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Applications > Copper Compounds        

Uses of Copper Sulphate

Copper sulphate, blue stone, blue vitriol are all common names for pentahydrated cupric sulphate, CuSO45H2O, which is the best known and the most widely used of the copper salts. Indeed it is often the starting raw material for the production of many of the other copper salts.

Today in the world there are more than 100 manufacturers and the world's consumption is around 200,000 tonnes per annum. It is estimated that approximately three-quarters of this is used in agriculture, principally as a fungicide, but also for treating copper-deficient soils.

copper-deficient soil


Copper sulphate is a very versatile chemical with as extensive a range of uses in industry as it has in agriculture. Its principal employment is in agriculture, and, up to a generation or so ago, about its only uses in industry were as a mordant for dyeing and for electroplating. Today it is being employed in many industrial processes:

  • The synthetic fibre industry has found an application for it in the production of their raw material.
  • The metal industry uses large quantities of copper sulphate as an electrolyte in copper refining, for copper coating steel wire prior to wire drawing and in various copper plating processes.
  • The mining industry employs it as an activator in the concentration by froth flotation of lead, zinc, cobalt and gold ores.
  • The printing trade takes it as an electrolyte in the production of electrotype and as an etching agent for process engraving.
  • The paint industry uses it in anti-fouling paints and it plays a part in the colouring of glass.

Indeed, today there is hardly an industry which does not have some small use for copper sulphate. In the table below, some of the many uses of copper sulphate are listed.

For further information see Pub 11 Uses of Copper Compounds. open pdf




Major uses

Preparation of Bordeaux and Burgundy mixtures for use as fungicides


Manufacture of other copper fungicides such as copper-lime dust, tribasic copper sulphate, copper carbonate and cuprous oxide


Manufacture of insecticides such as copper arsenite and Paris green


Control of fungus diseases


Correction of copper deficiency in soils


Correction of copper deficiency in animals


Growth stimulant for fattening pigs and broiler chickens

Molluscicide for the destruction of slugs and snails, particularly the snail host of the liver fluke

Other uses

Seed dressing


Soil steriliser, e.g. Cheshunt compound (a mixture of copper sulphate and ammonium carbonate) to prevent "damping-off" disease of tomato, etc.


Control and prevention of foot rot in sheep and cattle


Bacteriastat for addition to sheep dips


Disinfectant in prevention of the spread of swine erysepelas and white scours in calves


Control of scum in farm ponds


Plant nutrient in rice fields


Preservative for wooden posts, wooden buildings, etc.


Preservative for wooden fruit boxes, planting baskets and other containers


Ingredient of vermin repellents, e.g. for application to bark of trees against rabbits


Stimulant of latex yield on rubber plantations

Protection against algal growths on flower pots

Public health and medicine


Destruction of algal blooms in reservoirs and swimming pools


Prevention of the spread of athletes foot in warm climates, by incorporation in the flooring mixture of swimming baths


Control of bilharzia in tropical countries, as a molluscicide


Prevention of malaria, in the preparation of Paris green for use against osquito larvae


Antiseptic and germicide against fungus infections

Catalyst or raw material for the preparation of copper catalysts used in the manufacture of pharmaceutical products



Preservative in casein and other glues


Additive to book binding pastes and glues, for insecticidal purposes


Additive to animal and silicate glues to give water resistance


Timber preservative and in the preparation of other wood preservatives, e.g. oil based copper naphthenates and water based copper/chrome/arsenic for the prevention of woodworms and wood rots


Ingredient of plaster to prevent fungus infection, e.g. to prevent the spread of dry rot


Ingredient of concrete, both as a colouring matter and as an antiseptic, e.g. for use in and around swimming pools


Modification of the setting of concrete


Protection against lichens, moulds and similar growths on asbestos cement roofing and other building materials

Control of the growth of tree roots in sewers


Preparation of catalysts for use in many industries


Purification of gases, e.g. removal of hydrogen chloride and hydrogen sulphide


Precipitation promoter in purifying zinc sulphate solutions


Precipitation of alkaloids as double salts from crude extracts

Source of other copper compounds such as copper carbonate silicate/arsenite/
aceto-arsenite/resinate/stearate/tartrate/oleate naphthenate/chromate/chlorate/
alginate/fluoride/hydroxide, cuprous oxide/ chloride/cyanide and cuprammonium

Decorative trades

Colouring glass


Colouring cement and plaster


Colouring ceramic wares


Alteration of metal colours, e.g. darkening of zinc, colouring aluminium


Reagent in the preparation of dyestuffs intermediates


Catalyst or raw material for the preparation of copper catalysts, e.g. preparation of phenols from diazo compounds, preparation of phthalocyanine dyes


Mordant in dyeing


Reagent in tanning processes

Metal and

Electrolyte in copper refining


Electrolyte in copper plating and electro forming


Electrolytic manufacture of cuprous compounds, e.g. cuprous oxide


Constituent of the electrodes and electrolytes in batteries


Electrolyte in the manufacture of copper powder


Electrolyte in aluminium plating and anodising


Copper coating steel wire, prior to wire drawing


Pickling copper wire, etc., prior to enamelling

Providing a suitable surface for marking out iron and steel


Flotation reagent in the concentration of ores, e.g. zinc blende


Raw material for the manufacture of copper naphthenate and other copper compounds for use in anti-fouling paints


Preparation of certain varnish or paint dryers, e.g. copper oleate, copper stearate


Preparation of certain pigments, e.g. copper chromate, copper ferrocyanide, copper phthalocyanine


Etching agent for process engraving


Electrolyte in the preparation of electrotype


Ingredient of printing inks

Synthetic rubber and petroleum

Preparation of catalysts used in cracking certain gaseous and liquid petroleum




Preparation of cuprous chloride, used in the purification of butadiene and in the separation of acetylene derivatives


Preparation of catalysts used in chlorinating rubber latex


Purification of petroleum oils


Preparation of copper compounds for rot-proofing canvas and other fabrics


Rot-proofing sandbags


Mordant, especially in calico printing


Cuprammonium process for the production of rayon


Production of aniline black and diazo colours for dyeing


"After coppering" to increase the fastness of dyes

Catalyst in the manufacture of cellulose ethers and in cellulose acetylation


Improving the burning qualities of coke


Laboratory analytical work


Ingredient of laundry marking ink


Dyeing of hair and horn


Ingredient of hair dyes of the phenylene diamine or pyrogallol type


Preparation of chlorophyll as a colouring material for food stuffs


Imparting a green colour in fireworks


Activator in the preparation of active carbons


Preservative for wood pulp


Preservation of fishing nets and hides on trawls


Obtaining a blue-black finish on steel


Treatment of carbon brushes


Ingredient of the solution used for preserving plant specimens in their natural colours

Impregnation in fruit wrapping papers to prevent storage rots

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