Household acids and bases are common in everyday life. Both acids and bases are electrolytes, which means they break into ions in water. Acids donate hydrogen ions (H+) or protons. Depending on the definition, bases either produce hydroxide ions (OH–), accept hydrogen ions or protons, or donate electron pairs. Acids and bases undergo a chemical reaction or neutralize each other, forming a salt and water.
Here is a list of common household acids and bases, a look at the specific acids and bases they contain, and a list of chemical that are neither acids nor bases.
Here is a list of common household acids:
- Vinegar – weak acetic acid
- Lemon juice – citric acid and some ascorbic acid
- Any citrus fruit – citric acid and some ascorbic acid
- Most other fruits – citric acid, possibly tartaric, oxalic, or malic acid
- Carbonated soda – phosphoric, carbonic, and sometimes citric acid
- Battery acid – sulfuric acid
- Aspirin – acetylsalicylic acid
- Muriatic acid – hydrochloric acid
- Sour candies – citric acid
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Yogurt – lactic acid
- Baker’s ammonia – ammonium bicarbonate
- Brewed coffee or tea
- Most alcoholic beverages
- Stomach acid and vomit – hydrochloric acid
- Urine (only slightly acidic)
Here is a list of common household bases:
- Baking soda – sodium bicarbonate
- Washing soda – sodium carbonate
- Soap – Either sodium or potassium hydroxide
- Chlorine bleach
- Egg whites
- Chalk – calcium carbonate
- Drain cleaner
- Antacids – magnesium hydroxide
Not Household Acids or Bases
Not every chemical is an acid or a base. Some are neutral or else don’t break into ions when dissolved in water. Salts often do break into ions in water and are electrolytes, but are not necessarily acids or bases.
- Pure water
- Milk (nearly neutral, very slightly acidic from lactic acid)
- Vegetable oil
- Sugar and sugar water
- Salt and salt water
Baking soda is a salt, but the ions it breaks into act as acids or bases (amphoterism). In contrast, table salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) does not break into ions that act as acids or bases.
Identifying Household Acids and Bases
Acids tend to be sour, although some are corrosive so it’s best not to use taste as a test. Bases tend to feel slippery and taste soapy. However, some bases are corrosive and no one likes the flavor of soap, so don’t test them using these criteria.
Instead, identify household acids and bases using a pH indicator. Acids have a low pH (0 to less than 7), while bases have a high pH (great than 7 up to 14). You can easily make pH paper test strips using red cabbage juice and identify acids and bases.
- Hurum, Deanna. “Laboratory Safety.” AEESP Environmental Engineering Processes Laboratory Manual.
- Johlubl, Matthew E. (2009). Investigating Chemistry: A Forensic Science Perspective (2nd ed.). New York: W. H. Freeman and Co. ISBN 978-1429209892.
- Lewis, Gilbert N. (September 1938). “Acids and Bases”. Journal of the Franklin Institute. 226 (3): 293–313. doi:10.1016/S0016-0032(38)91691-6
- Petrucci, R. H.; Harwood, R. S.; Herring, F. G. (2002). General Chemistry: Principles and Modern Applications (8th ed.). Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-014329-4.