Difference Wiki

Ammonia vs. Ammonium Nitrate: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on December 25, 2023
Ammonia is a colorless gas with a pungent smell; Ammonium Nitrate is a solid, crystalline compound used as a fertilizer.

Key Differences

Ammonia (NH3) is a colorless, pungent gas, commonly used in cleaning products and as a building block in the production of fertilizers. Ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3), on the other hand, is a solid compound that serves primarily as a high-nitrogen fertilizer, offering a steady supply of nitrogen to plants.
In its natural form, ammonia exists as a gas and is highly soluble in water, forming ammonium hydroxide. Ammonium nitrate is a crystalline powder that is soluble in water, widely used for its high nitrogen content, which is essential for plant growth.
Ammonia is produced naturally by bacteria in soil and is an important component of the nitrogen cycle. Ammonium nitrate is manufactured by combining ammonia with nitric acid and is often used in agriculture to improve soil fertility.
The production of ammonia is a key industrial process, typically achieved through the Haber-Bosch process. Ammonium nitrate, in addition to its agricultural uses, has also been used in mining and construction for explosives due to its high nitrogen content and ease of detonation under certain conditions.
Ammonia, due to its strong odor, is also used in industrial refrigeration systems. Conversely, ammonium nitrate, because of its high solubility and hygroscopic nature, requires careful storage to prevent moisture absorption and decomposition.

Comparison Chart

Physical State

Solid crystalline compound

Main Use

Cleaning products, fertilizer production
High-nitrogen fertilizer

Solubility in Water

Forms ammonium hydroxide
Highly soluble

Natural Occurrence

Produced by bacteria in soil
Synthesized from ammonia and nitric acid

Additional Uses

Industrial refrigeration
Explosives in mining and construction

Ammonia and Ammonium Nitrate Definitions


A colorless gas with a characteristic pungent smell.
The strong smell of ammonia is often noticeable in cleaning products.

Ammonium Nitrate

A component in some explosives due to its high nitrogen content.
Ammonium nitrate is carefully monitored due to its potential use in explosives.


A compound of nitrogen and hydrogen used in various industrial applications.
Ammonia is essential in the manufacture of fertilizers.

Ammonium Nitrate

A hygroscopic compound, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air.
Ammonium nitrate must be stored in dry conditions to prevent clumping.


A natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic matter.
Ammonia is often released during the breakdown of animal waste.

Ammonium Nitrate

A white crystalline chemical used as a fertilizer.
Farmers often use ammonium nitrate to boost crop yields.


A key ingredient in many household cleaners.
She used an ammonia-based solution to clean the windows.

Ammonium Nitrate

A salt of ammonia and nitric acid, used in instant cold packs.
The instant cold pack contains ammonium nitrate, which reacts to create a cooling effect.


A gas that is lighter than air and can form explosive mixtures with air.
Special care is needed when handling ammonia due to its explosive potential.

Ammonium Nitrate

A compound derived from ammonia and used in agriculture.
The field was treated with ammonium nitrate to enhance the nitrogen content of the soil.


A colorless, pungent gas, NH3, extensively used to manufacture fertilizers and a wide variety of nitrogen-containing organic and inorganic chemicals. Ammonia is the chief nitrogen product excreted by fish and other aquatic animals.


See ammonium hydroxide.


(inorganic compound) A gaseous compound of hydrogen and nitrogen, NH3, with a pungent smell and taste.


A solution of this compound in water used domestically as a cleaning fluid.
Never use ammonia to clean metal writing pens.


A gaseous compound of hydrogen and nitrogen, NH3, with a pungent smell and taste: - often called volatile alkali, and spirits of hartshorn.


A pungent gas compounded of nitrogen and hydrogen (NH3)


A water solution of ammonia


Is ammonia naturally occurring?

Yes, ammonia is produced naturally by bacteria and through the decomposition of organic matter.

Can ammonia be used in refrigeration?

Yes, ammonia is used in industrial refrigeration systems due to its thermodynamic properties.

How is ammonia produced industrially?

Industrially, ammonia is primarily produced through the Haber-Bosch process.

What is the primary use of ammonium nitrate?

The primary use of ammonium nitrate is as a high-nitrogen fertilizer in agriculture.

Is ammonia toxic?

Yes, ammonia can be toxic and irritating, especially in high concentrations.

Is ammonium nitrate safe to handle?

Ammonium nitrate can be hazardous and requires careful handling, especially as it can be explosive under certain conditions.

Does ammonium nitrate have uses besides fertilization?

Yes, ammonium nitrate is also used in explosives for mining and construction.

Can ammonium nitrate be used in instant cold packs?

Yes, ammonium nitrate is a component in some instant cold packs due to its endothermic properties.

What are the health risks of ammonia exposure?

Exposure to ammonia can cause respiratory issues and skin irritation.

Can ammonium nitrate be used in cold packs?

Yes, ammonium nitrate is used in instant cold packs due to its endothermic reaction when dissolved in water.

What are the environmental impacts of ammonium nitrate?

Ammonium nitrate can contribute to environmental issues like waterway eutrophication if not managed properly.

Is ammonia flammable?

Ammonia can form explosive mixtures with air, so it is considered flammable.

What precautions are needed when using ammonium nitrate?

Handling ammonium nitrate requires precautions against moisture absorption and improper storage.

What makes ammonia a good cleaner?

Ammonia's ability to dissolve grease and dirt makes it an effective cleaner.

Does ammonia have a distinctive smell?

Yes, ammonia is known for its strong, pungent odor.

Is ammonium nitrate soluble in water?

Yes, ammonium nitrate is highly soluble in water.

How should ammonium nitrate be stored?

Ammonium nitrate should be stored in a cool, dry place away from moisture and heat sources.

Can ammonia be used in agriculture?

Yes, ammonia is used in the production of fertilizers for agriculture.

What industries use ammonia?

Ammonia is used in various industries, including cleaning, agriculture, and refrigeration.

Is ammonium nitrate explosive on its own?

Ammonium nitrate can be explosive under certain conditions, especially when mixed with fuels or exposed to heat.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons