tonne of chlorine you produce, about 1100 kg of caustic soda is also produced, together with 28 kg of hydrogen.
The caustic soda is widely used in a number of industrial processes:
It constitutes an essential reactant in the production of many useful organic chemicals (more than 32 % of caustic production goes into this application).
Inorganic chemicals like paints, glass and ceramics and uses in fuel cell production and cosmetics are also very important.
The paper, pulp and cellulose industries are major users of caustic soda.
Other areas where caustic is essential are: the food industry, water treatment (for the flocculation of heavy metals and acidity control), the soaps and detergents sectors, the textile sector (as a bleaching agent), mineral oils (preparation of greases and fuel additives) and the synthesis of the synthetic fibre rayon
About four per cent of caustic production is used in the process of refining aluminium from its ore bauxite.
The remainder of the caustic production (more than 17%) has miscellaneous applications, like the synthesis of pharmaceutical compounds, rubber recycling and the neutralisation of acids.