What is Copper Sulfate?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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  • Last Modified Date: 02 May 2019
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Copper sulfate is a chemical compound which is produced commercially by reacting various copper(II) compounds with sulfuric acid. This compound is used in a wide range of industries, from pyrotechnics to viticulture. It is also known as bluestone or blue vitriol, although these terms are not as widely used as they once were. Some caution is required in handling this substance, as it is toxic and acidic, and it can pose health risks to living organisms.

The appearance of this compound varies. Generally it appears in a crystalline form which is bright blue to green; one common form of copper sulfate is the mineral chalcanthite, which appears in many arid regions of the world. Many commercial producers powder their copper sulfate before sale, making it easier to handle and to mix with other materials to create desired chemical compounds. As a general rule, this compound is highly soluble, dissolving readily in a wide range of materials.

In pyrotechnics, copper sulfate is used to create striking blue fireworks. It is also used in agriculture as a treatment for crops and water systems, as it is a fungicide, herbicide, and pesticide. This compound is commonly sprayed on grapes in the form of a water solution to reduce the risk of fungal infestations. It is also used to treat leather, to make germicides, and in electroplating processes. It has also been historically used to dye textiles.


The use of this substance in agriculture is very widespread, but it requires meticulous attention. This substance can be toxic if it accumulates in bodies of water, requiring farmers to be careful about how they apply it. When used in water treatment to remove unwanted algae and other organisms, copper sulfate is typically used in trace amounts, and the water may be filtered or treated to remove the copper sulfate before being released.

This compound is also used in chemistry. Many chemistry sets include it for the purpose of undertaking various experiments, and the material is also used in some medical labs for diagnostic testing. When a chemistry set does include copper sulfate, it is a good idea to supervise younger users, as this substance can be potentially dangerous.

Containers of copper sulfate and products which contain it are typically clearly labeled to indicate the fact that they contain a toxin. All hazard recommendations on such packages should be followed, including the use of skin and eye protection around this substance, to ensure that you do not experience ill effects as a result of working with this common chemical compound.


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Discuss this Article

Post 53

After using copper sulfate in your pond, you should use probiotics to break down the organic debris. I buy mine from Webb’s Pond Supply.

Post 51

As mentioned below, what is the difference between "industrial" and/or "food grade" CuSO4?

Post 50

And actually, it is correctly spelled both ways.

Post 49

What is not being discussed here is that there is a world of difference between Copper Sulfate and "Food grade" CuSo4. You all have minerals in your body. You are a walking chemical compound. Any man made compound had limits to what you want to put in and on your body.

Post 46

I was doing an experiment with copper sulphate and I left the solution for a week, but it didn't dissolve and no crystals formed.

Post 41

This is just a guess, but it stands to reason that copper sulfate is in multivitamins to provide dietary copper and dietary sulfur, both minerals that your body uses. Built-in pill-sterilizer: added bonus? (Keep in mind the way business works: You're making a pill that is going to have copper and sulfur as nutrients. Copper sulfate is already mass-produced for agriculture. Fill in the blanks.)

Post 39

is there a difference between copper sulfate and acidified copper sulfate?

Post 38

Copper Sulphate*

You spelled it wrong.

Moderator's reply: Most of our writers are from the U.S. and "sulfate" is the correct U.S. spelling, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Thank you for visiting wiseGEEK!

Post 36

Researching copper compounds for homework. Thank you all for the information.

Post 35

Copper Sulfate is also used in Powdered Infant Formula (even the organic ones) to inactivate Enterobacter sakazakii, a known contaminant of powdered infant formula.

To me this sounds like a poison is added to baby food because the baby food contains a deadly bacteria. (yikes)

I wonder why I wasn't informed/warned about this by my child's health care professionals.

Post 34

copper sulfate is not toxic when used in small amounts. it kills invertebrates. when it is, it can be used in aquariums to annihilate swarms of parasites. This is also why they use it in pools, to get rid of parasites.

