Potassium Permanganate: Why You Need It in Your Survival Kit?

Susan Morrow
By Susan Morrow February 15, 2017 13:56

Potassium Permanganate: Why You Need It in Your Survival Kit?

As a survival substance, potassium permanganate is arguably one of the most beneficial.

The 4 oxygen atoms in the compound are the key to its action and its applicability in survival. Potassium permanganate contains a lot of oxygen which makes the chemical an oxidant. It is this ability to oxygenate which is one of the reasons why potassium permanganate is such a useful survival chemical.Potassium permanganate crystals

As a slight side note, potassium permanganate is good at getting stains out of things. For example, you can remove ‘foxing’ from an old book using a potassium permanganate solution. But at the same time, if you get it on your skin, you end up with brown stains that are very hard to get off — as I once found out.

Use #1: As Water Purifier

Studies, from “The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics”, have shown that at a dilution of 1:10,000 (potassium permanganate to water) kills most bacteria within an hour.

You may be asking the question, can I sterilize drinking water with potassium permanganate? Not only that you can, but you can also do it at the source. For example, if you have a well, you can control bacterial growth by feeding the well a solution of around 4-7 g permanganate per gallon.

Related: How to Build a Water Purification System in 10 Minutes

Use #2: As Wound Disinfectant

Potassium permanganate is more readily used externally. As mentioned earlier, the oxidizing nature of the chemical means it is a very good disinfectant.

A dilute solution of potassium permanganate can be used to treat anything from trench foot to cleaning wounds to sterilizing infected water. It can even be used to treat bacterial infections in fish.

Related: Emergency Care For Gunshot Wounds

Use #3: To start a fire

Potassium permanganate is a great fire starter. All you need to start a fire with potassium permanganate is about 10 g (1/3 oz) of it and some glycerin (about 1 ml or 1/4 teaspoon). It can also work with sugar and water. Place your potassium permanganate in a small ceramic dish, or on a tile (as shown below). Next, drop the glycerol onto the potassium permanganate and stand back. Within a few seconds to a minute, the dish will start to smoke, and then a sudden purplish flame will appear. You can use the flame to light a larger fire.

mound of potassium permanganate

Create a small mound of potassium permanganate and drop the glycerol into a      small reservoir in the middle of the mound

potassium chemicals react

Stand back and watch as the chemicals react and create a flame

potassium flame 1

potassium flame 2

Use the flame as a fire lighter

Use #4: Improvised munitions

Using the same principle as in use #3 you can also use potassium permanganate as an improvised munition. As a simple munition, you can use a mix of sugar and potassium permanganate. To do this, finely grind sugar and permanganate separately (it is important to grind these separately for obvious reasons). Then using a soft brush, mix the two together — the brush reduces friction — this will form a low level munition. Wrap the powder together into something like a small bore, capped tube with a fuse.

Related: How To Make Gun Powder The Old Fashioned Way in Less Than 30 Minutes

Use #5: More medicinal uses

Wounds, including blisters, and even open wounds, can be treated for infection by taking a dilute potassium permanganate bath. Follow the 1:10,000 rule for the solution. Similarly, you can also treat eczema, dermatitis, and fungal infections using a dilute solution of potassium permanganate which you use to wash the infected area with each day. Referring back to the Pharmacopoeia from 1968, it suggests a 1 in 5000 up to 1 in 10,000 solution for weeping wounds and similar for urethral irrigation for water infections — so accuracy for external treatments can be around that solution range.

Use #6: As a mouthwash

IMPORTANT NOTE: Concentrated solutions of potassium permanganate are poisonous, so be careful!

Potassium permanganate is a disinfectant so can be used as a mouthwash. The disinfectant action works by attacking microorganisms using the oxidizing properties of the potassium permanganate.  The potassium permanganate mouthwash solution will taste slightly sweet with an astringent aftertaste. There are ongoing studies into the antiseptic properties of potassium permanganate and its use in managing periodontal disease. The concentration of the mouthwash in the trials being a 0.01% solution; that is 1g potassium permanganate per 10,000ml of water (that’s around 2 gallons of water). The trial recommends gargling with 10 ml of this solution, twice per day.

