Is Table Salt a Compound? [Sodium Chloride Compound or Element]

Table salt is chemically known as sodium chloride. It is made up of two major ions, sodium and chloride. Is table salt a compound?

Table salt is an ionic compound because it is composed of sodium and chloride ions. Its chemical formula is NaCl, which represents a 1:1 ratio of the two ions. Sodium has an atomic weight of 23, and chloride has 35.5 grams. These atomic weights result in molecular weight of 58.5. Also, 100 grams of NaCl contains 39.4 grams of sodium (Na) and 60.66 grams of chloride (Cl).

Read on to learn more about sodium chloride, its functions in the body, and the specific uses of this compound.

Is Table Salt a Compound?

A compound is a combination of two or more elements, and this characteristic applies to table salt. Table salt is classified as a compound due to its two elements, sodium, and chloride. Table salt’s chemical formula is NaCl, representing a 1:1 ratio of the two ions, sodium and chloride. 

Chloride, an anion, has an atomic weight of 35.5 grams. Sodium, a cation, has an atomic weight of 23. Thus, the resulting molecular weight is 58.5. 

If you weigh 100 grams of NaCl, you have 39.4 grams of sodium (Na) and 60.66 grams of chloride (Cl) as components.

Sodium is a cation that is a positively charged ion. It is a cation attracted to the negative electrode, which is the cathode. In contrast, chloride is an anion that is negatively charged and is attracted to the positive electrode, which is the anode. The common knowledge that opposite poles attract each other is the chemistry that applies to sodium and chloride.

Like any substance in the body, each of these ions is important for body function, but too much of them could cause diseases and unhealthy results. However, before we go into the functions of table salt, let us define first a compound. Is table salt a compound or an element?

What Is a Compound?

A compound is a resulting material from the combination of two or more distinct chemical elements or atoms. The bonding could be ionic or covalent. [1]

Moreover, the ionic bond happens when elements of opposite charges are attracted to each other, while in covalent bonds, atoms with similar electronegativity share electrons.

Examples of Compounds Are:

  • Water (H2O) = 2 hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom
  • Table Salt (NaCl) = one sodium atom and one chloride atom
  • Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) = 2 hydrogen atoms and 2 oxygen atoms

What Is an Element?

An element is a pure substance that is made up of only one single type of atom. Examples are sodium and chloride. All sodium elements have the same numbers of protons in their nuclei. The same goes true with chloride. Thus, when two chemical elements combine, they form a chemical compound. [2]

In the case of sodium chloride, the bonding of the two elements is ionic. This bonding happens because they have opposite charges that attracted them to each other. 

Another question that is often asked is: “Is table salt a compound or mixture?” Table salt is considered a compound. But why is table salt often confused as a mixture?

What Is a Mixture?

A mixture is the physical combination of two or more different substances without any chemical combination. Moreover, the substances’ identities are retained in the mixture, resulting in colloids, suspensions, or solutions. [3

Undoubtedly, the main difference between compounds and mixtures is that you can separate mixtures mechanically using gravitational pull, filtration, centrifugation, or heat.

Types of Mixtures

Homogenous

The constituents can be evenly distributed, such as table salt evenly dissolved in water or sugar dissolved in water. You cannot visually differentiate each constituent. 

Moreover, a homogenous mixture consisting of both a solvent and solute (e.g., salt in water) is also called a solution.

Heterogenous

The constituents are unevenly distributed, such as sand in water or corn in water. You can visually identify each component.

Examples of Mixtures

  • Air (homogenous mixture)
  • Salt in water (homogenous mixture)
  • Sand in water (heterogeneous mixture)

Thus, based on the definitions mentioned above, table salt (NaCl) is indeed a compound. However, what is sodium chloride? What are the functions of sodium chloride in the body?

What Is Sodium Chloride?

As previously identified, sodium chloride is an ionic compound composed of the positive ion, sodium, and the negative ion, chloride. Sodium chloride is commonly known as table salt and is one of the most abundant elements on earth. 

