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What is Ferric Chloride? How is it prepared? How harmful is it?

Mar 17, 2023

What is Ferric Chloride?

With the chemical formula FeCl3, ferric chloride is an inorganic substance with a wide range of applications in industry, medicine, and laboratories. Iron chloride is the term given to ferric chloride. It is a chemical substance with the molecular formula FeCl3. So, the compound FeCl3 is made of iron (III) and chlorine.

Iron has a +3 oxidation potential in the ferric chloride structure, a frequent combination of iron and chlorine. Iron(III) chloride or Iron trichloride is the FeCl3 compound name.


In addition to ferric chloride, the other FeCl3 compound names are molysite and flores martis. It has many hues, including a dark green or violet appearance in its amorphous state and a pure yellow appearance in its hydrous state.

The structure of ferric chloride, its physical and chemical characteristics, as well as the ferric chloride test for phenols and applications in many sectors will be covered in this article.


Properties of Ferric Chloride

The major physical and chemical properties of ferric chloride are as follows:

Physical Properties

  • Ferric chloride has a chemical formula of FeCl3.
  • In the dehydrated state, its molar mass is 162.2 g/mol.
  • It has a comparatively low melting temperature compared to its boiling temperature, which is about 315 degrees Celsius. Ferric chloride undergoes water dissolution, producing energy in this exothermic reaction.
  • It is made in industrial plants when anhydrous chlorine and iron ore react at temperatures between 500 and 700 degrees Celsius.
  • The angle of observation primarily influences its hue. The crystallites seem to have a blackish-green tint when light is reflected at the surface. However, the crystals look violet when the light passes through the medium.
  • The resulting aqueous solution is pale yellow when ferric chloride is dissolved in water. It also smells strongly of muriatic or hydrochloric acid.
  • Ferric chloride has very weak solubility in solutions with no dipole moments, such as benzene and hexane. Still, it is quite dispersible in liquids with donating qualities including esters, acetone, alcohols, amines and nitriles.

Chemical Properties

Ferric chloride is dangerous, extremely corrosive, and naturally acidic. In exchange, the anhydrous substance is a potent dehydrating stimulant. Despite the rarity of human toxicity, consuming ferric chloride can cause substantial sickness and raise the fatality rate.

  • Reaction of FeCl3 with Iron (III) Oxide

FeCl3 + Fe2O3 🡪 3FeOCl

  • Reaction of FeCl3 with Copper (I) Chloride

FeCl3 + CuCl 🡪 FeCl2 + CuCl2

  • Reaction of FeCl3 with Chlorobenzene to Give Ferrous Chloride

2FeCl3 + C6H5Cl 🡪 2FeCl2 + C6H4Cl2 + HCl

  • Reaction of FeCl3 with Organometallic Compound LiCH3

2FeCl3 + LiCH3 🡪 FeCl2 + LiFeCl4 + CH3


Preparation of Ferric Chloride

Iron and chlorine can combine to form anhydrous ferric chloride. The response is listed below:

2Fe(s) + 3Cl2(g) 🡪 2FeCl3(s)


Dilute Ferric Chloride Formulation

There are three ways to make aqueous ferric chloride:

  • By HCl Dissolving Iron Ore

Fe3O4(s) + 8HCl(aq) 🡪 FeCl2(aq) + 2FeCl3(aq) + 4H2O(l)

  • By Using Chlorine to Oxidize Ferrous Chloride

2FeCl2(aq) + Cl2(g) 🡪 2FeCl3(aq)

  • By Oxidizing Ferrous Chloride with Oxygen

4FeCl2(aq) + O2 + 4HCl 🡪 4FeCl3(aq) + 2H2O(l)

Ferric Chloride Test

The ferric chloride test is used to determine whether phenol is present in a sample or not. It is a typical phenol chromatogram test. It involves the following actions:

  • Take sodium hydroxide-neutralized 1% ferric chloride solution and stir it until faint precipitation of FeO(OH) forms. A filter is applied before usage.
  • In a tube, the chemical material or specimen is diluted with water, methanol, or alcohol.
  • The test solution is now supplemented with the previously taken neutralized ferric chloride solution.
  • If there is a brief or persistent violet, greenish, or indigo coloring, phenol or an enol group is present in the solution.

Applications of Ferric Chloride

Numerous industries use ferric chloride. Below are a few of its applications:

Wastewater Management

Ferric chloride is employed to cleanse wastewater and eliminate contaminants from water, which is its main application. Ferric chloride is one of the few currently used water treatment agents that allows odor control. It particularly reduces sulfur-related odors.

The water enters the pre-existing deposition tanks after flocculation. Chloride makes water particles more conductive to electricity, making the water more corrosive. Chloride combines with metal cations in pipelines to create different soluble salts. The amount of metals in drinkable water rises as a result. Although a shielding oxide film forms on lead pipes, chloride constantly speeds up the corrosion process. Domestic water conditioners frequently cause salty flow into municipal sewage disposal.

