Is NH4Cl an Ionic or a Covalent Compound?

Ammonium chloride is a crystalline white salt. It has a high water solubility and is somewhat acidic in nature. NH4Cl is found in the form of a mineral called sal ammoniac, as well as around volcano vents.

It is made synthetically as a byproduct of the Solvay process and as a result of the reaction between HCl and ammonia. Ammonium chloride is mostly used as a fertiliser, although it is also utilised in medicine, food, laboratories, batteries, and other applications.

Is NH4Cl an ionic or a covalent salt?

It’s an ionic substance, ammonium chloride. The link between a metal, chlorine, and a polyatomic ion, NH4, is produced in NH4Cl. The ionic link between the metal atom and the polyatomic ion is created. As a result, it is an ionic compound in which the ammonia molecule contributes one electron to the chlorine atom, resulting in the formation of the NH4+ and Cl– ions, respectively.

However, because the bonds between nitrogen and hydrogen atoms are created through the sharing of electrons, they are covalent in nature. In some literature, the bonds in NH4Cl molecules are also referred to as coordinate covalent bonds.

What are the differences between ionic and covalent compounds?

Ionic compounds are those in which atoms are linked by ionic bonds, whereas covalent compounds are those in which atoms are linked by covalent bonds.

But why are these ties made, and how are they produced?

To keep themselves stable, the atoms create bonds with other atoms.

When the participating atoms share their electrons, covalent bonds are established, and both atoms can utilise all of the electrons involved in the bond creation as members of their valence shell to stabilise themselves.

A covalent bond is created between two non-metals in most cases. Furthermore, the electronegativities of the relevant atoms are the same or close.

Covalent compounds are weak electrical conductors, have low melting and boiling temperatures, and frequently exist at room temperature as liquids or gases.

Polar and non-polar covalent bonds are the two types of covalent bonding.

When the electronegativity difference is between 0.4 and 1.6, polar covalent bonds are produced. In this case, the electrons are slightly shifted towards one atom. This causes that atom to produce a slight negative charge, whereas the other atom develops a slight positive charge, which is denoted as + and -, respectively. For instance, H2O, CH4, and so forth.

The electrons in non-polar covalent bonds are shared equally among the constituent atoms. For instance, Cl2, O2, and so on.

Ionic compounds, on the other hand, are generated when a pair of electrons involved in bond formation totally shifts towards one of the atoms. These are the electrovalent bonds that develop when two oppositely charged species are attracted by electrostatic forces.

An ionic compound is made up of a cation (positively charged ion) and an anion (negatively charged ion) (negatively charged ion). The compound’s net charge, on the other hand, is neutral.

Ionic bonds are most commonly formed between metals and non-metals, or between metals and polyatomic species. The electronegativity of the atoms involved in the bond formation differs significantly, generally by more than 1.6.

These are more stable, have higher melting and boiling temperatures, are strong electrical conductors, and normally exist as solids at room temperature.

In the instance of NH4Cl, for example, NH4+ serves as a cation whereas Cl– works as an anion.

Why is NH4Cl an ionic compound?

Because the link between chlorine, a metal, and ammonia, a polyatomic species, is established in this circumstance, ammonium chloride is an ionic compound.

We saw how ionic compounds are generated when a polyatomic species binds with a metal in the previous section. NH4Cl is thus an ionic compound.

The interaction between ammonia and hydrogen chloride produces ammonium chloride. Ammonia does not require any more electrons because it is already a stable molecule in which the nitrogen atom shares one electron with each of the three hydrogen atoms.

As a result, when it reacts with HCl, the hydrogen atom clings to the ammonia, forming an ionic combination.

The ionisation of the NH4Cl molecule is as follows:

[NH4+] [Cl–]

According to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, all salts have at least one cation and one anion. NH4Cl is an ionic compound since it is a salt.


The ability of an atom to attract electrons shared in bond formation towards itself is measured by its electronegativity.

The more electronegative atom has an easier time attracting the electron pair and hence gains a negative charge, whereas the other atom gains a positive charge.

The Pauling scale is used to determine an atom’s electronegativity. Fluorine is the most electronegative element ever discovered.