Potassium permanganate is stable as a solid at room temperature and normal light conditions, but it is less stable as a liquid. So it is best to make up solutions in small batches that will be used up quickly, so in the above example, you are likely best using 100 mg potassium permanganate to around 1 liter of water (around 0.2 gallons.).

You can purchase potassium permanganate from here.

Some final uses:

  • According to the British Pharmaceutical Codex of 1968, potassium permanganate solution is used as a first aid treatment for snake bites. However, it caveats this use as not clinically proven, but that it will destroy any venom that is on the skin’s surface.
  • Potassium permanganate can be used to neutralize mustard gas, even if it has been in the ground for decades by pouring on a solution around the infected area.
  • Back in the day, potassium permanganate was used as a treatment for poisoning. The dosage varies depending on what you read, but most publications recommend a 0.2% solution as a stomach wash, post poisoning.

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Susan Morrow
By Susan Morrow February 15, 2017 13:56
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  1. Baba February 15, 14:55

    Found your info on potassium permanganate helpful. When I was 3 I got impetigo. The tx was guess what? I was highly allergic to it and broke out over my entire body. I couldn’t wear clothes. My mother said all they could do was wait it out. Have no idea about concentration. When I was a student nurse we used it in the nursery on newborn cords.

    Reply to this comment
    • Elrene July 31, 03:24

      I’ve heard that it can be used for blindness resulting from pawpaw milk of unripe pawpaws, it fixes it in five minutes, best to get the dilution right i suggest!

      Reply to this comment
  2. Tumbleweed February 15, 15:50

    That is quite interesting, but where does one buy this? Is it available in granular form?

    Reply to this comment
    • Jean-Mi13 February 15, 16:49

      Bonjour Tumbleweed, j’ai acheté les 5 tubes de 8 grammes chacun chez MD FlashLights Etc Ltd sur amazone au prix de 6.94 euros mais vous avez la possibilité d’acheter chez Zeus 100 grammes au prix de 9.99 euros. En France le produit n’est plus en vente en pharmacie depuis quelques années sauf sur prescription médicale.

      Reply to this comment
    • Tom February 15, 23:36

      You can find it in large quantities ie cheaper at your well driller / supplier. Some pool chemical supply houses also carry it.

      Reply to this comment
    • Safety Officer February 16, 02:30

      You can find it at many farm supply stores as it is used to treat well water.

      Reply to this comment
  3. MaryEtta February 15, 16:31

    Thanks for your very informative site. I read in my spare time. So much info for elderly folks. Many younger folks think we are crazy. I hope I can help others in time of need. I am a retired nurse caring for my husband with dementia.

    Reply to this comment
  4. momlee February 15, 16:38

    OK, so where do you get this product or how do you make it?

    Reply to this comment
  5. Fishhook February 15, 16:39

    Where can you find this? Is it expensive?

    Reply to this comment
  6. left coast chuck February 15, 16:59

    The author said the P.P. turned his skin brown. I’m dredging up a 60 year old memory, but If my memory is correct, the corpsmen used to prescribe P.P. for jock itch and it turned your groin a brilliant purple, not brown. It was also prescribed for cold sores and again, you could count on a large purple blotch on your face. Not sure which was worse, the cold sore or the purple dye. Both certainly inhibited any contact with the opposite sex.

    Reply to this comment
    • Rph February 16, 14:46

      Are you sure that wasn’t gentian violet?

      Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck February 17, 20:08

        Well, no, now that you mention gentian violet, perhaps it was that. As I said, the memory was 60 years old and although us old folks are supposed to remember what happened 60 years ago with laser like precision the only reason is because usually we are the only one around that is left from that long ago and nobody can say, “Hey, I was there too and that’s not the way it was.” (:>))

        Reply to this comment
    • Mike September 23, 22:18

      Chuck, when mixed with water it does turn purple but on your skin will turn brown and you’ll have to wait for it to WEAR off. I worked a small water treatment plant for over 20 years. I’ve had blotchy brown skin many times. Mike

      Reply to this comment
  7. Crystal February 15, 20:40

    How much for urethral irrigation, anyone know and using a catheter? I keep getting really bad ecoli infections even though in very careful, ive had uterine cancer and they cut my bladder and I have scar tissue and have problems ever since

    Reply to this comment
    • Old prepper March 25, 05:15

      Crystal; I suspect your dr. messed up. Some how, you have an opening, still in your bladder, that some ‘feces’? is getting into. Have you talked to your doctor? Something is not right. Have them check your bladder for some opening, Even a tiny one, will do this. Just a LAY person, but I am older. Take care.

      Reply to this comment
  8. Don February 15, 22:30

    This sounds like a really good option to sanitize my well. In the past I have poured 2 gallons of Clorox in it , but take weeks to get the oder out. How would you ever determine how much of this to add to a drilled well.

    Reply to this comment
    • Rph February 16, 14:50

      You would be better served by using chlorine tabs. They are about the size of a quarter and 10-12 work pretty good. The issue with using liquid bleach is it will rust out your metal casing pretty bad if not washed off quickly

      Reply to this comment
    • Elda April 3, 00:24

      I am looking into this for the same reason. I also poured 2 gallons into my well as per instructions given me from my county. It destroyed the pressure tank, pressure switch, pressure gauge, all the faucets leak
      and now working on my pressure pump….all the rubber or plastic destroyed. If that were not bad enough the well has still got bacteria. I am looking for something that will be able to be used until what ever is doing this is rotted away or washed down the aquifer. But when the water has that much Clorox in it you can’t even boil the water to drink.

      Reply to this comment
      • alaskanalain April 3, 18:04

        Sounds like a very bad reaction Elda. I would not use that well for a long time. I once lived off well water but it was a sealed well so it didn’t need any sanitation.
        It would be difficult to determine the exact amount of anything to throw in because the water is also exposed to minerals in the rock and silt around it. Maybe a device that mixes chlorine in the pipe as it enters the house. Like the water filters that take a chlorine block to mix inline.

        Reply to this comment
      • alaskanalain April 3, 18:08

        I used it to successfully stop bleeding in my wife, it did cause a bit of burning and discoloration on the wound but saved my wife. When we went to the doctor the next morning he said I did good.

        Reply to this comment
  9. AZ February 16, 05:07

    Where can I potassium permanganate?

    Reply to this comment
  10. kk May 3, 00:37

    You can buy it at water softener stores. It id used as the regenerate in iron filters to remove excess iron from the water, like a water softener does. And yes, the color is purple.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Dave May 30, 20:47

    Used it 65 years ago for advanced athletes foot. It dilutes purple but does turn skin brown as a tanning booth could. However, it nailed it for 60 years. Only on rare occasion do I even develop a lesion. It does cause the skin to eventually peel off painlessly.

    I’m about to give it a go on my scalp condition which is affecting several hair follicles. Nothing the dermatologist has given me, including strong tetracycline, and antibacterial ointment has worked. This leads me to believe that it’s fungus lol in origin. Having little hair makes this easy to treat. Lol

    For the amount I’lI need, it is available on Amazon like everything else.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Susie June 20, 21:40

    My first husband, God rest his nasty soul, suffered from jock itch. His M.D. prescribed PP. It was purple, brilliant! Fortunately for us, he traveled and only used it in motel tubs. Suppose he changed them each trip. Don’ think he would be welcome twice. Also’ when our daughters St Bernard suffered from heat he put it on, Sampson. Sampson shook his head and daddy dearest had a brilliant purple streak in his white hair. Had a good laugh remembering 40 years later.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck July 4, 03:00

      Susi: Se my post above. I thought P.P. was used for jock itch, but Rph reminded me that although I thought I remembered it as P.P., it was really gentian violet that the medics and corpsmen used for jock itch and other parasitical infections in hot, humid climes. And gentian violet will turn a brilliant purple when applied to skin and last through several washings. Does clear up jock itch though.

