Salt Nic Vs. Freebase E-Liquids: Which One To Go For?

Posted by Matt Lovell on

Woman in dress, sunglasses, hoop earrings exhales the Clear reserve cartridge. On a rooftop, she enjoys the purest clearest distillate aailable to adults in Colorado.

Vaporizers and e-liquids have come a long way since the introduction of the first-ever e-cigarette in the early 2000s. While the earliest vapes like Juul were relatively simple and effective devices, today, you have access to more powerful sub-ohm vapes, pod mods, box mods, even desktop vaporizers. 

But the advance of vaporizers isn’t nearly as interesting as the advance of e-liquids. It took a while for e-liquids to become so versatile, with thousands of unique flavors coming from hundreds of reliable manufacturers. And what makes these vape juices even more appealing than their sweet taste is the fact that you can control the exact nicotine level with each bottle. 

If you need just a subtle hit of nicotine to get through the day, you can choose from countless freebase nicotine e-juices that’ll satiate your cravings. However, if you need a bit of a harsher nicotine punch, your best bet is to go with salt nicotine juice or nic salts. 

What exactly are nic salts, and how are they different from freebase e-liquids? Take a look to find out. 

A Closer Look at Freebase E-Liquids 

Woman refilling pod vape

Before we can answer the question “what is salt nicotine” it’s essential to understand the traditional freebase e-liquids and what they are. 

If your favorite 100 ml e-juice bottles don’t specify “nic salt,” you’ve most likely been using freebase nicotine. It’s the most popular form of nicotine in vape juice developed by none other than the Philip Morris company back in the 1960s, and it’s used in traditional tobacco cigarettes, nicotine gums and patches, and, as mentioned – vapes. 

To create freebase nicotine, manufacturers use ammonia to remove protons from nicotine in tobacco leaves and increase its pH levels, making it more alkaline. This process transforms nicotine from its natural chemical composition of salt into its purest form. 

The main reason why freebasing became commonplace is that nicotine in its salt state is a weak base, so it’s always looking to ionize. But, unfortunately, ions aren’t very effective at moving through organic membranes, and they’re not easily vaporized, so ionized nicotine is much weaker. As a result, it doesn’t deliver that strong yet pleasant punch when vaped. 

On the other hand, freebase nicotine has higher bioavailability. Our bodies can process it more efficiently, meaning that cigarettes and vapes that use it are more potent, and in most cases, more addictive because of it. But there are a few downsides to freebase nicotine in vape juices. 

What freebase e-liquids are lacking 

On paper, it seems like freebase nicotine is the way to go when you’re vaping, but that’s not the case. 

Over 79% of vapers choose to vape in an attempt to reduce smoking. For effective smoking cessation, vaping needs to be similar to tobacco smoking as possible, so vape juice needs to have adequate nicotine levels that satiate the vaper’s cravings. In essence, vapes need to replicate the nicotine delivery of traditional tobacco closely. The only way they could do that is with higher nicotine content. 

The problem is that freebase nicotine is more alkaline, with a higher pH level. This alkalinity makes it much harsher. So, when you vape e-liquids with higher freebase nicotine content, you won’t enjoy the experience. The throat punch is too strong to be pleasant. 

Therefore, most freebase nicotine e-liquids don’t contain much nicotine, and this brings further problems. Vapers who are trying to quit smoking often find themselves still craving their nicotine hit after a vape session. So, they either return to traditional tobacco cigarettes or see themselves vaping much more frequently than expected. 

What Is Salt Nicotine? 


The first thing that’s important to clear off the table is that salt nicotine juice isn’t the same as your regular table salt. Nic salts won’t taste salty or increase your sodium intake in any way, shape, or form. 

The term “salt” refers to chemical compounds that have both a positive charge (aka acid) and a negative charge (aka base). In nature, nicotine exists as a salt compound in tobacco leaves, and it’s this salt compound used to create freebase nicotine. 

Suppose you put natural salt nicotine into the PG/VG juice and attempt to vape it. In that case, you’d have difficulty doing anything since nic salts need extremely high temperatures to become vaporized. So even the most powerful box mod wouldn’t do much. 

