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Key conceptsChemistrySolutionsMiscibilityPolaritySolubility

IntroductionYou probably know some liquids, such together oil and water, do not mix together. If you pour them right into the very same container, lock will type separate liquid layers, one on height of the other. Other liquids, for instance rubbing alcohol and also water, deserve to be mixed with each other. But did you recognize that once both of these liquids have actually mixed you deserve to separate them again right into two various layers? How have the right to you do that? The answer could surprise you—with salt! In this activity you will uncover out exactly how this works.

You are watching: Rubbing alcohol and salt chemical reaction

BackgroundWhen two liquids deserve to be combined together, they room “miscible”—they kind something referred to as a homogeneous solution, which means that girlfriend cannot identify the two liquids anymore. In contrast, as soon as they cannot be mixed, they space “immiscible”—they will form two different layers, referred to as a heterogeneous solution. To be able to mix, the molecule of both liquids have to have the ability to attract one another. Molecules that room polar (meaning their electrical charge is distributed unevenly therefore they have actually a an ext positive side and also a much more negative side) tend to form hydrogen binding whereas nonpolar molecule (which have actually an equal fee balance) carry out not tend to type such bonds. Because water molecules are polar, any type of liquid that does not have actually polar molecules—such as oil—is typically immiscible with water.

Rubbing alcohol molecules have actually a polar and also nonpolar part, which means they are able to type hydrogen bonds with water and also therefore able to mix v it. But how can you break this bonds in stimulate to different both liquids as soon as they are mixed? You have actually to include something to the mixture the competes v the alcohol in binding to the water molecules. One problem that can do that is salt. Salt is one ionic compound, an interpretation it is a substance made up of electrically charged molecules referred to as ions. Once ionic compound dissolve in water, the individual ion separate and also get surrounding by water molecules—a procedure called solvation. Because the salt ions are charged, castle dissolve much much better in a polar solvent, which is additionally slightly much more charged 보다 a nonpolar solvent. For this reason, salt ions tempt the water molecule much much more strongly 보다 alcohol molecules do because alcohol is less polar 보다 water. This way that as soon as there is a most salt, every the water molecules will certainly bond come the salt ions, leaving nobody to kind hydrogen bonds v the alcohol molecules. Together a result, the alcohol becomes immiscible through water and starts to kind a different layer. This procedure is dubbed “salting out,” or “salt-induced phase separation.”

Historically this method has been supplied in the soap-making process to remove ingredients that have to not it is in in the last soap product. Salting out is additionally commonly provided in biochemistry laboratories to purify proteins, since different protein molecules come to be immiscible at various concentrations the salt solutions. Chemists use this technique to extract liquids out of a solution, which is what you are going to execute in this activity: you will different a rubbing alcohol and water mixture using simply a teaspoon of table salt!


Four transparent mini cup (two ounces) through lidsPermanent markerTap waterRubbing alcohol (70 percent isopropyl alcohol)Table saltSet of measure up spoonsWork area that can tolerate spillsEthanol or acetone (can be found in hardware stores) (optional)Salt instead of such as potassium chloride or Epsom salt (optional)


With the permanent marker brand the mini cups 1, 2, 3 and 4.Add one and a half tablespoons that water to cups 1 and also 3.Add one and a fifty percent tablespoons of rubbing alcohol to cup 2 and 4.


Add one teaspoon of salt come the water in cup 1. What wake up to the salt? Does that dissolve in the water?Put top top the lid and shake the cup for about 20 come 30 seconds. What go the mixture watch like?Repeat the previous two actions using cup 2 (with rubbing alcohol). What wake up to the salt this time? go the mixture look various from the water–salt mixture?Take the cap off the permanent marker and swirl its tip in the water in cup 3 for around 10 seconds. Put the lid ~ above the cup and also shake that for 5 seconds. Does the squid dissolve in the water? What walk the solution look like after shaking?Repeat the previous step with cup 4 (rubbing alcohol). Does the resulting mixture look different? If so, what is different? can you define the differences?Next, pour the alcohol indigenous cup 4 into the water in cup 3. Placed the lid back on and swirl the mixture for 5 seconds. Does the rubbing alcohol mix v the water? What happens to the color of the mixture? do you see separate layers forming?Now, include one teaspoon of salt to the mixture in cup 3. Placed the lid top top the cup and shake it because that 20 to 30 seconds. What happens once you add the salt come the mixture? does the mixture look various before and also after shaking? If so, how does it look different? can you explain your results? What color is the mixture?Extra: Can you separate other liquid mixtures using salt? What around ethanol and also water or acetone and also water? shot different fluid mixtures to discover out!Extra: space there any kind of other salts—for example potassium chloride, a salt substitute, or Epsom salt—that you can use to different liquids? Repeat the test, yet this time usage a various salt 보다 table salt. Do friend still check out the same results? If not—how room your outcomes different?Extra: exactly how much salt do you should separate the rubbing alcohol and also the water? discover out by differing the amounts of salt that you add to the rubbing alcohol and also water mixture.

Observations and resultsYou should have actually seen that the salt easily dissolved in the water in cup 1. (After shaking that the salt seemed to disappear.) Remember that this occurs because the ionic salt molecules easily bond come the polar water molecules. The salt, however, did no dissolve as quickly in the rubbing alcohol in cup 2. (Even ~ shaking it you will still be able to see the salt.) This occurs because the alcohol molecules are less polar 보다 water is, therefore the salt ions execute not bond through them together easily.

With the long-term marker ink girlfriend should have actually observed the specific opposite phenomenon. The octopus does not dissolve fine in water yet it does quickly in the alcohol, providing the latter much an ext color. This is because of the truth rubbing alcohol also has a portion of that is molecule that has no charges, and also is nonpolar. This portion is an ext compatible through nonpolar molecules such as the marker ink.

When you mix the rubbing alcohol v water, the latter’s molecules make hydrogen bonds v the water molecules. The alcohol disappear in the water to form a homogenous solution, so friend cannot distinguish the alcohol and the water anymore. If you include salt to the mixture, however, the salt desires to dissolve in the water and also competes through the alcohol for the water molecules. Because there room fewer water molecules obtainable to do hydrogen bonds v the alcohol molecules, the alcohol becomes much less soluble in the water–alcohol mixture, eventually forming a separate layer on optimal of the water. Both layers should have a different color, v the water mostly clear and also the alcohol an ext colored. This occurs since the marker ink is an ext soluble in the rubbing alcohol.

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CleanupFlush all your mixtures under the sink v plenty of cold water. Wash your hands and clean your job-related area.

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