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What Is Copper Sulfate?

Pile of Copper Sulfate Crystals on a Table

It is an inorganic chemical compound that has been used for centuries across various applications. Also known as blue vitriol, this versatile compound has a rich history and finds use in agriculture, pest control, ponds and lakes, industry, and even in scientific research. In this comprehensive article, we will explore what it is, its properties, various uses, and safety considerations associated with its handling.  All our copper sulfate is approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Chemical Composition & Structure

Chemical structure of copper sulfate pentahydrate

Cupric sulfate has the chemical formula CuSO4. It consists of a copper ion (Cu²⁺) and a sulfate ion (SO₄²⁻) held together by ionic bonds. The copper ion gives the copper compounds its characteristic blue color when it is hydrated.

Physical Properties

raw copper sulfate crystal

This inorganic compound can exist in various forms, but the most common is the pentahydrate form, CuSO4·5H2O, which is bright blue in color. This hydrated form is soluble in water and has a number of distinctive physical properties, including:

  • Color: Blue to blue-green.

  • Odor: Odorless.

  • Taste: Bitter and metallic.

  • Solubility: Highly soluble in water.

  • Density: About 2.28 g/cm³.

  • Toxicity:  Moderately Toxic.

Production Methods

Copper Sulfate Production

This compound can be produced through several methods, including:

  • Mining: Can be obtained as a byproduct of mining.

  • Chemical Synthesis: It can also be synthesized chemically by reacting copper oxide or copper metal with sulfuric acid.

  • Electrolysis: Can be produced via the electrolysis of copper and sulfuric acid.

Historical Significance

Historical Use of Copper Sulfate in Ink

It has a long history of use, dating back to the ancient Egyptians, who used it as a fungicide.  Treated with blue vitriol, ancient Egyptians used it for wounds. Its use continued through various civilizations for diverse applications, including as a pigment in paints and dyes.

Common Uses

Common uses of copper sulfate

Some of the common uses of this substance are used in various industries, including:

1.  Agriculture

  • Fungicide - Used as a fungicide in agriculture to control fungal diseases in crops like grapes, potatoes, and tomatoes.  The most popular of the copper fungicides on the market.

  • Algaecide - It can be applied to ponds, water bodies, and swimming pools to control algae growth.


2.  Industry

  • Electroplating - Utilized in electroplating processes to deposit a layer of copper on various objects

  • Textile Industry - It is used as a mordant in textile dyeing

  • Chemical Manufacturing - Serves as a catalyst to several chemical reactions

3.  Scientific Research

  • Laboratory Reagent - Commonly used in laboratories as a reagent in several chemical tests

  • Crystal Growing - Used to grow more of itself, which has educational and scientific applications.  You can find out more about how to grow them by clicking the link.


In conclusion, this is a versatile chemical compound with a rich history of use in various applications. From agriculture to industry and scientific research, its properties make it valuable in different fields. However, its handling requires caution due to potential environmental hazards to the public health. To ensure its responsible use, it is essential to follow safety guidelines and environmental regulations when employing it in various applications. 


The risks and side effects are minimal as long as proper PPE is used and guidelines are followed to prevent copper levels being toxic to fish.   Whether copper sulfate causes cancer in animals is uncertain. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has not published a cancer rating for copper sulfate.  Wilson's disease is a rare genetic disorder in which causes copper levels to build up in several organs, especially the liver, brain and eyes.  Be sure to talk with your doctor before using it, if you suffer with this disease.

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