Potassium permanganate, sometimes known as Condy’s crystals, is a dark-purple, powder-like salt that has strong oxidizing agent properties. An oxidizing agent is a compound that can either easily transfer oxygen atoms to another compound or readily receive them from another compound. Both oxidation processes change the properties of the original compound interacting with potassium permanganate. As the Derm Net NZ website reports, potassium permanganate’s oxidizing ability gives it disinfectant, deodorizing and cleansing properties that make it useful in a number of ways.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), potassium permanganate is an effective way for water treatment facilities to treat drinking water in three ways. It removes musty or unpleasant odors and tastes from water, rids the water of excessive amounts of iron and manganese and prevents algae and other organisms from growing within the pipes and reservoir at the facility. The EPA cites Zebra mussels and Asiatic clams as two organisms that potassium permanganate is highly effective at preventing the growth of.
The Derm Net NZ website reports that potassium permanganate is often used as a disinfectant and treatment for a variety of skin conditions and persistent fungal infections. For skin problems like eczema, psoriasis and pompholyx (a specific type of eczema, also known as dyshidrosis, that causes painful blisters to develop on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands, according to the Mayo Clinic) patients may be told to dissolve potassium permanganate tablets in hot water, then bathe in the solution twice a day. Potassium permanganate solutions are also effective for treating open sores and ulcers on the skin and for clearing up athlete’s foot infections. For these conditions, strips of gauze are soaked in a solution of the compound, then applied to the affected skin for approximately 30 minutes.
Potassium permanganate is used by the owners of fisheries and large aquariums as a way to prevent fish from developing bacterial, fungal and parasitic diseases. This same disinfectant quality makes the compound useful to florists, who add the crystallized powder to the water of cut flowers to prevent algae growth and extend the life of the flowers.
Potassium permanganate is used industrially as a precursor in the production of compounds, such as ascorbic acid and saccharine. Additionally, the Paint Pro website reports that designers often use a potassium permanganate solution to alter the appearance of wood surfaces significantly.