      Reply to this comment
      • remedy April 26, 15:46

        Left coast chuck, go get Pau D’arco herbal tea at health food store or order it from Vitacost.com or type in what store you want to order it from. PAU D’ARCO KILLS YEAST ITCH. POUR LIQUID OF PAU D’ARCO OVER YOUR BODY WHERE THE ITCH IS. MAKE A TEA OF PAU D’ARCO AND DRINK IT.. CHECK YOURSELF NEXT DAY OR HOURS AFTER DRINKING PAU D’ARCO AND SEE IF YOU ITCH. I HAVE USED PAU D’ARCO FOR YEARS WHEN I ATE CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES WITH CANE SUGAR I WOULD ITCH. I am blood type A and allergic to cane sugar. PAU D’ARCO WOULD GET RID OF THE ITCH. It should work for all blood types.
        Dr. Peter D’adamo wrote a book “Eat Right For Your Type” blood type. laboratory tests brought about this listing of highly beneficial foods that act like a medicine, and neutral foods that do what they do, and AVOID FOOD LISTS THAT SHOW FOODS THAT ACT CONTRARY TO EACH BLOOD TYPE. A GOOD BOOK LISTS HERBS FOR EACH BLOOD TYPE. $28.00 AMAZON POSSIBLY.

        Reply to this comment
  13. Susie June 20, 21:42

    My first husband, God rest his nasty soul, suffered from jock itch. His M.D. prescribed PP. It was purple, brilliant! Fortunately for us, he traveled and only used it in motel tubs. Suppose he changed them each trip. Don’ think he would be welcome twice. Also’ when our daughters St Bernard suffered from heat he put it on, Sampson. This is the first time I have writtenSampson shook his head and daddy dearest had a brilliant purple streak in his white hair. Had a good laugh remembering 40 years later. This is the first time I have written perhaps others have had similar or like memories.

    Reply to this comment
  14. EL oso July 3, 15:56

    Is the same as pool shock?

    Reply to this comment
  15. me August 23, 06:02

    I just used it to stop bleeding. My wife was bleeding alot a few minutes ago from a surgery wound. It works better than the coagulants you buy that is made especially for that.

    Reply to this comment
    • Mike September 23, 22:26

      me, cayenne pepper will stop bleeding also as will sugar and no it doesn’t burn. Mike

      Reply to this comment
      • me September 24, 03:35

        good to know Mike. The stuff you buy at the pharmacy is Potassium peregrinate mixed with fine saw dust and perhaps something else, according to them. Now I just wait with cayenne pepper and sugar at the ready for an accident to happen.

        Reply to this comment
  16. Roger Random December 4, 16:49

    We used to mix KMnO4 with Oxalic Acid and use as a bleach to remove chemical stains from one’s hands.

    Reply to this comment
  17. Spike March 20, 22:59

    Could this cure toe nail fungus?

    Reply to this comment
  18. Purple Guy November 17, 01:16

    I used this to color my body a vibrant purple, head to toe. I was going to a nature event that was clothing optional, so it worked great.

    Reply to this comment
  19. The Vet February 8, 05:05

    Thank you for your informative post. I have become alergic to hair dye and have read that I could use this to stop the itching and crusty, no weeping scabs I develop, however, no where does it tell me how to use it. Could you please give me a breakdown on how to mix a solution I can use for my scalp and how I should apply etc,? I will not go gray and would like to stop feeling this frustration. Thank you.

    Reply to this comment
  20. JC January 1, 19:02

    is Reagent grade ok or is it too strong and if it’s very strong what would be the ratio to water. Thanks for any information in advance

    Reply to this comment
    • Alaskanalain January 2, 06:26

      Never heard of different strengths. What I, and people here are discussing is pure. It looks a bit like black fine sugar, but the smallest amount dissolves deep purple in water. As for ratio, it depends on use. Use the tiniest amount at first since it can burn skin.

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