A substance is anhydrous if it contains no water. Many processes in chemistry can be impeded by the presence of water, therefore, it is important that water-free reagents and techniques are used. In practice, however, it is very difficult to achieve perfect dryness; anhydrous compounds gradually absorb water from the atmosphere so they must be stored carefully.


Many salts and solids can be dried using heat, or under vacuum. Desiccators can also be used to store reagents in dry conditions.

Common desiccants include phosphorus pentoxide and silica gel.

Chemists may also require dry glassware for sensitive reactions. This can be achieved by drying glassware in an oven, by flame, or under vacuum.

Dry solids can be produced by freeze-drying, a.k.a. lyophilization.

Liquids or solvents

In many cases, the presence of water can prevent a reaction from happening, or cause undesirable products to form. To prevent this, anhydrous solvents must be used when performing certain reactions. Examples of reactions requiring the use of anhydrous solvents are the Grignard reaction and the Wurtz reaction.

Solvents have typically been dried using distillation or by reaction with reactive metals or metal hydrides. These methods can be dangerous and are a common cause of lab fires. More modern techniques include the use of molecular sieves or a column purification system. Molecular sieves are far more effective than most common methods for drying solvents and are safer and require no special equipment for handling[1]. Column solvent purification devices (generally referred to as Grubb's columns) recently became available, reducing the hazards (water reactive substances, heat) from the classical dehydrating methods.[2][3]

Anhydrous solvents are commercially available from chemical suppliers, and are packaged in sealed containers to maintain dryness[4]. Typically anhydrous solvents will contain approximately 10 ppm of water and will increase in wetness if they are not properly stored.

Organic solutions can be dried using a range of drying agents. Typically following a workup the organic extract is dried using magnesium sulfate or a similar drying agent to remove most remaining water.[5]


Several substances that exist as gases at standard conditions of temperature and pressure are commonly used as concentrated aqueous solutions. To clarify that it is the gaseous form that is being referred to, the term anhydrous is prefixed to the name of the substance:

Reactions which produce water can be kept dry using a Dean-Stark apparatus.

See also


  1. ^ Williams, D. Bradley G.; Lawton, Michelle (2010-12-17). "Drying of Organic Solvents: Quantitative Evaluation of the Efficiency of Several Desiccants". The Journal of Organic Chemistry. 75 (24): 8351–8354. doi:10.1021/jo101589h. ISSN 0022-3263.
  2. ^ Guidelines for solvent purification at UC Davis Archived September 4, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Drying Solvents".
  4. ^ "New Aldrich Sure/Seal® packaging for Anhydrous Solvents and Air-Sensitive Reagents". Sigma-Aldrich. Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  5. ^ "Drying agents". Retrieved 2018-03-26.
Aluminium chloride

Aluminium chloride (AlCl3) is the main compound of aluminium and chlorine. It is white, but samples are often contaminated with iron(III) chloride, giving it a yellow color. The solid has a low melting and boiling point. It is mainly produced and consumed in the production of aluminium metal, but large amounts are also used in other areas of chemical industry. The compound is often cited as a Lewis acid. It is an example of an inorganic compound that reversibly changes from a polymer to a monomer at mild temperature.

Aluminium sulfate

Aluminium sulfate is a chemical compound with the formula Al2(SO4)3. It is soluble in water and is mainly used as a coagulating agent (promoting particle collision by neutralizing charge) in the purification of drinking water and waste water treatment plants, and also in paper manufacturing.

The anhydrous form occurs naturally as a rare mineral millosevichite, found e.g. in volcanic environments and on burning coal-mining waste dumps. Aluminium sulfate is rarely, if ever, encountered as the anhydrous salt. It forms a number of different hydrates, of which the hexadecahydrate Al2(SO4)3•16H2O and octadecahydrate Al2(SO4)3•18H2O are the most common. The heptadecahydrate, whose formula can be written as [Al(H2O)6]2(SO4)3•5H2O, occurs naturally as the mineral alunogen.

Aluminium sulfate is sometimes called alum or papermaker's alum in certain industries. However, the name "alum" is more commonly and properly used for any double sulfate salt with the generic formula XAl(SO4)2·12H2O, where X is a monovalent cation such as potassium or ammonium.


Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula NH3. The simplest pnictogen hydride, ammonia is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent smell. It is a common nitrogenous waste, particularly among aquatic organisms, and it contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or indirectly, is also a building block for the synthesis of many pharmaceutical products and is used in many commercial cleaning products. It is mainly collected by downward displacement of both air and water. Ammonia is named for the Ammonians, worshipers of the Egyptian god Amun, who used ammonium chloride in their rituals.Although common in nature and in wide use, ammonia is both caustic and hazardous in its concentrated form. It is classified as an extremely hazardous substance in the United States, and is subject to strict reporting requirements by facilities which produce, store, or use it in significant quantities.The global industrial production of ammonia in 2014 was 176 million tonnes, a 16% increase over the 2006 global industrial production of 152 million tonnes. Industrial ammonia is sold either as ammonia liquor (usually 28% ammonia in water) or as pressurized or refrigerated anhydrous liquid ammonia transported in tank cars or cylinders.NH3 boils at −33.34 °C (−28.012 °F) at a pressure of one atmosphere, so the liquid must be stored under pressure or at low temperature. Household ammonia or ammonium hydroxide is a solution of NH3 in water. The concentration of such solutions is measured in units of the Baumé scale (density), with 26 degrees baumé (about 30% (by weight) ammonia at 15.5 °C or 59.9 °F) being the typical high-concentration commercial product.

Calcium acetate

Calcium acetate is a chemical compound which is a calcium salt of acetic acid. It has the formula Ca(C2H3O2)2. Its standard name is calcium acetate, while calcium ethanoate is the systematic name. An older name is acetate of lime. The anhydrous form is very hygroscopic; therefore the monohydrate (Ca(CH3COO)2•H2O) is the common form.

Calcium chloride

Calcium chloride is an inorganic compound, a salt with the chemical formula CaCl2. It is a white coloured crystalline solid at room temperature, highly soluble in water.

Calcium chloride is commonly encountered as a hydrated solid with generic formula CaCl2(H2O)x, where x = 0, 1, 2, 4, and 6. These compounds are mainly used for de-icing and dust control. Because the anhydrous salt is hygroscopic, it is used as a desiccant.

Calcium sulfate

Calcium sulfate (or calcium sulphate) is the inorganic compound with the formula CaSO4 and related hydrates. In the form of γ-anhydrite (the anhydrous form), it is used as a desiccant. One particular hydrate is better known as plaster of Paris, and another occurs naturally as the mineral gypsum. It has many uses in industry. All forms are white solids that are poorly soluble in water. Calcium sulfate causes permanent hardness in water.

Copper(II) sulfate

Copper(II) sulfate, also known as copper sulphate, are the inorganic compounds with the chemical formula CuSO4(H2O)x, where x can range from 0 to 5. The pentahydrate (x = 5) is the most common form. Older names for this compound include blue vitriol, bluestone, vitriol of copper, and Roman vitriol.The pentahydrate (CuSO4·5H2O), the most commonly encountered salt, is bright blue. It exothermically dissolves in water to give the aquo complex [Cu(H2O)6]2+, which has octahedral molecular geometry. The structure of the solid pentahydrate reveals a polymeric structure wherein copper is again octahedral but bound to four water ligands. The Cu(II)(H2O)4 centers are interconnected by sulfate anions to form chains. Anhydrous copper sulfate is a white powder.


Ethanol (also called ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, drinking alcohol, or simply alcohol) is a chemical compound, a simple alcohol with the chemical formula C2H5OH. Its formula can be also written as CH3−CH2−OH or C2H5−OH (an ethyl group linked to a hydroxyl group), and is often abbreviated as EtOH. Ethanol is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid with a slight characteristic odor. It is a psychoactive substance and is the principal type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks.

Ethanol is naturally produced by the fermentation of sugars by yeasts or via petrochemical processes, and is most commonly consumed as a popular recreational drug. It also has medical applications as an antiseptic and disinfectant. The compound is widely used as a chemical solvent, either for scientific chemical testing or in synthesis of other organic compounds, and is a vital substance used across many different kinds of manufacturing industries. Ethanol is also used as a clean-burning fuel source.

Hydrogen chloride

The compound hydrogen chloride has the chemical formula HCl and as such is a hydrogen halide. At room temperature, it is a colorless gas, which forms white fumes of hydrochloric acid upon contact with atmospheric water vapor. Hydrogen chloride gas and hydrochloric acid are important in technology and industry. Hydrochloric acid, the aqueous solution of hydrogen chloride, is also commonly given the formula HCl.

Iron(II) sulfate

Iron(II) sulfate (British English: iron(II) sulphate) or ferrous sulfate denotes a range of salts with the formula FeSO4·xH2O. These compounds exist most commonly as the heptahydrate (x = 7) but are known for several values of x. The hydrated form is used medically to treat iron deficiency, and also for industrial applications. Known since ancient times as copperas and as green vitriol (vitriol is an archaic name for sulfate), the blue-green heptahydrate (hydrate with 7 molecules of water) is the most common form of this material. All the iron(II) sulfates dissolve in water to give the same aquo complex [Fe(H2O)6]2+, which has octahedral molecular geometry and is paramagnetic. The name copperas dates from times when the copper(II) sulfate was known as blue copperas, and perhaps in analogy, iron(II) and zinc sulfate were known respectively as green and white copperas.It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most important medications needed in a basic health system.