Salt is an essential mineral nutrient for the healthy existence of animals and man. But too much salt could also increase the risk of certain diseases in your body.

Table Salt in the Body

Water Electrolyte Balance

Table salt (sodium chloride) is mainly responsible for maintaining the water-electrolyte balance in your body. Sodium participates actively in this process, while chloride is a passive participant. This occurrence happens because chloride passively tags along wherever sodium goes.

Sodium and chloride are classified too as electrolytes because they are positively and negatively charged. There are six major electrolytes in the body:

  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Chloride
  • Bicarbonate
  • Calcium
  • Phosphate. 

The concentration of electrolytes in the body must be maintained at normal levels in the blood to perform their physiological functions efficiently. 

When these concentration levels/values are lowered or raised, diseases or unhealthy conditions result. For sodium and chloride, their normal values/range in the blood are:

  • Sodium = 135 to 145 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L) [4]
  • Chloride = 96 to 106 mEq/L

Hypernatremia

When the blood sodium concentration is above normal levels, hypernatremia occurs:

Symptoms
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Infrequent urination
  • Excessive thirst 

Hypernatremia usually results from too much ingestion of table salt and other salty foods without proper hydration. That is why you should avoid salty foods and hydrate yourself often to maintain your normal water-electrolyte balance.

Lastly, too much sodium in the body increases your risk of kidney stones, cardiovascular diseases, and high blood pressure.

Hyponatremia

Consequently, when the blood sodium concentration is below normal levels, hyponatremia occurs. 

Symptoms
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Seizures
  • Spasms
  • Muscle weakness
  • Cramps
  • Coma

Hyperchloremia

When the blood chloride concentration is above normal levels, hyperchloremia occurs. 

Symptoms
  • Excessive thirst
  • Hypertension
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dry mucous membranes

Hypochloremia

When the blood chloride concentration is below normal levels, hypochloremia occurs.

Symptoms
  • Dyspnea (difficulty in breathing)
  • Diarrhea
  • Fluid loss
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration

Here is a table of the normal levels/reference values of the major electrolytes in the body:

 NameChemical SymbolPlasma/Blood Norma Values/Reference Range
SodiumNa+135 -145 mEq/L
ChlorideCl96 – 106 mEq/L
PotassiumK+3.5 – 5.2 mmol/L
BicarbonateHCO323 – 30 mEq/L
Ionized CalciumCa++4.4 – 5.4 mg/dL
Phosphate or Inorganic PhosphorousHPO42.5 – 4.5 mg/dL

Legend:

  • mEq/L = milliequivalent per liter
  • mmol/L = millimoles per liter
  • mg/dL = milligrams per deciliter

Intravenous Therapy in Dehydration

Sodium chloride is also used as intravenous therapy for dehydration to replenish lost electrolytes in the body. 

The American Heart Association has recommended a daily intake of not more than 2.3 grams or 2,300 mg of salt. This amount is roughly around 1 teaspoon. Lastly, the body needs salt, but you should take it in moderation. [5]

is table salt a compound or element

Other Uses of Table Salt (NaCl)

1. Food Preservative

Salt is commonly used as a food preservative to prevent spoilage. Moreover, the salt concentration prohibits the growth of microbes, preventing food spoilage. 

Note that many preserved foods have higher concentrations of salt than fresh ones. So, if you want to maintain the normal salt concentration in your body, you should avoid salt, salty foods, and preserved foods.

2. Food Fermentation

Food companies also use salt to ferment foods, such as pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, and many more food types. Some Asian countries prepare delicacies using soft rice, salt, fish, shrimp, and other seafood.

3. Flavoring

Without salt, your food would taste bland. Even the Bible recognizes the importance of salt by referring to Christians as the “salt of the Earth” and should not lose their flavor to be useful to other people.

4. De-Icing 

Rock salt is used to de-ice roads, sidewalks, and pavements. Many people remove ice from their pavements using rock salt as a facilitator. 

