Why Do Vinegar and Baking Soda React the Way They Do?
Baking soda and vinegar react chemically because one is a base and the other is an acid. Baking soda is a basic compound called sodium bicarbonate. Vinegar is a diluted solution that contains acetic acid. Mixing baking soda and vinegar will get you a reaction, in the right amounts and containers, the mixture can even be downright explosive!
The baking soda and vinegar reaction is actually two separate reactions. The first reaction is the acid-base reaction. When vinegar and baking soda are first mixed together, hydrogen ions in the vinegar react with the sodium and bicarbonate ions in the baking soda. The result of this initial reaction is two new chemicals: carbonic acid and sodium acetate.
The second reaction is a decomposition reaction. The carbonic acid formed as a result of the first reaction immediately begins to decompose into water and carbon dioxide gas. Just like carbon dioxide bubbles in a carbonated drink, the carbon dioxide (that formed as the carbonic acid decomposed) rises to the top of the mixture. This creates the bubbles and foam you see when you mix baking soda and vinegar.
If you mix a large amount of baking soda and vinegar in a small container with a narrow opening, expect an impressive eruption! Many science teachers use this simple chemical reaction to teach students about chemistry. If you’ve ever made a homemade volcano as a science experiment, then you know firsthand what happens when baking soda and vinegar react!