Sodium chloride and sodium chlorite, despite having very similar names, are quite different substances with different uses. The molecular make-up of the two substances is different, which gives them different chemical properties. Both chemicals have found their uses in health and industrial manufacturing, and both can be purchased from a variety of sources. But take care to use them properly.
Sodium chloride is also known as table salt and is the most common type of salt. Its chemical formula is NaCl, indicating a sodium ion bonded with a chlorine ion. Sodium chlorite, unstable as a solid, is typically sold in a solution. Its chemical formula is NaClO2 -- similar to sodium chloride but with oxygen attached to the molecule as well.
Sodium chloride (table salt) has many uses, but the one most people are most familiar with is seasoning and preserving food. It works as a food preservative by removing water from meats and preventing bacterial growth. It also finds its use in many industrial applications such as paper and textiles. Sodium chlorite is used most commonly in industries such as paper and textile manufacturing to bleach out colours. It also finds its way into the food and health industries as a disinfectant.
Table salt is found in many places on the earth. It is the most abundant form of salt in seawater, although seawater contains other salts as well. Large caverns and mines of table salt exist around the world. Sodium chlorite, however, must be manufactured using sodium chlorate (NaClO3), chlorine dioxide and hydrogen peroxide.
Sodium Chlorite and Health
It is worth noting some of the potential health benefits of sodium chlorite. Some sources indicate that sodium chlorite may have value for the treatment of AIDS and malaria when mixed in solution with water. A few drops of solution are added to drinking water with an acid buffer such as citric acid. It is very important to note that the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA), the agency that regulates medical claims and uses, has not evaluated or approved sodium chlorite for health purposes.