Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Ammonium Alum
Name: Sally
Status: Student
Grade:  4-5
Location: OR
Country: USA
Date: May 2005

Dear Scientist,
I have been given a question to answer. Many deodorants are now called Natural Crystal Deodorants, they are made from ammonium alum. Can ammonium alum be called natural and how is it made.

Beware the term "natural" regardless of the context. There are no rules, regulations, or laws that specify what the term "natural" means. The inference a product labeled "natural" wishes to convey is that "natural" is equivalent to "safe" or "pure". "Alum" is the common name for aluminum sulfate used in cooking. One could guess that ammonium alum is a mixed salt of aluminum sulfate and ammonium sulfate, but that is only a guess without specifying the relative amount of aluminum ion and ammonium ion present. It could be made by dissolving certain amounts of Al2(SO4)3 and (NH4)2(SO4) together and evaporating off the water. But that does not mean it is (or isn't) "natural". The term "natural" is advertising hype. Ultimately everything is "natural".

Similar disinformation is labeling a product loaded with fat "cholesterol free" or "no carbohydrates".

Vince Calder

Click here to return to the Material Science Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory