What Is Silver Nitrate Used For?

Silver nitrate is a corrosive chemical substance made from silver and nitric acid. It is administered either in stick form or a liquid form diluted with water.

Silver nitrate in the liquid form is diluted with water, with a 0.01 to 10 percent concentration. This solution is used as a mild antiseptic in medical settings. A 1 to 2 percent solution is effective against gonococcal bacteria, which cause gonorrhea. Starting in 1881, doctors administered this silver nitrate solution directly into the eyes of newborn babies born to gonorrhea-infected mothers to prevent the babies from developing blindness due to the infection.

Used in stick form, silver nitrate is used for the treatment and removal of warts. It is also used for cauterizing wounds and lesions to stop bleeding and prevent infection. The stick is ideally moistened with distilled water and placed against the wound, wart or lesion for a period of one to two minutes, once daily.

Beyond its many medical uses, silver nitrate is used in laboratories to test for the presence of substances such as chlorine, hydroxide and iodide ions. In manufacturing, it is used in hair dyes and permanent fabric markers. A solution of 2 to 3 percent silver nitrate slows down the blooming of cut flowers, allowing them to stay fresher longer.