Production of Printed Circuit Boards

A printed circuit board (PCB) is an empty circuit board with no electronic parts. A  PCB is not yet operational. They are employed in surveillance, diagnosing, and therapeutic devices in addition to being used in appliances. The use of PCBs in the healthcare industry is expanding quickly due to scientific advances opening up new opportunities.

As a Catalyst

It is utilized to perform catalyzing processes in research facilities, including the Friedel Crafts acylation and alkylation reactions and the chlorination process of organic hydrocarbons. Ferric chloride is frequently utilized as a Lewis acid.

Industrial Uses

Applications in the industry include the many processes for producing pigments, electroplating agents, process stabilizers, and solid segregation agents. Industrial production of ferric chloride involves a procedure known as direct chlorination. Dry chlorine reacts with scrap iron at a temperature between 500 and 700 degrees Celsius in this process.

Ferric Chloride Test

The ferric chloride test is performed to determine whether phenols naturally occur in a plant extract or are present in a specimen or chemical. Additionally, enols, hydroxylamine and its derivatives, nitrogen processing organic compounds, and sulfuric acids provide favorable results too.

In Dissolved Form

The dissolved type of ferric chloride is used the most frequently. It breaks down into a pale brown, watery solution that smells strongly of HCl solution. Most objects, including metals, are highly corroded by it, and bodily tissues are presumably also corroded. It is utilized largely in various sewage management and water filtration procedures and is non-flammable.

To Etch Intricate Medical Devices

It can etch copper but is more frequently used to etch iron and stainless steel items. Its adaptability is one of the factors contributing to its popularity. It allows you to replenish the etchant and extend the time until its expiration. Hence, this property allows artists and other craft smiths to use it for pattern welding.

To Strip Aluminum from Mirrors

The most popular mirror coatings are made of metals. The reflective qualities of layers of aluminum and silver make them popular. Silver reflects 95% of light, making it the most reflective material in the visible range. However, aluminum can still reflect 90% of light, which is slightly less reflective than steel. Mirrors’ aluminum coatings are removed while maintaining the finish with the help of FeCl3.

In Other Reactions

Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid and gamma-butyrolactone might potentially be tested with it. In numerous reactions, it serves as a dehydrating agent. It serves as an oxidant in the process of making indigo blue dye.

Harmful Effects of Ferric Chloride

  • A salt-like crystalline or powdered substance with a light, greenish hue is ferrous chloride. It is utilized in several procedures for fabric production, smelting, medicinal manufacturing, and waste disposal.
  • Since ferrous chloride is caustic, coming into contact with it can sting and damage the skin and eyes. FeCl3 can aggravate the throat and nasal passages when breathed in. Increased contact time might injure the cornea and create brown discolouration.
  • Chloride can be toxic to plants and fish in excessive quantities. However, there is no quicker or less expensive method of removing chloride from wastewater. Reverse osmosis, a pricey and highly specialized procedure used to create freshwater for scientific use, would be necessary.
  • Non-toxic liquid alum is used in lakes to decrease the quantity of phosphate in the water.

The Uses of Ferric Chloride 

Numerous industries use ferric chloride. Below are only a few of its uses. 

  • Used in sewage treatment. 
  • Printed circuit boards are made by using it. 
  • It can also be used to test gamma-hydroxybutyric acid and gamma -butyrolactone. 
  • Gamma-hydroxybutyric acid and gamma-butyrolactone can also be tested with it. 
  • Mirrors’ aluminium coatings are removed using this method. 
  • It is used to etch intricate medical devices. 
  • In laboratories, it is commonly employed. 
  • In numerous reactions, it serves as a drying reagent. 


Since the iron in the FeCl3 structure is in the +3 oxidation state, ferric chloride is a crystalline dark green shade. The compound name of FeCl3 is Iron (III) chloride. Ferric chloride has the chemical formula FeCl3.

The aqueous solution appears clear to pale brown. It smells faintly of HCl. It corrodes many minerals and bodily tissues. It is frequently used in wastewater management and water filtration since it is not flammable.

It is hygroscopic in its dehydrated state. Additionally, hydrolysis takes place as moisture from the air is taken in, releasing HCl, creating mists in the humid air. It has a high Lewis acidity.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What safety measures must be followed when handling ferric chloride?

You must exercise the necessary care to use ferric chloride securely:

  • When using the substance, keep it away from warmth, bright light, and artificial light.
  • Never mix water with chemicals.
  • When dealing with the chemical, wear mittens, safety glasses, and a safety apron.
  • To prevent chemical exposure, wear respiratory protection.

2. Is ferric chloride toxic to humans?

Chemically poisonous ferric chloride is a material. It can irritate skin and is detrimental to human health. Additionally, it harms the eyes. It risks throat burn, suffocating, unconsciousness, and even death when consumed.

3. If ferric chloride is burned, what will happen?

Iron Oxychloride is produced by heating ferric chloride with iron (III) oxide. A temperature of 350°C must be reached during heating.

Ferric Chloride


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