Why are sodium and potassium stored in kerosene?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Sodium and potassium metals are kept in kerosene or in dry mineral oil.  Both of these metals are in Group 1 on the periodic table.  All metals in that group are very reactive with water, including moisture in the atmosphere.  You may have seen videos where people have thrown chunks of sodium metal into bodies of water.  Potassium reacts even more violently.  

The reaction proceeds as follows (I've used sodium in the example, but it could be any of the Group 1 metals):

2Na(s) + 2H2O(l) --> 2NaOH(aq) + H2(g)

As you can see above, hydrogen gas is formed during the reaction.  In more explosive reactions (potassium, rubidium, and caesium), enough heat may be created that the hydrogen gas catches fire. In fact, caesium explodes when exposed to water.

In summary, these metals are stored in kerosene because kerosene contains no water and protects these metals from being exposed to any moisture in the air that would cause these metals to react, potentially violently.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial