Potassium Permanganate has a chemical formula of KMnO4. It is sometimes known as Permanganate of Potash or Condy's Crystals. It is a strong oxidizing agent and dissolves in water to give intense purple solutions. When these solutions are evaporated, it results in purple-black crystals which glisten. Potassium Permanganate decomposes when exposed to light.
One of the greatest hazards when working with or handling Potassium Permanganate is that it stains organic materials such as paper, clothing and skin. Even glassware containing solutions of Potassium Permanganate can become stained brown.
Most of the uses of Potassium Permanganate revolve around its oxidizing properties. It is a strong oxidizing agent which does not produce toxic by-products, which makes it a valuable chemical. Potassium Permanganate is used by prop-makers for TV and film to 'age' set dressings and props. Its use results in making new cloths, ropes, timber and glass appear very ancient and has been successfully used on such productions as 'Indiana Jones' and 'Troy'.
Potassium Permanganate also has uses as an antiseptic and dilute solutions of KMnO4 can be used to treat ulcers, dermatitis and fungal infections of the hands and feet. Permanganate washes were once used to treat gonorrhoea and are still used to treat candidiasis, better known as the fungal infection 'thrush'. Potassium Permanganate can be used as a specialist disinfectant for treating human and animal conditions.
KMnO4 is widely used in water treatment processes and is used as a regeneration chemical to remove Iron and Hydrogen Sulphide from well water. In past times, Potassium Permanganate was used to disinfect drinking water for human consumption.
Potassium Permanganate is used on banana shipments to absorb the Ethylene given off by the bananas as they ripen. The use of Potassium Permanganate doubles the fruit ripening period and helps to protect against large quantities of fruit becoming ripe before they reach their destination.
As with any chemical substance, care should be taken when handling Potassium Permanganate. Always wear gloves and protective clothing to help protect the skin from staining. Wear approved eye protection and appropriate safety footwear. Keep container tightly closed and store in a cool dry area. Keep away from children and animals.