Neutralization reactions happen every day to form important materials like water and table salt. Although some neutralization reactions are more complex than others, a basic understanding of the process can help you understand what the reactants and products are in a neutralization equation.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Neutralization reactions occur when two reactants, an acid and a base, combine to form the products salt and water.
Neutralization occurs when a strong acid and a strong base come together in a chemical reaction to form water and salt.
In chemistry, acids and bases are measured on the pH scale, which ranges from 0 to 14. Pure water sits in the middle, at a neutral 7. Anything below 7 is an acid, and anything above 7 is a base. Often, solutions are either too acidic or too basic, so a reaction must take place in order to achieve neutralization.
That neutralization leads to the formation of water and a salt. In chemistry, salt doesn’t necessarily just mean table salt. It is also a broader term that categorizes the compound that is created in the reaction between an acid and a base.
In this type of neutralization reaction, the acids and bases are the reactants, since they are the materials that will react to form a new solution. The products are the water and salt, since they have been created following the reaction.
For instance, in the equation HCl + NaOH → NaCL + H2O, the HCl (hydrochloric acid, a strong acid) and NaOH (sodium hydroxide, a strong base) are the reactants. In this equation, they react to form the products NaCL, (sodium chloride, or salt) and H2O (water).
You may have put a neutralization reaction into action if you’ve ever taken an antacid to relieve the symptoms from issues like heartburn and indigestion. These conditions are caused by an excess of stomach acids. In order to neutralize that, you might take an antacid, which is often comprised of a bicarbonate, which is a base. In this reaction, the base in the antacid and the hydrochloric acid in the stomach are the reactants, and they combine to form the products salt, water and carbon dioxide. Those products help neutralize the acids in your stomach and lessen the painful symptoms of heartburn.
Farmers and gardeners also frequently use neutralization equations to help their plants flourish. Some soil is too acidic for certain plants to thrive, so gardeners add a fertilizer that contains a base like lime in order to neutralize the soil. In this equation, the acid of the soil and the lime base are the reactants. They react to form water and salt that work to raise the pH level of the soil and ensure it’s ready for planting.
- Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images