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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature
Nitre occurs in;; where the substance in question is described as effervescing with vinegar, and as being used in washing; neither of which particulars applies to what is now, by a misappropriation of this ancient name, called 'nitre,' and which in modern usage means the saltpeter of commerce, but they both apply to the natron, or true nitrum of the ancients. Natron, though found in many parts of the East, has ever been one of the distinguishing natural productions of Egypt. The principal natron lakes now found in that country, six in number, are situate in a barren valley about thirty miles westward of the Delta, where it both floats as a whitish scum upon the water, and is found deposited at the bottom in a thick encrustation, after the water is evaporated by the heat of summer. It is a natural mineral alkali, composed of the carbonate, sulphate, and muriate of soda, derived from the soil of that region. Forskal says that it is known by the name atrun, or natrun, that it effervesces with vinegar, and is used as soap in washing linen, and by the bakers as yeast, and in cookery to assist in boiling meat, etc. Combined with oil it makes a harder and firmer soap than the vegetable alkali.
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Nitre'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/kbe/n/nitre.html.