Preparation, Properties and Uses of Tartaric Acid

What is Tartaric Acid?

Tartaric acid preparation, properties and uses is an important aspect in the study of organic acids. Tartaric acid, also called dihydroxybutanedioic acid, is an organic acid that has a white, crystalline appearance and occurs naturally in many fruits, most notably in grapes, but also in bananas, tamarinds, and citrus.

The salt of this acid, potassium bitartrate, commonly known as cream of tartar, develops naturally in the process of fermentation. It is commonly mixed with sodium bicarbonate and is also sold as baking powder which is also used as a leavening agent in food preparation. 

This acid is sometimes added to food as an antioxidant and to also impart its distinctive sour taste. Naturally occurring tartaric acid is used as a raw material in organic chemical synthesis. Tartaric acid is an alpha-hydroxy-carboxylic acid,it is diprotic and aldaric in acid characteristics, and it is also a dihydroxyl derivative of succinic acid.

Properties of Tartaric Acid

Tartaric acid preparation, properties and uses have become very important subject in the study of organic acids present in fruits. However, we shall first take a look at the properties of tartaric acid.


Other Names  The other names for tartaric acid are;

2,3-Dihydroxy Succinic acid

Threonic acid

Racemic acid

Uvic acid

P Tartaric acid


Chemical Formula  C4H6O6 (Basic formula)

HO2CCH(OH)CH(OH)CO2H (Structural formula)

Molar Mass  The molar mass of tartaric acid is 150.087 g/mol.
Appearance  Tartaric acid appears as a white powder.
Density  Density of tartaric acid are;

1.737 g/cm3 (R,R- and S,S-)

1.79 g/cm3 (racemate)

1.886 g/cm3 (meso)

Melting Points The melting point of tartaric acids are;

169, 172 °C (R,R- and S,S-)

206 °C (racemate)

165-6 °C (meso).

Solubility in Water  1.33 kg/L (L or D-tartaric)

0.21 kg/L (DL, racemic)

1.25 kg/L (“meso”)

Acidity (pKa) L(+) 25 °C :

pKa1= 2.89, pKa2= 4.40

meso 25 °C:

pKa1= 3.22, pKa2= 4.85

Conjugate Base  The conjugate base of tartaric acid is bitartrate.
Magnetic susceptibility (χ) The magnetic susceptibility of tartaric acid is −67.5·10−6 cm3/mol.
Other cations Monosodium tartrate

Disodium tartrate



Dipotassium tartrate 

Related compounds 2,3-Butanediol

Cichoric acid

Related carboxylic acids The related carboxylic acids to tartaric acid are;

Butyric acid

Succinic acid

Dimercaptosuccinic acid

Malic acid

Maleic acid

Fumaric acid

Preparation of Tartaric Acid

Tartaric acid preparation, properties  and uses. This organic acid can be produced through natural and synthetic routes. The natural route involves the recovery of potassium bitartrate, a reddish precipitated salt from argol, the sediment in wine vats. The synthetic chemical route which is the second route for preparation involves the production of the racemic mixture of tartaric acid from maleic anhydride.

Production of L-(+)-Tartaric acid

The L-(+)-tartaric acid is an isomer of tartaric acid and it is industrially produced in the largest amounts. It is obtained from lees which is a solid byproduct of fermentations. 

Production of Racemic Tartaric Acid 

Racemic tartaric acid can be prepared from maleic acid using a multistep reaction. 

Production of meso-Tartaric acid

meso-Tartaric acid is prepared from dibromosuccinic acid using silver hydroxide.

Uses of Tartaric Acid

  1. Tartaric acid and its derivatives is used in the production of different pharmaceuticals. An example of some of it’s uses is the production of effervescent salts, in combination with citric acid, to improve the taste of oral medications.
  2. Tartaric acids can also be used in industries. The acid has been observed to chelate metal ions such as the calcium ions and magnesium ions. It serves in the farming and metal industries as a chelating agent for complexing micronutrients in soil fertilizer and for cleaning metal surfaces consisting of aluminium, copper, iron, and alloys of these metals, respectively.

Effects of Tartaric Acid On The Human Body

  1. It causes skin irritation.
  2. It causes eye irritation. 
  3. It causes respiratory tract irritation.
  4. It causes gastrointestinal tract irritation with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Precautions To Take While Handling Tartaric Acid

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  1. It is important to wear protective gloves/protective clothing/eye protection/face protection when working with tartaric acid.
  2. If in contact with the eyes, it is advised that you rinse cautiously with water for several minutes.
  3. Avoid the formation of dust and aerosols.
  4. If in contact with the skin it is important to immediately take off all contaminated clothing and dispose of it safely.


Is tartaric acid hazardous?

Yes. Tartaric acid can be hazardous. It is corrosive to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. It is also corrosive on ingestion and inhalation of the aerosol may cause lung oedema.

How do you store tartaric acid?

Tartaric acid is stored in a cool, dry place and it is stored in tightly closed containers.

What are the uses of  tartaric acid?

Tartaric acids are used as an acidulant in grape- and lime-flavored beverages, gelatin desserts, jams, jellies, and hard sour confectionery and the acidic monopotassium salt, commonly known as ‘cream of tartar,’ is used in baking powders and leavening systems.

Is tartaric acid good for human health?

Yes. Tartaric acid is a great source of antioxidants that protect the human body from life-threatening diseases in the long run. It also boosts immunity and keeps you healthier and fit in the long run. 

What is another name for tartaric acid?

Tartaric acid can also be called dihydroxybutanedioic acid.