5. Industrial Manufacturing of Various Products

Salt is used to manufacture various products. Examples of these products are paper, glass, rubber, polyester, chlorine, detergents, bleach, dyes, and soaps.

Is table salt a compound or element? Table salt is an ionic compound. It is made up of two elements, sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl). The chemical formula of NaCl represents a 1:1 ratio of the two ions. 

Sodium is positively charged with an atomic weight of 23 g/mol, while chloride is negatively charged with an atomic weight of 35.5 gram/mol. The atomic weights of both substances give a molecular weight of 58.5 g/mol. 

More About Table Salt

Table salt or sodium chloride is one of the foods that you should watch out for. If sugar is the sweet poison, salt is the salty poison. Too many of these two substances in your body will increase your risk of acquiring cardiovascular, renal, and various metabolic illnesses.

You can use the salt solution as a home remedy.

  • You can use two pinches of salt mixed with a glass of lukewarm water as a saline solution to gargle when you have mouth sores.
  • A salt water flush may work to loosen bowel movement in constipated individuals. Moreover, research in the Journal of Alternative and Contemporary Medicine stated that lukewarm saltwater coupled with certain yoga postures could cleanse the colonoscopy bowel. [6]

To prepare the saltwater flush, dissolve two teaspoons of non-iodized salt in 4 warm water cups. You can add lemon juice as a flavoring. Drink on an empty stomach for full effect.

  • You can use table salt with sugar to prepare a homemade sugar-salt rehydration solution. This solution is a good emergency drink for dehydrated persons.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends using one level teaspoon of salt and 8 level teaspoons of sugar dissolved in one liter of water. [7]

You have to prepare the solution carefully using standard measurements as an inadequate amount of salt and sugar will be ineffectual. Also, an excess amount of salt and sugar is dangerous to the patient.

Tips for Using Table Salt Safely

1. Use Salt in Moderation

Too much salt in your body is dangerous. Therefore, use salt in moderation or not at all. If you have accidentally ingested more salt than you should, drink lots of water to dilute the salt concentration.

In this case, drinking water will not only dilute the salt concentration but would also help in getting rid of the excess salt through urination.

2. Use Other Food Flavoring Instead of Salt

There are flavorful salt alternatives that you can use, such as the following:

  • Garlic
  • Lemon Juice
  • Soy sauce
  • Onion powder
  • Dill
  • Fish sauce
  • Ground black pepper
  • Basil
  • Cured fish
  • Smoked paprika.

Try experimenting with these ingredients and find out what suits your palate. Furthermore, wean yourself away from salt, especially if you are older. Older people have a slower metabolism, reducing the elimination of salt from your body.

3. Choose Fresh Products Instead of Canned Goods

table salt is a compound

Many canned goods are rich in salt because they used salt as a preservative. Thus, you have to choose fresh produce instead of canned goods whenever you can. Moreover, fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, and fish are healthier than processed ones.

Moreover, before buying canned goods or processed products, read the label first and choose less salt content. The lower the salt content, the safer the product is.

4. Hydrate Yourself Adequately

The idea is to keep the salt concentration in your body within normal levels. Thus, you have to drink adequate water (at least 8 glasses per day) to maintain your body’s proper water-electrolyte balance.

Conclusion – Is Table Salt a Compound?

Table salt is a compound. Moreover, it comprises two ions, sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl-), with a 1:1 ratio.

Its chemical formula is NaCl, with sodium having an atomic weight of 23 and chloride with 35.5 grams. The resulting molecular weight is 58.5. 

Based on the mentioned data above, 100 grams of NaCl will contain 39.4 grams of sodium (Na) and 60.66 grams of chloride (Cl). This seemingly harmless compound plays a major role in your health. Avoid consuming too much salt as excessive amounts of this compound in your system will be detrimental to your well-being.

If you can’t avoid consuming salt though, here are tips to use it safely:

  1. Use Salt in Moderation
  2. Use Other Food Flavoring Instead of Salt
  3. Choose Fresh Products Instead of Canned Goods
  4. Hydrate Yourself Adequately