Post 33

It is used on all of our food - read about agriculture - it is used on our potatoes, vegetables, and fruit. We should be concerned about getting too much of it in our own bodies.

Post 32

could copper sulphate ever get into the water system and poison humans? how much water would need to be drunk? i know 11mg/kg in humans has toxic effects.

Post 31

We had a dog, Bedlington Terrier, they are susceptible to copper toxicosis as are some humans. We had to be careful that the food we fed her didn't have copper in it. I guess it is a problem with the breed and can be genetically tested for it.

Post 30

I would not use any food with copper sulphate in it. My father and I use to use this to remove algae from a pond many years ago. It was a large pond that had about half a million gallons of water. Two cups were diluted and spread around the pond to kill the algae. Every living thing in the pond died. Deer that drank out of the pond died. Our dogs got very sick. It is a toxin and shouldn't be in food. There are safer ways to get copper in your pets diet.

Post 28

1. Copper sulfate can be spelled either with a ph or a f. the american way is usually f while british is ph.

2. Copper sulfate can be bought at hardware stores in the plumbing section for clearing roots from septic systems.

3. No, copper sulfate can't form on electrical wires. the green comes from copper ions resulting from various compounds formed by salts in the air.

4. To dispose of copper sulfate. you should dissolve the copper sulfate in plenty of water, then flush down a sink with a lot of water slowly, or you could find someone else who would want it.

5. Copper sulfate kills roots because the roots are absorbing a lot of copper (II)ions which in excess are toxic and kill the roots.

Post 27

is copper used to make bowls a mineral.

Post 26

where can you get copper sulfate?

Post 25

what can be harmful to copper?

Post 24

Growing copper sulfate crystals for a project. Thanks for the info.

Post 23

is it possible to mix copper sulfate to other multivitamins? if so, are there any chemical reactions?

Post 22

I was wondering why is the copper sulfate written in two different ways and has two different answers. Anyway I had an assignment in school and this helped a lot! thanks

Post 20

isn't it copper sulphate?

Post 19

It is said to pour copper sulfate in the toilet bowl twice a year to get rid of any roots that might be in the sewer system from your house to the main. How does this work on roots?

Post 18

copper sulfate was being sprayed in the lake today as my dog was swimming in it. What should I do to make sure he does not get sick or poisoned?

Post 17

After copper sulfate has been used in a pond, will it naturally break down or dissipate? Or, is there something that I have to do to rid the pond of any remaining residue after the algae is gone?

Post 16

We are using copper sulfate in a pond to treat alge. will it affect the lawn if the pond water is used to irrigate the lawn?

Thanks for your time.

Post 15

i have some audio cables that turned green - is it copper sulfate and if so how did it happen?

Post 14

can a copper sulfate be produced in electrical copper core cable ?

Post 13

Is copper sulfate a good product to kill lake weeds?

If so will it harm humans or kill the fish in the lake?

Post 12

last answer is correct.. nothing to worry about

Post 11

Your dog's food also had Sodium Chloride in it, which is lethal at high dosages. Everything is a chemical.

Post 10

Why is copper sulfate in pills?

Can 0.2mg pose a real threat to humans?

Post 8

it still bothers me that my dog food has a chemical, copper sulfate in it and the food wasn't cheap. Reminds me somewhat of China's products

Post 7

It's in dog food (and possibly diet pills?) because in small amounts, it's not only not harmful, it's used as a preservative.

Post 6

Why is is this in my diet pill?

Post 4

I am very interested in the answer to this question also. Why is copper sulfate in dog food?

Post 3

How do you dispose copper sulfate solution?

Post 2

Why is copper sulfate being used in swimming pools if it is toxic? My wife had a allergic reaction which required a trip to the doctor and medication.

Post 1

If this copper sulfate is toxic, why is it used in almost all the dry dog foods that are sold in the united states--doesn't make sense?

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