Abstract: The oxidation potential of dithionite (Na2S2O4) increases from 0.37 V to 0.73 V with increase in pH from 6 to 9, because hydroxyl is consumed during oxidation of dithionite. At the same time the amount of iron oxide dissolved in 15 minutes falls off (from 100 percent to less than 1 percent extracted) with increase in pH from 6 to 12 owing to solubility product relationships of iron oxides. An optimum pH for maximum reaction kinetics occurs at approximately pH 7.3. A buffer is needed to hold the pH at the optimum level because 4 moles of OH are used up in reaction with each mole of Na2S2O4 oxidized. Tests show that NaHCO3 effectively serves as a buffer in this application. Crystalline hematite dissolved in amounts of several hundred milligrams in 2 min. Crystalline goethite dissolved more slowly, but dissolved during the two or three 15 min treatments normally given for iron oxide removal from soils and clays.
A series of methods for the extraction of iron oxides from soils and clays was tested with soils high in free iron oxides and with nontronite and other iron-bearing clays. It was found that the bicarbonate-buffered Na2S2O4-citrate system was the most effective in removal of free iron oxides from latosolic soils, and the least destructive of iron silicate clays as indicated by least loss in cation exchange capacity after the iron oxide removal treatment. With soils the decrease was very little but with the very susceptible Woody district nontronite, the decrease was about 17 percent as contrasted to 35–80 percent with other methods.