When an Acid Isn’t an Acid
As previously discussed, all acids require a solution to be effective, meaning the hydrogen ion must dissolve in water. Since excess moisture in poultry litter has the potential to support the growth of harmful bacteria and increase ammonia concentrations, it stands to reason that the use of acids requiring the addition of water for activation could introduce challenges.
Some products sold as acids aren’t technically acids. Lewis acids, such as alum, are not typical acids. They do not contain hydrogen ions to directly lower pH, which begs the question – how can they lower pH? Alum has to accept electrons from water, causing hydrolysis to produce a hydrogen ion. But it can only do this when it comes in contact with water in physically wet litter – not ideal litter conditions for birds. These products also contain aluminum, which when put in a solution causes hydrolysis, which ends up generating a small amount of hydrogen ions. It is notable that a lot of water must be present for this to happen.
For this reason, hydroscopic acids such as sodium bisulfate, which can pull water or moisture from the air to activate, offer the added benefits of pH reduction without the introduction of additional water.