Iron(III) chloride

Iron(III) chloride, also called ferric chloride, is an industrial scale commodity chemical compound, with the formula FeCl3 and with iron in the +3 oxidation state. The colour of iron(III) chloride crystals depends on the viewing angle: by reflected light the crystals appear dark green, but by transmitted light they appear purple-red. Anhydrous iron(III) chloride is deliquescent, forming hydrated hydrogen chloride mists in moist air. It is rarely observed in its natural form, the mineral molysite, known mainly from some fumaroles.

When dissolved in water, iron(III) chloride undergoes hydrolysis and gives off heat in an exothermic reaction. The resulting brown, acidic, and corrosive solution is used as a flocculant in sewage treatment and drinking water production, and as an etchant for copper-based metals in printed circuit boards. Anhydrous iron(III) chloride is a fairly strong Lewis acid, and it is used as a catalyst in organic synthesis.

Iron oxide

Iron oxides are chemical compounds composed of iron and oxygen. All together, there are sixteen known iron oxides and oxyhydroxides.Iron oxides and oxide-hydroxides are widespread in nature, play an important role in many geological and biological processes, and are widely used by humans, e.g., as iron ores, pigments, catalysts, in thermite (see the diagram) and hemoglobin. Common rust is a form of iron(III) oxide. Iron oxides are widely used as inexpensive, durable pigments in paints, coatings and colored concretes. Colors commonly available are in the "earthy" end of the yellow/orange/red/brown/black range. When used as a food coloring, it has E number E172.

Lead dioxide

Lead(IV) oxide, commonly called lead dioxide, plumbic oxide or anhydrous plumbic acid (sometimes wrongly called lead peroxide), is a chemical compound with the formula PbO2. It is an oxide where lead is in an oxidation state of +4; bond type is predominantly covalent. It is an odorless dark-brown crystalline powder which is nearly insoluble in water. It exists in two crystalline forms. The alpha phase has orthorhombic symmetry; it was first synthesized in 1941 and was identified in nature as a rare mineral scrutinyite in 1988. The more common tetragonal beta phase was first identified as the mineral plattnerite around 1845 and later produced synthetically. Lead dioxide is a strong oxidizing agent which is used in the manufacture of matches, pyrotechnics, dyes and other chemicals. It also has several important applications in electrochemistry, in particular in the positive plates of lead acid batteries.

Lithium hydroxide

Lithium hydroxide is an inorganic compound with the formula LiOH. It is a white hygroscopic crystalline material. It is soluble in water and slightly soluble in ethanol, and is available commercially in anhydrous form and as the monohydrate (LiOH.H2O), both of which are strong bases. It is the weakest base among the alkali metal hydroxides.

Magnesium sulfate

Magnesium sulfate is an inorganic salt with the formula MgSO4(H2O)x where 0≤x≤7. It is often encountered as the heptahydrate sulfate mineral epsomite (MgSO4·7H2O), commonly called Epsom salt. The overall global annual usage in the mid-1970s of the monohydrate was 2.3 million tons, of which the majority was used in agriculture.Epsom salt has been traditionally used as a component of bath salts. Epsom salt can also be used as a beauty product. Athletes use it to soothe sore muscles, while gardeners use it to improve crops. It has a variety of other uses: for example, Epsom salt is also effective in the removal of splinters.

Phosphorus pentoxide

Phosphorus pentoxide is a chemical compound with molecular formula P4O10 (with its common name derived from its empirical formula, P2O5). This white crystalline solid is the anhydride of phosphoric acid. It is a powerful desiccant and dehydrating agent.

Sodium acetate

Sodium acetate, CH3COONa, also abbreviated NaOAc, is the sodium salt of acetic acid. This colorless deliquescent salt has a wide range of uses.

Sodium carbonate

Sodium carbonate, Na2CO3, (also known as washing soda, soda ash and soda crystals) is the inorganic compound with the formula Na2CO3 and its various hydrates. All forms are white, water-soluble salts. All forms have a strongly alkaline taste and give moderately alkaline solutions in water. Historically it was extracted from the ashes of plants growing in sodium-rich soils. Because the ashes of these sodium-rich plants were noticeably different from ashes of wood (once used to produce potash), sodium carbonate became known as "soda ash". It is produced in large quantities from sodium chloride and limestone by the Solvay process.

Sodium phosphates

Sodium phosphate is a generic term for a variety of salts of sodium (Na+) and phosphate (PO43−). Phosphate also forms families or condensed anions including di-, tri-, tetra-, and polyphosphates. Most of these salts are known in both anhydrous (water-free) and hydrated forms. The hydrates are more common than the anhydrous forms.

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