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Hygroscopic vs. Deliquescent — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on October 1, 2023
Hygroscopic substances absorb moisture from the air, while deliquescent substances absorb enough moisture to dissolve and form a solution.
Hygroscopic vs. Deliquescent — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Hygroscopic and Deliquescent


Comparison Chart


Absorbs moisture from the air
Absorbs moisture and dissolves into it


Stays solid but moist
Becomes a liquid solution


Common in industries requiring moisture regulation
Observed in chemicals that readily dissolve upon moisture contact

Relation to Humidity

Affected by humidity but does not always dissolve
Can dissolve in high humidity

Extent of Absorption

Absorbs moisture to a certain extent
Absorbs moisture until dissolution

Compare with Definitions


Retains water from the surrounding environment.
Wood is hygroscopic, which can lead to expansion and contraction.


Absorbs moisture until it dissolves.
Certain salts are deliquescent and can turn into a puddle in high humidity.


Pertains to moisture absorption.
Silica gel is hygroscopic and is used to keep products dry.


Transforms from solid to liquid due to moisture.
The deliquescent nature of some substances can complicate their storage.


Relates to the affinity for water.
Certain chemicals are hygroscopic and need special storage conditions.


Dissolves upon absorbing atmospheric water vapor.
It's surprising how a deliquescent crystal can vanish into a solution.


Can attract and hold water molecules.
Salt is hygroscopic and can clump together in humid conditions.


Has an extreme reaction to environmental moisture.
A deliquescent compound might be found as a liquid in a humid environment.


Prevents desiccation in certain environments.
Hygroscopic substances can extend the shelf life of food items.


To melt away.


Readily absorbing moisture, as from the atmosphere.


To disappear as if by melting.


Readily taking up and retaining water, especially from the atmosphere.


(Chemistry) To dissolve and become liquid by absorbing moisture from the air.


Of or pertaining to, or indicated by, the hygroscope; not readily manifest to the senses, but capable of detection by the hygroscope; as, glass is often covered with a film of hygroscopic moisture.


To become fluid or soft on maturing, as certain fungal structures.


Having the property of readily inbibing moisture from the atmosphere, or of the becoming coated with a thin film of moisture, as glass, etc.


To branch out into numerous subdivisions that lack a main axis, as the trunk of an elm.


Absorbing moisture (as from the air)


Seeming to melt away.


(chemistry) Absorbing moisture from the air and forming a solution.
Deliquescent salts


(botany) Branching so that the stem is lost in branches, as in most deciduous trees.


Becoming liquid as a phase of its life cycle.


Dissolving; liquefying by contact with the air; capable of attracting moisture from the atmosphere and becoming liquid; as, deliquescent salts.


Branching so that the stem is lost in branches, as in most deciduous trees.


(especially of certain salts) becoming liquid by absorbing moisture from the air


Pertains to the dissolution due to water absorption.
In the lab, deliquescent samples require tightly sealed containers.

Common Curiosities

What does it mean if a substance is hygroscopic?

A hygroscopic substance can absorb and retain moisture from the air.

Can deliquescent substances revert back to solids?

If the absorbed moisture is removed or evaporates, deliquescent substances can return to a solid state.

How do deliquescent substances react to humidity?

Deliquescent substances can absorb so much moisture from the air that they dissolve and form a solution.

Why is understanding hygroscopic properties important in industries?

Hygroscopic properties are crucial in industries like pharmaceuticals to ensure products stay dry and maintain their efficacy.

How can one protect hygroscopic substances from moisture?

Using desiccants, sealed containers, and controlled environments can protect hygroscopic substances from moisture.

Are all salts deliquescent?

No, not all salts are deliquescent, but many have the ability to absorb moisture to some extent.

Is the opposite of hygroscopic "hydrophobic"?

No, hydrophobic means water-repelling. The opposite of hygroscopic is anhydrous, which lacks water.

Can we predict if a substance is deliquescent by its appearance?

No, the appearance doesn't always indicate deliquescence; it's based on the substance's chemical properties.

Can a substance be both hygroscopic and deliquescent?

Yes, if a substance is deliquescent, it's also hygroscopic, but not all hygroscopic substances are deliquescent.

Can atmospheric conditions impact the extent of deliquescence?

Yes, higher humidity can accelerate the process of deliquescence in susceptible materials.

Do deliquescent substances always turn into a solution?

Deliquescent substances will form a solution when they absorb enough moisture, but the amount required can vary.

Why might one encounter clumping in hygroscopic materials?

Clumping can occur when hygroscopic materials absorb moisture, leading the particles to stick together.

Is there any risk associated with handling deliquescent substances?

Yes, depending on the substance, it can be corrosive or harmful when it becomes a solution.

Do all hygroscopic materials have the same affinity for water?

No, the degree to which hygroscopic materials absorb water can vary significantly based on their composition and environment.

Which is a stronger characteristic, hygroscopic or deliquescent?

Deliquescent is a stronger characteristic as it involves dissolution due to moisture absorption.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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