On the Pauling scale, fluorine has an electronegativity of 4. Francium and Cesium, on the other hand, have the lowest electronegativity values, which are close to 0.7.

The stronger the pull experienced by the shared electrons is proportional to the difference in electronegativity of the two atoms engaged in bond formation.

When the electronegativity difference is more than 1.6, the electrons are fully owned by one atom, resulting in the formation of an ionic connection.

When the electronegativity difference is between 0.4 and 1.6, a polar covalent bond is produced, and when it is less than 0.4, a nonpolar covalent bond is created.

The electronegativity in a periodic table decreases from top to bottom in a column and from right to left in a row.

In NH4Cl, there are several different types of bonds.

Ammonium chloride is a chemical with three different forms of atom-to-atom bonding. An ionic link exists between the ammonium anion and the chloride cation, as stated in the previous section.

Furthermore, the electrons are shared equally among the three hydrogen atoms linked to the nitrogen atom. Because the electronegativity difference is so small, this is the case. Furthermore, neither of these atoms is a metal. As a result, the ammonium chloride molecule has three covalent bonds.

A co-ordinate covalent link also exists between the last hydrogen atom and the nitrogen atom. When both electrons involved in the bond formation are provided by the same atom, this is referred to as a dative bond.

The following diagram depicts the creation of bonds in the ammonium chloride molecule:

In the diagram above:

• A covalent bond is 1.

• A covalent link with the number 2 is called a co-ordinate covalent bond.

• The number 3 denotes an ionic connection.

Similarly, the Lewis structure of ammonium chloride can be shown as follows:

The chlorine atom, which had seven electrons before, has now acquired eight electrons in its valence shell, as shown in the structure above.

Similarly, the nitrogen atom that received one extra electron from one of the hydrogen atoms is now stable after contributing one electron and gaining a positive charge.

Most Commonly Asked Questions (FAQs)

Question: When ammonium chloride is heated, what happens?

The ammonium chloride molecule breaks into ammonia and hydrogen chloride gas when heated.

Is it safe for people to consume ammonium chloride?

Yes, it is correct. When a person is exposed to ammonium chloride, it is known to trigger asthma-like symptoms. Long-term exposure has also been linked to renal damage. It has a negative impact on aquatic life as well as humans.

Is it safe to handle ammonium chloride?

Answer: NH4Cl is an acidic compound. Although it does not do as much harm as powerful acids like HCl, it is nonetheless deadly to touch. Irritation is known to occur when the eyes are exposed.

Why is it hazardous to combine bleach and ammonium chloride?

Answer: Chloramines gas is produced when ammonium chloride and bleach are mixed together. When exposed, it is poisonous and causes irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, and other parts of the body.

Inside a house, where can you locate ammonium chloride?

Answer: Ammonium chloride is found in a variety of everyday items, including shampoos, hair colour, face wash, and dish soap.

NH4Cl’s Characteristics

The following are some of the most important features of ammonium chloride:

• The molecular mass of NH4Cl is 53.49 gm/mol.

• It manifests itself as a hygroscopic whitish solid.

• It’s a crystalline salt with no odour.

• NH4Cl has a density of 1.519 gm/cm3.

• It’s mildly acidic, with a pH range of 4.5 to 6.

• The melting and boiling temperatures of NH4Cl are respectively 338°C and 520°C.

NH4Cl’s Applications

• Ammonium chloride is most commonly used as a fertiliser.

• It’s utilised in cough treatments as an expectorant.

• It is used to keep cooling baths in laboratories at a low temperature.

• It’s also utilised as a cow feed supplement.


Ammonium Chloride is an ionic compound because ammonia (a polyatomic ion) and chlorine create a connection (a metal).

There are three covalent links between nitrogen and three hydrogen atoms in the ammonium chloride molecule, as well as a coordinate covalent bond between nitrogen and a hydrogen atom.

The electronegativity difference between the two combining atoms in ionic compounds is more than 1.6. This difference, however, is between 0.4 and 1.6 in the case of a polar covalent link, while it is below 0.4 in the case of a non-polar covalent bond.

Read more: Geometry, Hybridization, and Polarity of XeO4 Lewis Structure

Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.


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