And, as mentioned, even if you were successful in vaporizing nic salts, you still wouldn’t get that lightheaded feeling after your vape session. Nic salts don’t have excellent bioavailability, and your body wouldn’t be able to absorb them. 

To make salt nicotine juice effective, we need to put on our lab coats and play around with chemistry for a bit. 

Prepping nic salts for vaping 

If you remember, we mentioned that nic salts were a weak base, so they need protons to stabilize and become ionized, which reduces their bioavailability and all that jazz. So, to improve their bioavailability and make them easier to vaporize, nic salt manufacturers add acids like Benzoic or Citric acid to stabilize the nicotine. 

These acids quickly bond to nicotine and bring a few unique benefits to vape juices: 

  • They make it much easier for our bodies to absorb nic salts; 
  • They allow nic salts to vaporize at much lower temperatures; 
  • They provide a smoother throat hit. 

But the question remains – why go through all that trouble of modifying nic salts with acids when you could just continue using freebase nicotine? 

Freebase vs. Salt Nicotine Juice 

The main difference between freebase and salt nicotine juice is potency. Freebase nicotine is pretty strong, delivering a powerful throat hit. But to make it so potent, you need high concentrations of alkaline nicotine, which can be exceptionally harsh on your throat. 

On the other hand, salt nicotine juice is more acidic thanks to the addition of Citric or Benzoic acid, so it’s capable of delivering a smoother throat hit regardless of the nicotine content. You can vape 50 mg vape juices that feel pleasant and relaxing and that don’t throw you into a coughing fit. 

And, of course, there’s the matter of bioavailability. Freebase nicotine gets absorbed by your body more quickly than naturally occurring nicotine salts. However, with Citric or Benzoic acids, nic salt vape juice becomes much more effective than traditional freebase nicotine. 

Take a look at this more comprehensive face-off in the battle of nic salts vs. freebase nicotine: 

Nic Salts 

  • Smooth at higher doses 
  • Has Benzoic or Citric acid 
  • Your body can absorb it faster 
  • Low cloud production 
  • Weaker flavor
  • Suitable for mouth-to-lung vaping 
  • Slower oxidation 
  • Longer shelf life 

Freebase nicotine 

  • Harsh at higher doses 
  • No additives 
  • Slower absorption 
  • Allows for good cloud production 
  • Handles flavors well 
  • Suitable for both mouth-to-lung and direct-to-lung vaping 
  • Faster oxidation 
  • Shorter shelf life 

Another notable difference between salt nicotine juice and freebase e-liquids is that the former need specific vaporizers. 

The Right Vaporizer for Salt Nicotine Juice 

If you want to ensure an intense yet pleasant throat hit when vaping nic salts, you need a less powerful device. Sub-ohms or more powerful box mods are a big no-no as they’ll hit you hard and give you too much nicotine at once. 

Considering that nic salts have better bioavailability and higher amounts of nicotine, they need lower temperatures for proper vaporization, so you can freely use vape pens or less powerful mods without a problem. 

These vaporizers come with unique benefits, anyway, as they’re usually smaller, more discreet, and more elegant. 

You can buy disposable vape pens that come pre-filled with nic salts and offer the utmost convenience. There’s no need to mess around with changing coils and atomizers, cleaning your devices, or maintaining them. Once you’ve used up the available salt nicotine juice, you simply (responsibly) discard the device and get a new one. This is a more expensive option in the long run, but there’s no doubt about how convenient it is. 

If you don’t mind investing in a more long-lasting device, you should get a reusable vape pen or pod mod. Of course, you’ll need to refill the device every time you use up the vape juice in your tank, and you’ll need to learn how to take care of it properly. But, you’ll reduce the amount of waste you produce and save money in the long run, especially since you can buy larger 100ml e-juice bottles that are more affordable. 

So, before you stock up on Pacha mama salts 50mg vape juice, make sure you get the device that suits your needs. 

Choosing the Right E-Liquid for You 

Salt nicotine juice is most suitable for vapers who prefer a stronger dose of nicotine to get through their day. You can browse nic salts by brands to find the best flavors with the best throat hit that’ll satiate your nicotine craving. 

After everything you have read in this text, we are confident that you now know which option is the right one for you.

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