Potassium alum crystallizes in regular octahedra with flattened corners, and is very soluble in water. The solution reddens litmus and is an astringent. When heated to nearly a red heat it gives a porous, friable mass which is known as "burnt alum." It fuses at 92 °C in its own water of crystallization. "Neutral alum" is obtained by the addition of as much sodium carbonate to a solution of alum as will begin to cause the separation of alumina; it is much used in mordanting. Alum finds application as a mordant, in the preparation of lakes for sizing hand-made paper and in the clarifying of turbid liquids.
Mineral form and occurrence
Potassium alum is a naturally occurring sulfate mineral which typically occurs as encrustations on rocks in areas of weathering and oxidation of sulfide minerals and potassium-bearing minerals. Alunite is an associate and likely potassium and aluminium source. Found at Vesuvius, Italy, Alum Cave, Tennessee, and Alum Gulch, Arizona in the United States.