What is Ammonia?

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  • Originally Written By: S. Mithra
  • Revised By: A. Joseph
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 20 January 2020
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Ammonia is a chemical compound that consists of one nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms tightly bonded, which gives it the chemical symbol NH3. It can take the form of a strong-smelling liquid or gas. Many consumer and commercial products contain this alkaline substance, including many products that are used to clean grime or fertilize crops. This chemical is hazardous, and even in low concentrations, inhaling it or getting the solution on the skin can cause burning, fainting or possible death. Caution should always be used when one is handling this chemical.


A tiny amount of ammonia forms when organic matter decomposes, so the gas can be found naturally in the Earth's atmosphere. Most of the ammonia that is used is produced through artificial means, however, by bonding the nitrogen and hydrogen atoms together by force. Then the gas can be pressurized to form a liquid for easy distribution to manufacturing plants.


As a gas, this substance is lighter than air, so it won't pool indoors like other dangerous gases, such as propane. Although ammonia has a pungent, distinctive odor, it is clear and difficult to ignite unless it is highly concentrated. This makes it safer than other chemicals for household use, because most people will recognize the smell and avoid touching the chemical or inhaling its fumes.



Ammonia is easily incorporated into water as a solution, so it is used in many cleaners. Window sprays, oven cleaning foams, toilet bowl cleansers, wax removers and other household cleansers often contain 5 percent to 10 percent ammonia. Some types of cleaners should never be mixed. For example, ammonia and bleach form a very dangerous gas, called chloramine, that shouldn't be inhaled.

Commercial cleansers, which often contain 25 percent to 30 percent ammonia, are extremely dangerous because they are highly corrosive. Under careful oversight, liquid ammonia also is used to etch metals such as aluminum and copper, to refrigerate rooms or trucks and to dissolve other elements in chemistry labs. Most of the ammonia that is produced goes to fertilizing crops by providing absorbable nitrogen to plants. Manufacturers of plastics, pesticides and dyes also use the liquid at some point in their synthesizing processes.

At one time, cotton balls were often soaked in ammonia and sealed inside bottles. People who fainted were revived with a whiff of the strong smell. This was generally safe, as long as it wasn't done frequently.


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Discuss this Article

Post 56

There is 3.5 percent w/v Cutaneous Emulsion Ammonia in the insect bite and sting solution I have here.

Post 55

My son is doing an experiment with the below items to make a snow tree: ammonia, bluing, salt, water.

But I am confused since ammonia is glass cleaner. Is that right? Please can you tell me? If you could let me know, it would be a great help for us.

Post 54

How does ammonia affect potatoes?

Post 53

Does all the bleaching cream contain acid ammonia?

Post 51

I was told that ammonia will stop aches and pains if rubbed on the skin. Is this true?

Post 50

I live close to an aluminum dross landfill? When the dross comes in contact with water, ammonia is created and my neighborhood is breathing this on a daily basis. What are the dangers? My state put this landfill in the city limits of the town I live.

Post 49

can i spray it on outdoor plants to keep deer away?

Post 46

how does ammonia act as a solvent?

Post 45

I was wondering if you could answer this question: Why is ammonia a gas at room temperature? I cannot find a decent answer on the internet and in the chemistry book there is no answer either. They shouldn't ask a question that a student can't answer.

Post 44

i want to know what is the part of ammonia in preparing natural rubber?

Post 43

I used ammonia in a bluing solution to grow crystals for my son's science fair experiment, with temperature being the control. We placed open trays with about four tablespoons of ammonia, one of each, in the freezer and fridge.

After an hour or so, I opened the fridge and was hit with the strong ammonia odor.

My question: was the four tbsp quantity enough to poison my unsealed food, like fruit, veggies, etc.?

Any prompt info much appreciated. Thanks.

Post 40

I want to know about ammonia safety kits available in India. thanks, Ajit

Post 39

someone said that ammonia would help with flea bites. How is that, seeing as how I read earlier that it is deadly?

Post 38

ammonia is a strong base or weak base?

Post 37

i wanted to know what would happen if i eat or drink a chemical with ammonia in it.

Post 36

what happens when ammonia and bleach are mixed together?

Post 34

can i use the ammonia to improve in my health? is it right for my health?

Post 32

can i use ammonia to wash my walls?

Post 27

how does ammonia become an air pollutant?

Post 22

What is the different between ammonia and ammonium hydroxide?

Post 21

I'm doing an assignment about fritz haber at riddelsdown collegiate and I'm going to fail because i don't know anything bout him. So can someone help me about ammonia?

Post 18

Hi, I am concerned as I use a coloring agent for my hair which contains ammonia. Please advise

Post 17

What do i do if i got ammonia in my mouth?

Post 16

Don't bleach your eyebrows. it won't make you cool.

Post 13

is ammonia regulated in canada?

Post 12

i got in a wreck 4 days ago and the airbags poppped and nitrogen gas is in it and my throat is messed up. what is going to happen?

Post 11

are we going to die if we inhaled it?

Post 10

how many tons of Nitrogen and hydrogen can produce 1000 tons of ammonia per day?

Post 9

is Ammonia an acid, a base, or a neutral??? i need to know!!!

Post 8

how is ammonia related to the formation of renal stones?

Post 7

halo sir

i want to know what is the diffusion of ammonia in 940C and 880 C. basically i want to know the relation between ammonia diffusion with its temperature, especially in heat treatment in vacuum F/C (carbonitriding process)

Post 4

you should see a doctor immediately for any possible injuries due to your contact with ammonia!

Post 3


I use strong ammonia in bleaching my body from professional people. It is my first time to do personal bleaching, I mixes all materials needed and lastly is the strong ammonia. But when I open the bottle the gas goes through to my eyes, and it hurts now. It swollen and reddish. This morning I can't open my right eye which is infected by ammonia. I want to know what happen on my eyes, what is the effect of that gas through my eyes and also I inhaled some gas I think. Is this harmful to my lungs and other organ. Please help me to know more about using this chemical. Thanks!

Post 2


I wanted to know what would happen to you if you accidentally were to eat or drink a chemical with ammonia in it. Even if it would be a tiny bit!

Moderator's reply: When you have a question about any contact with or ingestion of a chemical, contact the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222, or call your local poison control center.

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