Why Does Vinegar & Baking Soda React?

Chemistry, Science, Reaction
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A Very Common STEM Reaction

Baking Soda mixed with Vinegar. Two household products that have been entertaining kids around the world for decades due to their reaction with one another. When teaching science and STEM, the balloon being blown up by this reaction is probably one of the first demonstrations kids will try.

But what is actually going on behind the scenes that causes this visually pleasing reaction?

Vinegar and Baking Soda Reaction Explained

Reaction Explained Simply

The reaction is known as an 'Acid-Base' reaction.

Baking soda is a base, and vinegar is an acid. Vinegar isn't just an acid, it is an acid in water, which is important.

The water in the vinegar acts as a host where the base and acid react. During the reaction, when the baking soda is mixed with the vinegar, the baking soda (Base) takes a proton from the vinegar (Acid). The reaction causes the baking soda to transform into water and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is a gas which is released during the reaction, which gives it the bubbling effect, and it expands which will blow up balloons as you have probably seen in some experiments and demonstrations.

Vinegar + Baking Soda Video

Here is a great video demonstrating the reaction of vinegar and baking soda. It explains what has happened simply, and also demonstrates how the reaction can blow up a balloon.

The Reaction Explained in Complex Form

For the full and detailed explanation of what actually takes place when you mix vinegar and baking soda, we researched from professional scientists.

The best answer we could find was here: UCSB ScienceLine

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate: each molecule of baking soda contains a sodium atom, a hydrogen atom, an oxygen atom, and a carbon dioxide molecule.

Vinegar contains acetic acid, each molecule of which contains a hydrogen atom, and an acetate ion.

When combined, the hydrogen atom in the acetic acid meets up with the hydrogen and oxygen atoms in the baking soda to form a molecule of water, while the acetate ion grabs onto the sodium atom and forms a salt, sodium acetate. The carbon dioxide molecule, free of its other chemical bonds, can now escape and bubbles forth as a gas.

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