The preparation of a !solution of litmus! which is suitable for use as an indicator involves the separation from the commercial litmus of azolithmine, the true coloring principle. Soluble litmus tablets are often obtainable, but the litmus as commonly supplied to the market is mixed with calcium carbonate or sulphate and compressed into lumps. To prepare a solution, these are powdered and treated two or three times with alcohol, which dissolves out certain constituents which cause a troublesome intermediate color if not removed. The alcohol is decanted and drained off, after which the litmus is extracted with hot water until exhausted. The solution is allowed to settle for some time, the clear liquid siphoned off, concentrated to one-third its volume and acetic acid added in slight excess. It is then concentrated to a sirup, and a large excess of 95 per cent. alcohol added to it. This precipitates the blue coloring matter, which is filtered off, washed with alcohol, and finally dissolved in a small volume of water and diluted until about three drops of the solution added to 50 cc. of water just produce a distinct color. This solution must be kept in an unstoppered bottle. It should be protected from dust by a loose plug of absorbent cotton. If kept in a closed bottle it soon undergoes a reduction and loses its color, which, however, is often restored by exposure to the air.
Litmus can be employed successfully with the strong acids and bases, and also with ammonium hydroxide, although the salts of the latter influence the indicator unfavorably if present in considerable concentration. It may be employed with some of the stronger organic acids, but the use of phenolphthalein is to be preferred.
!Hydrochloric Acid and Sodium Hydroxide. Approximate Strength!, 0.5 N
Procedure.—Measure out 40 cc. of concentrated, pure hydrochloric acid into a clean liter bottle, and dilute with distilled water to an approximate volume of 1000 cc. Shake the solution vigorously for a full minute to insure uniformity. Be sure that the bottle is not too full to permit of a thorough mixing, since lack of care at this point will be the cause of much wasted time (Note 1).
Weigh out, upon a rough balance, 23 grams of sodium hydroxide (Note 2). Dissolve the hydroxide in water in a beaker. Pour the solution into a liter bottle and dilute, as above, to approximately 1000 cc. This bottle should preferably have a rubber stopper, as the hydroxide solution attacks the glass of the ground joint of a glass stopper, and may cement the stopper to the bottle. Shake the solution as described above.
[Note 1: The original solutions are prepared of a strength greater than 0.5 N, as they are more readily diluted than strengthened if later adjustment is desired.
Too much care cannot be taken to insure perfect uniformity of solutions before standardization, and thoroughness in this respect will, as stated, often avoid much waste of time. A solution once thoroughly mixed remains uniform.]