Nitrate-based layered double hydroxides, Mg1–xAlx(OH)2(NO3)x·mH2O, have been investigated to settle issues relating to stability towards humidity, dehydration and staging, nitrate group orientation, Al migration and crystal structure. Raman and IR spectroscopy together with modelling methods proved that flat-lying water and nitrate become tilted towards  at higher nitrate concentrations, accompanied by expansion along the c-axis. The distribution of the molecular tilts is greatest for x = 0.25, which explains the extraordinary broad diffraction peaks. The unit cell volume was modified for all samples when subjected to moist air, most strongly for x = 0.25. On heating, in situ synchrotron diffraction data showed continuous changes along the c-axis during dehydration of samples with x = 0.20 and 0.33. For x = 0.25, an intermediate phase appeared. Dehydroxylation was initiated at the OH groups bonded to the cations MgAl2, Mg2Al and Mg3 (in said order), whereas complete nitrate loss occurred at higher temperatures for higher Al contents. Some aluminium simultaneously moved to tetrahedral sites, which, according to 1H–27Al CP NMR spectroscopy, lack protons in their near neighbourhood. In contrast, octahedral aluminium remains surrounded by protons during decomposition. For the metastable oxide product, neutron diffraction indicated that 2/3 of aluminium reside in tetrahedral interstices. This oxide is defective, probably mimicking wüstite rather than a regular rock salt structure.