People take baths in it so it clearly doesn't. But if epsom salt is the salt of sulfuric acid when it dissolves the chemical ions present in sulfuric acid should also be present in the bath water and in abundance enough to melt you.. right?

I also remember that water autodissociates into hydronium and hydroxide, so my other question is why wouldn't plain water simultaneously be a acid and a base and also just melt you?

If there's a trillion (or whatever) water molecules next to your skin and even a tiny fraction of them turn into an acid and some of them turn into a base, there'd cumulatively be a lot of acid on your skin. I can't imagine adding salt which would also ionize could help things.


1 Answer 1


Well, as you might have guessed, it's the $\ce{H+}$ in sulfuric that is dangerous, not the $\ce{SO4^2-}$. So, Epsom salts, being $\ce{MgSO4}$, aren't very dangerous.

In the same vein, table salt ($\ce{NaCl}$) is perfectly OK despite hydrochloric acid ($\ce{HCl}$) being rather nasty.

And $\ce{H+}$ is only corrosive in high concentrations, mind you - otherwise we'd be burning ourselves drinking orange juice, which itself has a small concentration of $\ce{H+}$. That also answers why water doesn't kill you: only a tiny fraction of it (roughly 1 in ten million molecules) actually undergoes autodissociation at any one time. It's not about the actual number of $\ce{H+}$ ions, but rather the concentration. If you dilute $\ce{HCl}$ enough you can pretty much just drink it. (Please don't be stupid and take this as a licence to do a home experiment and drink $\ce{HCl}$.)

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah but wouldn't the magnesium 2+ ion suck some hydroxides off from some otherwise stable dihydrogen monoxides and thus increase the hydrogen ion concentration (if only temporarily)? Also how did you do super scripts and bold your chemicals? $\endgroup$
    – user273872
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 20:43
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That can happen but again it is a question of to what extent it happens. The answer is that it happens to such a small extent that you might as well imagine it not happening. People have tabulated data that quantitatively describe that reaction, and someone else might do the number crunching (I'm not free now), but they'll tell you exactly the same thing: that happens to only a tiny extent. TLDR: It's not a black and white thing where "has some $\ce{H+}$ = death". For formatting see here. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ Okay I think that answers it, also thanks man! $\endgroup$
    – user273872
    Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 20:56

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