What Is Potassium Hydroxide Used For?

Potassium hydroxide (KOH), commonly called caustic potash, is used in products that clean and disinfect surfaces, in drain cleaners, cuticle removal products and leather tanning chemicals. It is used in petroleum and natural gas refining to remove organic acids and sulfur compounds.

Pre-shave products and some shave creams contain potassium hydroxide to force open hair cuticles and attract water into the hair shaft. This process weakens the hair, making it easier to cut with a razor. In a process known as chemical cremation, potassium hydroxide speeds the decomposition of soft tissues in the bodies of both animals and human beings, leaving behind only the bones and other hard tissues. This chemical is poisonous if swallowed or touched, requiring emergency treatment.