Acid-Base Chemistry

Real World Application: Drain Cleaners - Should I use them?

Common drain cleaners consist of water, sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and sodium hydroxide (base) and/or potassium hydroxide (base). Bases are caustic (caustic loosely means to gnaw or eat away at) and can cause corrosion in metal pipes. Wouldn’t you know, our house has PVC piping through the fixtures that dump into a 45 year old cast iron pipe. The cast iron pipe is old and currently shows signs of surface rust and corrosion to the point where the pipe appears to be leaking then sealing itself in several spots. Not to mention the interior of the cast iron pipe may not be completely open, thus, not permitting a fast flow in drainage. Good news: a home warranty is being taken advantage of to hopefully replace the cast iron pipe with a PVC pipe.


JCE 92.02—February 2015 Issue Highlights

Journal of Chemical Education February 2015 Cover

The February 2015 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education is now available to subscribers at The February issue includes content on: metal-organic materials, assessment, acid–base chemistry, game-based approach to teaching, chemical structure and properties, luminescence, inquiry-based teaching, nanochemistry, synthesis, and computational chemistry. This latest issue of JCE plus the content of all past issues, volumes 1 through 92, are available at

Mass of a Reaction Product

Sodium carbonate reacts with hydrochloric acid producing bubbles

Students combine sodium carbonate and hydrochloric acid generating carbon dioxide gas which is allowed to escape. They measure the actual yield of carbon dioxide produced (missing mass), calculate the theoretical yield using stoichiometry, and then the percent yield. Students understand that 100% yield is the most appropriate answer (based on the Law of Conservation of Mass), so after considering the meaning of significant figures and the uncertainty of their measurements they are asked to decide if they did (or did not) get an answer that might indicate the validity of the Law.

Time required: 

One 50-minute period to perform the lab. One additional period to perform the calculations (optional). Often more able students will have time to begin some calculations at the end of the lab experiment.

Solution to Chemical Mystery #3: The Sour Side of Chemistry!

Congratulations to Grazyna Zreda who solved the Chemical Mystery of the Mentos candies! To conduct this trick, two white Mentos candies are placed in separate beakers that both contain universal indicator. One of the Mentos candies turns the indicator slightly green, indicating the presence of base.