Acids, Bases and Salts.


An acid is a substance which forms H+ ions as the only positive ion in aqueous solution.


Hydrochloric acid dissolved in water forms H+ and Cl ions
HCl —> H+ + Cl


Sulphuric acid dissolved in water forms H+ and SO42- ions
H2SO4 —>2H+ + SO42-


Nitric acid forms H+ and NO3 ions when dissolved in water
HNO3 —> H+ + NO3


Ethanoic acid,also know as acetic acid, forms H+ and CH3COO ions in water

Acetone, also known as propanone, doesn’t form any ions in water, so it isn’t an acid.
CH3COCH3 just dissolves in water.
Methane, CH4, doesn’t form any ions in water, so this isn’t an acid either.
So just containing hydrogen doesn’t make something an Arrhenius acid.


Properties of Acids

  • tastes sour
  • acids change blue litmus to red
  • their aqueous (water) solutions conduct electricity (i.e. they are electrolytes)
  • react with bases to form salts and water as the only products
  • evolve hydrogen gas (H2) upon reaction with an active metal, such as alkali metals, alkaline earth metals, zinc, iron, aluminum, forming a salt as the only other product
  • Evolve carbon dioxide on reacting with metal carbonates.



An alkali is a substance which forms OH- ions as the only negative ion in aqueous solution. A base is an insoluble hydroxide.


Sodium hydroxide, when dissolved in water, forms Na+ and OH ions
NaOH —> Na+ + OH


Calcium hydroxide dissolves in water to give Ca+ and OH ions
Ca(OH)2 —> Ca2+ + 2 OH

Ethanol CH3CH2OH does not form OH ions when dissolved in water, so it isn’t a base.
Ethanol just dissolves. Strictly speaking, ethanol actually forms a tiny amount of H+ ions in water and is a very weak acid.


Properties of Bases

  • taste bitter
  • feel slippery or soapy (But don’t touch them! They react with your skin to form soap.)
  • bases turn red (acidified) litmus back to blue
  • their aqueous (water) solutions conduct electricity (i.e. they are electrolytes)
  • react with acids to form salts and water as the only products


pH  Scale

A measure of the degree of the acidity or the alkalinity of a solution as measured on a scale (pH scale) of 0 to 14. The midpoint of 7.0 on the pH scale represents neutrality, i.e., a “neutral” solution is neither acid nor alkaline. Numbers below 7.0 indicate acidity; numbers greater than 7.0 indicate alkalinity. It is important to understand that pH is a measure of intensity, and not capacity; i.e., pH indicates the intensity of alkalinity in the same way temperature tells how hot something is, but not how much heat the substance carries.

The pH scale is logarithmic which means that moving on (unit either way on the pH scale results in a 10 fold increase in the degree of alkalinity or acidity.

Classification, pH, Product


  • 0-1 Hydrochloric, Sulfuric, Nitric Acids
  • 1-2 Phosphoric, Sulfamic Acids
  • 2.0 Citrus Fruit
  • 6.0 Milk


  • 7.0-7.5 Water, Sugar, Table Salt


  • 8.0 Eggs
  • 11.0 Ammonia
  • 13-14 Caustic Soda, Degreasers

Products at the two extremes (less than pH 1 or greater than pH 13) are extremely oppressive and corrosive. Examples include sulfuric and hydrochloric acid on the acid end, and caustic soda on the alkaline end. Use solutions of phosphoric or sulfamic acid cleaners, typically in the pH range of slightly less than 2, may be described as “safe” acids comparison to the stronger acids. Of course, necessary safety precautions (eye and hand protection) as noted on the Material Safety Data Sheet should always be followed.

As an illustration of their non-aggressive behavior in comparison to stronger acids, products containing sulfamic or phosphoric acid were found to result in no chemical attacks on nylon carpets. On the other hand, a hydrochloric or powder acid-based product would basically dissolve the fibers.

Other than the two pH extremes, the pH scale becomes secondary to the inherent properties of the specific chemical in terms of corrosiveness. As an example, the pH of carbonated cola soda (which contains phosphoric acid) is in the 2.5 range. A concentrated (35%) hydrogen peroxide solution has a pH of approximately 3.5. Carbonated cola soda may be slightly irritating to the eyes, causing no permanent damage. However, a 35% hydrogen peroxide solution will cause chemical burns to the skin or mucous membranes. Thus, it is not the pH factor alone that causes corrosion of products to surfaces.


Salt is an ionic compound that can be formed by the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base.[1] Salts are composed of related numbers of cations (positively charged ions) and anions (negative ions) so that the product is electrically neutral (without a net charge). These component ions can be inorganic, such as chloride (Cl−), or organic, such as acetate (CH3CO−2); and can be monatomic, such as fluoride (F−), or polyatomic, such as sulfate (SO2−4).Salts can be easily identified since they usually consist of positive ions from a metal with negative ions from a non metal.

Salts often form a crystal structure or crystal lattice, a highly ordered formation of molecules. This is why we get crystals of salt on our fries.This ordered structure and strong ionic bonding leads many salts to have some special properties. First, they tend to be crystalline solids with crystal structures. The solids also tend to be hard and brittle due to strong ionic bonding throughout the crystal. Salts also have high boiling and melting pointsbecause it takes a lot of energy to break those bonds and change the salt’s matter state. Finally, salts are electrolytes, meaning they dissolve in water to create free moving ions, which are able to conduct electricity

Strong salts or strong electrolyte salts are chemical salts composed of strong electrolytes. These ionic compounds dissociate completely in water. They are generally odourless and nonvolatile.Weak salts or “weak electrolyte salts” are, as the name suggests, composed of weak electrolytes. They are generally more volatile than strong salts. They may be similar in odor to the acid or base they are derived from. For example, sodium acetate, NaCH3COO, smells similar to acetic acid CH3COOH.


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