Potash (Potassium Carbonate)

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Hardens rosin in varnish recipes and is used by ancient masters for making Punic wax. Learn more.

Potassium Carbonate is a white salt, soluble in water (insoluble in alcohol) that forms a strongly alkaline solution. It is the primary component of potash and the more refined pearlash or salt of tartar. Historically, pearlash was created by baking potash in a kiln to remove impurities. The fine white powder remaining was the pearlash.

Potassium carbonate (called pearlash in old recipes) was often used to harden rosin in varnish recipes, especially for use on musical instruments. It is also used to emulsify wax to make Punic wax. The recipe for making Punic wax follows:

Werner of Neustadt found the following process very effectual in making wax soluble in water. For each pound of white wax, he took twenty-four ounces of potash (potassium carbonate), which he dissolved in two pints of water, warming it gently. In this lye, he boiled the wax, cut into little bits, for half an hour, after which he removed it from the fire and allowed it to cool. The wax floated on the surface of the liquor in the form of a white saponaceous matter; and this being triturated with water produced a sort of emulsion, which he called wax milk or encaustic wax. This preparation may be mixed with all kinds of colors, and consequently can be applied in a single operation.

"Encaustic Painting". The Encyclopædia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and General Literature. Volume 8. Original 9th Ed. in 25 Vols, William Robertson Smith, Editors, Day Otis Kellogg, Thomas Spencer Baynes, William Robertson Smith. Publisher Werner, 1903. p. 186.

Typical Properties
Chemical Name:Potassium Carbonate
Common Names:Carbonate of potash, salts of tartar, or pearlash or pearl ash
Chemical Formula:K2CO3
CAS No.:584-08-7
Mesh (%):100% 100 mesh
Color:White powder


Keep in a tightly closed container. Protect from physical damage. Store in a cool, dry, ventilated area away from sources of heat, moisture and incompatibilities.

Health and Safety


Wear impervious protective clothing, including boots, gloves, lab coat, apron or coveralls, as appropriate, to prevent skin contact. Use chemical safety goggles and/or full face shield where dusting or splashing of solutions is possible. Causes irritation to the respiratory tract. Symptoms may include coughing, shortness of breath. Ingestion causes irritation to the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. May have moderate toxic effects if consumed in large enough quantities. Refer to Material Safety Data Sheet.

Environmental Hazards

No information is available about its potential hazard to the environment. If the product is spilled, comply with Federal, State and local regulations on reporting spills. Refer to Material Safety Sheet and labels for further details.

More Information
BrandRublev Colours
VendorNatural Pigments
Processing TimeUsually ships the next business day.
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Potash (Potassium Carbonate)
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