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Sodium vs. Sodium Chloride — What's the Difference?

By Maham Liaqat & Urooj Arif — Published on April 12, 2024
Sodium is a reactive, metallic element essential for human physiology, whereas Sodium Chloride, table salt, is a compound of sodium and chlorine used widely as a seasoning and preservative.
Sodium vs. Sodium Chloride — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Sodium and Sodium Chloride


Key Differences

Sodium and Sodium Chloride, although related, serve different functions and possess distinct chemical and physical properties. Sodium (Na) is a soft, highly reactive metallic element that belongs to the alkali metal group in the periodic table. It is crucial for various biological processes, including nerve impulse transmission and muscle contraction. Due to its reactivity, especially with water, elemental sodium is not found freely in nature but exists in compounds, including Sodium Chloride (NaCl).
Sodium Chloride, commonly known as salt, is a chemical compound comprising sodium and chlorine atoms in a 1:1 ratio. This ionic compound is essential for human health, playing a vital role in fluid balance and blood pressure regulation. Sodium Chloride's crystalline structure and high solubility in water make it invaluable not only in dietary uses but also in various industrial applications, from de-icing roads to water treatment processes.
The differences in their reactivity are stark; while sodium reacts explosively with water, Sodium Chloride dissolves, forming a saline solution without any hazardous reactions. This contrast highlights the transformative nature of chemical bonds and how they alter the properties of the constituent elements.
In terms of health implications, the body's requirement for sodium is met through Sodium Chloride intake. However, excessive consumption of Sodium Chloride can lead to health issues such as hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, underscoring the importance of moderation.
The production and availability of these substances also differ significantly. Sodium is obtained through electrolysis of molten salts, a process that requires significant energy, reflecting its reactivity. In contrast, Sodium Chloride is readily available, extracted from seawater or mined as rock salt, making it one of the most common and extensively used minerals worldwide.

Comparison Chart


Reactive metal
Ionic compound


Single element
Compound of sodium and chlorine

Role in Human Health

Essential for physiological functions
Regulates fluid balance and blood pressure

Reactivity with Water

Dissolves without reacting explosively


Limited due to reactivity
Seasoning, preservative, industrial uses


Extracted through electrolysis
Mined or evaporated from seawater

Health Implications

Essential in small amounts
Necessary but harmful in excess

Compare with Definitions


Sodium is a highly reactive metal, essential for nerve and muscle function.
Sodium ions facilitate the transmission of nerve impulses.

Sodium Chloride

It is an ionic compound with a 1:1 ratio of sodium and chlorine.
In Sodium Chloride crystals, each sodium ion is surrounded by six chloride ions.


Sodium is used in some industrial processes and compounds.
Sodium vapor lamps use sodium in an excited state to produce light.

Sodium Chloride

Sodium Chloride is essential for maintaining blood pressure.
Sodium Chloride in the diet helps regulate the body's fluid balance.


The human body requires sodium for fluid balance.
Sodium ions are crucial for maintaining cellular homeostasis.

Sodium Chloride

Excessive Sodium Chloride intake can lead to health issues.
High consumption of Sodium Chloride is linked to increased blood pressure.


It cannot be found in its elemental form in nature due to its reactivity.
Sodium reacts violently with water, producing hydrogen gas and heat.

Sodium Chloride

Sodium Chloride is table salt, used widely as a seasoning.
Sodium Chloride is added to food to enhance flavor.


Elemental sodium requires careful handling due to its reactivity.
Sodium is stored under oil to prevent it from reacting with moisture in the air.

Sodium Chloride

It is mined from salt mines or evaporated from seawater.
Sea salt is obtained by evaporating seawater, leaving behind Sodium Chloride and other minerals.


A soft, light, extremely malleable silver-white element that is an alkali metal, reacts violently with water, is naturally abundant in combined forms, especially in common salt, and is used in the production of a wide variety of industrially important compounds. Sodium ions are essential to numerous biological processes in animals. Atomic number 11; atomic weight 22.9898; melting point 97.80°C; boiling point 883°C; specific gravity 0.971 (20°C); valence 1. See Periodic Table.


The chemical element (symbol Na) with an atomic number of 11 and atomic weight of 22.990. It is a soft, waxy, silvery, reactive alkali metal that is never found unbound in nature.


A common metallic element of the alkali group, in nature always occuring combined, as in common salt, in albite, etc. It is isolated as a soft, waxy, white, unstable metal, so highly reactive that it combines violently with water, and to be preserved must be kept under petroleum or some similar liquid. Sodium is used combined in many salts, in the free state as a reducer, and as a means of obtaining other metals (as magnesium and aluminium) is an important commercial product. Symbol Na (Natrium). Atomic weight 22.990. Specific gravity 0.97.


A silvery soft waxy metallic element of the alkali metal group; occurs abundantly in natural compounds (especially in salt water); burns with a yellow flame and reacts violently in water; occurs in sea water and in the mineral halite (rock salt)

Common Curiosities

How does the body regulate sodium and Sodium Chloride levels?

The kidneys regulate sodium levels by excreting excess Sodium Chloride in urine to maintain homeostasis.

How do sodium and Sodium Chloride differ in their natural occurrence?

Sodium does not occur freely due to its reactivity, while Sodium Chloride is abundant in nature as salt deposits and in seawater.

What are the industrial uses of Sodium Chloride?

Sodium Chloride is used in food preservation, water treatment, de-icing roads, and in the chemical industry.

How are sodium and Sodium Chloride obtained industrially?

Sodium is obtained through electrolysis of molten sodium chloride, while Sodium Chloride is mined or evaporated from seawater.

Can you consume elemental sodium for your dietary sodium needs?

No, elemental sodium is highly reactive and dangerous; dietary sodium is obtained from Sodium Chloride.

Can Sodium Chloride be broken down into sodium and chlorine?

Yes, through electrolysis, Sodium Chloride can be chemically decomposed into its elemental components, sodium and chlorine.

Why is Sodium Chloride important for humans?

Sodium Chloride is crucial for fluid balance, nerve function, and muscle contraction in the human body.

What are the environmental impacts of Sodium Chloride?

Excessive use of Sodium Chloride, especially as road salt, can lead to soil and water pollution, affecting aquatic life and vegetation.

What role does Sodium Chloride play in food preservation?

Sodium Chloride inhibits the growth of bacteria, extending the shelf life of foods by acting as a preservative.

Is it possible to have a sodium deficiency?

Yes, though rare, sodium deficiency can occur in conditions of excessive sweating, prolonged vomiting, or diarrhea.

Why is Sodium Chloride added to water during electrolysis?

Sodium Chloride improves the conductivity of water, making the electrolysis process more efficient for separating hydrogen and oxygen gases.

What precautions should be taken when handling elemental sodium?

Elemental sodium should be handled with non-reactive tools, stored under an inert atmosphere or oil, and kept away from water to prevent explosive reactions.

How can one reduce Sodium Chloride intake?

Reducing processed and packaged foods, seasoning with herbs and spices instead of salt, and reading food labels can help lower Sodium Chloride intake.

Are there any alternatives to Sodium Chloride for dietary sodium?

Potassium chloride is sometimes used as a lower-sodium alternative, but it's important to consult with a healthcare provider before making any changes.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Maham Liaqat
Co-written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.

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